Date: 11/16/2014 Sunday
Starting Location: Perito Merino, Argentina
Ending Location: Estancia La Angostura, Patagonia Argentina
Mileage Today: 204.4
Mileage Total: 1025.8 miles
Leaving Perito Merino
We left Perito Merino at exactly 8:30 AM, immediately after a breakfast that could only be described as “carbohydrate rich”. The trip to the Estancia is about 300 Km, and generally an easy ride. Due to a mixup with the departure time, I was unable to capture the group as we left the sanctity of our little secure parking area.
Don’t worry, next time, we’ll be sure to continue the tradition of capturing the exit from the lot.
About 130 Kilometers from Perito Merino you come upon a big blue sign that welcomes you to Patagonia. This, very famous landmark is the point of entry into Patagonia, from Argentina proper. Apparently, and as the story goes, many men have come before, and all have seen fit to have their photo taken at this place of great spirituality. Some would say that you can feel the wind when you’re standing there. Some would say that there is never a day when you do not feel the wind. At any rate, welcome to Patagonia.
Just up the road from the famous Patagonia sign, we decided to have a little bit of fun, and were able to put together two videos that I can’t really explain, except to say that I think they will bring a smile to your face.
MotoGP Qualifying in Patagonia
Guanacos – They’re everywhere
Just yesterday, I sat on the side of the road in amazement looking at this magical creature called the Guanaco. Today, just 20 hours later, it seems you can’t swing a dead cat without seeing one of these guys. We saw so many of them, I decided that I needed to get a more “interesting” video of the guanacos, so as I rode along the highway, speed varying from 80-120Km/Hr, I was ever in search of a guanaco that was on the side of the road, on our side of the fence.
After a few false starts, I found one. There he was. All alone, and looking all GQ and confident. I figured that this was my chance. So, I put the brakes on my trusty steed and stopped on the side of the road. A moment later, the camera was turned on, and I made a decidedly strong right hand turn off of the shoulder, and headed towards the guanaco.
I’ve become quite familiar with these creatures, so from now on, let’s just call them “G”. So, this G was about 100 feet off of the shoulder, so I left the shoulder and headed towards him. Now, you have to remember that we’re still in Patagonia, so everywhere that doesn’t have tar on it, seems to have gravel on it. Just trying to make my way from the shoulder towards the G was tricky, but I made it. Then, there I was, riding alongside him, wondering if he was going to stop, and jump over the fence. But, to my amazement, he never did. So, for 2 minutes, I rode along in the gravel, and then on the tar, all the while looking over at this Guanaco as he raced along, trying to outrun a BMW F800 GS Adventure Bike.
If you look carefully in the video, you can make him out, but I have to admit that it is not as dramatic in this video, as it was in real life.
The trip to the Estancia
At about 170 Miles into our 200 mile day, we turned right, and the road quickly became dirt. After about 1K of riding, we stopped on a bridge, had lunch, and prepared to make the trip to the Estancia, about 14 miles away. The trip is clearly broken into two segments. The first segment, a 21 mile stretch on hard pack and gravel was treacherous. At the beginning of the trip, I managed to be running at about 110 Km/Hr, but had to slow when the tracks became quite technical.
When I say technical, I mean that the gravel started to multiply, and even though you’ve picked a line on the road that looks like hard pack, it can very quickly become gravel, which can become deep gravel. At one point, I was probably at about 35 mph and I hit the deep gravel. The front end washed out, and the bike became almost uncontrollable. First the front end got light, then it dove into the gravel, then the back end came around to the right, then the left, then the right again. During this process I touched my Right foot down, then the left Foot, and finally managed to get the big beast under control.
I have to admit that at that point, I took a pause and breathed a sigh of relief. In another 5.7 miles, I arrived at the turn-off for the Estancia and found Eduardo waiting for me. He looked at my bike and said “Hay, your top case is open”. I looked behind me and noticed that the case that is mounted on the rear of the bike, and which contains all of my important items, had somehow opened up. When I looked inside I found that I had lost my pair of winter gloves worth about $150, and also a telescoping selfie bar, which I had used for the first time just a few minutes before we started on this stretch of road.
The idea that I had to turn around and go through that gravel again was not especially appealing, but as we have now become fond of saying, “that’s what adventure touring is all about”. So, off I headed off in the opposite direction, scanning the side of the road, looking for a pair of gloves, and a telescoping selfie bar.
Now, I had arrived at the point where Eduardo was waiting for us about 1 minute after he did, and at least 8 minutes before any of the other folks. That allowed Eduardo and I to have this discussion, and for me to get the bike turned around, headed back in the other direction. It was about 1 ½ minutes later that I came upon Stan, who stopped to talk to me. He said that he had unfortunately not seen my gloves, so I should keep going. I then came upon then Dennis, Peter, Tom and then everyone else. I had been stopped on the road, facing the opposite direction, and had hoped to ask them if they had seen my gloves, but it seemed that everyone was completely focused on staying upright and none of them stopped to talk.
