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Old 04-09-2011, 07:12 PM   #931
bttran
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Holy cow!
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:00 PM   #932
cu260r6
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I hear the ferry into Sudan is quite the adventure. Can't wait to see pics!

If you're feeling super adventerous and want the passport stamp to end all passport stamps you can actually make it to Somalia. The country is divided into three parts; Somalia in the south (Mogadishu), Puntland (the middle), and Somaliland in the north. Somaliland is actually a governed and working country with actual border crossings, as opposed to the failed state of Somalia. NASA even has an alternative shuttle landing runway there. I've heard of westerners going to Berbera and living to tell the tale.
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:01 AM   #933
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adv Grifter View Post
I realize I didn't even see 1/100th of the amazing sites you've seen.
And can you believe I didn't even see everything there is to see there. Have to come back again and stay for a while in a cabin somewhere...
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Originally Posted by Adv Grifter View Post
I love the brief insights into the normal nuts & bolts of touring in such rugged conditions. At some point it might be good to do a review of all your gear and systems. What worked, what did not, what you tossed out and what you added as you went. I'm sure several companies would offer sponsorship based on your extensive travel and use of their products.
I've been meaning to do a proper 1 year review of everything I have, but there was only so much motivation on the boat journey. I'll get around to it at some point. I've written to a few companies, mainly when something stopped working, and evev if out of warranty, they've replaced for free, like my tent from Catoma, the panniers from Happy Trails, an LED light from Vision X, a tool tube that I damaged from Devon, etc. Plus also the Klim gear sponsorship. I think I'm going to have work harder at some monetary sponsorship to continue beyond Africa...
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Originally Posted by Adv Grifter View Post
PS My tool tube (Home made, Black PVC) became brittle over time from the heat of the header pipe. So much so I could punch a hole into it with a screw driver. This after six months of use ... about 12,000 miles.
Yeah, the tubes I have from Devon at Mega Tool Tube are really good quality. The plastic has some oily feel to it and I think this helps it from getting brittle. I have my main tool roll under the skid plate near the header and no problems, so far.
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Originally Posted by Adv Grifter View Post
I love your various tool tubes that appear to house all kinds of mysterious things. You've no doubt worked out a great system for traveling, camping an cooking as you've progressed along. You can see it when you look at the bike. It's loaded but there is order in the chaos. I can spot it. Like Grant & Susan's BMW or Helge Pederson's BMW ... you can see the years and miles that help build the bike up to work for you.
Continued safe travels!
Thanks! Everyone, including other bikers see the crazy amount of tool tubes on the bike and can't figure out what exactly I'm carrying in all of them. Well, my main aim was to move as many things as possible outside the panniers, so that that space could be flexible during the trip. I moved things that I wouldn't need on a daily basis into tool tubes. So one big tube on the rear has tire repair stuff, like air compressor, rear tube, patches and chain breaker. There's a smaller tool tube behind the left pannier that holds the gas bottle for the stove, so that petrol fumes don't smell up anything else. Then there's another tool tube just for spices This keeps the spices nice and dry and also prevents them smelling up everything else. I've also strapped onto any available frame different kinds of sprays and cans, like chain lube, carb cleaner, spare insect repellent, spare anti-monkey butt powder.

It looks crazy, but as you have seen, there's order in the chaos I have a nice system down and am happy with what I can carry on the bike and the kinds of roads and riding that I can still do with all this gear. Thanks for being a continued support during the trip. You're a big help
Quote:
Originally Posted by LXIV-Dragon View Post
Been following you since day one.
I hate the thought of this trip ever coming to an end but I cannot wait to see what you think was the best part. An impossible decision I dare say but the photos from the salt flats are the most breathtaking so far.
Enjoy, and stay safe.
Hey mate, don't worry, nothing's coming to an end. Not at least for the next two years I might slow down and spend a few months here and there, but I got no plans ahead and nothing to return to anywhere, so it just depends on how things go.

You liked the Salar pix, huh. I think the stuff from the Lagunas route is my favorite so far, especially considering the conditions they were shot in, cold winds, high altitude, etc.

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Originally Posted by bttran View Post
Holy cow!
All praise the sacred bovines!

Quote:
Originally Posted by cu260r6 View Post
I hear the ferry into Sudan is quite the adventure. Can't wait to see pics!

If you're feeling super adventerous and want the passport stamp to end all passport stamps you can actually make it to Somalia. The country is divided into three parts; Somalia in the south (Mogadishu), Puntland (the middle), and Somaliland in the north. Somaliland is actually a governed and working country with actual border crossings, as opposed to the failed state of Somalia. NASA even has an alternative shuttle landing runway there. I've heard of westerners going to Berbera and living to tell the tale.
Yup, have read about the Wadi Halfa ferry. Looks like there's a contact in Khartoum who's helped out travelers.

Wow, did not know about the alternative shuttle landing site in Somaliland, but makes sense with the trajectory from Cape Canaveral, via Spain. Might be worth an entry just to visit this site. Thanks for the tip. Looks like climate varies a lot all over Ethiopia, so if it's raining too much in the highlands, I might stick to the north and see about an entry in Djibouti or Somaliland. Intewesting...
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Old 04-11-2011, 04:41 AM   #934
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Patagonia, Part 5: Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine

January 22 - 28, 2011

After being on the road in the solitude of the vast, sparsely populated expanse of Patagonia in the past few weeks, I was now to enter the prime tourist circuit of Southern Patagonia. Besides the crowds, it's the increase in prices that puts me off from developed tourist sites. However, if the attraction is large enough, I'll put up with anything and these sites are not to be missed.

I spent a few days in the town of El Calafate before getting up close to the Perito Moreno Glacier and then crossed back into Chile to pay a visit to the Torres del Paine National Park.


I stayed with Matias in El Calafate thru CouchSurfing and took a day off to just rest my bones and enjoy some hot showers, since it had been about five days since the last one. I also got a chance to wash some clothes and my sleeping gear after the dusty camping experiences in the past few days. A nice sunset over Lago Argentino.


So, first order of business, I prepared my chicken curry. Almost everyone mentions it now on my CS profile and new hosts ask me to prepare it right away. I love it cause it's a great way to connect with people. That's Celine, a couchsurfer from France who was also staying with Matias and he invited a few of his friends over for dinner.


I think this one came out pretty good. I love all the boney parts and offal (internal organs) and this is the rib cage. It adds good flavour to the curry. Argentines are so European that they need to eat everything with some bread. I pointed out the obvious that there's carbohydrates already in the rice, but it's their habit of taste.


Dirty hands. I love to eat with my fingers and usually everyone gives it a try. I give a little demonstration about how you make a small ball of rice with some chicken, pick it up with your forefingers and then push it into your mouth with your thumb. I also point out that you must wash your hands right before eating and then it's hygienic. I don't need a metal tool to get between me and my food. Argentines have been taught from a young age, I guess after 5, that to be proper, they should not touch their food with their hands and I enjoyed seeing the smiles when the environment was right for them to break this taboo.


Ahh, a pleasing site for a cook: ravished pots of food and cleanly finished plates.


Enjoying a nice dinner with CouchSurfers and local residents of El Calafate.


