Saturday, Dec 29: We try to get an early start, but it's
9:30 when we finally head out of Rio Gallegos. It would be a long day (13 hours):
590km, 2 border crossings, 1 ferry crossing, and lots of gravel and wind. We met many
other bikers at the border crossings, including several Italians on a group round-trip
tour from P.Madryn to Ushuaia. One of the guys recognized us from a motorcycle meeting
(IBMWR Euro Prez #4) in Sweden over 2 years ago. He was amazed that we were still
The ride to Ushuaia is interesting in that you have to cross from Argentina into Chile
(see map), then take a ferry to the island of of Tierra del Fuego ~ Land of Fire.
The name was given by explorers who were sailing in this region and saw the many fires
from the various tribes. The western portion is part of Chile, while the eastern is
Argentinean. Ushuaia, known as the southern-most city in the world, is on the
Argentinean side and the closest port to Antarctica.
We stopped in Rio Grande we stop to check Erin's battery -- she is getting funny
readings on the voltmeter on the GPS. I swapped voltage regulators between the 2
bikes at one of the border crossings while Erin, Frank, and Rosa waited on line and
handled the paperwork. I didn't think the problem was with the regulator, but want
to eliminate it from the equation, and finally having 2 identical bikes makes this an easy
process. The volts are still down, and we're guessing there may be a problem with
the battery. After about 45 minutes trying to locate a Batteria place, Mr. Josť
assures us (in pretty good English) that the battery is fine. We conclude that
its the GPS cable thats, ummm, damaged.
It's now just after 8pm and we still have over 200 kilometers to go to reach Ushuaia.
Luckily, the sun doesnt set down here until after 10pm and we decide to go for it!
The last 100kms to Ushuaia was heading west into the setting sun, through more than 30km
of bull-dust over a heavily corrugated road. We literally couldnt see a thing
with the dust clouds and sun in our eyes! The closer we rode together, the better it
was, but with 2-way traffic, including on-coming buses with maniac drivers, and Land
Rovers racing past, it was and exercise in futility. At one point, I was laughing to
my self at the absurdness of the situation. We pulled into town at 10:15pm, just in
time to catch the setting sun. We stop for gas, warmth, and a breath of fresh air --
We are all coated in white powder. Rather than head for the campground, we decide to
splurge (again) and stay at the first hostel we see. Actually it was quite a nice place
with good views of the Beagle Channel and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. The son
of the owners is a young motocross rider and regales us with his riding stories. We all
took long, hot showers, made some cup-o-soup, and crashed heavily into our pillows.
Sunday, Dec 30th: We woke late took our time to get organized. While the
gang is milling about, I run down to the supermercado to pick up some orange juice,
pastries and media lunas (small croissants) for breakfast. We leave the hostel at about
11:30am, and make it a whole kilometer before I discover I have another flat tire (rear).
Apparently, the patch from a few days earlier leaked. The son of the hostel
shows us where to go to get it fixed and then takes us to a big supermercado where we
stock up on provisions before heading to the national park. Good kid!
Its about another 20-kilometer ride from town to get to Tierra del Fuego National
Park. The road is just as dusty as the one into Ushuaia. We find the campground at Lagoa
Roca where all our m/c friends are supposed to be. Jason is there with some other riders
he met: Marcel and Peter from Switzerland, Werner and Harriet from Germany and Holland
respectively, and Johans from Austria (who we met in Rio Gallegos). That night another guy
named Carl from Alaska also turns up, although he is staying in a hostel in town.
We pitch our tents and relax with the rest of the group. The scenery is spectacular
here with lush forest, steep snow-capped mountains, and tons of wildlife around. Black
rabbits run around the campsite while native geese and falcons grace the skies.
Monday, Dec 31st: Frank and Rosa take a ride around town and try to find
some thermal pools that we had heard about. Erin is feeling sick and I take my bike
into town to find a place to do an oil-change. I find the place Marcel had
recommended, a small motorbike shop run by a great guy named Alejandro. We first
washed the bike then gave me the oil pans and funnels I needed. He said I could
bring Erin's bike in after lunch (2.5 hours in southern Patagonia). While the shop
was closed, Erin and I ripped out the in-line filter, and replaced (no easy chore) with
new fuel hose. We discovered that when the tank is 1/3 full, there is not enough
pressure to push the remaining fuel into the carburetors, leaving her engine starving for
fuel with 9 liters in the tank! We make a few other repairs the rough roads have
caused, and I hustle back to town to do the oil-change on Erin's bike.
Around 2pm, 4 of the bikers head out to an estancia on the other side of the mountains
(100km away) for a big all-night party. We intended to go out to join them, but at 7pm as
we loaded up the bikes, it started to rain (and didn't let up until morning). Frank
had purchased a couple of bottles of champagne, so we thought we'd have a nice quiet
evening with just the 4 of us. Around 8:30p, the 2 Germans Alex and Annette pulled
into camp, followed a few hours later by Alberto, who brought with him Chris from Canada
and Aike from Finland. The owners of the campground were throwing a party for their
family/friends (about 30 people), and we were all invited inside to join them for a
terrific asado dinner (Frank is loving all this meat!). Dinner didnt get
served until after 11pm (real Argentine style!) and we danced until about 3 in the
morning. Rosa, born in the Dominican Republic, was in her element and did a great job
impressing the locals!
Tuesday, Jan 1st, 2002: Everyone slept late to get over their hangovers --
Alex had to move his tent for an unwelcome deposit he made in the middle of the night J