ray ban
 
PAT & CAT SPIN TALES OF THE TRAIL
 
 
Ushuaia to Esquel, Argentina
 

Ushuaia to Esquel, Argentina
Tierra Del Fuego and the Patagonian Plains

So, here we go! After almost 3 months off the bike seats and we’re “On The Road Again”! We’re anxious to get going, this is the beginning of the long road home, through the Americas. Come along with us as we struggle with ice, snow, rain and the ever-present “Vientos”, the Tierra del Fuego and Patagonian winds. Meet people who live in desolate places and love it. Meet Gauchos who make little money and live a lonely life. See extraordinary works of Mother Nature, mountains, lakes, glaciers and the brown expanse of Patagonia’s Plains. Catch a glimpse of Chile as we cut the corner in Tierra del Fuego. Have you ever seen Guanaco, Nando or Pichy? Ever seen cordero asado on the fire? Well, come on along, you may enjoy the read better than we enjoyed the ride.

WorldRiders2 are “On The Road, Again!”

August 28, 2004
Go For IT!
Ush to Los Cotorras
25 Kilometers

Waking up before the sun is no problem, here. We lay and thought about our decision and waited for at least a hint of sun. At first it was just pink clouds, then a little blue sky. We often think of my Mother at times like this, she always said, “Pink sky at night Sailor’s delight. Pink sky in the morning, Sailor take warning”! Sorry Mom but we’ve got to go, storm or no. (Well, in deference to Mom, the Weather Report on the Internet said that we’d have a clear but cold day.)

Packing was a slow and arduous process. It’s been 3 months since we packed these bags and loaded up. Cat paid the bill while I pushed us out. At 10:45 AM we put our new boots on the pedals and pushed off, down toward town.

The streets are fairly clear, here. We rode to the path along the Harbor, stopped and set for a picture then on, into town. Seeking the landmark sign, we found one that points out the distance, 3040 Kilometers, to Buenos Aires. A guy from across the street agreed to take a picture of us. He shot then handed the camera back and ran, he’s a Tour Bus Driver and his bus is waiting.

Onward, to the obelisk and the “Fin del Mundo” sign. We set the bikes and took a couple of self-photos then a group, Italians, came along. We gestured and Andrea, T, Simona and Andrea, O, volunteered to be our official Ushuaia Photographers. We got a couple of good stills then they took some video for LandRider and some for our web site. Of course they wanted to have a picture with us and we needed a picture with them so we enlisted the help of 2 young guys from France, Nicolas, Mirailles. Then we wanted one of them, memorial of the moment. A real UN meeting at the “End of the World”.
French

End of World

Ush and Ice

It was after 1:00 PM by the time we rode, then pushed up the hill and out of Ushuaia. The weather was cool but sunny. The up continued most of the way to the Esso Station. We could still see West Ush below as we pulled in looking for food. They had pre-prepared plastic wrapped sandwiches and Gatorade. We watched some Olympic events with Spanish commentary. The workers there were curious but distant.
   

Goodbye Ush

Onward, more up and cool to cold. Snow and ice lined the road and at times encroached upon it. Still on the up, we came upon the first of several Ski areas. A nice looking Hotel sitting high above the road. Our map tells us that there are 5 more ahead, we want to go further so began looking for a place closer to the road.

No Rooms in the Inns

The next place, Valle de los Huskies is down an icy dirt road, out of sight of the highway. . The sign had a bed but we decided it best to investigate first. Cat waited while I rode down and explored. The end of the roadway was completely covered with slush. The pathway to the buildings was snow covered. A guy there gathering wood sort of led me in. Another tried to speak English. He got the point across that they have no rooms for sleeping. He told me in Spanglish and sign language that there is a place just a Kilometer further along. I struggled back up, Cat had begun to freeze. We pedaled on.
 

Mush

The next place, Tierra Mayor, was a Hotel. There were a couple of dog sled setting off down below. We had to push up a muddy, then snow covered driveway. Cat went in this time, I stood the watch. The only thing to watch was a bus driver, snoring loudly, sleeping and waiting for the Dog Sled Passengers below.

Cat came back disappointed, only the Restaurant is open, the Hotel portion is closed for repairs. So, onward and upward as the shadows of the hills to the North began to take the sun and it’s little bit of heat away from us.

We’re getting close to the end of our possibilities, Las Cotorras is the first followed by Refugio Haruwen. Cotorras is down off the road but the driveway is solid ice and snow. A 4WD came slipping and sliding up and stopped near us. The couple inside told us that Cotorras has rooms that cost 90 Pesos. The place looks a little seedy so we asked about Haruwen, the Ski Resort. They said, “Yes, it is 2 Kilometers and rooms cost $ 225, US Dollars, and up. They drove on, we began the decent of the face of Cotorras.

The place is pretty casual. The Restaurant is large and a round fireplace sits near the center. Yes, they do have a room. We didn’t even look we just took. The girl, Maria, led us out back, up a slippery slope then down an icy trail. The building was warm and that bid well for us. We pushed the bikes inside, she told us it was safe to leave the bikes in the hallway. We thought we might be the only guests and it would be okay then a couple of guys showed up. We did leave them in the hall while we showered and thawed. I did a rough measurement and decided that we could jamb them into the room. We struggled but squeezed then through the door then crawled over them and headed for dinner.

Cross-country skiers and Dog Sled tourists were sipping drinks. They drank then drifted off, on their way back home? So the place was ours. We sat next to the fireplace for warmth and ordered wine and dinner. The waitress fired up an old stove and filled the oven with bread rolls. We sipped our wine, ate some of the tasty bread and waited for the dinner hour, 8:30 PM.

We were hungry and anxious to get to bed. The lamb they are famous for won’t be ready for another half hour to 45 minutes. Trucha (Trout) is available now, we took the hook. Well, I had Trout, Cat chose raviolis. We sat and watched the logs burn until our eyes were at half-mast. As we left a group of guys, skiers, came in looking for food and booze.

Our room is simple but warm. No TV so it was lights out at 9:30.

Sunday, August 29, 2004
Lo Cotorras to Petrel
35 Kilometers

Our waitress last night told us that they don’t serve breakfast until 9:30 AM. We want to get an earlier start so she agreed to tell the staff we would be in at 8:30. The sun here just begins to peak over the mountains at 8:00. We hustled to get packed then walked the frozen pathway in the freezing morning air to the Restaurant. There were only a couple of old guys there, cleaning. They did have a good fire going so we sat and waited.

At 9:30 the breakfast crew came in. They hustled upstairs where we were told that breakfast would be served. We climbed the stairs only to find all the chairs on top of the tables. It was freezing cold up there, too. Maria told us to go back down and she would serve us by the fireplace. What a nice girl. She brought the Continental Breakfast, toast and coffee. They had no juice or fruit. I decided that we were being treated like the Prisoners of Ushuaia. They would be put on rations of bread and water when they rebelled. Coffee’s just barely more than water, it has no food value. We loaded up on bread, jam and the brown, warm water.