We went out on town that night and Celine here was captivated by this money-sucking machine at a bar. It's the kind where if you drop a coin at just the right moment, it'll push other previously dropped coins into the jackpot. It's designed so well to keep enticing you to part with your money.


Having a few drinks at the only club in town. El Calafate is a big draw due to the glacier and tourists fly directly in, giving it very much a destination resort feel where everything is built in mind with pleasing the tourists.


Being treated to a Super Pancho (mega hot dog) at 5 am.


After a short nap, it was time to see what this glacier was about. A nice rainbow welcoming me to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, about 73 kms (45 mi) west of El Calafate. This time, I had to pay to enter the park, which was 100 Argentine Pesos ($25). If you enter before 7 am, there's no fee.


Within a few kilometers of entering the park, I caught my first glimpse of the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. It was overcast in the morning, but I was immediately impressed by seeing this massive river of ice coming down from the mountains.


Since I was here, I decided to splurge and spent an additional P50 on a boat trip that took you right up close to the glacier.


Here's a satellite view from Google Maps to put this glacier in context. It flows down from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and is about 30 kms (19 mi) long. All the blue is part of Lago Argentino and as the glacier advances, it cuts off the southern portion of the lake, referred to as the Brazo Rico side and the rising waters on this side build up over a few years and then crash through the ice dam in a spectacular show.

The interesting fact about this glacier is that it is one of the few in the world that is still advancing (growing) despite the ever-warming of the climate. There's no disputing the data and the ice field itself is actually shrinking in line with all the other ice fields of the world, but this glacier, along with 2 others that flow from this ice field appear to advance, in contrast to the 45 other glaciers (from the same ice field) that are retreating. One theory that makes sense to me is called 'glacier surge,' whereby melting glacial water reduces the friction between the glacier and its rock bed, increasing its forward momentum that appears to us as a growing glacier, when in fact, it is just a glacier running to its death. Can you see the connection between advancing glaciers and cosmological black holes, as a star spins faster and faster to its death? Another theory, which came to mind is that as the ice field loses mass and shrinks, the heavy weight of so much dropping ice in the center (considered the third largest reserve of fresh water on the planet), might actually push the ice at the boundary faster through some glaciers, depending on the hydrological dynamics of said glacier. You could imagine pushing down on a piece of dough and seeing it squeeze out the sides.


The terminus of the glacier with its dynamic skyline and prominent glacier cave, that forms from melting water at the surface taking advantage of air pockets and slowing growing over time.


Spires of ice, towering 70 m (230 ft) above the water with another 100 m (328 ft) below. As the boat approached the glacier, the engines were turned down and everyone went silent, almost as if we were in the presence of a sacred, delicate sculpture that was alive. The sound-absorbing qualities of the ice also added to the hushed environment. I felt like I was on a pilgrimage to this spiritual site of astounding natural beauty. I wonder why humans still need to be awed by supernatural forces when nature itself can be so awe-inspiring.


The edge of the ice is highly ragged and looks like sculpted art.


The point where the Perito Moreno Glacier touches land and creates a natural dam. The waters on the Brazo Rico side rise up to 30 m (98 ft) above normal water levels and this immense pressure buildup finally wins the battle against the ice and ruptures through in a dramatic event. Ruptures vary from once a year to once a decade. The first such event happened in 1917 and the most recent was in 2008. I can just imagine the show of force from nature in such an event. Note the effects of sunlight on the glacier.


An iceberg floating near our boat with the changing water levels evident against the ice. The constant rising and falling of the water level on this side has prevented any trees from growing below the normal height of the water before rupture events.


I was mesmerized by the unique shapes that could be identified in the ice. Doesn't that look like a dog or a pointed finger from a hand in the ice?


Thrilled to be up close and personal with the Perito Moreno Glacier. It's cold, of course, cause it's a river of ice, but not so bad. There was water misting in the air and I came prepared with a towel to constantly wipe off the lens and protect the camera.


The sunlight filtering through translucent clouds makes the glacier appear to glow from within.


With my trigger finger on the shutter release, I captured one of the calving events that occur every 10 to 15 minutes, preceded by a thundering crack from within the ice and followed by gasps from the human admirers. As the glacier is advancing, ice is being pushed down the valley and this causes the face to crack and fall apart as the river of ice behind it continues its progress.


Within a few minutes, I managed to capture another smaller event. The boat hangs around long enough and goes up and down the face of the glacier until they've shown you at least a few calving events.


After the resplendent boat ride, I headed to the main visitors center, which gives you walking access to the point where the glacier meets land. How amazing to reflect on the fact that is a river of ice flowing down the valley from a huge ice field further aback in the mountains.


A view of the north end of the glacier, slowly inching forward.


Some close-up shots to show the detail of the glacier's surface.


Melting water creating various channels in the ice. The deeper the blue, the deeper the sunlight has to penetrate before being reflected back to our eyes.


The stunning color of the glacier spans the spectrum from being almost purple to an ethereal white, depending on how the sunlight is reflecting off the ice crystals.

The reason glaciers appear blue is based on the same principle for why the sky appears blue, namely Rayleigh scattering. In the sky, when some of the photons from the Sun hit particles in our atmosphere, like oxygen, nitrogen, etc., the shorter wavelength of blue light gets scattered much more easily than the other longer wavelengths and that's what we see with our eyes down here. It's also the reason why sunsets appear red, since the longer wave lengths of red light have enough energy (like radio waves) to penetrate through lots of atmosphere and reach our eyes as we recede away from the Sun for the night. In large pieces of ice, red light gets absorbed by the ice crystals and only allows the shorter blue light to get reflected back out to our eyes. Rayleigh scattering is why we see different shades of blue from this reflected light as it has to travel through more ice to come back out.


A panorama spanning the entire 5 km (3.1 mi) wide mouth of the Perito Moreno Glacier as it spills down from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
Click here to see the high resolution version.


Getting down to meet the glacier once again and waiting for a calving event. The glacier is named in honor of Francisco Moreno, who explored this area in the 19th century and was instrumental in defending Argentina's territorial claims against Chile in Patagonia. He was given the title of technical specialist or expert, which is Perito in Spanish. At one point, Chile laid claim to all of Patagonia but conceded a lot of this 'waste' land to keep Argentina neutral during its campaign against Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, where it forcibly took over the nitrate-rich Atacama desert and cut off Bolivia's access to the sea. This is part of the reason why Chile's neighbors hold a grudge against it.


Within a few minutes of waiting, a chunk of ice broke free and...


...crashed into the waters below, followed by oohs and ahhs from the watching crowds. The black lines of debris mark the shear planes in the ice, where cracks are likely to form.


After about another 15 minutes, a few more rumblings emanated from the glacier, drawing everyone's attention to the start of the next calving event. First, a few lose elements fell, destabilizing that region and then...


...that whole section broke free, caught here in mid-flight. It's probably a piece about 20 m (65 ft) tall.


Resulting in a huge splash. This location delivers the most calving events because the glacier is coming against a sharp point of land, raising the compression pressures in the ice. I'd like to come back for one of the rupture events.


Just as everyone was glued to the last calving event, a huge spire of ice broke free on the northern side of the terminus. You can see the freshly fallen ice still floating near the glacier. What a dynamic place. Glaciers might move slow compared to human speeds, but it's mighty exciting to see this wall of ice steadily creaking and cracking forward.


