Monthly Archives: May 2013

Buenos Aires, Argentina to Uruguay and back

Fast forward about 1330 kms of hard core riding and I came to the outskirts of Buenos Aires.  I’ve been told a couple of times to be careful riding into the city.  It’s very dangerous and if you get caught out in the wrong neighborhood, the bad guys won’t be afraid to pull you right off your bike at a stop light.  That could be anywhere really, some places worse than others, but I’ll stay alert.

At a large round-a-bout off Ruta 3, there are 2 major options for a road into the city.  Luckily I didn’t choose right there and then.  Which way??!! I couldn’t make a quick choice, so I continued the circle like a bike going down a drainpipe to look at my choices again.  I then noticed a female police officer waiting on one of the corners for a ride.  I stopped and asked her which route was the safest and she was very clear that I must take the toll road into the center.  She also said, the standard route through the barrios is very dangerous and to avoid it at all costs. She pointed me onto the toll road without stoplights. Decision made.. done and thank you!

I knew which neighborhood I was headed to in the city, because I have a place to stay!  Facebook friend, Martin, who’s been messaging me for nearly 2 years just happens to be here visiting his family and friends.  Otherwise, he lives in the United States.  We will be meeting for the first time and staying at his best friends Mom’s house, Ines.. got that straight?? 😉

Martin says that each year he comes home to visit, he buys one of these little Hondas’ to get around town.. It’s cute, I love it!

I follow him through the busy city streets a bit to help me find the office I am going to use to organize my shipping out of South America.  I’m quite keen to get everything organized as soon as possible.  There is a lot to do to prepare shipping from South America to New Zealand.  Plus, even though I’m in Buenos Aires now, I have one more country to visit before I go.. Uruguay!  So it was really helpful for Martin to show me around this town now as I’ll spend more time here when I return from Uruguay..

We got back to Ines’ home and I love this woman!  She lives in a part of Buenos Aries that is completely taken over by highrise apartments.  She’s been living in this one house for over 40 years, raised her children here and she doesn’t want to sell or move!  So she hasn’t and I’d say she’s not going to anytime soon!  One very adventurous inspiring woman who’s planning a trip to Africa with her sister AND Martin..ha!

We came back to drop off luggage, etc. and Martin was feeling a bit cold.  I’ve got a bag full of warm riding gear, and for once I’m not the cold one!  So we dressed him up in my winter jacket and neckscarf.  Looking good in Sherri Jo’s clothes, Martin!

We sat and visited with Ines for a while.  Martin said she was originally concerned to have an Aussie/American stay in the house because she doesn’t speak English. But I was able to communicate in Spanish, thank goodness.  I still screw up a lot, but I’ve been in enough countries to know that language barrier can be uncomfortable if you are staying the night.. So we ended up getting along super well and she loved hearing some of the travel stories in my bad Spanish!  Such a busy social lady, that phone never stopped ringing!

She reminds me of what I’ll be like at her age.. a cooky crazy Auntie with funny little things to show off from my travels. I could only wish to be as classy as she is though.

Martin wants to take me around central Buenos Aires on the back of his bike.  It’s just easier that way, we can talk, not get cut off in traffic, etc.

The first government house built in colonial times, called Cabildo de Buenos Aires 1609. Far too small, they didn’t use it long, and currently a museum.

Buenos Aires is often called the “Paris” of South America.  I found that hard to believe, but now I see why!

Then there is the North America comparison. Here is the equivalent of the United States White House; the Buenos Aires Pink House! Casa Rosada, office to the President of Argentina. Don’t get me started on what I think of HER!

He’s a latin man… he’ll dance anywhere.. 😉

Martin asks what I would like for dinner.  I’d rather that he decide since this is his city! He says, I want to take you to my favorite pizza place and then go to my favorite place for steak and then ice cream!! Gee whiz!!!!  As long as each one is small, otherwise, I couldn’t imagine eating that much!  First stop, pizza in a famous old neighborhood, San Telmo….

Ummm Martin?  I’d be lucky to get through just one of those, let alone a steak afterwards!!  Oh man, that was good…but super big and heavy. Now back on the bike! Who ate the onion slice?????

What’s fun for me sitting on the back of Martin’s bike is being able to have a good look around, to take photos and not worry about traffic. I loved this old car, but you would have seen many old cars in my other posts. Argentina is known for keeping the oldest cars on the road, and they are always so great to see..

Another stop on the Martin tour is this famous bridge called “Puente de la Mujer”  (Bridge of the Woman).  It’s a suspension walking bridge, with a center piece built to rotate to allow water traffic through. It’s a fun piece of modern architecture in contrast to the old industrial buildings that connects Puerto Madero to the city.  Interesting history, the $6 million bridge was donated by a wealthy family and the city of Buenos Aires takes no responsibility for it.  The bridge was closed for repair just 3 years after it was built and the family have been “chosen” to keep it maintained. I personally think they should have had that minor detail sorted before it was built.. but from our point of view, it does look good!!

Now, Martin finally agrees that steak and pizza is a bit over the top, but we’re not giving up on the most important part.. Ice Cream!!  And to be more clear, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.. OMG!!! We should have just come here first! I can not tell you how good that ice cream was.. I will remember it forever.. I sure hope I can find this flavor when I get home, or I’ll probably just start hand making it.. Yep, I’m looking up the recipe now… ;-))))

But wait, there’s more!!  Now we are riding the bike around this super pretty planetarium which quite proudly displays the Argentine colors.. a lot!

Next is an important monument, Obelisco de Buenos Aires.  It was built to commemorate 400 years since the foundation of the city and has since become an icon. It sits in the middle of 9 de Julio, the widest street in the world.  And I can vouch for that !  I crossed it nearly every day and it usually took 2 street light changes to make it across, unless I wanted to run like a ding dong but it wasn’t that important.. 😉

Martin and I are stopped in the middle, so double that distance to cross the road.

I enjoyed the next 2 days running around as a little pillion Honda rider with Martin as he made the rounds saying last goodbyes to family and friends. It was a super fun time. I do enjoy riding on the back of a bike and always that much better to spend it with a local.  Martin has a flight out to Africa and I want to get to Uruguay, so we eventually said our goodbyes too.  Thanks again for the hospitality!!

The next morning I take the ferry from downtown Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay.  I quite honestly don’t have much in me to visit this country.  I’ve heard great things about it and I’m not going to walk away without seeing it, but ever since the last few weeks I have felt my South American time is done and I’m quite ready to move on.  So this will only be a little 3 day trip, and it’s an easy one obviously, ferry to ferry.

Welcome to Uruguay!  As I’m waiting for the aduana guy to give me my papers back, I got a chuckle out of this sign.  “Welcome to Uruguay.. now get out! (Salida)”  Of course it’s not what they’re saying.. And then below in English. “Welcome to Uruguay, sorry for the inconveniences caused..”  Ha! Now I’m worried, I wonder what’s going to happen?

The road out of Colonia is a pretty one!  I’m expecting to see a golf resort any minute now..

I traveled along a really boring road to my first stop, the capital, Montevideo.

This building in the center really caught my eye as I was exploring downtown. It’s called Palacio Salvo, built by an Italian architect in 1928.  Originally built to be a hotel, it was a bit too big to keep full, so they turned the units into luxury apartments.

Moving on up to the next big city, Punte del Este and a must-see to ride over the wavy bridge at La Barra!!

I think there should be more wavy bridges in the world.. are they earthquake tolerant??

If Argentina has old cars, well so does Uruguay.. both countries are like taking a huge step back in time.. it’s nice, I like it!

View from my camp spot, Uruguay

I rode back to Colonia a day early.  The bike was acting a bit funny and I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Also I wanted to be in town to do some banking business, stay the night and explore before catching the morning ferry back to Buenos Aires.

Colonia was built by the Portuguese.  Clearly evident in the architecture and the stone streets!  This historic center is a world heritage site.

I know I’ve shown a few old cars on the road.  This one is not for travel. They use it outside the restaurant.  You can sit inside for a cup of tea if you like! Looks very limiting for business, but a cute idea! 😉

This so much reminds me of south Portugal.. memories!!

I spotted the ferry arriving from Buenos Aires.  I can’t get my head around this muddy water. I hear about so many people coming here to retire and I imagine that water would get to me. I’m a bit spoiled and prefer the blue/green waters of the world! Anyway, it’s a mix of the Atlantic Ocean with river water from Rio de la Plata. Here is an aerial view to give a better perspective Aerial view muddy water from Colonia, Uruguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The next morning I pack up my bike and I had a gut feeling that I wished didn’t come true.  The bike wouldn’t start.  I tried and tried, it’s not a dead battery.. just dead!  I don’t know what it is.. I’m not sure I want to know.  But what can I do.  I’ve already booked and paid for the ferry ticket.  Luckily, while staying in Colonia, I was close enough and able to roll my motorcycle down hill to the ferry port.. how lucky is that!!??  I checked in at immigration, then rolled my bike through the line to board the ferry.  I was not happy.. at all!

In line I met another ride.. remember in just the last post?  I always meet riders on these ferries.. always!  Anyway, this lovely man, Mario was traveling with his daughter.  He was so kind, with worry on his face when he saw me, “What is wrong?”  I told him the bike won’t start.  He had lots and lots of the right words to say, made me feel better instantly, and they both looked after me on the ferry.  We had so much fun. Mario and Candy have been traveling 3 weeks together and they will be home once they get off the ferry and ride another 200 km.  so close!

It was great to see a father and daughter traveling that far together on their motorcycle.. so happy to meet them.

We docked in Buenos Aires around 11 pm, but Mario and Candy would not continue their own journey until they knew both me and my bike was completely secure for the night.  Far too sweet as they have quite a bit to accomplish at this late hour themselves, another 200 km riding!  So I feel very guilty, but they wouldn’t leave!

I did get everything sorted and said goodbye to my new friends. Here my dead bike will stay tonight in the underground parking at the ferry office. I took every little thing off the bike, just in case they find a way to break into the panniers at 3 AM in downtown BsAs!

I’m not sure what I’m going to do or how I’ll handle this as of yet.. but I give up for now.  Hopefully the bike will be there in the morning and I’ll tackle the problem then.

Buenos Noches!


Awesome Perito Moreno Glacier y Peninsula Valdes!

My extended 3 week stay in a tent Ushuaia style has finally come to an end.  Now it’s time to say goodbye to another Argentinian family who I just adore.  I really loved living here, Camp Rio Pipos for any of you heading to Ushuaia, I highly recommend!!

I have no idea what could ever replace my mornings of having a helicopter land on my breakfast table!

Ciao Ruben!!

There was a young couple from Poland staying at the campground and we chose to ride together today to Punta Arenas Chile, about 430 km north.

We got to the border and there was this motorbike parked using the fence to prop it up.  I thought, this bike has to be a joke, there is no way somebody actually rides it!  But I was wrong, the rider was waiting in line for immigration and sipping on his Yerba Mate.