We were treated to a unique sight, the cooking of their famous Asado lamb. They have a huge wood fire set up under part of the restaurant and a dozen lambs strung out around it. The smell was already spreading throughout the grounds, enough to drive us crazy even though we’d just finished our bread and water. The smell of them cooking will definitely be a big draw to tired and hungry cross-country skiers this afternoon.

Maria told us that she and her partner, Sergio, are planning a cross-country bicycle trip next year. We urged them to hold onto their dream. We posed with them for a picture then began the struggle of getting the bikes, one at a time, up the solid ice driveway. We had dwelled on our coffee, hoping for a thaw. It was 11:00 AM by the time we had both bikes on the roadway.

Back to Slippin’ and ‘a’ Slidin’

The Highway looks dry but is, in fact, solid black ice. We couldn’t ride, we could barely push on the slippery surface. It was Slippin’ and a slidin’, just as we’d done in Finland 18 months ago. We walked in the crunchy snow along the edge of the road, wondering about our decision to go in these conditions. The wind was now howling, too. Conditions went from bad to worse. There was no riding, we pushed and pushed for more than 3 hours.

Treachrous

Slippin' and Slidin'

At 15 kilometers we pushed into a Cross Country Ski area, Haruwne. It was crowded with participants in a biathlon, skiing and shooting event. We leaned the bikes where we could see them from inside and ordered lunch. The place was packed with skiers eating lamb, drinking and smoking. We had sandwiches and pasta, fuel food. They have no rooms here and it’s at least another 15 kilometers to a Hosteria.

The weather took a turn for the better, the sun popped through and began to melt the slick driveway. One guy there who spoke some English informed us that the road ahead was about he same as we’d just come except that it pitches up and over a mountain. The best we could figure was that he said it is a 6-kilometer climb.

Back outside, we pushed through the slush to the cheers of the Biathlon participants. To our surprise, just around the corner we encountered the first dry road we’ve seen in these past 2 days. We celebrated with a spurt of speed but were soon plunged back into pushing mode as the road took a winding turn, up. Most of the 6 kilometers would be pushing. The road was dry at first then as we gained altitude it again slipped back to icy. This is Garibaldi Pass, the sign at the summit says 450 meters. (1,500 feet)

Winding Up

MudRiders2

It was a 4 hour ordeal, getting up then, just when we thought we had it made, the road went from slippery snow and ice to wet gummy mud. The view of Lake Escondido is spectacular. We admired then a guy from a car that pulled up volunteered to take our picture. Well, it is all down hill but sort of treacherous for us in the slippery mud. We were ready to celebrate arrival at the base of the hill, along the lakeshore when it dawned on us that Hosteria Pestal is 5 Km back, along the lake.
 

The road to the Hosteria is really muddy. We had to push almost as much as we rode. It’s a beautiful location but the current conditions including the setting sun and growing cold, detract. Finally, we pushed up to the front door and walked into a dark and cold Restaurant.

Ernesto, is Hotel Clerk, waiter, chief cook and bottle washer. He told us that we would be the only guests tonight then took us to a cold room. The heat in the radiator was just starting to flow. He assured us that it and hot water for showers would be there, soon.

The sun was slipping down beyond the lake. It was 7:30 PM and almost dark when the generator kicked on we had lights. We did get hot water and the heater did put off enough to take the chill out of the air.

There was a fellow in the office when we came out fro dinner. He waved to us then disappeared. Ernesto was joined by Gisela who spoke enough English to guide us through the menu. The sun’s final rays slipped into the lake, we had a nice bottle of wine and huddled next to a radiator. Dinner was excellent, Lomo con Champignon, Fillet Mignon with mushrooms and steamed potatoes.

One of the features that Tourist from near and far must appreciate is that there’s no TV. This Lodge is a Fisherman and Trekker’s delight. For us it meant, early to bed.

August 30, 2004
Petrel to Tolhuin
56 Kilometers

Pulling back the drape at 7:00 AM brought a flood of sunlight into our room. The window is like a huge painting. The lake extends out and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. A picture that no artist err could paint, as the words of the old song go.

Ernesto made real cappuccino for us. We ordered an omelet to go with the coffee and toast. Fresh tasting juice, capped off a wonderful breakfast. Edardo, introduced himself. He’s Gisela’s husband, they own Hosteria Pestal and have for 18 years. They also own the YPF Service Station in Tolhuin. Last night we told Gisela how tough the muddy road is between here and the Ruta 3. She had volunteered to drive us out in a Camionetta. (Pickup Truck) It turned out to be their truck and Edardo that she’s volunteered.

We packed and pushed outside then loaded, lifted up onto the pickup. I rode in the back with the bikes. It was cold, I had to duck down and put my gloves in front of my face to keep my nose from freezing.

At the Highway Edardo helped get the bikes off then wished us well. We think he was saying that they would probably see us in Tolhuin? We shook hands then he turned and drove back toward Petrel. Alone again, we stood in the silence then mounted courage and the bikes and headed down the long lonesome, muddy highway.

MudRiders2

MudRiders2

Once out of the shadow of the mountains we enjoyed a mild, sunny morning. The road is dirt, mostly mud. We picked our way along looking for the dry spots. The few cars that passed slowed to lessen the shower of mud and rocks. We stopped, sat on a log in the gathering breeze. I had a bit of an upset stomach so ate just a cereal bar. Cat had the sandwich that Ernesto had packaged up for us. She shivered, wolfed it down and we went back to our task.

The road follows the shore of Lago Escondida then cuts across barren countryside to the shore of huge Lago Fagnano. About half the ride is on its shore and Tolhuin lies at its eastern end.

Not right on the lakeshore, we had to push up a long hill, into town. The boy working at Edardo’s YPF told us that the only Hotel was on the lake, about 7 kilometers away. Hoping he was wrong we explored other possibilities in our limited Spanish. Then he said, “Motel, ACA”, (here) and pointed down the muddy street. We pushed then rode through the bumps and mud but found nothing. A woman pushing a baby carriage pointed back the direction we’d just come then off to the right. Had we missed the place? We rode back then turned and still saw no sign of a Motel.

Pablo to the Rescue!

Up a little muddy hill, we stopped at a grocery store. As we leaned the bikes a Camionetta pulled up and Pablo, from Tolhuin Tourist jumped out. Someone had alerted him that a couple of struggling Gringos were roaming around lost. He had a map of Tolhuin and got the point across that the Motel was pretty basic but he could help us find a Cabana. (Cabin) He circled his office on the map, suggested that we get supplies then come see him. The little store was pretty well stocked, even a fair selection of wine.

Pablo actually works with the Regional Government and Tourism is only one of his responsibilities. Neither he nor the other 2 staff members speak any English. We struggled to understand and slowly got the point that Cabanas are privately owned and he can only suggest some for us to call. Then the bad news, they have no phone here at his office. He gave us a list and suggested that we go to the Panaderia and use the Pay Phone there. Finally we convinced Pablo that we would have a tough time communicating and he whipped a Cell Phone out of his pocket. He suggested 2 possibilities, we took the first. He called, the guy told him it was available.