A full, fun day experiencing the awesomeness of the Perito Moreno Glacier.


That night, back at Matias' place, Celine prepared crepes for us with savory and sweet fillings.


Back on the road, heading south on Ruta 40, one of the longest continuous routes in the world.


There's still a few stretches of gravel along the 40 in the Santa Cruz province, but all of it is slated to be paved to increase tourism to the region. However, for adventure travelers, a paved road is less of a draw than the more natural feel of a dirt road.


I crossed at the mining town of Rio Turbio back into Chile and its Southern Patagonia region, named as the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Region, home to Torres del Paine, the two cities of Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, the Straits of Magellan, a part of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, along with a claim of Antarctica.


That's sea water, but the open ocean is much further away, beyond a maze of snow peaked mountains rising from the water.


The Mano de Puerto Natales, an imitation of Mario Irarrázabal's Mano del Desierto in the other end of Chile, buried in the Atacama Desert.


I connected with Gloria who has opened up her family and house to the spirit of CouchSurfing. She welcomes all travelers to stop by and has multiples beds for the weary.


They lived in a more working class area of the city, but besides tourism to nearby Torres del Paine, this city is still mainly about the sheep and fishery industries. It was settled a few hundred years ago when explorers were seeking the passage to the Straits of Magellan but was officially formed into a city in 1911 in order to process the vast quantities of sheep products coming out from Patagonia.


Gloria, on the right, prepared hearty meals and had a bubbling energy that spilled over. She felt this was a great education for her kids to meet people from all over the world. They had lots of questions about India, especially since they had recently seen a documentary about my country. Another couple, on the left, Alfred and Catherine, were traveling from France and also stayed there.


From Puerto Natales, a 110 kms (68 mi) north of town lies the famed Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. The route is mostly paved, except for the last 30 kms, which will probably be paved soon. After a bland ride through the surrounding Patagonian steppe, these jagged peaks show up on the horizon and I was happy to be here on a clear day, since seeing any isolated peak is always a gamble, especially in Patagonia where the weather changes on a whim.
Click here to see the high resolution version.


Riding under Torres del Paine, a part of the Paine Massif/Cordillera, referring to the compact group of granite mountains that form this independent portion of the Andes. The massif contains the three towers, another group of three horns (around the corner) and the massive forefront prominence of Almirante Nieto.


sanDRina basking under the strong Patagonian sun in front of Laguna Amarga under the gaze of the granite towers. The name 'Paine' either comes from an early European explorer to the area or refers to an ancient native word for 'blue' in the Tehuelche language.


I love me some geology and live history of the Earth. Besides coming here to see the granite towers, I was attracted to these white structures growing on the edge of Laguna Amarga (Bitter Lagoon). The lagoon is named as such since it lies in an endorheic basin, meaning that there's no outlet for the mineraly-water flowing down from the glaciers. Over time, this becomes a hypersaline lagoon, where anything that evolved in the last billion years can't survive (and that's just about everything on this planet), except the white structures, which are living stromatolites. Besides the sharp mountains, this is what our planet looked like for most of its life. Stromatolites are one of the first forms of life to evolve, with fossil evidence of their existence going back to 3.5 billion years ago (bya), just a billion years after the Earth formed. They only thrive in locations where no other organisms can eat them and thus, their decline from dominance of the planet coincides with the explosion of large life froms at the start of the Cambrian period (about 530 million years ago).


A signboard next to the lagoon explains some of the meaning behind this significant location.

Stromatolites are rocky structures that are formed by the all-important cyanobacteria. This microorganism forms as a thin film on the top of the structure and is the first organism to photosynthesize sunlight and carbon dioxide into food with waste products of calcium carbonate (limestone rock) and oxygen. Most every living thing on this planet owes its existence to the tireless work of cyanobacteria, which slowly over 2 billion years (from 3.5 bya to 1.5 bya) converted the early inhospitable carbon dioxide rich atmosphere into the oxygenated world we live in today. That is, all the oxygen we breathe in originated from a stromatolite. Respect. Also, since these structures formed on all of the coastlines of the oceans, their oxygen rusted out the iron that was suspended in the oceans into the vast bands of iron ore that we have been mining out of the Earth to support our civilizations. This process turned the oceans blue from their previous greenish appearance. It is humbling to note that our complex life today owes thanks to this sturdy bacteria, who is definitely going be around much longer than us. So, tread lightly on this planet that we think we dominate for this short blip in history.


I had a light lunch on the shores of this ancient lagoon just taking it all in and imagining what it was like before humans were around, that is, until a tour bus roared by and dumped a horde of my fellow bipedal tramplers.


The iconic towers of granite of Torres del Paine, about 2,500 m (8,200 ft) tall. Their vertical faces are the dreams of rock climbers the world over, but just to marvel at the beauty of the erosional power of wind, water and ice that resulted in these formations was enough for me.


I headed further into the park (where I could bypass paying the entrance fee since Gloria's son worked at one of the park gates)...


...and observed huge numbers of guanacos (relatives of the llama and alpaca), seen here wading across this stream along with flocks of rheas, an ostrich-like bird. Guanacos were almost hunted to extinction when the European settlers arrived as they cleared the land to make way for their grazing cattle. They also burnt down lots of surrounding forest for pastureland before the park was established in the 1950s, but now, the area is slowly recovering from man's heavy hand. The soft wool of the guanaco is considered only second to the highly-prized wool of vicuñas.


A parting shot of sanDRina under the late afternoon sun at Torres del Paine, a prime example of the grand beauty to be found in Patagonia.


After another night at Gloria's back in Puerto Natales, I headed down the easy ride of 250 kms (155 mi) to Punta Arenas.


The windswept trees of Patagonia. If you ever doubted how strong and consistent the winds are, here's some convincing evidence. The winds constantly blow in from the west and in different places around the region, they start and die down at almost the same time everyday and one can time their daily life around the winds.


Coming across a sign for Laguna Seca and what do you know, it's actually indicating a dry lake. For all bikers, Laguna Seca refers to the famous race track of the same name near Monterey, California, where the annual US MotoGP race is held, with its famous 'corkscrew' set of turns.


I spent a day in Cecilia's home in the suburbs of Punta Arenas and started arranging things for the upcoming trip across the Atlantic, as I was nearing the end of my time in Latin America.

While Chile is generally considered a safe and stable country, just a few days before my arrival into the Magallanes, the region was in the midst of a general strike that turned violent, which seems very out-of-character for Chileans, but probably in-character for the hearty people that endure the rough Patagonian climate year-round. Because it's quite cold throughout the year, residents here need to use natural gas to heat up their homes constantly and previously, the government subsided the price of gas to offset the harsh living conditions. The central government's decision to drop the gas subsidy would've raised the price by 17%, which was seen as unacceptable by the people and they took to the streets, manning road blocks and cutting of the region to the outside world. This brought them attention, especially since about 4,000 all-important tourists were 'trapped' here and diplomatic pressure pushed Sebastián Piñera's government to come to a compromise, which was a 3% rise in the price of gas.