The headlight is busted out and there is no side stand.. and I don’t think it could handle a side stand anyway! And I never want to hear anybody judge me by my black bag again. This is a male rider!!

 

There is a cheese grater by the license plate.  The computer bag is hanging over the fence side of the bike.. open!  I wish I had a Horizons Unlimited business card.  The guy needs some guidance from their website!  But I may take up his idea to travel with a cheese grater..!

The road to Porvenir Chile, where we’ll catch the afternoon ferry.

Even with 3 gps’s at work, there is always a question which way to turn in town.

Irrelevant.  I remember thinking while watching the Mom do yardwork, that I haven’t worked in my own yard for 2 1/2 years.. and thinking about my yard caused me to take this photo. Not logical but that’s a bit more insight into how my mind works than you need! ;-)))

We got to the ferry on time, which is important because there is no ferry again until this time tomorrow!

I think every ferry I’ve ever been on is where we meet other riders.. always! Here we met some guys from Brazil.

We stayed the night in Punta Arenas.  James had been living here for 3 weeks, so there wasn’t much point in hanging around.  I got my new tires (Heidenau’s! ;-)) the next day and we headed north to Perito Moreno Glacier.

First glimpse of the glacier.. wow!

Perito Moreno Glacier is the most impressive massive glacier I’ve seen on the planet thus far.  I knew it was a highlight for the area. Quite honestly, I’ve seen plenty of glaciers in northern Canada and Alaska and was just expecting the same.  But this crazy glacier blows those other ones away and well worth the journey!

I usually don’t like photos that include tourists, but this one I like because it’s a better perspective of just house enormous this thing is!

Every few minutes there is the large sound of thunder, which is not thunder but the sound of a big piece of ice breaking off and crashing into the water.. spectacular!

To me, this looks like nature’s cathedral.

I really enjoyed hanging about.  The park services did an excellent job putting together viewing platforms from top to bottom and even a boat to get you closer.

We stayed in El Calafate, and I made a surprise decision, even for myself!  The road north of here is supposed to be gorgeous, the Carretera Austral through Chile.  What will I see?  More beauty.. lovely lakes, mountains, views, the type of world we dream of.  But I’ve been seeing beautiful lakes, glaciers, views, Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands.. the list goes on forever!  Feeling very content and ready to complete my South American tour, I decide to bypass more pretty roads, leave James behind and head out.  My plan is to get to Buenos Aires where I’ll be shipping my bike to New Zealand.  Buenos Aires is the last big thing on my list for this part of the world and all I can think about is getting there and preparing myself and my bike for the next phase of the Because I Can World Tour!

My heated jacket is still not working, so in this chilly weather I’ve got all my layers on including my winter coat! This is one supersize Sherri Jo, but at least I’ll be warm~!

 

James is not so pleased that I’m leaving.  It’s always hard to say goodbye to friends you travel with.  But there is no question.. I gotta go!  James still has a lot to accomplish of South America, including Bolivia.. big wishes that the remainder of his travels are safe, a nice big hug and I’m gone.

After all those photos I took yesterday at Perito Moreno Glacier, I forgot to recharge my camera batteries last night.  This is the one and only photo I took all day.. What a shame!  This road was crazy.  280 kilometers of super deep gravel ALONE.  I did not see a single car all day, only a couple on a double bicycle loaded down with gear, which to me is worse! I stopped and asked if they needed anything as they were pushing that push bike up a hill.  They didn’t.  Why the heck would you come to this part of the world and ride this gravel road on a bike!? I guess I’m not one to speak.  It was a shortcut for me, is why I’m riding it today..

You see that little bit of blue sky in the photo above?  I chased it the entire ride.  It was black, pouring rain in El Calafate, and didn’t want it to get me so my goal was to ride faster than the clouds and I won!

I couldn’t believe it.  I rode so fast standing on my foot pegs, nearly hitting every Vicuna on the way.  I wish I got photos of them, they were great.  Near the end of the road, I was wondering how much farther to Ruta 3, so I looked down at my gps.  In that split second I put myself into the middle of the road where the gravel was the thickest.. Really deep.  My bike starting swaying so hard back and forth in the soft rocks, there was no question I was going down big time.  It kept swaying and I kept trying to gently direct the sway out of the gravel.. and I won that battle too!  Seriously couldn’t believe that one either.. I was going way down and didn’t!!  I slowly came to a stop.. took a few breaths.. said a few bad words.  Saw the gps finally, it said only 5 km’s to Ruta 3.  If only I had known I shouldn’t have bothered to look.

Once on Ruta 3, I turned north and that wind was blowing a gale.  I had it behind me down the gravel road riding east, which was great.  But it was evil as I rode north again. I was tired and didn’t feel like battling the wind, but I did it anyway and made it back to the same campsite I used on the way down a few weeks ago near Puerto San Julian.

Now I just need to concentrate on riding north 2,200 km (1367 miles) to Buenos Aires.

Fairly uneventful.. few photos, just wanting to get the job done.

I stopped in Puerto Madryn for the night at a backpackers and learned about Peninsula Valdes. Some of the young guys were telling me there are Orcas out the peninsula.  Well, I haven’t seen an Orca yet!!  I decided to ride the gravel roads out there to try my luck.  There is no guarantee they’ll be there the next day, but it’s worth a try!

You can see how the wind blows the sand and gravel around like snow.. Nonetheless, it’s a super easy ride.  Well maintained road.

I arrived the point for the best views of the Orcas supposedly.  I was early enough that I was the first one there.  The park ranger was really cool.  He said I’d have to hang around all day to see the Orcas and if they show up, they are pretty far out there.  You need high tide for them to be close, which is around 4pm. My Orca experience is getting dimmer and dimmer.

The sea lions are cool though!  I’ve seen a fair amount of these guys lately, so I’m not as excited as I should be.  Really enjoy watching the pups play, they are so goofy!  But I get an unnecessary worry when one of the babies is crying to his Mom out to sea.  I can’t help but to want to sit with it, keep it calm, give it some fish.. but I can’t!

Back down the dirt road, the same way I came in to head back to the mainland for my ride north.  I still have quite a lot to accomplish today.

One last stop at Puerto Piramides.. It’s time for a very late lunch, about 3 pm.. and I’m starving!!

Mmmmm. Vegetable tart at a cute little oceanside cafe!!

El viento viene.. El viento se va. (The wind comes, the wind goes… )  That is South Argentinian life,and I can say it comes far more than it goes!!!

Finished the road.. no Orcas.. but lots of Sea lions and an awesome lunch. Now.. on to Buenos Aires!!!


Beeyooteeful Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego

For  three days riding a couple thousand kilometers in one of the windiest places on earth, I was beyond lucky to arrive without any wind, no struggles, nice and warm air.. unheard of!

I didn’t expect that luck to last even one day more, so when the wind picked up on my 2nd night in the campground, I was like, “there you are!!”.  It’s a good thing Gabby left, because this is what I woke up to!

I shouldn’t say woke up, because I  was awake most of the night battling the wind.  I kept unzipping the tent and trying to figure out in the dark what I should do with the bike.  I moved it like 3 times, and thought I had it right. I thought about laying it down on the ground and be done with it, but I worried myself that if laying horizontal for too long would cause some other damage or problem to the bike, especially with my recently!.Somewhere between 4 and 5 AM, I must have finally slept through the roaring noise. When I opened my tent one last time with  a bit of daylight, the bike was down.  I didn’t hear it fall!  Either from lack of sleep or it went with the sound of crashing trees right across from me, I don’t know. I did hear the crashing trees, most familiar with that sound.  I remember throwing my arms over my head and hoping for the best!  I do admit I considered putting my helmet on to try to sleep.  That tree crashed close enough to me confirming I should have done exactly that! There were some great suggestions from facebook friends hat I should have just laid my bike down to begin with (I knew it!) or lean it against a tree.  I did even better after that.  There were two trees growing closely together.  I could park it between them which will hold up the bike no matter what direction the wind might blow. The family that own the campground have a large building with kitchen, etc.  When I walked in that morning, they say, “You’re alive!!”  The son, Gaston, calls me Julia (Hoolia)  He doesn’t know why, he just thinks I look like a Julia.  I’m okay with that since it’s my most gorgeous nieces name, so Julia (Hoolia) it is!  They say, “Julia, next time the weather is like that you come inside the building for the night to be safe.”

 

 

Here is where I’ll be camping for a while, Rio Pipos.  I need to wait on James who is in Punta Arenas, Chile which is 430 kilometers away to wait for his BMW parts to arrive from England.  It’s going to take awhile.  He keeps saying 5 days express post, but I’ve been down that road. There is no 5 days about it! South American customs, no matter which country, would never allow a package to arrive that easy..NEVER!! So I settle in.

Finally a nice weather day, thought I’d go and ride around Ushuaia, just because I can.  Also I need a hardware store since most of the bolts to my panniers are missing from the rugged gravel ride south, so it might be worth replacing those today too!

I got a kick out of the trees below.  How they grew through the strong winds is interesting, and proof you need to be tough to survive at the bottom of the world!

I do like it here. Most riders get their “badge”, have their celebratory drinks, a photo, and leave the next day.  I can’t help to keep thinking that out of all the places in the world I get to call home for a while, it’s at the very tippy bottom of the world, Ushuaia.

Every morning I walked into this building to have my breakfast and work on the internet.. blog of course!  Ruben always had something for me.  A piece of chocolate, fruit salad, one day even a big slice of cake!  And then he takes to flying his little remote control helicopter around the room, with me being his target practice.  This truly was completely entertaining and he’s quite good at it!  He flies it up through the rafters, around big lights to land on my little desk.

This is Argentina, they make good food.  Usually an asado (lots of meat on the supersize indoor grill) is happening, today is empanada day. Quite a big project from one woman, Maria.  So she puts her husband to work!

Focus, Ruben, Focus!! He can’t… ;-)))

They are such a close family. Four sons, wives and grandchildren stop by every single day.

You couldn’t ask for a better Grandpa…

One day, number 4 son, Gaston came in and asked, “Julia, my brother and I are going on a hike today, would you like to come?”  Si!! Yes!!!  Anything to get out of here and do something different!

I had no idea where we are going, doesn’t really matter. We just left!

We drove down the road for bit in the car, parked it and this is the beginning of the trail.. Looks freakin’ good to me!!

We came across several of these very impressive beaver dams.  Beavers are introduced species here and actually cause a lot of damage.  But you have to admit, that’s a pretty cool house!

The melting glacier above supplies this beautiful lake.

We hiked to this point, the goal for Gaston, his brother and friend.  Here we will stop and eat our lunch.  How’s this for a little lunch break!!??  I love my life!!

The color of this glacial water is striking.  I remember similar colors in the water around Lake Louise, near Banff, Canada.

