Punta Arenas to San Sebastian Argentina - 12/16
Today we are taking a ferry across the Straits of Magellan and will end up on the island of Terra del Fuego. We had to be at the ferry terminal before 8:30 a.m. for our 9:30 a.m. departure to Porvenir, Chile so we were up at 6:00 a.m. 6:00 a.m. is kind of early for us now days because we have adjusted to the life-style of the locals and don’t eat dinner until around 9:00 p.m. and end up getting to bed after mid-night. It wasn’t a problem for us but there was a sleepy eyed young lady from the hostel that had to get up to give us our breakfast and let us out.
We had to get our bikes out from the side of the building and then pack them for our trip. We had taken our cases off because we couldn’t fit through the hostels gate with anything sticking out to the sides. It had been raining a little during the night and lucky for us, it started raining pretty hard as we went outside. The rain continued until we were almost across the straight. We’re getting use to riding in the rain and one had better get use to it because down here it rains off and on every day.
The ferry crossing went pretty well and the cost was only about $20.00 US for each of us and our bikes. $20.00 apiece isn’t too bad when one considers that it’s a 2 ½ hour crossing. There were a lot of people crossing without vehicles and seating was pretty crowded but fairly comfortable.
The sun was just coming out when we arrived in Porvenir. It gave us a false hope as it soon disappeared and a light drizzle started. The road to the Argentine border isn’t paved but it wasn’t bad for the first 10 or 15 kilometers and then for about 10 it turned into sticky clay mud. Someone in the roads department had decided that it was better to surface that section of road with dirt rather than the gravel that we found everywhere else. Once the dirt got wet it was almost impossible to get through. It stuck to our tires and at times the front tire would stop turning with mud caked between the wheel and fender. For a lot of the 10 kilometers we were paddling along with our feet trying to keep our bikes up and out of the ditch. On one hill I thought we would never get to the top as we kept bogging down, turning sideways and sliding into the ditch. Finally we got through the worst of it and only had to contend with washboards and pot holes.
As has been the case, border crossings were no problem. For leaving the country one presents their passport and a little 4” by 4” slip of paper that was filled out and stamped upon entry. Next one goes to the Aduna window and presents the paper that was received upon entry and covers the motorcycle. Then go to the entry immigration point and do essentially the same thing except one is filling out the forms and getting receipts for presentation upon departure. At some of the border crossings there is a little inspection of the bikes to make sure fruits, vegetables and other food stuffs are not brought into the country. The whole process has generally been very easy and the agents have always been friendly and helpful.
The two border crossings are several kilometers apart and in towns with the same names of San Sebastian. I wouldn’t call them a real town because there isn’t much at either one except the immigration service and one or two other buildings. There is a hostel in each one but the one in Chile is very small and I’m not sure of the other services there. The one in Argentina is pretty large and we stayed at it. Also, the road turns to asphalt in Argentina so we knew we had easy riding for the trip to Ushuaia and so it make a good place to stop. Where we stopped also had the benefit of a restaurant. At a gas station next to the hostel we filled up for our trip to Ushuaia and the operator also let us use a hose behind the building to wash the mud off of our bikes.
We’re sitting in our room now waiting for the rain to slow down for our trip south. If it goes on too long, we’ll have to just ride in it.
The bikes sat outside our room window waiting to get started.
San Sebastian, Argentina to Ushuaia - 12/17
The rain kept up and didn’t seem to be slowing down so we decided to ride in it. It was about 41 degrees F when we left in a steady rain. It was cold but not too bad with my heated jacket liner and really great rain tight riding jacket and pants. I’ll give more of a product review when this ride ends but to date I have had no problems with gear and except when it was extremely hot and humid in Colombia, I’ve been able to regulate temperature with the amount of exposure I allow. For those interested I’m riding in a Firstgear TPG Escape Pants and a Firstgear Rainier Jacket. They were not cheap but they really do work. No problem with getting wet and they have multiple vents that can be opened or closed to adjust for temperature. And, the great thing is that when it starts to rain, all I do is zip everything up and I don’t give a second thought to stopping and getting out rain gear. On the ride down to Ushuaia, as well as the ride in several other places, we went in and out of rain and the temperature was all over the place. It was very nice to deal with only one riding suit.
Except for when we got close to Ushuaia, the traffic was very light and we made good time. For the first three quarters of the ride the scenery was mostly flat to rolling plains with grazing cattle, sheep and the ever present llamas. There is some coastal riding but it is limited and flat so that there are no spectacular views. As we closed in on our destination the terrain changed to hills and then mountains and lakes. The mountains were all snow capped and to my surprise we had to go over a pass to get to Ushuaia. I was unaware of the mountains that separate it from the rest of the island. While the pass was pretty low, about 2,600 feet, it was very beautiful with lakes, rivers and lush forests. It is also quite steep so there is a great view on either side of the summit.