I'm not sure which side of the argument I stand on since on the one hand, yes, it's not fair for the residents here to have to allocate so much of their income to heating their homes, but they are paid higher than the rest of Chile for living in such a remote city. Cecilia moved here years ago with her then husband since they found higher paying jobs here. However, the environmentalist in me says that we can't go on subsidizing high consumption of fossil fuels and the only way to move beyond our current fossil fuel dependent civilization is for its price to rise so dramatically that every citizen on this planet demands that policy quickly makes a transition to a cleaner way of life. Sadly, this is going to lead to highly turbulent times for most people and the poor and less developed communities are going to be feel the brunt of this transition.

Even in the United States, $3/gallon is not going to ween that society off from the gas pump, but $10/gallon might bring the economy to a standstill or even crash and this is why this is a such a delicate game to play with its results affecting the coming decades. I enjoyed the cheap petrol prices in Bolivia, as there too, it is heavily subsidized by the government either to aid the poor or keep their support for their leftist president. A few days after I left Bolivia, the government tried to remove the subsidy on petrol there and just like in southern Chile, the people took to the streets and protested violently until the government backed down. This is going to become a more common occurrence in the coming years. India, too, recently decided to scrap subsidies on fuel but the transition was smooth since the price difference wasn't too drastic.


Punta Arenas, with the show of Chile's military power. This city was formed on the Straits of Magellan to protect Chile's ownership over this once important water passage in the early 20th century. It was a coaling station, where steamships fueled up on coal when transiting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, before the Panama Canal was built and was also the major center of administration for the vast sheep estancias all over Patagonia. Due to its isolated location, it was also used at one point as a penal colony to punish problematic soldiers.

Even though Southern Patagonia has been well-developed with tourist infrastructure, the draw of the outstanding natural attractions is still strong enough to enjoy this land. Torres del Paine was nice and perhaps a hike into the park would've left a stronger impression, but for me visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier lived up and beyond its expectations.
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Old 04-11-2011, 07:40 PM   #935
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Thanks little bacteria dudes for making the air we breath. Jay this Patagonia place... I may just have to see for myself.

Did you by chance go to the mine where those miners got rescued? I have no idea where it is in relation to where you are right now.

Absolutely stunning pictures of the area, simply fantastic.

BTW I've tried your curry chicken recipe...hot and tasty, I loved it...but only once in a while for this old soldier. Question: Is your nose supposed to run the whole time eating it?

Good luck our wayward traveler.
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Old 04-12-2011, 01:42 AM   #936
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Originally Posted by Jammin View Post
January 22 - 28, 2011


Click here to see the high resolution version.




This picture have to be in the Adv front page

Jay since your detour to Bolivia and Tierra de Fuego you have made the Best and most detail Ride Report lots of pictures and your description from the places are what we love to read here a humble man loving every single minute and every mile ride.
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Old 04-12-2011, 12:12 PM   #937
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Originally Posted by Morinite View Post
Thanks little bacteria dudes for making the air we breath. Jay this Patagonia place... I may just have to see for myself.
Did you by chance go to the mine where those miners got rescued? I have no idea where it is in relation to where you are right now.
Absolutely stunning pictures of the area, simply fantastic.
Hey Morinite, thanks, yes, you must come and see this land for yourself
Yeah, I was following the miner rescue story closely (how could one avoid it) but that mine was close to Copiapo (halfway between Santiago and the top of Chile) and I didn't go through that section. Would've been nice to see how it is now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morinite View Post
BTW I've tried your curry chicken recipe...hot and tasty, I loved it...but only once in a while for this old soldier. Question: Is your nose supposed to run the whole time eating it?
Good luck our wayward traveler.
Excellent! Glad to hear Well, you can just skip the chillies next time and only use the curry powder and it should be tasty enough without being hot. Curry powder by itself is not hot. Thanks for letting me know, makes me smile Actually, in India, we say it's not a proper curry if it doesn't make you sweat, but frankly, I dont like it so hot that you're body is fighting it so much

Quote:
Originally Posted by far View Post

This picture have to be in the Adv front page
Jay since your detour to Bolivia and Tierra de Fuego you have made the Best and most detail Ride Report lots of pictures and your description from the places are what we love to read here a humble man loving every single minute and every mile ride.
Thank you sir More to come...
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Old 04-12-2011, 01:22 PM   #938
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Patagonia, Part 6: Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego and Penguins

January 28 - February 3, 2011

I had reached the southern tip of the South American continent. With a short ferry ride across the Straits of Magellan, I would finally be in Tierra del Fuego. This name has been etched in all overland travelers' minds as one of the distant ends of the world. lt also serves as a symbolic and literal turning point since the road doesn't go further south.

After a few days on this island at the end of the world, I started my journey back up north to Buenos Aires to finalize my exit plans from Latin America. On the way up, I stopped in to see the charming penguins at Punta Tombo.


Heading north 164 kms (102 mi) from Punta Arenas, I arrived at the short (free) ferry across the Straits of Magellan over to Tierra del Fuego. Coming up this way from Punta Arenas to the border at San Sebastian makes it a 305 km (189 mi) journey. There's a shorter route with a ferry costing US$70 going from Punta Arenas to the town of Porvenir across the straits, and that journey to San Sebastian is about 145 kms (90 mi). Besides the cost, I chose the longer road route since that ferry runs more frequently across the narrowest part of the straits. The ferry to Porvenir runs only once a day.


A map of my route around the southern tip of South America. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps. To get to Ushuaia, which is in Argentina, the road crosses through Chile and there is no direct link between Rio Grande and Rio Gallegos. Tierra del Fuego is considered an island since the water body of the Straits of Magellan separate it from the mainland continent. After numerous border conflicts between the two nations (resembling India and Pakistan; artificial conflicts between the same people), they've split Tierra del Fuego down the middle. If you look near El Calafate, there's a section of the border that has not been agreed on and is still being arbitrated by the UN. It's a section that's under the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and with the animosity between these two countries, it probably wont get settled until the ice melts.


The Faro Punta Delgada (lighthouse) at the western end of Bahia Posesión, marking the entrance to Angostura Primera, the first narrow section of the straits. This must be a welcome sight for sailors in the fog. Fernão de Magalhães, in service to the Spanish King, was the first European to navigate these waters in 1519 on his circumnavigation voyage. Besides getting these straits named after him, he also has a GPS brand to his name.

Just to get our geography down, the Straits of Magellan separate the South American mainland from Tierra del Fuego, with Punta Arenas as its biggest settlement. Then, there's the Beagle Channel, with Ushuaia on its shore, that separates the Isla Grande (big island) of Tierra del Fuego from smaller islands to the south and then past Cape Horn (the last piece of the land considered part of the South American Continent lies the Drake Passage with Antarctica on the other side. Of all these, the Straits are the calmest to navigate from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Drake, the biggest for commercial ships, mainly those classed as Post Panamax (oil and gas tankers too wide for the locks at the Panama Canal).


The ferry makes the crossing in about 20 minutes, arriving at Bahia Azul on the other side. The appeal of riding to the 'end of the world' seems kind of lost nowadays when tour buses and family sedans are part of the traffic. I was told we would need to pay for the ferry at some point, but no one asked for any money. The straits are calm these days (besides the wind), but there was a lot of conflict about who owned this prime marine route in the 19th century, with Chile establishing Punta Arenas to put its foot down on ownership and keep the British, French and Americans away from occupying it (like they did in Panama for the canal).


