Riding down South on Ruta 40 in Argentina
We woke up in Perito Moreno after a very cold night and had breakfast together with Raul and his colleague. Raul promised to host us in his camping for free if we ever come back and he even tried to say a few words in Lithuanian :)
The Argentina's Patagonia is something that I have never seen before. It is so vast and so empty by the first impression, that it really made me feel small. And the winds there are incredible! However, at least the ones we have experienced, didn't stop us. It made riding more difficult, but it was always doable.
So by the first impression, the fields look so empty, but after spending some more time there, we realized that it is not empty at all! Argentina's Patagonia felt like riding through a very big zoo! We probably saw over a hundred Guanacos (these are the Patagonian cousins of a llama) who would usually ignore us if we just rode by and would get away immediately if we would stop to take a picture. They also have a habit of jumping over the fence by the highway and sometimes get stuck in the fence hanging with their head down. And that unsuccessful jump becomes their last jump... leaving their dried skeleton hanging there for a long time...
There were also lots of Nandous (the Patagonian cousin of an ostrich) which are very funny when scared - they run like crazy and as there's nowhere to hide in the Patagonian land, you can watch them run with dust rising from under their feet for a very long time...
There were also rabbits, foxes, flamingoes, sheep, cows, horses and even an armadillo which was too fast for Linas to catch it by the road :)
We also saw the condors, eagles, ibis, sparrows, caracaras, swans, geese and lots of other birds.
So we had great time for a couple of days on the road, being excited to spot new species of animals almost every half an hour.
After Perito Moreno we spent a night at Estancia La Angostura. Estancias were the ranches where people originally stopped for the night when travelling the remote areas of Patagonia. The one that we stopped in for the night looked more like a hotel with big restaurant, working on request, than an actual ranch, but later we found out that it has a territory of 20 000 hectares and a herd of over a thousand of sheep. No wonder we got an exceptionally tasty piece of lamb for grilling there... :)
That evening we met a couple from Australia riding a rental BMW F700GS two-up from Tierra del Fuego to the lakes region in Chile and they told us two days ago they were stuck on Ruta 40, riding 10 kilometers for 2 hours and then giving up, turning back and riding those same 10 kilometers for another 2 hours. They told us that as it was raining for 3 days, the gravel road with muddy parts in it got soaked and the mud got so soft and sticky that it stopped the front wheel from turning! They even removed the front mudguard, but then they got a huge chunk of mud between the wheel and the radiator of the bike that still prevented the wheel from turning! They showed us the pictures and it was hard to believe what we see, since until that moment all the gravel roads we saw were very decent. Luckily, the sun and wind does their job very fast as soon as the rain stops and the next day the same terrible muddy parts of the road become dry and even very comfortable to ride, since big cars and trucks make wide ridges. So we got lucky not to experience the muddy fun and could continue riding the "big zoo" with no problems.
And then we reached one of the highlights of the area - a lovely town El Chalten which is located under the famous mountain Fitz Roy and hosts a lot of hikers. It was a terribly windy evening, but we still decided to put our tent to the test... And it survived the night - in the morning it was still in one piece right were we built it. And I must admit, I slept well in it, probably because I got exhausted of riding against the wind during the day.
Next day we rode to El Calafate, dropped off our luggage at a camping reception and went for a 70 km ride to the Glacier park to see the famous 70 meter high glacier Perito Moreno. It is impressive! And it was a great reminder for us that Christmas is not so far away. In these warm temperatures we keep forgetting that it is actually winter at home and the end-of-the-year celebrations are about to take place.
By the way, while riding in the Glacier park my F650GS had an "anniversary" of 30 000 kilometers on the road! We made a promise to each other to hit a 100 000 by the end of 2018 :)
From El Calafate it was supposed to be a short easy ride before getting back to Chile. And since so far we were lucky with all the gravel roads in Chile and Argentina, we decided to take a shorter gravel road instead of riding 80 kilometers extra on the asphalt. And that was probably the worst part of gravel we have had so far! Apparently since there is a possibility to avoid it easily, it is barely used and not well maintained. It had huge loose rocks all over it most of the time and as the wind was very strong and even heavy rain started when we were in the middle of a 70 kilometers stretch, it was far from a nice experience riding it... And we got a "souvenir" from there - a bend on F800GSA front wheel...
Finally after finishing the gravel part of the road and waiting at a gas station for the rain to stop, we reached the border between Argentina and Chile. We crossed it with no problems (except that during a luggage check Linas lost a 20 pesos bill in the wind and did almost a 500 meters sprint chasing it down the road and making everyone who saw it laugh a lot and, on the positive side, making Linas much warmer, since we got pretty cold in the rain before...) and then we continued in Chile like in a different world - just on the other side of a mountain, the nature suddenly turned from dry yellow nothing to lush green scenery with lakes, trees, green grass and mountains!
Our destination was Puerto Natales where we had an appointment at Bellavista Hostal. The French brothers Laurent and Jean-Marc were waiting for us there! The same super cool French riders we first met in Brazil, while staying in Paraty!
We talked the host of the hostal, Edmundo, into demonstrating us the real traditional Chilean cocktail called Pisco Sour. We prepared it according to his instructions and made a fancy toast for the reunion! Next time we meet will hopefully be somewhere around Santiago in about three weeks.
Next morning we split again and went the opposite directions - we continue moving South towards Fin Del Mundo (end of the world) in Ushuaia and they are riding back North to El Calafate.