There was almost no wind today and when there was it was 80% at our back!!! We kept south until Esquel and got gas again with almost no line. The old ruta 40 goes south from here but reports of very bad road conditions there kept us south on the “ruta 40” to Gobernador Costa, Chubut Province at 444 km where there was finally a hotel and a very long line for gas.
Setting out early we were braced for wind and gravel today. About 100 km south there is about 5 km of gravel that is a bit deeper in spots, but no real issue. The Desvio near Rio Mayo is good road but can be tricky when the wind is gusting, the gravel is deeper, and there is oncoming traffic. We were glad to see it was only about 40 km and not the entire 135 we had left to get to Perito Moreno.
We met these three Argentinean guys on the gravel driving with street tires!
The last 60 km the wind was WOW strong. It was pressing our helmets so hard on one side it was painful. The shelter at the gas station was just enough to keep the bikes from being blown over on the stands. Luckily the hotel had 1 room left and a courtyard to store the bikes. Walking down the street to the laundry was even a challenge.
We have had a 2 -year friendship with Clive from Toronto, but we have yet to meet outside of skype. He is one of those guys who knows everyone. He has been very helpful with places to stay and his friend in Argentina brokered the almost impossible to get mandatory bike insurance for us. He of course has a connection in Ushuaia who is a biker who will store our bikes for 2 weeks. He is headed north to la Falda from Ushuaia so the only place we can meet him before he heads out of South America is to go east to the 3 on a bit of a detour.
On the way to Fitz Roy we had a nice sunny day with the wind at our backs. We spotted several herds of Vicuna (a wild relative of the llama) and several flocks of flightless Rhea. We also came across a few gauchos out on the range.
Dan trying to get the picture involves a bit of off roading.
They have the funniest sign here stating the obvious. At the bottom of every hill the sign says hill and at the top “you guessed it” it says down hill!
Since we left on our adventure on June 22, 2012 everyday people have been asking us where we are going. When we say Ushuaia the reply is always “ Wow that is a very long way”’ but today at the YPF when I answered the gas attendants question his reply was “ you are almost there!”
Arriving in Fitz Roy after 310 km we did find the 2 places to stay listed on base camp and opted for the one on the north side of town as it looked better and was a block from the only restaurant in town. Clive had a lot longer ride from El Califate and finally showed up at 7 pm. After a good dinner, lots of great stories, and 3 bottles of wine we did not get and early start in the morning.
Heading south on the 3 we again had almost no gusting wind issues. There were more problems with drivers passing too close on our left so you get sucked over towards them when the wind is blocked. There were again tons of Vicuna and Rhea on the side of the road. It’s funny on the isolated parts of the 40 we saw no wildlife, but here they are everywhere.
The next town south is Puerto San Julian, which has been visited by Magellan in 1520, Drake in 1578, and Darwin on the Beagle with Captain Fit Roy in 1834. It is a huge natural harbor. It was strategic in the 1982 Falkland’s war as it is one of the nearest points of land to the islands and was used as a base by the Argentine Air Force. On the waterfront there is a replica of Magellan’s ship the Victoria, which was the first to circumnavigate the earth.
Now for a good Argentinean steak for “lunch”
Having a siesta late in the afternoon we heard a bike start up outside. Dan says “ that’s an 800!” He looked out and sure enough it was a bike from Ontario. Daniel went outside to say hi. As he walked up to the guy he said “ Hi Dan”! Daniel was looking very confused when Wei replied, “ I know Sara”. It is so funny how you meet people by pure chance. Wei had been to two places already where there were no rooms, and he drove further into town and ended up meeting us! If you want great advice on where to eat and what to order check out his blog.
We were making for El Calafate and decided with the wind getting stronger today we would go on the paved road and not the 230 km of gravel of the highway 9. The first stage was to go south to Rio Gallegos.
There are several spots on the way where you can see flamingos and other birds. The wind was again not too bad today, strong but not gusting. There were a few sprinkles of rain as well. We were very thankful for our heated jackets today, as the temperature was 10 degrees.
The big thing of the day however was seeing the first road sign to Ushuaia!
We saw a ton of bikes today, but not as many as at the first gas station in town. The rain really started by 4, but we were tucked into a small hotel by then.