Welcome to the island of Tierra del Fuego. I've been saying this name for the past 4 years and to finally see a signboard with those words was quite the occasion. But instead of the image of a distance, rustic land that I had, it was a brand new concrete road with a mega sign. Oh well, can't stop development just for our romantic notions. As soon as the gate dropped from the ferry, it felt like a sprint race from all the eager Argentines behind me. I let them pass to savour this moment.


The route is only paved for the first 30 kms, till the small town of Cerro Sombrero, then it's a flat and gently rolling 110 kms (68 mi) of dirt to the last border with Argentina. The name Tierra del Fuego translates as 'land of fire' since that's what Magellan saw due to the constant fires that were lit by the native Yahgan people to keep warm in this chilly land. Surprisingly, the Yaghan did not wear clothes and managed to survive here by huddling around fires and smearing themselves in animal grease. Over time, they developed higher metabolisms and were able to generate more internal body heat than the average humans. Their numbers dwindled with the arrival of European settlers and the diseases they brought with them.


Arriving at Paso Fronterizo San Sebastián and this is the only border that I came across where it's paved and more developed on the Argentine side than the Chilean side, since the Argentines have a bigger population with larger settlements than the Chileans on this island. The wind was blowing strong here. From the border, it's a short 87 kms (54 mi) of tarmac, along windswept vistas of the ocean till the city of Rio Grande (and cheap Argentine petrol).


Ruta 3 flows over the gentle land south of Rio Grande, passing thru evergreen forests, but it's the last 100 kms (62 mi) from Tolhuin to Ushuaia that makes for an exciting ride as the route climbs up and over the Martial Mountains with Cordillera Darwin to the west on the Chilean side. This range stretches east to west across the island and marks the southern end of the Andes. Tolhuin is at the eastern end of the 98 km (61 mi) long Lago Fagnano.


I see it! Almost there. Another 24 kms (15 mi) west of the city lies the actual end of the road at Bahia Lapataia. All the road signs has splits in the middle, I think to allow less resistance for the winds and prevent the signs from being blown down.


It was relatively calm, but getting chilly and I saw rain clouds ahead.


The route started twisting and climbing and I was feeling good with sanDRina to be so close to Ushuaia.


Ruta 3 is the main route on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego, with Ruta 40 ending near Rio Gallegos on the mainland.


Looks like I just missed the rain with the sun already coming back out. My rear tire was getting thin in the middle and I took it easy through the wet turns.


The still, steel blue of Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake) near the summit across Cordillera Martial, looking north.


As I crossed Paso Garibaldi, at an elevation of just 430 m (1,410 ft) the weather was quite rough with sheets of rain falling like blades of ice and the low sun, reflecting off the shiny road surface directly in my face, made it a tough section to manoeuvre through. However, the sun visor of the Arai XD did its job of blocking out El Sol. It's only been caught once or twice in the fierce winds of Patagonia and I believe the daily benefits it offers in terms of protection from the sun far outweigh the few times it might be tugged in the wind.


The sharpness of the peaks of these mountains is quite dramatic compared to the steppes of Patagonia to the north of the island.


The road drops back down from the pass into the valley that leads to Ushuaia.


I was surprised to see such sharp-peaked mountains in this windy area, that too with snow and ice adding to the erosional force. Perhaps they're just pure granite and can withstand the test of time. They're not that tall with an elevation of only around 700 m (2,300 ft), but height has nothing to do with how enigmatic a mountain can be.


And voila, I've arrived at Ushuaia, La Ciudad Mas Austral Del Mundo (the southernmost city in the world). To be honest, it didn't really feel like an accomplishment (except maybe for the geographer in me), but just felt like another city along my route. I think after seeing the numerous mind-blowing sights along the Andes, just getting to a town at the end doesn't really light the fire. The mural depicts the penal colony that was setup here in the late 19th century to replicate what happened in Australia's Tasmania and France's Devil Island, whereby the isolation of the place thwarted any escape attempts. The prisoners were in essence, forced colonists, since the Argentine government used them as citizens to increase their numbers on this hot territorial land.


Besides its significance on a map, the location of the settlement is quite impressive on the shores of Bahia Ushuaia along the Beagle Channel, under the gaze of the Martial Mountains.


The town certainly has an 'end of the world' feel to it, but with a resident population of around 63,000, normal life carries on as I pass thru this new sub-division where the road was still being laid. There's even a television assembly factory in town but the main sources of income are still tourism and gas and oil exploration.


Oh yes, the all important gasoline that keeps any human settlement chugging along, especially remote ones such as this one. YPF is the national petroleum company.


Another view of the city rising up the flanks of the Martial Mountains.


The wide expanse of Bahia Ushuaia in the Beagle Channel. It is named in honor of HMS Beagle, the ship that carried Charles Darwin to these parts of the world in the years that he started formulating his Theory of Evolution. The mountains on the other side are on Isla Navarino in Chilean territory with two more towns of Puerto Williams and Puerto Toro, all vying for the title of southernmost city of the world. However, the first has less than 2,000 inhabitants and the last has just a few families, so I think Ushuaia, being a proper city, still retains the title.


I stayed with Ricardo thru CS who travels back and forth between Buenos Aires and here, transporting construction materials. He recently bought this old house and is in the process of renovating it.


He made this tasty lamb dish, since that's the primary meat of the area, even though all Argentine's still prefer beef. However, everyone's been telling me that prices for beef have been rising steadily and they are looking at lamb more and other meats. I think the popularity of Argentine beef abroad is limiting supplies for domestic consumption, leading to the higher prices. Sheep produce less methane than cows, so I'm all for encouraging more lamb and mutton than beef (methane is 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide to our atmosphere). Did you know that scientists are thinking of adding turmeric and coriander to livestock feed to reduce the amount of methane that they produce? Believe in the power of curry!


Ricardo's classic Fuegian house, narrow and long.


The area of Ushuaia has been inhabited since 10,000 years ago when the first natives of the Yaghan people arrived here, descendents of the humans that crossed the Bering Strait during the last ice age and made their way down the Americas. Their numbers declined as British missionaries tried to 'civilize' these savages and inadvertently introduced the diseases of Europe to this land, for which the natives had no immunity. In a strange social experiment, three natives were taken by Captain FitzRoy to teach these people the civilized way of modern life in London, which they picked up with ease. They returned with Charles Darwin a year later and shockingly to the British, quickly discarded everything they had learned and went back to their old ways.


An abandoned building in Ushuaia, up for auction.


I made it. Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia in about... three years (I went to Alaska in 2008). 25 kms (15.5 mi) west of town lies the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (P65 entrance) and the road officially ends at Bahia Lapataia.


Ok, time to turn around and head north.


Bahia Lapataia. This is what the end of the world looks like. Not bad. The GPS reads 54.5 degrees south and on the other side of the equator, this same latitude would fall only about halfway up British Columbia with Prudhoe Bay, on the northern edge of Alaska at near 70 degrees. Because of this, a lot of people have asked me if Alaska is terribly cold, seeing how much closer it is to its pole than Ushuaia is and they're surprised when I say it's actually much warmer than all of Patagonia (that is only during the short summer). The difference is that, just a 1000 kms (620 mi) south of Ushuaia is the massive frozen continent of Antarctica, the source of all the freezing winds here. There is the ice cap on the North Pole, but it's much smaller than it's counterpart in the south.