Laguna Esmeralda

After lunch, you can always count on the wind picking up, especially around the mountains.. And boy did it ever!

We took a different path to the car and walked through a property that does dog sled tours.. in the winter of course!  For now it looks like they remain tied to a pole with a barrel house.

Thanks Gaston for inviting for this awesome hike.  A true highlight of my time in Ushuaia!

A couple days later I got a surprise visit from none other than James!

That sucker had returned the day before from Punta Arenas by bus, fixed his motorcycle which was stored in town and then came out to see us.  What a surprise!  I guess I can now start making plans for my future, I was starting to think I would be living in Ushuaia forever!

James had asked me long ago to wait making the obligatory ride to the official end of the road until he was here.  So today we can finally, finally, finally after my break down and his break down make it to the end of the road.. woo hoo!!

Some lazy views as we ride through National Park Tierra del Fuego.

I’ll just stay here..

Here we are.. no riding south of here unless we continue via icebergs to Antarctica! 😉

I finally got my scout badge.. The famous photo at the end of the road.  The southern most point on the planet we can ride a motorcycle.

I’m so happy we have two functioning motorcycles.  This means my time at the bottom of the world is perfectly complete. What a ride!!!

Adios Ushuaia!


To Ushuaia on a motorcycle!

So this is how my day started leaving the farm, Estancia el Chalet, and James behind on my ride down to Ushuaia.  Remember the one fuel station in town that I mentioned in the previous blog post? It has finally had a fuel delivery and EVERYBODY needs some! So I must wait in line.

The line goes quick enough though, I have to say.  What I like about Argentinian stations is that they fill the tank for you and take your money on the spot.  No need to go into a building and walk thorough rows of potato chips, coke, tools, magazines, t-shirts, and fluffy toys just to get to the cashier to pay.  They run this a bit like an assembly line!  I wonder how long it will take to fill that lovely camper I’m behind..

The van says, “Argentina..  Busqueme, me encontraron, en el pais de la libertad” Hopefully I have this right, but I interpret it to say,  “I look, I find, in the country of freedom”

I’m freeeee…….!!!!!!!!!!!!

Only me and the road.. I am loving it!!

I can’t get over my luck.  I am riding in warm weather free of wind. Zero wind, in one of the windiest places in the world!  I know I’m lucky today and I’m going to take advantage of this and ride as far as I can.  I bet the wind returns tomorrow. I rode 635 km the first day with only a small snack stop.  I just didn’t want to stop!

The most perfect riding conditions 29C, hundreds of kilometers later, still no wind..!!  All I’ve ever heard from every soul I’ve spoken to about this ride is how difficult it is to ride in the cold horizontal wind.  I’ve certainly experienced it in prior days, so I’m expecting it any moment. I’m overdressed, warm and loving my day!

I met another solo rider on the way.  The poor dear ran out of gas.  He was funny. He flew over from Spain, purchased his bike in Alaska and is riding it to Ushuaia, with only $500 budget.  No wonder he ran out of gas! EVERYTHING is freakin’ expensive down here!!

We are about 50 km to the next fuel stop and I am running on fumes as it is.  Nothing to spare, but regardless of the distance, I will go get him some gas and bring it back.  He said that would be great but another rider on a BMW had just stopped and offered the same.  It’s a gamble as you don’t know if as stranger will show up for a 100 km round trip, but I still said I would do the same.  It’s better to have too much than not enough.  After all the help I’ve received, I can’t just leave him there!

I found the BMW rider at the fuel station 50 km later. He had already purchased a big fuel container and had it strapped on to the back seat of his bike.  I talked to him just to confirm this fuel is for the guy stranded on the road (por el hombre de Espana) and he said yes.  I asked again, just to be sure, it’s a red bike that he bought in Alaska (el moto rojo de Alaska)..” Si, Si, Senorita!”  I feel confident with that, so I filled up my own tanks and went on my way.  I just wish I knew triple sure that he gets the fuel, but I’m trying not to be so over the top… 😉

I was still belting down the road enjoying the ride and my lucky weather when I wondered what the hurry was.  I pulled over for a night in San Julian on the east coast early about 2 pm, set up camp on the ocean and took advantage of this wonderful weather! I decided to make myself a nice meal with the camp burner with a plan to enjoy the sunset.

 San Julian, Argentina

My tent was set up by about 2:20 and I went to the grocery. Hmm, I’m bored. Now what.  I asked the lady in the camp office and she suggested a dirt track to go see a colony of sea lions. OK!

It was only 26 km, but I rode all the way down there and not a single sea lion in sight.  Oh well, it was great to ride in the gravel.  A nice break from all the monotonous paved Ruta 3.

I spent the following night in Rio Gallegos, and got up early the next morning to ride to the Chilean border.  Once there I met a really nice man on a Suzuki V-Strom from Israel.  His name in Gabby and he suggested we ride together today. Sure!

 Following Gabby

Here you either turn right and head to Punta Arenas Chile, or continue south to Ushuaia, which requires crossing a river.  On the boat we met a couple more riders from Brazil.  This road is one big moto-adventure highway.  I was thinking it’s a bit like being in the Scouts when we were kids (I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout!)  Once you complete a special project or task, you get a badge to wear on your uniform.  This is the same.  If you ride a motorcycle, it’s important to go this far to get your sticker from Ushuaia to put on your motorcycle.  And it seems the most common journey of any rider I’ve ever met in the world does exactly this. Alaska to Ushuaia or vice versa. So I will hopefully get my own badge soon!

Not long after the next border, the highway turns to gravel.

Gabby is a super nice man riding solo in his sixties.  I followed him on the pavement, but once we started the gravel, he slows right down.  He’s on a heavy bike and not so comfortable with his tires either. I stuck with him for a bit, but it’s simply easier for me to ride faster.  So I do what has always been done for me, I ride my pace then stop on occasion to see if the person behind me is ok and still moving.  When I see his headlight, I carry on.

On one of these stops I didn’t see a headlight for quite a while.  I thought, uh oh.  So I turned around to check on Gabby. Sure enough he was off his bike.

Gabby, what’s wrong? “Sherri, I don’t know.. I really don’t know, it just died!!”  He was so flustered..!! Bugger, really?  He says, ” it will start, but when I put it in first gear it immediately dies.”  He got on his bike to show me.  I told him, “I’m no mechanic, but I’d guess that’s a sidestand sensor”.

I showed him where I think the sensor might be, only in comparison to my own bike and knowledge.  We found the sensor and saw a huge stone from the road lodged in there.  He took it out, and we hoped it was fixed. But unfortunately it still didn’t work.  Gabby tells me he is so thankful I found the problem for him, but he doesn’t know how to fix it and for me to go on to Ushuaia.  He will set up a tent and camp here.  I said, “No you’re not, Gabby! It’s still early enough in the day. We will find a solution to this, you wait and see.”

Within minutes, like magic, two Argentinian guys traveling on bikes from the opposite direction pull over to see what’s wrong.  I told them. They got off their bikes, and knew exactly how to fix the sensor problem (remove it, cut and tape the wires).  Bike started and went into first gear… done!

How amazing, and I can not tell you how many times angels from nowhere fly in to save the day on my trip. Absolute magic!

So Gabby’s bike was a nice simple easy fix.  I wish it was always this way, I’m jealous!  I won’t mention to him what I’ve been through lately…

After the last border crossing (Argentina into Chile, out of Chile into Argentina)… just to be clear, that’s four offices and four immigration officers to stamp our passports and four customs officers to stamp in and out the bikes, meaning four slow lines to stand in one day.  That’s my tiny little whinge out of the way!

Anyway, after the last border crossing, the road turns to pavement again, and we arrive the last large-ish town, Rio Grande.  Here Gabby wants to stay the night, however, I want to ride on down to Ushuaia another 212 km.  There’s nothing to see or do in Rio and I know the weather is supposed to change tomorrow, so I’d rather ride.  I tell Gabby it was nice riding with him and he says, “Wait, I’m staying with you!”  I told him it’s not necessary, but I’m not ready to stop for the day.  He insists he wants to keep riding.  I feel bad, as I knew this was his goal destination for the day, we’ve already ridden about 430 km.  However, his choice, so he followed me.

My first sighting of an Ushuaia sign.. ooooo getting closer!

HAD to stop at this sign.  INDIANA!!  I am born in Indiana, USA and there are no other places in the world called this that I’m aware of, until now!

The landscape is changing and only 94 km to Ushuaia….

76 kilometers to Ushuaia.

48 kilometers to Ushuaia.. Yep, this is taking soooo long because I keep looking at the gps with excitement.  If I’d ignore it, the ride would seem shorter.

I remember coming through here before and I wanted to pull over so Gabby could see the view.

Always a chuckle when you “borrow” some stranger to take a photo…

OK..23 kilometers to go!!  Am I driving you crazy yet?  I’m driving my own self crazy…  Almost there!!!!!!

There she is….. USHUAIA!!

Wel pull into town and since I’ve already been here, I give Gabby the accommodation options. I think I know every location and their prices.  I already know I’m heading to the campground Rio Pipos for $10/nt.  Great wifi and super kitchen.  Gabby is not keen to camp even though he owns a tent.  So I direct him to a few other places.  Minimum shared is about $40 USD, but most hostels and privates are closer to $80 and up per night.

Gabby still says he wants to stick with me.  So he came to the campground.  He told me how much he hates camping, but he’ll do it.  I couldn’t convince him otherwise to go and stay in town.

The next morning when I saw him, he was packing up his bike, really early.  He said that’s it.. he can’t stay here!  I’m in love with this campground, I am very happy to stay.  He said he called his wife on skype and told here that he met a crazy Aussie/American lady riding her motorcycle solo (she is afraid to ride, is why he is telling her) and that I made him ride 653 km in one day!  (He is joking of course).  He said he had never ridden that far in one day his entire trip from Florida to here!  I didn’t feel it was that far. The day went fast due to all the border crossings, his breakdown for 1 hour, and we still arrived with plenty of daylight.  I said my goodbyes to Gabby from Israel, he was a pleasure to meet and ride with.

I do like it here. Most riders get their “badge”, have their celebratory drinks, a photo, and leave.  I can’t help to keep thinking that out of all the places in the world I get to call home for a while, twice!, it’s at the very tippy bottom of the world, Ushuaia.


Crazy Beautiful Argentine Life!

Enjoying the last few days around Ushuaia.  I’m taking it in because I know there is some serious drama and challenges coming right up!

 A view to Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel from the mountain.. There’s supposedly a glacier up here.  We haven’t found it but I’m getting some good exercise!

The time came to leave the local disturbing Santa behind in Ushuaia..

One thing I have not mentioned in my blog yet is the most interesting crazy process I have to go through to get a fuel pump for my motorcycle to a farm in Argentina.  It’s not as easy as ordering one and expecting it to arrive by mail.. Nope.  The world is going to make this as difficult as possible.  As if breaking down thousands of kilometers from any city and/or mechanic isn’t enough of a challenge!