A note to anyone riding down here is to fill up with gasoline whenever they can. We filled up at San Sebastian and with only 180 miles to Ushuaia we figured we would make it easily. When we were close to 40 miles out I looked at my instruments to check on the temperature and was surprised to see that the temperature had fallen to 3.6 degrees F. After some thinking about it I looked again and realized that I had been on my reserve for 3.6 miles and it was about 35 miles to town. The problem was that we had been riding into a strong head wind and didn’t realize it because it hadn’t moved the bikes around. For the rest of the ride to town I was in a slower gas saving mode and coasting down from the pass and hills. We could have filled up at Rio Grande but didn’t think it was necessary. We did make it to town but found that there are only two gas stations in town and they both had four block lines so we decided to go to our hostel and deal with it later. Joe ran out of gas trying to get his bike off the street and parked at the hostel. Luckily I had left about two cups of gas in one of my auxiliary tanks and we used that to get him off the street.
The trees seemed stunted and with more moss than leaves.
The view was picking up.
As we approached the pass.
Ushuaia, Before the End of the World - 12/18,19,20
There is a lot more town here than either of us expected. It seems to be based more on tourism than anything else, although there is a port which has kept busy load and unloading container ships. There is a small naval presence and coast guard here too. Cruise ships and tour boats to Antarctica are plentiful too. I’m not sure about a fishing fleet but there are several restaurants that feature fresh fish and king crabs. Avenida San Martin seems to be the main tourist and commerce street with shops and restaurants lining its length. The city is a nice city with clean streets and one has a secure feeling walking about. And, walking is one thing that we do a lot of because we park our bikes in all towns and walk or take taxies. Dinner ranges from three quarters to a mile away but trips to the grocery are within blocks. Oh, and when going to the grocery, take your own bag because they don’t furnish them here. It seems to be the custom in tourist towns because this isn’t the first place where we have encountered it.
On our second night in town we were treated to a labor protest. As we walked down Avenida San Martin looking for a place to eat dinner, we noticed that trucks, all kind of trucks, were parked down the middle of the street for probably 20 blocks. Some of the trucks had drivers sitting inside them and some sat unoccupied. As we proceeded we saw large stacks of wooden pallets at a few of the corners and in the distance we could see smoke and fires. No one seemed really concerned and we walked on toward the fires. Finally when we got about two blocks away we decided to go into a restaurant where we could eat and watch from a distance. As we ate there were pallets piled up and set on fire about half a block from us. Still no one seemed too excited. People were walking along with their kids and taking photos and the police would just walk past and even say hello to some of the drivers. We asked our waiter about it and he made a motion with his thumb and fingers that indicated it was about money and the drivers wanting higher wages. After a few hours the trucks left, the street was cleaned up and everything went back to normal. While walking back to our hostel we did come upon a street full of garbage where a garbage truck must have dumped its load in front of the local government office. It was a very peaceful demonstration where there were no power struggles between the police and labors and a point was made and everyone left probably feeling a little better having made their statement.
Yesterday we took a tour boat for a ride in the Beagle Channel to visit some islands and look at the sea lions and other birds. We also visited an archeological sight where the indigenous people had lived many years ago. Having been to the Galapagos Islands a couple of months ago, it wasn’t a jaw-dropping trip for us but it was interesting and gave us something to do as we await the end. The boat was pretty small with only about 18 or 20 tourist and a crew of three which included our guide. We were, as seems the usual case, the senior members but they still treated us well. It seems that there are many young people taking long vacations and traveling to the places where we’ve been. But, the young people don’t seem to be from the USA. Europeans by fare make up the majority of the tourists. From what I’ve seen, people in the USA don’t have nearly as much vacation time when they are young and they seem to have more commitments, like kids, that keep them from leaving for a month or six weeks. Also, I think that Europeans tend to travel to more distant places in other countries while in the USA we travel to other states and for shorter periods of time for our vacations.
Today, the 20th
, we were going to go to the park that is at the End of the World (end of the road) but there is a steady rain. It looks like we will go tomorrow rain or shine because we don’t want to miss the End of the World at the End of the World.
The mountains start at the edge of town.
Another view from the bay.
Did someone bring the mashmallows?
The trucks were down the middle of the street.
Please dispose of litter properly.
Long days. This is with natural light at about 10:45 p.m.
Coast Guard on the left, cruise and tour boats on the right.
The big guy thinks he owns the island.
Looking toward the Atlantic Ocean.
There were several lighthouses for navagation. They have been converted to solar power.
One needs all the lighthouses to keep out of this part of the channel.
This is a small depression where a village hut once stood.
There sits the SS Minnow. Good for us it was a four hour tour.
That's Chile on the other side of the channel. It's cold too.
There may or may not be anymore posts. It all depends upon whether or not we are here after tomorrow. But, if there are no more posts, that means there is no one to read them either so I guess it will not be a problem. Then again, if there are posts, our friend George is going to have some explaining to do at the bank about why he can’t pay for his new Lamborghini.