A more enchanting view of the Beagle Channel from Bahia Ensenada.
Click here to see the high resolution version.


After enjoying the sights around Ushuaia, I started my journey north. This is just past Paso Garibaldi and this also signifies the last time that I would ride in the Andes on this trip, having first climbed up into them near Pasto, Colombia.


Looking out over Lago Escondido with a fire burning in the distance. Hmmm, so this is Tierra del Fuego after all.


A few kilometers past Tolhuin, I heard a crunching sound coming from the rear wheel and this time, I knew what it was immediately - a rear wheel bearing failure, exactly what happened 29,800 kms (18,500 mi) ago south of Cusco in Peru. And it was the same bearing that failed, the one on the rear brake rotor side. I guess that's not a bad mean time between failure (MTBF) considering I rode the TransAmazonica in Brazil, then the Lagunas Route in Bolivia and miles and miles of washboard and gravel down Ruta 40 and the Carretera Austral, that too with my heavy luggage. I am still wondering why it's only that particular bearing that has failed twice now. This was an SKF bearing and I guess I can't bad mouth the All Balls bearing that I initially had in there, but that failed much before the SKF and that too over mostly tarmac riding, so I'll still stick with SKF bearings.


I limped the few kilometers back to town and found an automotive shop. This young mechanic was hesitant to help me out since he said he didn't know how to repair bikes, but I told him not to worry and to just get me some fire. I had a spare set of bearings with me, that I was carrying ever since the last bearing failure and just needed to dislodge the old bearing and pop in the replacement. He turned on the acetylene from his welding setup and pretty soon the job was done. He didn't accept any payment from me and my experience has been that if you work on your own bike in a shop, they feel bad about taking any payment. I was back on the road, with only 30 minutes spent on this breakdown. Be prepared, it'll pay off.


Heading into Rio Grande and bracing for the strong wind blast as I leave the protection of this berm. The sign conveys the message but there's no palm trees anywhere in sight.


A monument in Rio Grande for Argentina's continued claim over the Falkland Islands, referred to as Las Malvinas here. They're a group of islands about 460 km (290 mi) offshore from Argentina and the British have laid claim to them since the early 19th century, much to the continued consternation of Argentines, even though the islanders prefer to be loyal to the UK. In 1982, the failing military government of Argentina invaded the islands in a move to gain the people's support by rallying up nationalistic feelings. They forgot that Margaret Thatcher (nicknamed the British Bulldog) was in power and her forces soon overpowered the Argentines, leading to the fall of the dictatorship in Argentina and the re-election of Thatcher.


Arriving at the end of the dirt in Tierra del Fuego and besides a small stretch of dirt near Punta Tombo, I knew the next long dirt riding would be somewhere deep in Africa in the coming months.


Back on the ferry, saying goodbye to a nice experience on Tierra del Fuego.


Sunset over the Straits of Magellan.


I met a local biker who travels frequently between home in Rio Gallegos and Rio Grande for work and has to pass through two borders (going into and out of Chile) every time he makes this journey. From Punta Delgada, it's just 55 kms (34 mi) to Paso Fronterizo Integración Austral and my last land border crossing in the Americas.


A further 68 km (42 mi) from the border is the bigger city of Rio Gallegos, where I stayed with Daniel thru CS, who runs this internet cafe. He didn't have any place in his house to host surfers, but there's a radio studio in the back from where he plays good ol' American tunes and I put my sleeping bag down there. After a day on the internet, doing some planning for the voyage across the Atlantic, it was time for the long haul to Buenos Aires.


It's 2,500 kms (1,550 mi) from Rio Gallegos up the east coast of Argentina along Ruta 3 to Buenos Aires and it's all flat, just like this. Having enough experience with flat, boring riding, I use this time to plug in the audio books and learn another language. Since I was preparing to enter West Africa, I listened to the French language course by Michel Thomas, my secret for quickly picking up a new language.


There was some excitement, once in a while, when guanacos crossed the road...


...but mostly, it was just you, Ruta 3 and the wide open land and skies of Patagonia.


I became the proud owner of a thermos flask recently and am enjoying some hot tea during a break in the chilly conditions. A man in a truck approached me at the petrol station in Rio Turbio and offered me this thermos. He said he saw it fall off another biker but couldn't catch up with him to return it. It has Japanese markings on it, but I didn't come across any other bikers.


Some say it's boring. I say, just learn to deal with it. There's a lot of uninteresting sights in the world, in-between the mind-blowing stuff, so just figure out a way to deal with the boredom (audio books) and all is well.


Coming into Caleta Olivia and riding right by the sea, watching some rains move across the horizon.


I wonder what Caleta Olivia is all about? Oil! The monument of El Gorosito (the roughneck), in honor of the petroleum industry worker.


When I stopped for lunch in Bariloche a few weeks ago, a biker from the Motoneros club approached me and told me to get in touch when I swing by his city of Caleta Olivia, so I did so and I got to hang out with a local Argentine biker club. They were mostly riding cruisers and choppers, but bikers are all the same. Great bunch of guys.


I camped out in the garden for the night.


A very windy section of Ruta 3 between Caleta Olivia and Comodoro Rivadavia. So much so that when I stopped to take this picture, a passing truck upset the winds around me enough to unbalance the bike and drop sanDRina to the ground. A passing driver stopped to help me pick her up.


There is one last recommended site to visit in Patagonia and 75 kms (47 mi) south of Trelew, there's a turn off towards the coast. In all my travels, this is the first sign, and that too in English, warning of the dangerous gravel roads. This indicates the number of foreign tourists heading this way and it seems like a number of them have caused enough accidents to prompt this sign. After 75 kms, this dirt track leads to...


...Penguins!


The natural reserve of Punta Tombo is the summer breeding ground of penguins and here's an example of price discrimination that is common all throughout the developing world. They use the dollar sign to signify the Argentine Peso. So, while it's only US$8.75 to enter, it's the feeling that foreigners have to pay 10 times what the local state residents and 3 times what Argentine citizens have to pay that irks many of them. I've met many European and American travelers who complain that it's not fair because in their countries, everyone pays the same. But, I guess it's a question of how well developed your society is and how much can you afford. Plus, I think giving the local citizens easier access to their natural treasures should give them better incentive to protect these kind of areas.


I arrived just as the park was closing at 6 pm, so I decided to camp there and visit in the morning. I dropped this cracker and this little birdie swopped in before I could pick it up.


There's no official camping allowed right by the park, but if you're discreet, the boys who run the restaurant and gift shop will allow you to camp next to this shed. He said he's met lots of other bikers who've camped here. There's also a very nice bathroom outside the park gate and I took a sink shower there.


A fiery sunset just as sol dips beyond the horizon. While it's remote, it's not at all tranquil, since there's a million penguins within a hundred meters and they're yapping 24 hours of the day, making the most of summer.


In the morning, I went for a walk around the reserve and pretty soon spotted the first penguins, including a guanaco.