Knowing that we would be lost, Pablo volunteered to drive me to the place to take a look. I suggested Cat go and I stay to watch the bikes. He seemed reluctant to take just Cat and told us to put the bikes against the fence where his co-workers could keep an eye on them. Anxious to help, he grabbed my bike by the seat. The ensuing sound and look on his face let us know that, as Don Law the inventor of Cheeko Seats had warned, it had pulled apart. Pablo was horrified, I assured him that it was fixable.

The town of Tolhuin is tiny. The mains street full of barking dogs is bumpy and dusty. We past the famous Panaderia then down and around the corner. The Cabana is a very cute little cabin poised on the hill overlooking the lake and snow capped mountains beyond. A knock on the owners door, he talked with Pablo then gave us the tour. The house was warm and there was a fire in the stove. It was love at first sight for us, night was falling and we had a home.

Pablo drove us back, we pushed off and rode to our new residence. The only disappointment was that the TV didn’t work. Cat brought the gas fireplace up to its full potential and we made good use of the little shower. Though we hated to go back out into the cold night air, it was a better option than unpacking and cooking.

Bundled up, we walked back down the dog-filled street to the Panaderia La Union. It’s the heart of Tolhuin and known far and wide. All buses pull in to allow passengers pastries and hot water for Mate. We had a quick look around then backtracked to a Pizzeria. Another language problem then a fellow seated nearby, Roberto, began to exercise his long dormant English skills. He got us through the ordering of 2 pizzas then we got acquainted with him and his friend, Ramon.

Roberto is Consul General for Chile in the Rio Grande Office. He is from Santiago but has spent his career years in places all over Chile and the world. He was anxious to expand his use of English so we had a long and enjoyable conversation. His friend Ramon is Argentinean and speaks no English. Roberto would talk with us then translate for him. The food was great, the fellowship fantastic.

Back to La Union, we stood in line with bus passengers and bought pastries for breakfast. The place reminds us of a small Wall Drugs, the strange place in Wall South Dakota that is famous worldwide. It is full of memorabilia and pictures of famous folks who’ve stopped here.

The bedroom is upstairs in our little modified A-Frame cottage. We turned the fire down a notch hoping not to over heat the stove and climbed up and climbed into bed. The end of another wonderful, adventuresome day!

August 31, 2004
Tolhuin to Rio Grande
10 Ks on Bike, Then a Truck Ride

Our cottage had really cooled during the night. I cranked the gas back up to full flame and we snuggled. We had both had to make trips down the cold stairway to the Bano (Bathroom) during the night. We’d both pulled our long underwear and sox on after the second trip.

Inside PanaderiaWe dressed in front of the fire then huddled close to it as we drank our Nescafe and ate the Panaderia pastries with a cup of yogurt and bananas. Bikes and bellies loaded, we rode the gauntlet, through the dog-filled street to the Panaderia. We wanted a picture, inside if they would let us bring the bikes in. The Manager, Luis, spoke great English. When we explained our voyage and web site he invited us to push in. The crowd was curious, Luis explained our story as we prepared to pose. A guy watching, Sergio from Ushuaia who also spoke English, volunteered to take the picture. Luis also had him take one with their camera and told us to look for it on their website, www.Panaderia-LaUnion.com.ar. Funny it’s usually us promising to put up a picture. Luis also said that we’d take a place of honor on their wall, too.

Pushing out, we heard lots of well wishes. Back then to Pablo’s office, we hoped to get info on places to stay in Rio Grande. No such luck, he was out and the staff didn’t know or couldn’t understand? So, off we go.

Beyond Repair?

PollutionFinally Pavement The first couple of kilometers are dirt and rock but dry. Then pavement, smooth easy riding pavement. As we pedaled along on ups and downs in cold wind I began to feel gears slipping. I thought it was the front derailleur and struggled on. At 10 Ks out I pulled up and found that the rear cluster of gears was loose? How could that be? That shouldn’t even be possible, it’s designed to tighten each time you pedal?

Just as we got the bags off and it upside down Pablo pulled up. He’s headed to Rio Grande and was concerned for us, even offered us a ride in his pickup. I was so sure that I could fix the problem that we sent him on. AS he disappeared over the hill I pulled the wheel and was greeted by a shower of bearing. Somehow the entire cluster had come apart. We retrieved as many bearing as we could se but I was sure some were lost in the dust. This was a problem beyond my ability and toolset.

The cold wind was taking a toll, too. We decided to get a ride back to Tolhuin to find a fix. There was a complete lull in traffic. The first passing vehicle was a truck pulling a trailer and it was loaded with steel reinforcing bar and concrete blocks. I stood, waving my arms frantically. He slammed on the brakes and went sailing past. I ran after him, he finally got the rig stopped a quarter kilometer down the road and agreed to help.

MartinezHe took three back and forth moves to get turned around then pulled back to us. Luis jumped out, and the three of us hoisted the loaded bikes over the side rails and laid them on the concrete blocks. The truck jerks and rumbles along, it’s definitely overloaded. Martinez took us down a side street and asked a friend where we could find a bicycle mechanic. He drove on through the tiny, muddy streets then pulled over and spoke with Martinez. We started to unload the bags along the street, Martinez wanted us to go on bikes because he couldn’t turn around. Worried that we were on a wild goose chase, we told him that we didn’t like the idea. He agreed, we reloaded and he took us to the YPF Station.

Martinez

Claudio & GustavoGustavo & GiselaWe had a sandwich and soft drink while the attendant there looked at the cluster. He, Claudio, said that it could be fixed but he didn’t have the parts. A Fire Truck pulled in and one of the guys, Gustavo looked at the gears. He indicated that he could fix it and left. When he reappeared with his girl friend, Gisela they had 3 bags of bike parts and tools. He went to work and installed a used gear cluster. It didn’t fit very well and the chain slipped as I tried to pedal. It might have worked and gotten us to Rio Grande or, it might not, we’ll never know.

It was too late to start cycling, we were faced with the dilemma of another night here in Tolhuin or a ride into Rio Grande. Edardo and Gisela pulled in and we had a nice but halting conversation. I got the point across that we had decided to go on if we could get a ride. They set about finding a driver that could take us. I took a picture of Edardo’s 1928 Model A. It’s his fun project.
28 A Edardo & Jose Edardo & Gisela

We talked about making sure that we could find a room in Rio Grande. Cat had found a place in our Lonely Planet Guide, Posada de los Sauces. Edardo and Gisela looked at the other possibilities and said it is the best. Then, without being asked he pulled out his cell phone, called and reserved a room for us.