Argentina’s borders are closed to importation.  Unless something is MADE in Argentina, and KTM is not, I can not get the appropriate fuel pump here.  After lots and LOTS of consultation with friends, KTM owners, professionals all over the world, here is the plan.

I can not mail the fuel pump to Argentina, and my next closest country is Chile.  I got onto Horizons Unlimited Community www.horizonsunlimited.com and found a really nice man in Chile, Tim Druett who agreed to accept my fuel pump from the USA.  Previously we thought James might be able to pick it up from Tim as he returned north and ride back into Argentina with the pump concealed.  However, James BMW, HAS NOW broke down in Ushuaia (more on that in a minute) and he’s not riding anywhere for a long time.

I ended up stuck for a while. Can I rent a car in Chile or Argentina?  Neither that would allow crossing the border with a rented vehicle.  Does a bus cross the border up there?  No buses.

Running out of ideas and options, James thought to ask Mark who was already riding north in Chile if he could stop in Coyahique Chile, pick up the pump from Tim, and leave it somewhere in Argentina, as just that border hurdle would make it easier for us to get.  He agreed and would be able to drop it at his next Argentine stop, Esquel.  Perfect!  That’s only 180 km of the farm!

Once the orders were placed, the waiting game begins.  I’ve confirmed MY part has arrived Chile.  But not Tim’s house yet!  It is stuck at customs in Santiago. Chile wants more money.  Most countries down here have a 40% import tax.  40% !!!!  Then I couldn’t pay it from Argentina because they won’t take credit card, only cash!  Ugh!  Next I learned my own bank will NOT allow any transfer to Chile, due to lack of agreements and Chile on their “high risk” list.  Hmm.  Can I pay through Western Union from Argentina?  I found one, walked all the way there with info in had and Yes, but that would be an extra $40 to pay a $75 tax.  What? I had no idea their fees are that high! My next idea is to email my trusty friend in Santiago, Martyn Howorth.  “Martyn, can I get you to pay my customs bill and I will transfer the money to your account once I am in Chile.”  “Sure, Sherri Jo!” Finally a yes!  He is so cool, always helpful. (Remember Martyn helped us tremendously while I was with the Husaberg Adventure Team in his Santiago house for many days!) Within seconds of receiving my email with transfer details it was done and he sent over the confirmation.  Good man. NOW, the dag gone part can carry on to Coyahique, Chile.

So James and I had recently moved to Punta Arenas Chile by bus.  He could do nothing to get the special parts removed from his broken BMW in Ushuaia so we went to get a special tool and mechanic who could help him. Punta Arenas the largest Chilean town in the south and the base point where most people come to do some serious Patagonia trekking. James got the parts separated from the unit and he needs to order his replacement parts from England. He will have to do the same as me, have them sent to Chile.  And I managed to get my pay-back money transferred to Martyn.

It all seems like a football game with strategies and passes!

Next, Mark picks up the fuel pump from Tim, crosses the border into Argentina, and made it to a hotel in Esquel.  So James is ready to take the bus with me north to try to fix my bike one last time.  I feel so guilty for him to travel so far just for my bike, but somehow the universe worked it out that he had nothing else to do for the next 2 weeks but to wait for his own parts to arrive from England. So it worked out quite well.  However, my guilt bill is wracking up as he’s done far too much for me already.  I really struggle with that even though he spends a lot of his time trying to convince me to stop worrying, he is doing it because he wants to.

From Punta Arenas, we both arrive Esquel by bus, and pick up my tiny little fuel pump that has been such a drama!  Then another 2 hour bus ride south to Gobernador Costa where wonderful Ignacio arrived right on time to pick us up and take us back to his farm.. and my bike!

This whole process has been really difficult.  But with persistence, this drama reminds me that truly – ANYTHING is possible.

 The “Surgery”

Once on the farm, we didn’t screw around.  James got straight to work on my bike.  I am so scared and nervous.  What if after all this drama the new fuel pump doesn’t fix the bike.  James is not a professional mechanic, he’s an amazing mechanic self taught!  But neither of us are completely sure that this is what will save me.  If the new pump doesn’t work, we have exhausted every possible option.  Then I have to decide to completely ditch the bike or spend thousands of dollars to get it out of here.  I do my best not to think about that though. I must stay positive! However, the thought crossed my mind to take off on this lawnmower. 😉

James!  I can’t figure out how to get the darn thing started!  Now, that’s bad…

If I can’t take the lawnmower, fingers crossed James can perform a miracle today on the bike.

Ignacio “Nacho” stops by to see how we’re doing.

Progress, it’s time for a test.  FINGERS CROSSED………………….!!!!!!!!!!!!

The bike wouldn’t start. My nerves were blowing out my head, even though I focused to stay calm and optimistic.  Then, the battery died in the process of trying too much to get it started.  James asked me to go away for a while.  He was nervous too, and it didn’t help having me around. He hooked up the cables to Nacho’s truck and I heard it start from the kitchen with Milagros (her name means miracle in Spanish.. too perfect!) and it kept running!  Woo hoo!!

Idling is as good thing but I had to take it for a test ride myself.  I really didn’t want to, I was so scared to find out it would die again on the road as it had been before.  We knew that all the fuel with water had been drained from my bike, so I bought a little 5 litre container in Esquel and brought some fuel back to the farm.

I slowly got on the bike for the test with lots of prayers and…..I rode it all he way to Costa 10 k’s and back.. not a single problem!!  WOW!!! This is a FULL ON MIRACLE!! James is a SUPERSTAR!!!  I owe every bit of it to James. THANK YOU!!!!

A very proud James. He deserves to be!

There is no way to thank everybody from all over the planet who gave me advise and assistance on this project.  But particularly, Tim Druett, Mark Donham, and Martyn Howorth who were like my teammates in this pass the pump game. As always the motorcycle community blows me away with willingness to help another biker no matter what.  There is especially no way to thank Young James who has gone far, WAY FAR, beyond-the-universe far for doing everything in his power just to help me.  I’ve never met anybody as helpful as him.. and I’ve met a lot of very helpful people!  James wouldn’t give up on me or my bike no matter how many times I tried to push him out the door to continue his own journey.  This is my problem not his, but he has a heart of gold.

I’m all packed up and ready to gooooo!!  But wait.  Ignacio wants to call the fuel station to see if they have any fuel.  My 5 litres won’t get me too far.  Since I’ve been hanging about Ruta 40, it is more common than not for the one fuel station in town to be out of fuel, and for as much as 3 days.  Today is Tuesday and they are expecting fuel on Thursday.  UGH… COME ON!!!! Can you believe after all this, I’m still dag gone stuck!!??

Mom needed to go north to Esquel on business for a few days, but managed to get a photo together before she left.  That is one serious wagon and of course the amazingly beautiful house.  The house was built by her father in the 1930’s-40’s who came here and settled all the way from Spain.

The next morning I am wandering the property early, and I see the station hand is getting ready to leave for the day on the land with his dogs.

They’ve just got a call that a cow is loose and out by the road.  We jump in the truck to muster it back into the paddock.

Nacho is a veterinarian and he wanted to know if I would like to join him to another Station (Estancia), because he needs to take some blood samples of their stock.  We drive about 50 km’s to get there, chatting all the way in Spanish.

The life of champion sheep.

 Awww.  I could think of a few comments, but I’ll leave it at that..

Nacho says, “Sherri, you must go see the sheep in this other shed.”  Why, Nacho, (Por que)? He says, “Champion Sheep. They come from Australia!”  See, I knew there was something good about my country!  😉

Back home, I set off to explore the property again since I have 2 more days of waiting to fill in!

 A photo of Nacho with his Grandfather.

Look what I found!! A Ford Model T?

It’s like going into your grandmother’s attic.  So many cool amazing finds, I am loving this!

Out with the old and in with the new.  I bet Grandpa would have never guessed that the morning breakfast shows would come through a big screen in the kitchen starring nearly naked people.  This presenter was on Argentinian morning television with her tiny bikini every day..and boy did she flaunt it!  Here she is interviewing a man from the USA, also enjoying his body on television. And then she’d run into the ocean, do the whole Pamela Anderson thing and run slowly back to the camera. Often!  She needed to cool off. It is a whopping 26 degrees Celcius (78F) here don’t you know.  Too funny!

Argentinian morning TV – Lord have Mercy!

Well, the old days are not lost completely.  While the family are all busy I’m wandering around the property a bit more. I notice that I’m glad not to have internet here, I am getting so much more out of life than sitting at the computer!

Came across the latest sheep victims hanging in a wooded area behind an abandoned house on the property. Very recent kill.  I’m glad I found this now rather than during…

Since Mom is up north, young Milagros takes over in the kitchen.  We laugh a lot because there is a daily appearance from Empanadas Atun (Tuna Empanadas).  I tease the Garcia Diez family about it, because of all places on the planet.. far from any ocean, on a farm that rears it’s own meat, lamb and beef, our most common and favorite feed here is ironically Tuna!

While playing in the yard with Monkey the dog, I heard a couple of big bangs in the shed, but I thought it might be the farm employees.  Now I know what I heard.. It was Milagros and Guido chopping up a lamb on the block in the shed for dinner and here they are bringing it to the house. Milagros must be a superstar with a knife.  She is only here this month on holiday break from Vet school!

Milagros is an excellent cook.  She made a spectacular meal with the lamb, and I’m not a lamb fan, but this was good.  She also made some super vegetarian salads for James.  Not an ’empanada atun’ in sight! 😉

It’s hard to get this family to let me help them with anything.  We’ve been living in their house and eating their food for days, let alone using the shed as a mechanic shop.  So when the wool truck showed up to pick up the bales, I didn’t ask, I just jumped and started helping.  They tried to push me away but I kept saying, ‘Yo quiero ayudar!!’  I want to help!

These things are freakin’ heavy! We had so much fun and I quite honestly love some good hard work and this kind of exercise.

Guido and Monkey the dog. What a smile!

 Milagros and her kitty cat. “Sherri, would you like some Mate?”

I hadn’t actually experienced Mate in the traditional way here as of yet. Everybody, men and women, carry their mate pouches and thermos over the shoulder.  I see this more than purses.  Nacho comes in and they are like, “Yeah, we’re teaching you proper mate!”

Loose Yerba Mate comes from a tree leaf found in most of South America. I’ve seen it in Brazil and Paraguay, but in Argentian it’s their national drink. Very popular because it’s caffeinated! The leaves are dried, toasted and crushed. Then the crushed mate is poured into a wooden cup or gourd to about 2/3 full.  You steep it with hot water (not boiling), and then you leave some space and pour cold water to make it cooler and drinkable through a filtered straw (usually metal, called a bombilla).  When the Mate is passed to you, you can keep it as long as want, take a drink, two or four,  and when they hear you say “Gracias”, they know you are done.  With several refills,  Nacho is holding and topping up with the hot water jug. But usually you see people carrying along a thermos of water for the day.