There are boardwalks that we are required to stay on and I guess the penguins can use them too, since this is their home. The nice thing about this experience is that there is no separation between the animals and humans. This area has been protected since 1979 and just like the Galápagos, the animals haven't associated humans with danger, making close approaches possible.


However, they are still wild and can attack if they feel threatened and I waited about 10 minutes for these guys to finish up their morning gathering and singing. The guy in the front started approaching me and while they're short at around 50 cm (20 in), the way they walk with their chest out portrays a sense of confidence in taking you on and I retreated and let him pass safely.


The guanaco looks like such a sedate animal and I wonder how it stands the constant commotion of the penguin colony.


These are Magellanic Penguins and they migrate down from Brazil to incubate their eggs and prepare their offspring for the migration back at the end of summer. A couple makes a nest in the hillside and each parent takes turns guarding against predators and egg-snatchers, like birds.


Ducking in to the nest when all looks clear for a snuggle with the missus. These penguins live up to 25 years and they keep the same mate throughout life. When the breeding seasons starts around October, the male returns to the same nest and waits for the female, who follows his call song back to their home. Then, after some penguin magic, two eggs are laid and they take turns incubating until the youngins hatch.


A toddler slowly losing his baby fur, that they need only right after hatching and while on land. Before getting into the sea and swimming, they'll have to lose all their fur, otherwise it would weigh them down. Note the clipped tag on the penguin behind.


Two field scientists were ahead of me and they were gathering data on tagged penguins.


A nice shot of this guy as he stopped to look at me. I was on a small bridge that went over the main route the birds took from their nests to the sea.


Morning rush hour at Punta Tombo. The penguins were all wobbling their way to the open water to catch some food for the family.


It was nice to see everyone marching along in the same direction, almost as if they had set streets in the colony, which wouldn't be surprising considering how many years they've been coming back to the same place.


'Aww, yeahh, right there, right there, feels good'


Sporting a fashionable new 'do.


It's amusing to observe them as they march towards the sea, with their stiff wings out helping to smooth out the wobble.


High street of Punta Tombo with penguins going about their daily business.


'What did your parents get you for dinner last night? Oh, we had some sardines and squid. Cool, my mom found some cuttlefish and krill. Can't wait to learn how to fish for ourselves.'


This is the biggest of all penguin colonies in Patagonia, with numbers ranging around a million at their peak


Penguins standing guard in front of their nests.


'Honey, are you done cleaning out the nest?'


After an enjoyable few hours among the penguins at Punta Tombo, I hit the road for the long haul to Bahia Blanca, 835 kms (519 mi) away.


It got dark and the sun set on my exciting few weeks in Patagonia.

I spent a full month traversing all over the great land of Patagonia and saw numerous, outstanding natural attractions. If felt rushed, since the distances are great between sites and probably two months would have been more comfortable, but you make do with what you have. From Mendoza to Bahia Blanca, I covered 8,730 kms (5,422 mi) and felt I had seen all the major and a few minor attractions in this massive region. Of the 34 days here, I camped 15 of them and stayed only 2 in a hotel with the rest CouchSurfing.

The camping experiences were fantastic and allowed me to spend lots of quality time with nature. The region is well protected but that also means it's well developed and packed with other tourists. However, having your own transportation gives you the freedom to seek out places that suit your mood.

Once a mysterious land at the far end of the world, now Patagonia is a place to me where I could get a real feel for the beautiful works of art that nature can produce, if we learn to live synergestically and one with it.
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Old 04-12-2011, 10:08 PM   #939
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Fuuuuuuck! The only adjective that expresses how much I appreciate your shared ride. Jammin with Jammin.
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Old 04-13-2011, 12:04 AM   #940
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Great to catch up with your trip after a couple of months away.

Great to hear about your success with Couchsurfing too.

This German couple are now up in NE Africa after traversing a similar path to you. I met them in Guatemala about 18 months ago.

www.2aufreisen.de

They may be a good resource for you too

Regards

TH
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Old 04-13-2011, 05:53 AM   #941
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Awesome! Looking forward to your Africa leg.
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:18 AM   #942
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cloudshaver View Post
Fuuuuuuck! The only adjective that expresses how much I appreciate your shared ride. Jammin with Jammin.
Thanks man, I feel the same way at times

Quote:
Originally Posted by TrevorHeath View Post
Great to catch up with your trip after a couple of months away.
Great to hear about your success with Couchsurfing too.
This German couple are now up in NE Africa after traversing a similar path to you. I met them in Guatemala about 18 months ago.
Hi Trevor, yup, I met and rode with Holger and Anja in Peru and I'm in touch with them now, possibly for a meet up. They're planning to take the ferry from Alexandria to Venice, that I'm taking going the other way...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluebull2007 View Post
Awesome! Looking forward to your Africa leg.
Coming up soon...
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Old 04-13-2011, 06:48 AM   #943
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Argentina, Part 6: Bahia Blanca, Azul and Buenos Aires

February 4 - 16, 2011

The fun, adventure part of riding in Latin America was over and now it was a matter of getting to the end in Buenos Aires and planning the exit from this continent onwards to Africa.


I stayed with Walter in Bahia Blanca and we're partaking in a daily habit of Argentines, the purchasing of 'facturas', which are baked snacks that go along with drinking maté.


All sorts of savory and sweet treats.


Yum!


I seen these kind of cookies in a variety of countries. They all taste great with melted sugar on top.


Walter said there was a costume party in town and said my biking gear looked ridiculous enough to pass for a costume. Sounds good to me. He's going as an Arabic sultan and his friend went as D'artagnan. Argentines are a pretty conservative people and Walter said it was a rare event for people to put on costumes and let loose.


There were the usual naughty maids and cowboys.


Cat girl and a pirate. Because I was coming from the US, the cowboy hat soon landed on my head. I peeled myself away at 3 am since I had a long day to Buenos Aires.


Halfway to BsAs, there's a motorcycle haven in the small town of Azul, at...


La Posta del Viajero en Moto.


Jorge and his wife, Monica, opened up their home to motorcycle travelers in the early 90s and since then, it has become a fixture on the motorcyclist's map. Travelers from all over are encouraged to stop by and spend a few days in a place comfortable to bike travelers. Everyone leaves their mark on any available place in Jorge's garage.


Jorge said there were a lot of Japanese motorcyclists in the years past, but lately, it's the Brazilians who are the most represented country. He said that one Indian woman stopped by here on the back of another guy's bike, but was happy to point out that I was the first Indian rider to pass through. He was so enthralled with India that he interviewed me on tape to remember the occasion.


Saying bye to Jorge after a short visit. I had to get to Buenos Aires in order to prepare visas and onward travel.


One last pit stop by the road side in Latin America and as the glow of Buenos Aires showed up on the darkened horizon, I took stock of the fact of what had transpired since leaving Chicago. This was the end to the chapter of riding in the Americas and I was thankful for all the wonderful experiences.


Back in a developed setting of the grand city of Buenos Aires and it's efficient freeways. Look, there's WiFi on that bus.