JoseJose pulled his big truck up behind the station. Edardo talked with him then he drove around and stopped at the bikes. Another wonderful guy, another offer of assistance. It took the 3 of us to muscle the bikes up onto Jose’s load of lumber. Then, more heartfelt goodbyes and we were on our way to Rio Grande.

Jose

Jose is a second-generation truck driver. He said that he started driving, sitting on his Fathers lap when he was 5 years old. He hauls sheep to Ushuaia and lumber back. It takes 2 days to drive down and 2 back. He’ll sleep in the truck in tonight across from the toasty Hotel where we’ll be staying. Getting the bikes down was tough but between the 3 of us we did it. We invited him to join us for dinner but he says that he doesn’t eat until 10:00 PM. I pressed 25 Pesos into his hand, he objected but accepted.

Posada de los Sauses is a very nice place. We put the bikes in a hallway in the back and locked them. The price is more than we like to pay but, beggars can’t be choosers as we used to say. They do have BBC so we’re able to watch the Republican Convention as our own Governor of California, Arnold, called out to Terminate Terrorism. We also saw the Bush twins, who introduced Mom, Laura and heard her speech. She is the best of the Bush clan in my book! Said it before, I’ll say it again, she would probably make a better President than George. But then, I’m partial to moderation.

Dinner was great.

September 1, 2004
obert, Ramon and Bike Repairs in Rio Grande
WOW. 1-Year Ago Today We Left Europe and Crossed into AFRICA!

We awoke to Breaking News on BBC. Chechan rebels have taken students and parents hostage on the first day of school in Beslam, southern Russia. The number of hostages is between 300 and 1000, nobody knows for sure. Terrible but this issue has been festering for years. I was in the Soviet Union when 22 people, mostly Chechan students, were killed while sitting in a peaceful demonstration. There were a lot of stories of gunfire and violence but when the dust settled they found that it was WWI Mustard Gas, US Issued that had done them in. They want their own country. The problem is more than just self-rule, Religion plays a big part, too. The Chechens are Muslims.

They served the same great bread for breakfast that we enjoyed last night. Fruit cocktail, juice and coffee round out the included meal. Dario, the guy that checked us in and speaks good English, introduced us to Jose. He’s the owner of Sauces, they all call him Nani. He speaks no Spanish but is interested in our journey and helping us find a bicycle shop. Gustavo in Tolhuin had written down the name of a place. Nani and Dario agreed that it’s the place to go for bicicletta needs and offered to lead us there.

Bike Shop We dressed fro the cold and rode like the wind behind Nani’s car. The shop is well equipped but the guy there didn’t understand or want to take responsibility. He made a phone call and soon another guy cycled up and took over. He’s the owner. They took a look at the broken part and he pointed out to the threads inside the gear cluster. The guys at Bowman’s in Cape Town had cross-threaded when they put it back together and it has stripped out. There’s no way to fix it. I worried that we’d have to have a part shipped but, to my amazement, they pulled out a perfectly matching new cluster.

So, we left the bikes and rode back to the Hotel. I worked feverously finishing the journal pictures while Cat opened bags and reorganized us, again. At 11:30 we decided to find an Internet Shop. As we walked we talked about Roberto, our friend The Consulate General. Cat pulled out his card and lo, we were right in front of his office. We walked in only to find that he was out. We wrote a note telling him where we were staying and as we turned to leave he came in.

Typical of South American hospitality, he insisted that we have a cup of coffee and talk. I accepted out of courtesy even though I rarely drink coffee after breakfast. He got into the idea of helping us map out our route across Tierra del Fuego in Chile. He called places got information, marked our map, even made a sort of reservation at one of the places. He also called the Policia and found the location of a couple of Estancias (Ranches) that take in guests and marked those on the map. I got excited and spilled my coffee on his desk. He had half his staff working on our project. We all grabbed towels and contained the flow before it hit his paperwork.

Roberto I got a photo of Roberto at his desk then he made another call. When finished he said, “This was my friend that you know, Ramon. He wishes us to join with him for lunch. It turns out that his friend we met in Tolhuin owns a Pasteria, a bakery that serves lunch. So, we followed him, took a tour of the house he’s refurbishing on the front of the Consulate property then into his 4WD and off to Ramón’s.

Ramon’s place is a party hall, he does baking and catering as well as daily lunches for clientele established over 25 years in the same spot. He came from Buenos Aires, left the position as head Chef of The American Club to venture into this vast frontier seeking his fortune. It’s a family business, he and wife Mary along with one of his daughters, run the place. They do have hired help, too. Ramon confessed his age, 70 years. He and Mary have traveled fairly extensively due I part to their other 2 children. Their son lives in Yemen and their other daughter in Cape Town, South Africa. The son moved there with an Electronics firm, the daughter married a Pilot from South Africa.

Ramon, Mary and DaughterThe waiter served us a wonderful Hearts of Palm and Prosciutto Ham salad then the menu of the day, Pasta with Meat Loaf, quite delicious. Ramon showed us photos of him at work at The American Club and of big parties they’ve catered here. They do most of the wedding receptions here. What a great guy, 70 years young and still full of energy and involvement with family and community. Of course he refused to accept payment for our lunch. Even scoffed at my attempt. We invited he and Mary to come visit us, any time after we get back home.

Back at the Consulate, we hugged Roberto, promised to see him in Santiago or California and walked on up the street looking for the Internet Shop. What a wonderful guy he is. His wife lives in Santiago but comes down often. She holds court over his three sons and one Grandson. A nice man, a nice family.

We found the Correa (Post Office) but were disappointed to find that our package must be approved by the Aduana (Customs) and they closed at noon. Another disappointment, the Internet would let us read but we couldn’t write or respond to e-mails.

Maria at the Tourist Office offset some of the disappointment, she spoke very good English. Her Sister lives in San Francisco and she’s visited several times. She was able to find that the Hosteria in San Sebastian is fully booked for tomorrow night. She reserved a room for day after tomorrow and will continue to check with them as well as try to find a nearby Estancia that will take us in.

Dinner in, again. Good, again. Pumpkin Ravioli, mmmmm!

VP, Dick Cheney spoke at the GOP Convention tonight. We watched as he chewed at Candidate Kerry’s record and the delegates gleefully held up sandals with the word flip on one side and flop on the other. Referring to Kerry’s voting record. Tough business, this business of politics.

September 2, 2004
More Rest and Repairs in Rio Grande

Dario & Nani Fearing arriving in a small out of the way place without a place to stay, we decided to hang for another day here in Rio. We’ll get my bike to a welder that Nani has recommended and have the broken front repaired. We’d tried in Africa but couldn’t find anyone who would weld the alloy. Besides that, we can use a day of rest. We’re both fatigued and both have backaches. The bags need a good going over, too and, we’ll get some of the weight off by mailing the package.