 Wait, which direction?  Who takes the Mate? Mili is looking at me that way because I’m about to pass it the wrong direction… again.

My turn again… I love Mate. We get Yerba Mate in tea bags at home, but this is the real deal!

I wander back into the kitchen.  “Hey Sherri, do you want to go fishing?”  Sure!  I love fishing.  I went upstairs to ask James, who has been busy all day watching movies in his room.  He likes that, I often feel bad that he’s not doing something, but he always makes it clear that he loves his movie watching days.  Okay then, being a full vegetarian, he’s not keen at all to watch us catch and kill fish.

Nacho makes his own lures, how cool is that?!

Guido is passionate about watching tennis on  TV..!  Of all places, The Australian Open in Melbourne.  We are one small world….

Ok, lures are done, let’s go.

While walking out to the river, a very long walk, they spot something and go chasing it.  What the heck?  Get it! Get it!!  Nacho picked it up and wanted to show me a native resident, the Armadillo.

On the odd occasion I’ve seen one scurry about the side of the road, now Nacho wants me to hold it.. Really? Can’t say no to that!

The Argentinian Armadillo

I felt bad about holding it by the tail, I hope it didn’t hurt. He/she was super cute though and we set him free quickly.  Thanks little mate!

Poor little lamb, what happened to you!?  I imagine that strong wind picked it up and threw it into a bush it couldn’t escape!  ;-(

A super nice treat out here on the land is a little bush called Calafate.  I remember it so easy because there is a major tourist destination called El Calafate to the south (haven’t visited it yet).  Anyway this bush has a dark purple berry, that resembles blueberries, but a bit more tart.  The really ripe ones were nice and we swallowed them by the handful as we continued on to the fishing spot.

 Calafate

We spent far more time eating Calafate than fishing.. no complaints from me!

Check out this plant, it grows around a rock.  There were many of these. I assume it’s some form of moss?  Not sure.

Changing locations

I’m watching and I see the fish jumping,  but still not a single one will take the hook.

They put in a good long effort, but the time came to cut our losses.  No fish today..

Life on the farm in Argentina.  I feel really content.  I couldn’t have had a better time and I feel so grateful because you can’t buy this kind of experience.  To get to know this family and live with them was worth breaking down for. So special. I know that times are tough in this country.  But I am in love with this beautiful family and their lifestyle.  I really hope to see them again someday.

Now, to the next challenge….. !

Riding to Ushuaia has been difficult and challenging enough so far, but I’ve had my buddy James with me the whole way.  Now the fuel should be here and with James’ bike still stuck in Ushuaia, I am going to take on these difficult roads for 3000 km south, ALONE.  Usually I would stress a bit about it, the crazy wind, the roads, gravel and hazards mixed with the wind and the cold.  I know this is ahead and I’d normally worry.  However, since going through so much drama just to get the bike fixed, I won’t consider wasting time with fear of the ride. It’s been a long time now, I just going to trust I will make it and RIDE!!


Christmas in Ushuaia, Argentina

I made it to the bottom of the world, Ushuaia Argentina alone.  Ushuaia is a very expensive place to be.  Not only for taking advantage of the tourists, but it’s a long way to get supplies delivered. When I organized the cabin for us, both friends James and Mark agreed to do it, but to help keep costs down, we had one more bed to anyone else who might be interested.

The next day James came in on his motorcycle and was very very cold.  It was a tough ride for him, but I’m glad he made it without issue.  Mark Donham will be arriving tomorrow.  He’s got the big bucks (;-), so he came down early for a cruise to Antarctica.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do as well, but it’s crazy expensive and will have to wait for a future Sherri Jo adventure.

While James and I were settling in, there was a knock at the door.  I open it, and there is a man with a big “HELLO!” in his riding gear.  “Who are you??”  Well, WHO ARE YOU??  “I’m Slow Phil.. from Canada”  G’day Slow Phil, come in… Do we know you??

Mark, knowing we had an extra bed available put the info out online, ADV Rider and the deal sounded good to Phil, so he responded to Mark.  Since Mark was out of reach on the Cruise Ship, we didn’t know about it, but that’s okay.  We got the story, and it all made sense, and we are glad to have a new roommate, OR ARE WE??

Lord have Mercy!  It’s the Hulk!?  It was James who kept thinking that Phil looks like Hulk, looked up a photo online (in the left hand corner) and got Phil to make an imitation of it.. Which he did perfectly. Brilliant!

Phil is here on his Suzuki V-Strom. Mark came in the next day from his cruise and I have a goal to complete.  Many of you know, but for those that don’t, Kevin was killed on his Buell Ulysses motorcycle on his way down a few months ago.  Our goal at the time was to get to Ushuaia together.  He didn’t make it in person, but I have a piece of his helmet from the accident site and it has been my goal and mission to get him here in any way I could.  Now that all the boys are here, it’s time…

Kevin’s brother in Scotland, Ian, suggested we share Scottish whiskey. I surprisingly found a small bottle in Ushuaia and we all had a good drink, shared a bit with Kevin with lots of cheers and tears!

This was like a big closure thing for me.  I feel a bit of weight lifted.  Kevin’s plan was to go back to Canada for 6 months for his job while I explored through the Amazon and down.  Then he was coming back to “finish the job” as he said to Ushuaia. I was worried I wouldn’t make it either with the recent bike trouble, but we got you here Kev!!  I really miss Kevin and wish so much he could have enjoyed this in person.

While the boys are together we decided to stop by the grocery on the way back to the cabin.  We have very limited resources and cooking facilities, so this will be interesting!

Yep, there we go..  My four MALE roommates over Christmas looking very lost and confused in the grocery store… hahahaha!!!

Left to right:  Claude, Mark, Phil and James

The fourth person in our little house is Claude (who I keep calling Cloud for unknown reasons!)  He’s a French-Canadian from Florida that told me he was coming to our Christmas dinner….. while he was still in Florida!  This man rode through Mexico, Central and South America so fast on his motorcycle, I’m not sure when he slept or when he managed to see anything he was riding past.  But it’s good to meet him and have him here.  Since my bike is still up the road, he’s my driver/rider for today on the back of his BMW 1200gs .. yay!  Whew!  I now know how he got here so fast, a very quick and whippy rider. I think my back is still suffering from jumping over the road speed bumps! 😉 Very talented and comfortable on his bike that’s for sure.

Look boys, forget the groceries. This is all we need…. !!!

I’d like to, but I can’t take the credit for the line up on the kitchen table.  We bought the wine together.  They are for Christmas, but I think a few of those bottles didn’t make it.. gone the first night!  We did manage to save some for tomorrow.. and thank goodness there are more friends coming over with spare stash! And hopefully, without holding my breath, there is a shop that sells wine open tomorrow.

Christmas Day… We have invited people to come around 1 pm.. so what does a household of men (and me) decide to do with our time?  Young James is travelling with a Santa Suit, which we found in a small shop in San Rafael (northern Argentina).  Dressed him up and took a cruisy ride around town.. Santa on a BMW!

We all sort of agree the super size town Santa on the left is a bit disturbing.. but let’s see if James can do one better for the town.

The people are thrilled!  Here comes Santa Claus..on a motorcycle!

Lots of people taking photos.  This role is made for James.  I think he should do this every year.

One very important photo we must take is of Santa James in front of the British Pirate sign.  James is from England and there is an ongoing heated government ‘discussion’ of who should own the Falkland Islands, off the coast of Argentina.  Known in Argentina as Islas Malvinas, the locals want their islands back. There has been bloody battle (The Falklands War in 1982), and still remains a lot of passion and animosity to the Brits.  Luckily the Argentinian people that we have met, and learn that James is from England, have been good to us.

So this is James little British invasion photo in a Santa Suit down by the pier. I don’t think it’s enough to scare off the Argentinian troops though!  The sign says, “British pirate ships are prohibited from mooring.”

 

One last little photo with Santa before heading back to get the party started!

I was flabbergasted at the amount of international riders that showed up at our little cabin.  We all invited people, however I think Mark takes the award for inviting the most. We’d be walking down the street in Ushuaia and he’d yell out, “Hey wanna come to our Christmas party?”  to random strangers.. as long as they had two wheels, they were invited.

We referred to them by country.. The Greeks showed up first, Stavros and Thanasis from Athens.

Young Ollie, also from England, who came along with some other riders.  Ollie was so amazing to meet as he just showed up in Ushuaia on his motorcycle.. and he’s only 18 years old!  He had a lot of great questions as this marks the beginning of his first ride to Alaska.  I was enjoying having the experience to answer!  Until the other boys came up, piped up and they ALL filled poor Ollie’s head with tons of advice. I think everyone in the room has ridden a motorcycle from Alaska down with many opinions to offer.  Ollie was gracious and took every bit of it in..  good for him, really cool kid.  I still can’t get over taking on something this big at his age.  Just awesome.

Young James feeling very content with his wine.  He has been through a lot over the last few weeks riding with me. The Santa suit is really perfect for him.

We originally guessed we might have about 10 other riders come to our Christmas?  At last count there were over 40~~!!  It was amazing, such a surprise and such a fun great day!!!!! World travellers, UNITE!!

How good is THIS??!!

Now that’s what you call a “Merry Christmas”.

There’s still a few more days to enjoy Ushuaia, and since I couldn’t afford the Antarctic trip, I learn that we can go see some penguins about 60 km south of here at Estancia Harberton.  It’s privately owned, very controlled and we can only go there if we agree to the bus tour.. no motorcycles. ;-(  Not ideal, but I’ve seen nearly everything else around here, so I’d like to go.

Estancia Harberton homestead

They have a great marine museum here, and was perfect for the quick education of the penguins and other marine life here.

Just a few whale bones laying around the front yard.  I guess you can do that if the whale dies on your property!

Now, I’m going to go into penguin photo overload.  They were just so funny and easy to photograph and I couldn’t decide which ones to keep.  So I kept many!

We take a little aluminium boat from the farm to their penguin island.

And the photo taking marathon begins!

 Lovers.. they were  k i s s i n g..  ha!

I’m guilty of talking to penguins. “Hi, my name is Sherri Jo, I come from the north.”  “Huh?”

There was a little baby bird in the field all alone.  Not a penguin, a sea eagle maybe? Little fluff ball..so cute!

I am the headless penguin…………. 

Walk this way… talk this waaaay…..

Dancing.. Doing the do ce do!

 Singing!!

These penguins are really fun and entertaining.. Who’da thought!?

Our guide tells us we are lucky and have a surprise visitor today.  The majority of penguins here are called Magellanic Penguins There are two King Penguins visiting from Antarctica.  Our guide tells us this is very rare for them to come up this far to Argentina. So we are very lucky to see them!