I was happy to make it to BsAs without having to change tires since Santa Cruz in Bolivia. My rear Pirelli MT 60 tire after 13,000 kms (8,075 mi) with the grip down the center all but vanished. Thank goodness it didn't rain after Ushuaia. The underlying carcass wasn't showing through, so I was still good for a few more kilometers. This was a good 50/50 tire as that's just about the kind of terrain I rode on. I was saving the new Kenda K270 that I was carrying with me for Africa and didn't want to waste it on all this tarmac.


I stayed with Gaby here for a few days and she's showing me the proper way to prepare maté. It's a slightly bitter drink and there's a particular technique to wet all the leaves at a progressively rising temperature so as to reduce dust from being sucked up. She said she liked her maté with water at 79 degrees Celsius. It was refreshing to meet someone with this kind of precision about their tastes. She was a very interesting character and well read. We frequently dived in to deep, philosophical topics regarding morals, ethics and the structure of the Universe. We had differing views, but level-enough heads to hear each other out.


El Obelisco de Buenos Aires, the symbol of the city, built in 1936 to honor four hundred years of the city's first foundation. I was booked to travel on the Grimaldi's Grande Francia ship across the Atlantic and had to secure a visa to Europe since my plans for getting down in Senegal were no longer feasible. So, now I was heading to Hamburg, Germany and then would plot my route into Africa.


Visiting the barrio of La Boca, a distinct neighborhood of Italian descendents from Genoa.


A false-color image of El Caminito, a short, colorful walkway that resident painter Benito Quinquela Martín in the 1960s took upon himself to transform his run down barrio.


He applied pastel colors to all the buildings and brought some life back to this area. Now, it's a popular tourist attraction with tango cafes lining the streets.


Caricatures of famous Argentines on a balcony. That's footballer Diego Maradona, Eva Perón (Evita) and her husband, Juan Perón, who is still highly regarded by Argentines.


An example of the past residents of La Boca.


Free tango lessons by the port.


This is a more working-class area of the city, along the Rio Riachuelo-Matanza.


Argentines are mad about football and rightly so since the hometown team of Boca Juniors is one of the most successful football clubs in the world. This is their home, Estadio Alberto J. Armando, known as La Bombonera. The classic game is against the cross-town upper scale club of River Plate, as Boca Juniors is considered the club for the working class of Buenos Aires.


A promenade along a park. The city is very modern in places, resembling Paris and other European cities, yet, there's a laid-back feel to it as well, due to the character of Argentines.


The city is booming in evidence of neighborhoods like Puerto Madero with new high-rises going up. Some of the older residents of the city don't agree with the modern construction, but that's the price to pay for keeping up with the rest of the world.


La Casa Rosada (The Pink House), the center of Argentina's colonial history through to present time, serving as the official seat of the president, like the White House in Washington, except the Argentine president doesn't actually live there, but in a nice villa outside the city. The building was painted its trademark color in the 1860s either to placate the two opposing parties by mixing their colors of red and white, or some say they used cows blood in the paint to prevent against humidity. It's a fitting color these days, since Argentina is the first country in Latin America to approve same-sex marriages, a bold move in this predominantly Catholic continent.


Driving down the widest street in the world, Avenida 9 de Julio, through downtown Buenos Aires. It spans a whole city block at over 110 m (360 ft) wide with 7 primary lanes going each way with an additional 4 lanes in the flanks. That's 22 lanes from end to end in the heart of a city and one can imagine that for pedestrians to cross it would take multiple traffic lights. Some people try to run from one side to the other. For sure, there's lots of traffic, but I was never in a traffic jam. The city has also perfected synchronized green lights with digital displays informing you of the start of Onde Verdes (Green Waves) and it even tells you what speed to maintain (depending on the volume of the traffic, for cars), so as to reduce the amount of braking. On the bike, I would filter to the front at a traffic light and then take off, cruising through this dense city at speeds over 70 kph (44 mph) for kilometers at a time; a real rush. El Obelisco is at the main intersection with Avenida Corrientes.


Passing by a fruit stand at the central mercado in the pleasing San Telmo neighborhood.


I stayed with Fernando for the last few days and we're buying some veggies for a chicken curry.


An open bar with a parilla. Beer and grilled meats.


The streets of San Telmo, the oldest barrio in Buenos Aires with well-preserved colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.


Having a coffee with Fernando at Café Dorrego, an institution in Buenos Aires. It's been open since 1880 and haunts of all the great conversations that have taken place in these walls are evident. I tried to capture the ambiance with this 30 second exposure.


The barrio is popular with tourists and street musicians abound.


A view from the top floor of Fernando's flat in the barrio of Ramos Mejia.


He let me have the mezzanine and I prepared for the long sea voyage coming up (no internet for a month!).

Buenos Aires is a very comfortable city and while it is massive, it's also very agreeable, mainly due to the kind nature of Argentines. The city is plugged in to the world and very cosmopolitan. It was a good place to rest after the mega miles of getting here from Ushuaia.

And that concludes the Latin American chapter of my journey that began in Mexico in March, 2010, traveling through Central America, crossing over to Colombia and heading down the Andes. From Bolivia, I went across the Amazon jungle in Brazil and then down its marvelous coast. After a second visit to Bolivia, I continued down the Andes till the tip in Ushuaia.

I had a few breakdowns, but overall, am thoroughly pleased with how sanDRina, my 1998 Suzuki DR650 has handled the trip, so far. She's a simple-enough bike that I could manage with all the breakdowns and it helped that I carried the appropriate spare parts. By now, I'm very comfortable with living on the road and have my routines down that I can keep going for the foreseeable future.

I had many ideas and philosophies of life before going into this trip and, so far, they've all been reinforced giving me confidence to keep the throttle twisted open. In all this time, I've had zero security-related incidents. Not once did I even feel threatened and I knew this would be the case if common sense was rigorously applied. I had learned from previous travelers that having a good command of the language was a useful tool and also a door to greater engagement with the locals. This proved very true and I highly recommend learning Spanish for travels through Latin America.

I met numerous wonderful people, either by chance or through traveling networks, such as CouchSurfing.org, which has been a great tool in my journey. It's reassuring to see the same kind of awareness-raising around the planet, with regards to nature and how we treat each other. Of course, this inadvertently comes with rising habits of consumption, which is the same in all developed and quickly-developing areas. Besides picking up a few bad qualities from the West, the people I interacted with were aware of the positive qualities from their culture, such as strong social bonds. I think there's something to learn from every culture to make this a more harmonious planet to live on.

Saludos, Americas.
Hasta que nos encontramos otra vez (until we meet again),
Jammin
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Old 04-13-2011, 07:48 AM   #944
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I CAN'T WAIT for the rest of your trip. i spend a few hours at a time catching up with you. like a good book, i can't put it down! where did you post yoiur curry recipe? hint hint :)
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Old 04-14-2011, 01:55 PM   #945
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Video from Brazil: BR 230 TransAmazonica across the Amazon Jungle

Video from my trip across the Brazilian Amazon on the famed BR-230 TransAmazonica Highway across the jungle. A remote track cutting across the largest rainforest in the world. The road is pretty straight for the most part but got hilly, here and there. It was nice to get up close and see what this famous jungle is about, but also sad to see how much of it is being burnt down for cattle ranches.



Filmed with a GoPro HD camera. August 2010.
Click here for more Videos.
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