It’s a beautiful bright sunny day. After breakfast I went back to work on the journal and Cat went Interneting. She lost track of time but did make it back by 11:00 AM. We rushed off to the Post Office. There was a huge line but not many in the little Aduana Office. The lady was nice and we were fortunate that another customer spoke English. We filled out all the forms and got her signature just as the clock struck high noon. Then it was a half hour wait in line for the regular Poste window. Expensive but then, these keepsakes and pictures on CDs are priceless to us. Oh yes, we sent the pictures off to Wally the Web Master, too.

We lunched around the corner at a tiny local place. I had the special, Cat had a sandwich. The sandwich was so-so but the special was a wonderful mix of Chicken and Lamb. Large enough that I could share some of the succulent meat with her. The best part, all of it including a soft drink came to less than 12 Pesos. (Less than $4.00 US)

Back to our computer for me and the Internet Shop for Cat. She’s found a new place with fast machines that work for us. She also shopped for essentials and got more Pesos for the road. Back at the Tourist Office, to confirm tomorrow. Maria called and was disturbed to find that one of the guests had to stay an extra day so no rooms in the Inn, tomorrow.

Nani and Fredy At returned at 5:00 PM, just as I was setting off to follow Nani to the welders place. Nani wasted little time driving and I pressed to keep up. Fredy the welder is installing a screen to catch flying rocks on the front of Nani’s new Subaru. Nani is another great find for us. He had really taken our stay here to heart. What would we do without wonderful people like him that we’ve met along the way? The people are really what this voyage is all about.

NFredy Weldsani left me there. I watched Fredy do his magic with the Arc Welder. He put the broken rack back together and it looks as strong as when it was new. He laughed and joked about being Fredy Kruger, you know the Bad Guy in the Horror Movies. His wife and son came in and he introduced us. I got a wonderful shot of him in full swing, as he hit the welder. It looks like a piece of art. Hope it looks as good on the big screen as it does on the camera.

It was a cold ride in gathering gloom, back to Sauces. By the way, we have learned that Sauces has nothing to do with cooking. The trees that line the driveway are called Sauces. It has been a cool but bright and sunny day. We’re hoping for the same tomorrow.

The good news for the day, 26 hostages in Beslam were released and they are negotiating. George Bush was the centerpiece of the Convention tonight. He did a very good job of acceptance. He has been working on his public speaking. v September 3, 2004

Stuck in Rio Grande

Bad News, Hundreds of Hostages killed and Wounded

We awoke to the news that something had exploded inside the school in Russia. Kids and parents were running for their lives through the blown out wall of the gym. Then we looked outside and saw menacing looking black clouds then rain and hail. We ate our toast and watched the sky. It didn’t look like it would let up. Finally we stood outside in the cold and decided that it was not a riding day. Stuck in Rio again!

More bad news, when we told Dario that we would stay again tonight he rolled his eyes then said, “We are completely booked tonight”. Geez, when it rains, it pours. Well there are other Hotels in town and our problem seems small when compared to the Hostage Crisis going on in Beslam. He logged into Underground Weather. They have Rio at 2 degrees (36 F) but don’t show rain and it is definitely coming down out there. They do show a warming trend starting tomorrow. Dario suggests that we sit tight and see if reservations start to confirm.

I decided to take advantage of the situation and finalize the Brazil to Ushuaia pages of the Journal. At 11:00 AM Dario still had no rooms so he called a place down the street and reserved one for us. We hate to have to move but as we always say, “What is, is”! He again told us to sit tight until 2:00 and see how it goes here.

Cat watched movie after movie while I put the finishing touches on the journal pages. At 2:00 Dario told me that there was no change so we’d have to make the move. As a last resort I asked again, “You have no rooms at all here”? He thought for a minute then said, “Only the Suite”. They have a large suite with a whirlpool tub. It rents for about 50 Pesos more. I quickly did the math, went to the room and talked with Cat and we told Dario that we’d take the suite rather than move to the lesser place down the street. It will save us hours of moving and getting in during the on going storm.

Then, I suggested that we’d pay the difference if we could stay in our comfortable little room. They could give the big room at the regular price to a valued guest. He said that he’d talk with Nani. Cat says she got the worst of the deal, watching movies all day, most of which made her cry. I finalized the journal at 4:00 PM. We called for a Taxi and Dario told us that we could stay in the room.

It is really raining and cold out. We ran from the taxi to the Internet Shop, pumped the finished story through to Web Master Wally and cleaned up the few new messages. We walked across to the Super Market for bananas and wine then hailed another Taxi. It’s only 5 blocks but neither of us wanted to walk in the cold blowing rain.

Dinner in, another great meal. I met 3 guys from Canada earlier. They came in for dinner and were seated as we were leaving. We stood and talked for a bit. They’re from Winnipeg, working here on a pipeline job. Funny, they work for a French Company and the parts they use are made in Louisiana, USA. They were hired because the parts ore metric and the guy and the US don’t do metric.

September 4, 2004
Rio Grande to San Sebastian
80 Kilometers

BBC was all about the Hostage Crisis. More than 300 have died in a botched rescue they think. However, the Russians say that the Hostage takers started it when they exploded a bomb in the gymnasium. They also say that it is more than just Chechens, there are some Arabs involved, too. All speculation except that some of them have escaped. Seems impossible since the area is thick with Russian Soldiers?

Ask and thou shalt receive. Our friendly waiter eagerly agreed to whip up a ham and cheese omelet for us and it was a beauty. Big enough to split and still fill up, when combined with our toast and coffee. Also, rather than trying to rush around getting food we had them make a sandwich. Another huge delivery, four sandwiches in foil and a soft drink, all for only 11 Pesos. (Less than $4 US.) What great guys.

It’s foggy, damp and still. We set off with well wished from Peter, one of the Canadians who watched us load up. Darn, why didn’t we get a picture of him or them? There’s little traffic on the road but for safety sake we rode the bike path to the City Limits. The misty morning fog seemed stuck to the ground and though we could hear the surf it was completely obscured.

Play Misty

The road is flat the surface concrete. Occasionally we got a glimpse of roaring, shore break surf. We take an inland jog, the corner is an abrupt 90degrees. The cliff straight ahead is covered with shrines, memorials to those who missed and crashed. Cat called it “Dead Man’s Curve”. Beyond the curve and climb the sun began to fight it’s way through the clouds. It was sort of off and on the rest of the day. Never cold but not warm, either. Despite sun Cat’s feet were frozen, all day.
Deadman’s Curve San Seb 2800 Km

Interesting, the road flares wide for about 1-½ kilometers. We knew right away that it was a landing strip constructed during the Malvinas War. (The Brits called it the Falkland Islands War.) Sneaky, to think that they could fool surveillance planes? Awe those Brits probably thought the bulge of asphalt was for parking?
Chica Estancia Baa Baa Red Sheep Final Approach

Honkers

Landing Strip

The vastness is almost overwhelming. We past sheep, a few cattle and lots of birds. There are hundreds of large black and white geese. I tried to get pictures but they either won’t fly of fly before I have the camera out. Another shy animal here is the Guanaco. Tan in color with white spots, some have black markings on their heads. They must be in the Llama family. The size of a large deer but built like a camel with long neck and spindly looking legs. They see us coming and stand still and tall. We try to get close but they let out a scream, kind of between the whinny of a horse and the squeal of a pig. That alerts the herd and they’re off, they easily jump over the roadside fences.
Lunch Sara Guanaco
down to Danger    

Long Lonesome Hightway

Guanaco

Mpeg x041 Play Misty

Stampede

Argentinean BorderACA Besides the frozen toes Cat began to experience aching legs. We decided that her seat was set too low. I raised it and slowly her pain subsided. The road went from asphalt to dirt then mud as we approached San Sebastian. We’d been told to ask for Mr. Achilles, he walked out into the damp and cold to greet us. We noted that the Hosteria is called ACA and a sign on the building reads, Automovile Club Argentina. The place is an Automobile Club Motel.