Definitely a King Penguin.  He instructs his Magellanic followers to “Do as I do, stand as I do..Don’t speak unless spoken too!”  Si, Your Majesty!

Kisses!!

Two little spys….

Soooo cute!!!

Penguin prayers..

Hey, what type of penguin is he?

Don’t look now, we’re being followed…

I took so many penguin photos, it wore me out.  I decided to just sit with them for a while.

As we were headed back to our little boat on the beach, this super size tourist boat pulled in.  This was the other optional tour, to come here from down town Ushuaia on a cruise boat rather than bus.  Thank God we made the right decision!  Look at all those people! On top of that, they are not permitted to walk on the island.  The only photos they get is from the deck of the boat, of which the people are all fighting for space.. yuk!!

A view from my window back in Ushuaia.  Not a bad place to be in the world… ;-))

It’s been a pretty tough year. Thank you to everyone who came to make one the best and unforgettable Christmas ever.. ! James, Mark, Phil and Claude (Cloud). You guys rock!!


Give me a Break! Ruta 40 Argentina!

There is a first for everything on my world motorcycle journey and this is SO bad it’s funny, well it wasn’t funny at the time, but now it’s funny.

You can see by the tree on the far right in the picture below that we are still battling strong winds.  But when I see that funky cloud up ahead, I have a gut feeling it’s about to get even worse.

We rode through this wind and it was super tough.  I was getting so ticked off when a gust would shove me fast and hard into the other lane, which wasn’t a big deal unless somebody was coming!  And sometimes… somebody was coming!  So scarey.

I followed behind a slower truck for quite a while, that helped a lot.. UNTIL….

My helmet visor disconnected on the wind side of my face. Still connected to the left side of the helmet, the clear plastic visor miraculously didn’t snap off, but I was still in motion and wanted to save it.  If it snaps, I will have to finish my trip without any visor until I leave South America!  So I really wanted to save it.  The problem was, I can’t hold my hand over the visor to keep it from breaking in the wind and hold on to the bars, clutch and brakes to stop the bike at the same time.  With my feet and only one hand, I slowed then came to a stop. I can still hardly believe I managed that. It was SO hard to do, at a severe angle mind you, from battling the strong wind gusts.

Once I was actually stopped, I could not let go of the bike to unsnap the chinstrap to try to fix the visor.  I could NOT let go of the visor or the bike nor get off while using my left leg strongly trying not to be pushed over in the wind!!!!  I considered just letting myself drop, but I’m on the side of the road, not the shoulder.  I could have definitely crashed into the dirt and gravel slope on the right going downhill, totally sure the bike would land on top of me.  If I fall to the left, any truck or car can hit me at any time, because they are also tackling control of their vehicles in the wind.  It is clear that what I learned before, is that it’s harder to stay upright when stopped than it is in motion and I was really losing it.

James was long gone, he wasn’t watching in his mirror due to his own battle with the wind.  And I was stuck. After what seemed like forever, he finally turned around and came back, thank goodness!  “What’s wrong Sherri Jo?” Just hold the bike James, I need to get off. “but what’s happened?”  I showed my helmet and please just hold the bike, I have to get off.  Once I was off the bike I realized how shaken I was from being stuck. James reminded me that I should have chosen the option to just crash or fall in the gravel down the slope.  We would have eventually gotten me out from underneath the bike and back onto the highway, which would be a better choice than being smashed from truck in the road.  Fair enough, but I didn’t want the possible damage to me, my helmet or the bike at the time, but he is right.

James is very patient and very good at fixing things, so he took my helmet.  It was just the snap in plastic piece. I could have fixed it, but I was glad he managed to do it quickly so I could have a little bit of a stress out. But now I laugh at how comical I must have looked if anybody saw the whole thing.

Later down the road we found a patch of trees and tucked into them for a wind break. A much needed break both mentally and physically.  It was late in the afternoon, and I suggested to James that this is all too dangerous and riding my motorcycle to Ushuaia is not worth dying for.

He agreed that it was worse so we looked at camping in the trees for protection for the night.  The problem with that little patch of trees is that it is a rest area and you know what people do when they don’t have facilities available.  All the land, everywhere we looked was coated with human poo, toilet paper and broken glass.  It was thoroughly disgusting.

We spent a few minutes trying to decide what is the smartest option at this point.  The wind is roaring but there is no way that I can live with camping here on poo land.  I saw a house tucked behind a fence and some trees across the road.  I want to ask the owner if we can camp in his trees.

Now the next challenge, how to get the bikes across the road. Literally, by the wind direction if we try to ride directly across the cross wind, we are going down.  Even he said so with that big BMW!

We ended up riding wrong way down the shoulder and then crossing at a diagonal.

The farmer was a nice man and of course he said yes.  Thank goodness!  I explained to him I feel these winds must be 70-80 km/hr as a guess.   He has a wind meter and said the gusts are at 100+ km/hr.  WHAT??!!  I just rode my motorcycle in that!?  He said I was crazy and shouldn’t be the road.  “Believe me Senor, I am more than ready to get off this road!”

There are no natural forests in this part of Argentina.  Any group of trees have been planted solely to be used as wind protection.

We are camping amongst the animals tonight.. and I’m happy with that!

James wasn’t as pleased as I was.  There is a fair bit of animal poo around too.  He just sat and stared at it for a while until I picked up some branches and swept him a clean space so he could set up his tent.  He got into his tent and I didn’t see him again until the next day.

I was interested in having a look around the farm though, it really is a beautiful place to be stuck for the night.

After a very long night of wind roaring through the trees, my tent pole snapping under pressue, the tent flopping around like crazy and continuously wondering if a tree might fall on my head, the sun came up once again. We’re not sure, but it seems the wind might be marginally calmer at the moment.

We needed to make a decision to ride in this again or hang out in an animal paddock all day.  Neither thought appealed to us, but we decided it was worth giving the road another chance.

We did pack up and ride, and slowly arrived Bariloche, a beautiful touristy town in Argentina.

Huge temperature change, I was freezing!  My heated jacket doesn’t work, and I’m shaking to the bone.  A big bowl of soup for a late lunch and hot tea fixed me up.

In Bariloche we know that the majority of the roads we will ride south of here are gravel so now we can change our smooth roads tires to the TKC80’s we’ve been carrying. We found there is only one shop in town that has the tire machine.  This saves a lot of time when changing out 3 tires. James is changing both tires, me just the front.

When we left the shop we rode about 2 blocks to get fuel.  On leaving the fuel station something happened and I fell down in the road right in front of all the traffic.. Embarrassed!!  And it wasn’t even that windy in town amongst the buildings! What happened?  I felt something jam.  But when I picked up the bike I was able to roll it to one side.  James says he doesn’t see anything, and for me to get back on the bike and try to ride again. But I am adamant that I didn’t just fall over for nothing, something jammed and I’m not riding until I find it.  While he tried to roll my bike himself, I saw the culprit.  The brake caliper is hanging near the front wheel.  The big screw is still laying in the middle of the road where I fell over.

It turned out, between the two boys working on my bike, one of them forgot to reattach the caliper.  Thanks guys!!  I’m going to guess that the old man is not used to having a helper like James and neither checked to see who was doing which part of the job. I’m the idiot for trusting them and not checking it myself. Anyway, James has his tools handy on the side of the road, he reattached the caliper and we were on our way south.

I’ve seen a lot of rainbows on this journey, but this is a super bright one!

This is still hard core wind. But we’re making our way.

We pulled in for fuel at the next largeish town, Esquel.  As luck would have it, my bike died shortly after leaving the fuel stop.  AGAIN??? For real???? NOW WHAT!!!!  Can I just have a normal day somehow??  I restarted the bike, went about 5 km and it died again.  It won’t restart while in motion, but if I pull over completely stop and turn off the bike, it seems to start again straight away.  This time I got a good 20-30 km and then it happened only every now and then.

Then it got super worse.  This time I stopped and stayed stopped.  I told James the bike is dying big time, I don’t know why, but I want to try to flag down a truck to see if it can take me back to Esquel.  A German couple riding south to Ushuaia also stopped to see if they could help.

It was hard to get an Argentinian truck driver to stop, but I finally got one!  He says he has to stop often for bikers on this road, Ruta 40.  I ask why?  (porque?)  Agua… agua en la gasolina.  He asked, “Did you fill up at Petrobras (the name of a fuel station)?”  I said “Si”, he said, “Nunca.. Never buy fuel at Petrobras, only YPF”.  I didn’t know that they have a reputation for fuel in the water.  The Germans knew that, but we didn’t.  In Paraguay, it was the opposite, the Paraguayans were saying whatever you do, make SURE you buy at Petrobras, the other stations are bad.  I assumed that carried over with the same company in Argentina.. Wrong!!!

The truck driver was funny, he kept dipping his finger in my fuel and tasting it.. and said “Yep, hay mucha agua”  There is a lot of water in your fuel.. Dammit!  THAT is a man who knows his fuel!  I always thought you had to use a clear bottle to visually see if it’s dirt or water,  but this guy has experience!

But we all couldn’t help laughing at this guy as he seems to enjoy tasting my fuel.. over and over!  Totally weird!!

There was nothing we could do on the side of the road in this strong wind.  Too big of a problem for taking the bike apart.  The trucker couldn’t carry me, so I decided to carry on.  Again the bike would start and I could ride it a few km’s before it would die again.  I just dealt with it, the continuous stops and restarts until it died just outside this huge farm (station).  I told James I’m going to go up and ask them if we might be able to borrow a shed to take the bike apart and drain the fuel.

I had to open a couple of gates to get to the house. A bit cautious as I wondered if they have those gates there to keep people coming in from the road. But a man answered the door straight away, in his classic Argentinian wool beret.  I see the name of the property is “Estancia El Chalet”  (The Chalet Station).  I’ll tell you more about this property later.. it’s fascinating!

Score!  The man at the door, Ignacio, was super kind and gave us the sheep shearing shed to work in.. woo hoo! It is SUCH a relief to be out of the wind.. huge relief!!

The first thing we did was drain ALL the fuel.. after I found some spare plastic containers around the shed to put it in.  Then we added some new gas from James spare emergency fuel that was not purchased at Petrobras.  The bike started and ran in idle no problem, but once in gear and riding it died again, the same symptoms.  Oh dear.. we were hoping this might be an easier fix, not looking good if it still wants to die.

It’s quite interesting to watch how busy this farm is.  By the looks of it, it seems to be quiet, but there is always a horse and a herd of cows or sheep coming through from somewhere “out there” for this or that.  Vaccinations, tests, mustering, etc.

I have the KTM 690 Repair manual in my computer and we loaded it onto James iPad (his batteries last longer).  James is a really good mechanic and he has the patience to read through the manual to try to troubleshoot the problem. Give me a cookbook and I’ll make a helluva meal, but I go into complete brain fog with mechanics. I’d prefer he remove the black sock off his head to read it a little more clearly?!