Finally, taking up the rear was our support truck. I stopped and waited for the truck to approach. Alain pulled over, and I asked him to roll down the window. I opened my visor and shouted that I had lost gloves, and also a camera bar. With a big grin on his face, he said “Are these gloves yours”?
Alain and the ladies had found my gloves as they drove. In fact, he later told me that he found them about 3Km from our starting point, some 18 miles back. So, it’s a damn good thing that he stopped to pick them up, and a terrible shame that he did not also manage to find the selfie bar.
Oh well, those bars are cheap, but if I had to do the rest of the tour without my winter riding gloves, I was going to be in for a really bad time.
You can look at the video to see the trip. Keep in mind that the road was not only difficult to drive, we were dealing with winds of between 20 and 40 miles per hour, and as you can imagine, with the right gust of wind, coming from the right direction, it seemed to me that the gloves might be 400 miles away in Chile by now.
Bike maintenance – Always bike maintenance
Once we arrived at the Estancia, Eduardo and Alain set right out to get the maintenance on the bikes completed. First on their list of things to do was to fill the tanks with gas. Since we’re 50 Km from the nearest town, simply riding the bikes to town to fill them would deplete more than 30% of the tank, so in situations like this, the guys fill the tanks from a series of 5 gallon gas tanks, which we carry on the support vehicle.
After completely filling the bikes with gas, the rest of the maintenance starts.
Each day, the exact maintenance will vary, but it usually includes lubricating the chain, replacing any bulbs which have worn out or blown out, tightening all of the screws and bolts on the bikes, and then performing any maintenance to address any anomalies that customers have noticed. Lastly, they make the changes that customers have requested, which is often related to adjusting the size or ergonomics of the bikes.
The rest of the maintenance was completed, and Eduardo and Alain took a quick snooze, so that they would be fresh and ready for tomorrow.
As is customary at an Estancia, our dinner was a traditional Argentine Asada BBQ. In this case, we had lamb, which is split and slow cooked on a rack, which is placed near the fire, and cooked for hours. The pictures show the poor little lamb suffering through what looks to be a college hazing.
The lamb was served with an Argentine potato salad, marinated beet roots, cole slaw, and marinated eggplant. All of was delicious, however I cannot speak to whether the beets were good or not, primarily due to the fact that I HATE BEETS!. I’m not trying to be bitter, but I’m just sayin’ that even Patagonian beets are not going to convince me to eat beets.
The sunset at the Estancia
You would think that, if ever there was going to be a spectacular sunset, it would be at an Estancia in Patagonia. If that’s what you thought, then you’d be wrong, just like me. Well, that’s not fair. I’m sure that on most days they have perfectly lovely sunsets, but just not tonight. There were many clouds in the ski, and they were very low altitude, and as a result, the sunset was quite mediocre, but trust me, tomorrow’s sunset will be better, I guarantee.
The horse whisperer
I’m not good with horses, and I never have been. But, I’m usually able to get horses to eat carrots from my hand without too much trouble at all. At this Estancia there are horses all over the place, so I thought I would see if they would eat a carrot from my hand.
I asked the staff for a carrot, which I was going to give to the horses, and they looked at me kind of funny. That should have been my first clue. The staff reluctantly gave me a few carrots, and I walked out to the horses and tried to fed them. No Luck, these horses did not want to let me get very close at all.
After trying to feed them for 10 minutes, I gave up and threw the carrot to them. The brown horse came up to the carrot, smelled it, became indigent, and then walked away, without having eaten the carrot. It seems that the horses of Patagonia don’t know anything about carrots, and at this rate, they are not likely to learn.
Let’s talk a bit more about gravel
Gravel, Gravel, Gravel.
If you ask 10 people how you should ride on gravel you’ll probably get at least 5 different answers. The essence of the thinking is that you either want to go slow enough so that if you fall, you won’t do harm, or you want to go fast enough so that you “skip over the top of the gravel”, so that you don’t fall.
I suspect that both of these sage bits of advice are right, but frankly, the right answer seems to me that it all depends on how tired you are, and whether your bike is properly setup and sized for you. If your bike is sized properly, you’ve got more options, but if it is not, then it’s almost impossible to stand up and manage your way through deep gravel.
All that said, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that, based on your skill level, and confidence level, you’ll choose the path that is within your means, and ability.
Adventure bikes are everywhere
The stretch of Ruta 40 that starts in Northern Argentina, and heads along the Andes, ending at the end of South America in Tiera del Fuego. This stretch of road has been featured in numerous adventure travelogues that I’ve had the pleasure of reading over the past 18 months.
As we’ve been traveling South from Pucon, we’ve been seeing other Adventure travelers at just about every turn, and gas stop. As you might imagine, gas stops are precious, and every biker stops at about every station to fill up. As the saying goes, you never know how far it is to the next station, and you never know if that station is actually going to have gas.
It is pretty common to see the same riders, over and over. In fact, this morning we met a couple of riders on R 1200 GS bikes, and we saw them a few more times over the course of the day, and we might see them when we end our trip in Ushuaia. Perhaps we’ll all be able to share a glass of champagne in Ushuaia.