Mr. A didn’t want the muddy bikes inside but finally gave in and allowed parking in the hallway. We pulled clothing and computer bags off and lashed the rest together with the bike locks. Cat noticed a price list for the rooms. 38 Pesos is a pretty good deal and it includes breakfast. We decided to dig out our Automobile Club Card and see if it would work. Voila, Mr. A looked it over carefully and tough it’s expired, he accepted and did the discount deal to 28 Pesos. (About $10 US)

The room is okay, we did track in some mud. A hot shower, a little Argentinean TV, English language with Spanish subtitles and it was time for dinner. They only project 1 TV Channels but receive dozens? I asked, he stopped chopping carrots and chicken and changed it to BBC. Wow, life on the Frontier. We were completely caught up on the news by dinnertime when he switched it to a Soccer Game.

There were a dozen guys drinking beers, smoking and talking in the dining room. The TV was blaring Spanish above the din. They were watching one of the perpetual Soccer Games. Mr. A has a set menu and tonight is chicken. It was quite good, like a stewed chicken with potatoes. The Ball Game was boring, for us so we went to bed at 9:00 PM.

Sunday, September 5, 2004
San Sebastian, Argentina to San Sebastian, Chile
16 Kilometers

WhaleGarbageHeard someone rattling around at 6:30 AM so I pulled my pants on and checked the bikes. All okay but the football crowd was up and at it early. Sippin’ their coffee and suckin’ on their cigs. I went back and snuggled. It’s still dark out there. v We got up and going at 8:00 and took a few bags out as we headed to breakfast. Mr. A cheerfully tuned in BBC for us. We’re the only customers at this time of the morning. Eggs are included in the included breakfast. When Cat paid the bill Mr. A’s assistant charged full board. Cat flashed our AAA Card told her in sign language that Mr. A had approved us. The adjusted bill, including dinner and a bottle of pretty good wine only came to 72 Pesos. (Less than $25 US)

We pushed out through the gooey mud then rode the 300 meters to the Argentinean Border. A simple process but it took almost an hour. During the visits to the Immigration and Customs we met the young guy who was pushing a broom around on the dusty floor. He got questions out and understood that we are from California and going home. He was excited when he saw the map of our adventure on Cat’s jacket.

It was almost 11:00 by the time we rolled into “No Man’s Land”. The wind was by now howling, in our faces of course. The road is all loose rock or mud. The 11 kilometers was a 3 hours struggle. The road is awash with what they call “White Gold” down here, sheep. They were clinging to the hillsides, even trailing across in front of us. There are cattle, too and a few horses.
Goose In Flight Rocky Road
Cordero Hill Sheep Crossing Ma & Baby
Vaca Strange Rock Hola Chile
Pushin’ to Chile Countryside San Sebastian, Chile

Twins?

Nice Wind

As if to add insult to injury a road grader came toward us churning up the wet dirt and leaving a layer of rocks on top. We got out of his way as he returned then got off and pushed. It was now impossible to ride so we pushed the last 2 Ks into the Border Office.

The Chilean guys were mostly business. They had us line up behind a couple of truck drivers and wait our turn then studied our passports intently. After thumbing through every page the Migration Officer stamped our little paper and page K of the passport. Then, we had to visit the Aduana. He looked us over carefully then asked something in Spanish. We answered that we didn’t understand in English. Then he said, “Car”? We know that he knew we were cycling. When we replied, “No car, solamente bicicletta”. He stamped the paper and waived us on.

San SebastianHotel The Hosteria is white with red signs, Fast Food and Lodging. Big puddles of muddy water stood between the entrance and us. The best thing about getting there was that it was warm inside. It was 2:30 and we were starving, Milton the Chef and Server suggested Lamb Soup. Wonderful surprise, it was a soup base with a large piece of lamb shoulder in the midst of vegetables. That combined with the great bread and we were in heaven.

Milton had us circle around the building to one in the back. He took a short cut and met us there. He used hand signs to tell us that we should lean the bikes against a fence outside then bring them in to the hallway later. We understood, other guest if there were to be any, would have to almost crawl over them.
Ona woman Cart Ona
Ona San Sebastian Hosteria Country

Cold Cat The room was cold. Milton told us that the calentador, a radiator heater, would come on soon. Also, he would start the water heater now so it should be warm in 30 minutes. After the struggle of carrying bags was completed Cat wrapped herself in a blanket and sat next to the hallway heater. The shower doesn’t have great pressure but it did get hot. The room is still cold enough that steam came off my body when I stepped from behind the plastic curtain. After her shower Cat got into bed, fully clothed. We spent the waning hours of sunlight looking at pictures in magazines and trying to figure out what the stories were about. Power is generated. Milton indicated that they’d fire it up at 5:00. It was 5:45 before we heard the roar and our lights flickered up.

The radiators clunked and clattered then began getting cold. Cat decided to ask Milton what had happened. She got to the warmth of the Restaurant, he was busy with several people getting food to go. She did the sign language ask, he indicated that it would come back, soon.

We continued leafing though magazines and waiting for the heat. The radiators did start warming but they were a long way from heating the place. A couple of glassed of wine either warmed us or dulled our minds to the cold? At 7:00 PM we braved the cold and wind in a dash to the Restaurant. We’d ordered our food and requested service at 7:30.

Ernesto & Milton Ernesto, the owner introduced himself and served us another glass of good Chilean wine. We sat, sipped and listened to his stories. Well, we tried to listen and understand. He is at least 2nd generation Rancher. He and his Brother own Estancia San Sebastian, a 3,000-hectare sheep ranch. They have more than 6,000 sheep. He has traveled and had an interesting life from this lonely base. He flew to Florida, bought a Piper Aircraft and flew it back. They have pictures of the plane, even an old propeller hangs above the door. Lots of pictures of sheep sheerings and barbeques past. He told us that his son owns the Hosteria across the Straights of Magellan. We asked him to tell them we’re coming that way.