We really need internet though. (I hate that we are so spoiled by it, but in these situations is when modern technology really shines) James wants to get on to some forums and ask some KTM people questions.  They don’t have internet at the farm, so we agreed to leave the bike here and go to town, Gobernador Costa, just 10 km down the road.  Ignacio tells me there is internet there, but it’s dial up, very slow.  Anything is better than nothing and we give it a go.

Nope the internet is far too slow for us to make any progress.  Waiting for answers is long, especially in different time zones and researching online at dial up speed is super frustrating. We got some information, but we’d like to talk on skype and that will be impossible.  We know if we go back to Esquel 200 km north of here, we can use proper fast internet to achieve many goals.

So the next day we prepare to travel two up to Esquel. And wouldn’t you know?  There is a problem already! We haven’t even left yet.. COME ON!!!!  James rear tire is very low. Why?!  We just put that new tire on! He thinks there might be a puncture?  We can’t find one.  He gets out his soap and does the valve bubble test.

Yep, it’s a leaky valve.  Gee whiz, give us a break?? !! He tightened it up and we’re on our way.  Thank goodness his fix was an easy one!

On the road north to Esquel as a pillion rider.  I think I’ve reached a new low.  However, it was nice that the wind is kind to us today and I can enjoy the ride, the view, and take some pictures of the beautiful land we rode through yesterday.

2 hours on the internet gave us heaps of information and ammunition for solving the problem.  Back to the farm we go…. Nothing like riding 400 km round trip to get some information, but it was a really nice ride.

Out of the options we tried so far, draining the fuel, new fuel filter which I’ve been carrying in my spare parts, and spark plug, each attempt is not fixing the problem.  This brings us down to the fuel pump or the fuel injector.  We try the fuel injector because it’s the easier of the two, first.

We bought a 9V battery in Esquel and with some spare wire, removed the fuel injector and tested the spray outside of the bike.  It sprays fine.

Ugh ugh ugh.. it’s so frustrating for me, but even more so for James who is doing all the hard work.

Working away inside the sheep shed, do you ever feel like you’re being watched???

James reassembles the bike for the 4th time.. let’s hope the fuel injector trick does the job.

James takes my bike out on the main road to test it while I wait in huge anticipation and some seriously big prayers.  I watch the boys bring in some more sheep and take photos to try to keep my mind off why I can’t hear the bike motor on the road.

James came back, the bike is running, so I’m about to do the hallelujah dance…. UNTIL…

He says no, it died twice, while shaking his head. (My lights look good though, hey? 😉

I feel more bad for him than for me, as he’s worked so hard for nearly 3 days on it.  The only other possibility is the fuel pump of which I do not carry in my spare parts.  And during our research escape to Esquel, finding one in Argentina for a KTM 690 Enduro “ain’t gonna happen”!  What the heck do I do now??? I’m stuck but we need to get James south to Ushuaia.  While we were in Brazil, I came up with an idea to have Christmas together with other riders in Ushuaia and I’ve rented a little cabin there.  I’m devastated.  I can’t go, but it will be great to get James on his way.

James is so kind, he insists they can’t have Christmas without me (they easily can, but it was nice of him to say) I must come 3000 km on the back of his bike (not a great option, he doesn’t have a rear seat) or by bus.  I spent some time thinking about it, I’m sick to my stomach about all of this andquite happy to stay here. I can get a new fuel pump on order and deal with it being the luck of the draw.  The breakdown is not a KTM problem, it was the result of buying fuel with water in it, and how could any of us have known at the time.  But I don’t want to hold him or anyone else back because of it.

He wouldn’t let up, there is no way a new fuel pump will arrive from the United States before Christmas, and it would be better to be with friends over the holidays. I know he is right, but I will just be embarrassed after all this not to arrive on my own bike. James made a conviction, “We are fixing your bike, you are riding to Ushuaia, just not today.”  Fair enough, such a good friend, I arrange to stand on the street to flag down a bus going south, while James does his best to cheer me up, and packs up his bike to ride..  God speed, James!

I got on the bus. It was a super weird experience. I have never traveled on a bus in my life!!  I have no idea what to expect, but if I were to guess, I would think it is going to be really cramped and torture.

I sat “upstairs” in my supersize plush seat and had such a beautiful view! The wind was blowing hard enough that even the big bus was thrown over to the other side of the road a couple of times.. really!  So I was worried about James.  But I am loving this bus experience so far.  No way I would do it full time, but it’s not bad!

I took some photos from my front view 2nd storey window.

Toilet and snack break..  I met a lot of foreign travelers on the bus.  They had pre-purchased their tickets weeks ago, and were as surprised as I was that a bus would just stop and pick me up on the roadside like it did.

Not a bad ride.. We changed buses in the middle of the night.. Always stopping for drop offs and pick ups.

New morning, new bus.. great movies!

When I got this handed to me for lunch, I looked at it and thought, Uh oh.  But it was darn tasty!  Under that knife and fork is an Argentinian classic,  rolled meat with egg and vegetable.. with a really nice bread.

After several border crossings, out of Argentina, into Chile, out of Chile back into Argentina, it was a real pleasure to be on the bus while the attendants take the passports and stamp them.  Usually I am waiting in long lines for immigration and then more long lines for the bike.. but WE get to stay on the nice warm bus with the movies going. Easy peasy!

Coming into Ushuaia, we are finally out of the flatlands and into the snowy mountains of Tierra del Fuego.

Oh man, that was 18 hours of bus riding.  Directly off the bus in Ushuaia I spot this sign..  other than the ceviche, the rest might describe my sentiments.  And quite possibly another “sign” of my theory that Kevin had something to do with this.. ha!

I can’t help but to laugh.

So, there you go.  Going through the emotion of all this was not easy at the time.  Like I said at the beginning, it wasn’t funny then, but it is now.  The universe just won’t give me a break the last few weeks.  I’ve been lucky so far.  But a tiny bit of me wonders if it isn’t Kevin stepping in from above stopping me from riding to Ushuaia at the moment.  What seemed like a tragedy might be a blessing, or help from above as if I did push myself through the wind on my bike, maybe I would have been blown across the road in front of a truck, injured or killed. I don’t know, but this is my way of putting a protection positive angle on the whole ordeal.  There were just too many ways I have been stopped from riding to the bottom that it’s downright strange and beyond usual.  And knowing that I would never give up so I can reach my goal on time, somehow a different choice was made for me.

My KTM 690 has performed well the whole world over.   The only other big problem I have had with the bike is at the hands of the mechanics, not the bike itself.  Which means to me (and I knew this before I left home) that I will make a point of going to mechanics school before I take off on World Tour #2.  That won’t prevent me from buying fuel with water in it, but I will be darn ready if it happens again!

For now, I made it to Ushuaia for Christmas. Now my main focus will be… what to make for Christmas dinner!


North Argentina riding South to Bariloche

Fast forward 1650 kilometers.. Riding from northern Argentina down is simply flat boring farmland, a very long ride and super super hot!  No photos, no need to stop, we are making tracks because the sooner we get south, the sooner we will be in some cooler air.

We came down past Cordoba, Rio Cuarto, and west to San Luis.  The next town is Mendoza, which is a popular town and one I’ve already been to and blogged about.  Didn’t have the greatest experience there (strange Tibetan Hostel Owner with Brad Pitt story) and wasn’t feeling the need to see it again.  From San Luis, the road cuts diagonally over to Route 40 (Ruta Quarenta), our main goal road choice to take us to Ushuaia.. the bottom of the world!

San Luis turned out to be quite an expensive place to stop for the night.  The cheapest place for camping we came up with was 14 km outside of town to a place called “Potrero de los Funes“.  I was only looking for a campground, and had no idea we’d end up riding on a race track!  After a long long long day riding, we only had time enough to set up the tents before the sun goes down.  These photos are from the next morning while leaving.

So strange, but this is the road for all traffic to use. The race course was built in the 80’s and was closed for racing due to a couple of spectator deaths. They rebuilt it in 2008 and it’s now used for racing again during season. We didn’t use a special entry or exit.. no fees.  For us, it’s just the way to get to the campground, point A to point B!  It just happened to be Friday night too, so you can imagine what it was like sleeping next to a race track with young drinkers and drivers partying until the sun comes up on the track.  Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me.  The cops were around enough to keep it somewhat in control, and I still thought it was a really cool road!

That’s James up ahead.. he can go much faster than me.. 😉  But I make up for it on the gravel photos below.

After some pretend racing fun, we head south.  It’s still VERY hot, and the road is super flat and boring.

At one point I resorted to motorcycle ballet.  Or dancing to the music in my headphones as safely as possible. (I learned that from Walter, who to this day is still the biggest moto dancer I know.  However, the last time I rode with him in Chile, it was not just moto dancing, he was playing a mean air guitar WHILE dancing and riding the bike (with the odd air drum mixed in… Now that is talent!)  I’m not as good as him.. nor is air guitar my thing.. but a little boogie goes a long way on a boring road.. ha!

If I listen the music really loud, it makes me go a bit faster by default.  Thank goodness no traffic to worry about, so we’re riding free!  I finally got the chance to ride in front of James.  James is one of those riders who always has to ride in front.  Even if we ask him for a chance to not have to stare at his ass all day long, we’re only lucky to get 5-10 minutes of front row freedom. It used to drive Kevin crazy. Every time James would go past, Kevin would throw an arm, a finger, and a shake of his head. I used to chuckle all the time. And with two of them fighting for front, I would never have a chance, so I just hang back and let the boys be boys.  98% of the time, I couldn’t care who is in front, but it’s nice to see the open road every now and then, free of distraction. So it was worth taking a photo, just to remember I got to ride up front for once. Ha! 😉

The scenery is finally changing.. I see the snow tipped Andes mountains up ahead.. which I also take as a sign the temps will be cooling down.  I looked at the weather report while in San Rafael.  Even though it’s 38C (100F), the high will be 18C (64F) at our next stop, San Carlos de Bariloche.

Another big change has been very strong winds.. very strong!  So much that I was so happy to see this tree line, I bothered to take a photo! Those trees help to break up the wind a lot.  I wish they had the whole of Ruta 40 lined with them.  But I soon came to learn they seem to have been planted about 5 km outside of an upcoming town, no more but I’ll take it!

A little info at our fuel stop.  Offically on Ruta 40 at the 3000 km mark, and 1680m above sea level. 3000 km to the end, seems like a long way from here, but we’re ready!

And it’s nice to have some curve in the road again..

Sun’s going town, time to find a place to camp.  Down a little dirt track that doesn’t look used too much.

Nope!  A truck pulled up within moments of getting the tent out.  How does that ALWAYS happen!  There are no buildings, nothing around here! The people were telling me there is a room we can stay in down the road.  I just agree and nod my head and tell them “Gracias”.  (I don’t want to stay in a room, I want to camp.. here.  Look at the place! 😉 I asked them if they owned the property or who we could ask for permission.  They didn’t know and kept telling me again about the room we finally said goodbye.  I hope there is no trouble camping here.

Sunrise at camp from my tent.. so quiet here.. so beautiful here.. I love this life.

James travels faster than me on pavement, but I travel faster than him on gravel.  I had plenty of time to stop, and get off the bike to take a few photos before he caught up.  woo hoo!!

Just like many guys have done for me on tougher roads, I pull over to verify that James is coming and not in trouble.  When I see his headlight in the mirror, I can continue on.

How pretty is this!?

The road went from gravel back to pavement.  I understand they are trying to “upgrade” Ruta 40, much against the opinion of most moto-adventurers!

We came up on a herd of goat in transit.  Can we just discuss the size of the little herder!!??? And can he get any cuter?? 😉  I would have never guessed such a young toddler could take on this job already. They put them to work young here!

This is ……………….ARGENTINA!!

By the way, if I’m not watching the herding commotion, this is the view from the bridge. Nice!

Now, what is that in the road up ahead?

Of course, a lone cow with a rope around its’ neck…

Very cool view of the volcano though!  James pulled over and took this photo of me passing by.  I like it, thanks James!

Have a look at those trees.  It’s freakin’ windy here.  I wish it was a steady wind, even though it’s strong.  If it were steady you can ride at the angle and stick with it.  But the wind whips around and pushes from all directions, pushing me all over the road.  I assumed it was just me on a lighter bike, but I see James on his loaded BMW 1200gs swaying over the road as well.   He told me he was struggling as much as I was, so I don’t feel so bad now.

I had no idea the Ruta 40 is the Argentinian stock route!  I like it though.  I tend to stop and turn off my motor, as I’m not in a hurry and I want the animals to pass by me without extra stress from the motors.  We can ride through them, I know.  But it’s not necessary.

The two horses are the leaders of the pack.  Tied together at the head.  I’m not sure why, but I wonder if it’s because one is misbehaving.

We arrived the town of Zapala for a much needed meal and fuel stop.  I got my fuel and pulled over to the restaurant next to the gas station.  While waiting, it took all I had to keep the bike from being blow over in the wind.  This guy was making me laugh though.  As I watched him, he also had trouble staying upright, he’s on his tippy toes, on a push bike, and waiting for fuel?

We’ve had a good 24 hours of living amongst the strong wind now.  I’d like to say I’ve adapted to it on the road pretty well.  At first, I was struggling a lot, fighting it, getting ticked off at being pushed around.  Somehow and somewhere along the way, it must have been like breaking in a horse.  I just let go and went with it.  The anger was gone and the wind simply became part of the day.

Ruta 40 is famous for it’s strong wind all the way down to Ushuaia.  I can’t help to think that we’ve got 3000 km of riding through this wind just to get there.. and another 3000 km to ride out of Patagonia.  So imagine, 6000 km minimum of tortuous wind ahead of me.  Good thing I am like the broken horse.  Acutally, I was born the year of the horse!

James found a pretty spot to pull off for some photos.  I hope I’ve got my bike firmly planted in the sand so I can walk away from it..  I sort of just ran back, quick snap and ran straight back to the bike.

Lovely road.. even with the wind..

And I’ve learned a new lesson.

All the struggling of riding a motorcycle in gale force winds was annoying, but I never lost it, felt like I could a million times, but never fell over in transit.  The one time I did go down, was when I was stopped.  I pulled out of that sandy place and stopped to wait for James.  The wind was crazy and even with my side stand down, I couldn’t hold the bike. While I was trying to fight my way back through the wind to pick up the bike, James saw the whole thing and he was having a good hearty laugh. Took the photo, then came up to help me pick up the bike.

My lesson was that I would have thought it would be more difficult to stay upright while riding and easier when stopped.  Complete opposite.  Good to know!

Just a few more km’s to Bariloche.. thank goodness!


Paraguay and Northern Argentina

Here we are back at the border from Brazil to Paraguay.  Yesterday was busy but today is even worse.  It’s Saturday and we’ve just now learned that nearly every Brazilian crosses the border today to do their shopping in Paraguay because it’s cheaper.  And I mean everybody!!  We couldn’t believe the crowds.  I asked the border agent if there was a special event, he said no.. “E Sabado”  It’s Saturday!

Most of the traffic was walking traffic and the people are carrying back, on their back, mattresses, full sets of tires, flat screen t.v.s, etc!  Big electronics, anything I think you’d find in a Walmart in the United States, they are crossing the border to purchase in Paraguay.

Then! I find out I need a visa for Paraguay.  I thought I did my research and the only country I needed a visa for in South America was Brazil.  I’m not sure how I missed this one.. I really thought I was sure.  So the immigration agent says I have to wait until Monday to get a visa in a different office (closed for the weekend).  I told him I can’t, my visa expires today and I have to get out.  It will only be worse on Monday.  He talks back and forth with another agent and he came back to say if I wait until Monday, the fee will be $75 USD.  But if I give him $50 USD cash now, he’ll let me through.  Sounds a bit dodgey to me, but what can I do?  Next problem?  I don’t have USD on me!  I have some $100 bills buried on my bike, but I’m not about to tear it all apart with millions of people on the path between borders.  Luckily young James comes to the rescue again.  He’s got $50 in his wallet, so I borrow it and we’re on our way.. Hallelujah!

Once we got past the madness of Saturday shopping in Ciudad del Este (the border town), we drove somewhat away from town before looking for an ATM to get Paraguay Guarani (money).  Always a top priority when crossing a border.. new money! I need to buy fuel and something to eat.. starving!!  And then straight west toward Asuncion.

We are not going into Asuncion today though.  A couple of weeks before my bike broke down, I knew I was going to be needing a new chain and sprocket.  Asuncion has a KTM dealership and he had this on order for me.  And extra special treat is I also have new headlights waiting for me.  Carlos Otonelli, the owner of KTM Paraguay, let me use his address to receive new LED lights from Craig at CJ Designs in America www.cjdesignsllc.com.  Craig showed me these lights when I came through USA last year, but I didn’t want to put any more money into the lights.  The lighting system I got in Adelaide before I left was the most expensive part of my bike set up.  After all that money it turned out they were not the solution. I could still never see well at night. Always having to ride next to somebody or right behind a big truck.  James feels he can install the new lights for me, and I’ve had enough of needing to borrow people to see at night.  So I finally gave in and had them sent down.

In the meantime, it’s the weekend, and the shop is closed.  So Carlos and his family invited us to stay in their weekend home in San Bernardino, on a lake outside of Asuncion.

This is actually a very sad story..  The lake is very beautiful, but it is also very dead.  It’s pollution levels are so high now, that the fish are dead, the birds are gone because there are no fish to eat, and no boats passing by with skiiers which used to be the norm here because the water is so toxic it shouldn’t be touched.  I have been in polluted water areas before, but I’ve never known one to be completely dead.. on the virge, yes, but usually somebody or group steps in to try to save it.  Carlos tells me the government never agrees on a solution to help the lake and now it seems to be too late.  It will cost millions to protect it now so that it can recover and the country doesn’t have the money to do that either.  Humans!!!

Old town San Bernardino has a fair bit of German history.

Views from the Otonelli back yard, Paraguay.

Since the big bike breakdown in Brazil and not having a KTM mechanic there, I’m having this trained KTM mechanic in Paraguay go over the work hopefully to insure it’s all fixed properly and avoid any more problem with the rocker arms, valves, etc.  James is working away on his own time, free of charge, to put in my new lights.. which happens to require rewiring.  I’m sure glad he’s a smart boy.. I’d be lost in that mess of wires!

Time for a quick test run…

In the meantime, Carlos has set me up with the local television station for an interview.  I go there not knowing what to expect.  So they kept me waiting in a chair while I watch the morning talkshow hosts carry on about this and that.  It’s the 9-10 AM format, so it’s past the big morning news and more the fun crew.

First, a quick trip to the makeup room.. Ha!  I’ve done some t.v. interviews on this journey, but this is the only time they’ve sent me to makeup. I must be looking extra bad.. Lord have Mercy!

They decided to have me ride up on my motorcycle with the male host and camera outside.  We had a 10-15 minute long interview in Spanish..  I held my own for the most part, as English wasn’t an option.  Carlos did tell me when I returned that I did well, minus one mistake.. “What was it?”  Well, he said I answered a question that was more along the line of me saying, “I had many boyfriends in Mexico”.. This is not true and totally not what I meant to say, but now this is what the Paraguayan public thinks. I’m so embarrassed! (Thank goodness I didn’t say embarazada, which means pregnant in Spanish) I must get back to taking Spanish classes.

Our last night in Asuncion, the Otonelli family takes us out to their “club” for a meal.  It’s a super big club, full outside with people playing sports.  The club dining room has quite an impressive buffet meal.  We ate so well, it was the best meal… But wait, there’s more!

I have to include a photo of the desert section.  I think I managed to try 5 of them.. but look how many there are to choose from.  They were not basic boring buffet deserts either, they were the BEST!  I should have just taken my plate there from the beginning. Forget about salad, if I go back to Paraguay someday, I’m heading straight for the club desert table..  Mmmmm!!!!!!!

Check out my nice super bright new LED lights from Rigid Enterprises..  Now I can see from here to China.. thanks James!!

And thanks Carlos and Aida, for a lovely weekend in your home, and that super meal in Asuncion!

I think I will always remember about Paraguay is that it is super hot.  There’s not a lot to draw you there tourism-wise, so most riders give it a miss.  I am glad that I did visit Paraguay though.  Carlos gave me some nice discounts on the bike work and he’s hoping to make more of a KTM presence in Paraguay and South America. The next morning, we crossed the border again into Argentina.

No visas required..a nice simple crossing.

And another super hot day.. We are riding in 44 degrees Celcius (111 degrees Fahrenheit).  Memories of the Amazon come flooding back.  So hard to breathe.  No matter how fast I go, the wind isn’t much help.  It’s like somebody has a hot blow-dryer blowing straight into my face.  Not nice.

But I got a wonderful surprise!

This photo of palm trees below is not just a photo of palm trees.  Well it is, but it’s the after shot of a great experience I just had.  While riding behind James I see a bird coming for me.  I watched the bird wondering what the heck it was, and it flew right in front of me, straight across my path.. It’s a Toucan!!!!  The most colorful beautiful Toucan!  And I can’t share that image, because I wasn’t holding my camera at the time.  I usually keep it around my neck, though so this photo is of the trees once I got a hold of my camera, and somewhere around those trees is my Toucan.  The only other Toucan I’ve ever seen was with Kevin in Nicaragua on New Years Day.. so this was special to me.

If I can’t express through my photos how hot it is in northern Argentina, maybe this photo will help.. ;-/

Bienvenidos a Argentina.. y Hasta luego!