At 7:30 we began to wonder about food. When we asked his answer didn’t make sense then Cat noticed a clock behind the bar with hands indicating 6:30 PM. We asked about the time and Ernesto got the point across that Chile is one hour earlier than Argentinean time. That was good for a laugh but, our stomachs were still on Argentine time. Ernesto spoke with Milton then told us that they’d prepare the food, right away.

Ernesto settled into a chair behind the bar and watched Soccer. Milton rushed the food and we were soon munching on Lamb for me, Pizza for the Cat. Good food and commentary by Ernesto. Ca gave up and headed for the room at 8:30. The big game, Chile vs. Colombia would come on at 9:00. I stayed and watched a parade of locals coming in for food to go. Then guys, all guys, started drifting in near 9:00.

Rodrigo I had another glass of wine and watched the international wagering and story telling that goes on with all sports fans. Everyone knows everyone. They’re ranch hands I assumed. Then Rodrigo, the Janitor at the Border came in for food to go. He'll watch the game at home? Nice young guy.

I changed the hands on my watch and headed back to the room at 9:30 PM.

September 6, 2004
San Sebastian to Cullen (Estancia San Jeronimo)
60 Kilometers

It’s easy to get up early when a time change is involved. The wind has died down. We got to the Restaurant door in time to say goodbye to Ernesto. He’s going to Rio Grande this morning for supplies. Breakfast was quite good and Milton even through in a nice omelet.

The road is rough, rock and gravel. Little hills increase the difficulty factor. As the morning wore on the wind picked up and it was cold. We stopped and donned our raincoats and mittens for warmth.
Guanaco Ice Dirt Road
Fox    

Gaucho Lunch At 1:30 PM, Chilean time we stopped and sat roadside and ate some of the left over sandwich from 2 days ago. A Gaucho on a fat white horse happened by. We thought we were close but he estimated we still had 20 Kms to go.

The sun struggled through the overcast and warmed things psychologically. We had to push a couple of times, which did have a positive affect on Cat’s cold feet. This place feels terribly isolated except that there are quite a few trucks plying the road hauling things in and out. The wind was whipping it up pretty good now. We had to stop every time a truck passed because of the dust and flying rocks. Cat would keep her eyes closed avoiding dust on her contact lenses. She wouldn’t uncover until I gave her the all clear.

I was pedaling hard and getting nowhere. Cat asked if I felt okay? I realized it wasn’t my legs getting puny, I’d had a flat tire. Rather than try to change it in the wind and dust I pumped and rode on. It lasted for a couple of kilometers then I pumped again. Finally, we came upon an Estancia near the road. The long driveway was loose gravel, we had to push the last 100 meters. The place looked deserted? We called out and a guy emerged from the barn. We asked in sign language if we could sleep here and he said, “No”. Perplexed, we continued our sign language questions. He got a point across that there is another place further along that would take us in.

Onward, Cat lead the way, my tire was getting pretty low on air. We could see a big house with several others, smaller, clustered around it. The driveway is almost 1 kilometer. I pedaled against the slowly flattening tire, we crossed a wooden cattle guard then pushed up to the house. It, too, seemed vacant then Cat spotted some guys working on a fence in the distance. We pushed on to the first little house and there were signs of life. Cat went to the door then came back and said, “I think we can stay, I think she was saying that her husband would come in at 5:00 PM and he would decide.

She had invited Cat inside but she came back and we pushed the bike to the fence of her house. We both went into the warmth and wonderful smelling home. She, Nelly, was baking bread. Suddenly she said, “Nieve”, and pointed out the window. Geez, it was snowing and blowing. The flakes were thick in the air and sticking on the ground. We worried and wondered what we’d do, how long we could stay here if it continued?

Nelly set about rolling the dough she’d been kneading into flat pieces. Then she dropped them, one at a time, into a pot of boiling oil. Pan Frit she called them, fried bread. We tried one, delicious.

 NellyCat Cooks About that same time the 3 workers came in the back door, stomping the mud off their feet. They slipped on slippers and came into the combination kitchen/living/dining room and looked us over. Nelly introduced her husband Armando then told him we wanted to stay. Armando nodded approval, we sighed with relief, the ground was almost white outside. Emilio introduced himself and Ruben. We, the 6 of us, took seats at the table, snacked on Fry Bread and tried to communicate.

Armando had us take the bikes into the barn. There I took off the rear wheel and discovered that as I’d suspected, the tube had pulled apart at the seam. The same thing we’d experienced in Africa. I Snow replaced it and Armando got it up to 60 pounds with his Pump. It was cold so we hurried, finished but left the bags stacked against the wall and went back in by the fire. As we worked it began to snow. Cold, small flakes at first that whirled round in the wind. Then, as we went back inside it began to thicken and stick on the ground. We’re hoping that this isn’t an omen, a sign of more bad weather for us? Stepping back inside the little house, the steamy atmosphere felt like a sauna.

The other 2 guys are workers, friends of Nelly and Armando. Ruben, the elder by a year at 29, is quiet. He glances nervously at us from the side of his eyes. Emilio is outgoing. He tries to talk using slower sentences and a louder voice but to no avail, we can’t understand. He brought a Beaver, a stuffed Beaver, into the room and they all took Mate from inside it. They sat, warming up, telling stories and sipping. We were curious about the Beaver. Emilio took the dipper, a piece of cow horn, out to show is how they dig in and load their cups. I tried to pose him getting Mate out but he instead stuck the horn in the zipper on the belly of the Beaver. I shot a picture as they all roared with laughter. The effect he achieved was obvious.
Emiliano Ruben Armando
Mate Beaver    

Nelly showed us a room with twin beds, no lights or heat. The shower is at the end of the hallway in the only bathroom. Cat showered first. I worried that she’d use all the hot leaving none for the boys or me. It is a good shower and the water heater recaptured quickly.

I asked about electricity and Armando pointed and indicated generator then added that they only use it when El Patron is here. Then as dusk closed in he stood and lit two gas lamps above the table. A gas line hanging down from the ceiling feeds them. The cook stove and only heat in this end of the house looks like an old coal or wood burner but its gas, too.

White and Black, Black and White

Nelly prepared lamb for dinner while the boys sat and sipped more Mate after they had showered. Emilio was trying hard to speak some English. We got our Dictionary out, he thumbed through looking for words he knew. Like us with Spanish, even when you find the corresponding words you miss pronounce them. He got stuck on “White and Black”. We did Negro y Blanco but he insisted on saying “White and Black”.

Armando turned a radio on and they clustered around it listening to local news. Nelly cut, de-boned and pounded pieces of lamb.

Armando is Estancia Manager. He and Nelly have been here for 5 years. The owner, El Patron, lives in Punta Arenas and visits several times a year. There are 7 more guys out there in the dark somewhere on this huge property tonight guarding flocks of over 40,000 head of sheep.

Nelly and Armando have been married for 36 years. They have a daughter and grandson who also live in Punta Arenas. They worked on another Estancia for 15 years before moving here. This is an isolated life but the house is cozy and they don’t go hungry.

Armando put Chilean music on the tape player during dinner. The food was as wonderful as the company. What a joy these simple people are to be around. At 8:00 PM Emilio said, “White and Black”. Armando turned on a small battery operated TV and they watched a pretty risqué evening soap opera. The set was black and white. Emilio kept saying, “White and Black” as the plots of love and betrayal unfolded on the tiny screen. Cat and I drank a bottle of wine we had on board. The others had coffee with dinner. Nelly only drank tea. She tried to tell us that she wants to lose weight. Emilio said, “Gordo”, and the boys laughed but she didn’t.

More Mate from the belly of the beaver for them. Cat and I drifted off to our dark, cold room. There were some sheets on a shelf. Nelly approved their use, we installed them under the thick wool blankets. The covers are heavy and warm, the air in the room is frosty.

September 7, 2004
San Jeronimo to Cerro Sombrero
38 Kilometers cycled 22 in Truck

We awoke to a bright crisp sunny morning and the good news, no snow on the ground. Oh, it was cold both in the room and outside. Ice had formed, almost ¼ inch thick on the window glass, inside the room. We heard people rattling around, I got up and found only Ernesto, sitting by the range oven sipping hot Mate. He looked up, chuckled and said, “White and Black”. The others soon drifted in and sat for breakfast. More of Nelly’s famous Fry Bread served with jelly and coffee. Again Emilio said “White and Black” and again we laughed as I stirred the white dried milk into my black Nescafe.

At 7:30 AM Emilio put his coveralls on and went out to start the truck. It sputtered and choked but finally threw aside the cold and came to life. He let it warm up for a while then Armando and Ruben joined him. They took turns pumping each of the six tires on the old dually flatbed, then jumped in the truck and pulled away. We told Nelly that we wanted to tell them goodbye. She pointed and we watched as they pulled down the long drive and stopped at the first little house. She told us that they would be working there.

Nelly’s ChicsNelly’s PetNelly began preparing what we thought was going to be lunch. She got a big pot, crumbled dried bread and added chunks of potato and onion. The best we could get was that she was making Gallina, chicken stew? We packed and were almost ready to go at 9:00 AM when she lifted the heavy pot and went out the door. Curious, Cat followed then came running back for the camera. “She’s feeding the pot to the chickens” she shouted as she ran past. You’ll see a picture of the chickens but Cat was too late to get one of Nelly serving them.

Bye Bye Nelly We got the bags out to the barn, loaded then pushed out. Nelly came out and we hugged and talked of seeing each other again. Another parting with yesterday’s strangers, today’s family.

Estancia San JeronimoThey have a windbreak fence between the house and barn. The wind howled as we left its cover. The 3 boys stopped working as we cycled up. The each took a turn shaking our hands, hugging then giving the one cheek kiss. We turned up the hill and into the wind. They turned back to their task.

 Oil and Gas It was a howling monster wind driving against our left temples. Nelly had told us that we’d find a Service Station at Cullen, about 5 kilometers from the Estancia. An uphill struggle added to the effect of the banshee in our right ears. At the top and off to the windward side lies Cullen. (Kooyen) Rather than cycle into the wind I waved and a guy stopped. He couldn’t speak English but understood our question and his answer was universal, “No”. We couldn’t believe it then began to think that perhaps she had meant that this is a Gas Town. There are lots of natural gas lines running across the top of the ground. The guy again assured us that there was no store or station.

So, onward we go without food for lunch. The rough dirt and rock road flails up and downward. The ever-present sheep, a few Guanaco and we are the only signs of animal life on this part of the planet. It’s desolate beyond belief. There is a road off to the left but it’s unmarked. Again, we stopped a car and asked direction to Cerro Sombrero. The guys worked on the question then an answer, “Go this way”, as they pointed onward down the road.

The road ahead was better than that off to the side. All the truck traffic was moving that direction, too. We pulled up in a slightly sheltered spot and ate the stale sandwiches we’ve had on board for 4 days. Onward then in just a couple of Ks we saw a sign pointing toward Punta Catalina. We’d missed the turn and were taking the longer route. Cat was a little despondent. It was there that the road turned to the left, right into the wind. It was brutal, it was soon unrideable. We were ground down to a crawl then driven off the side of the rocky road. Now we were walking, pushing and struggling. Finally we stopped, leaned the bikes against a signpost and hunkered down.

It was time to find help, there’s no way that we can continue at this pace and get in before dark. From the moment we finally decided to flag down a passing truck, all traffic seemed to have dried up. Finally a truck, an oilrig tender by the looks of it, came over the hill and pulled up as I waved. They got the message but refused. They didn’t have much room either in the cab or on the back of the truck. I didn’t like putting the bikes onto the oily back bed anyway. They drove on.

A pickup truck, the perfect vehicle, came over the hill toward us. I stood on the road and waved. They slowed then pulled left and swerved around me without slowing. They focused straight ahead as though they were avoiding eye contact with homeless people. Well, we are homeless and may well look it.

Another pickup, this one a bit junky but doable. The driver, a small guy, nervously looked toward Cat as I asked, almost begged. I felt that he was afraid so I played the wife card. “Mi Esposa es malo” I said as I indicated my stomach. I thought that if he knew that Cat was a woman and, having stomach pains, he’d give in. Even more nervous, he put the car in gear and shook his head negatively. Then I begged, “Por Favor, Por Favor”. My pleas went unheard, he revved up and pulled away. This is the first time we have been passed over and now, 3 times in a row.

Juan Jose We decided that we’d better push or it would be dark before we get in. We’d just started when a huge flatbed truck rumbled over the hill. I threw my bike down and waved vigorously. He jammed on the brakes and pulled up in a cloud of dust. He listened then shook his head affirmatively. We hustled to get the bikes around as he jumped up on the empty bed. I lifted the back wheel, Cat did her part on the front and Juan Jose grabbed the crossbar and pulled them up, one at a time. We were soon in the huge cab and rumbling toward Cerro Sombrero. Cat sat on his mattress rolled up behind the seats. Funny but up this high and moving so easily there doesn’t seem to be a wind. Juan Jose is a man of few words.

He dropped us at the crossroad and pointed to Cerro Sombrero 5 kilometers off to the left. We offered to buy him coffee or food but he declined. We quickly off loaded the bikes and Juan Jose roared away, in a cloud of dust.

Cerro Sombrero There is a Restaurant and small store here on the highway but no Motel. So, off into the wind again. South and west directly into a screaming wind. We rode a bit but pushed most of the way down the rough rocky road. The first building we came to was a Hosteria. Marbelle, our hostess, had a room with heat and hot water. We were out of the storm. We lashed the bikes under the stairwell and carried our clothing and computer up the stairs.

Marbelle doesn’t serve lunch or dinner. She told us that there is a place up the hill, a store and restaurant. I was about to give in on the idea of food when she offered to make eggs and toast. We took the deal, she whipped up scrambled eggs and we sat at a table in the dining room. Believe it or not, she even tuned in CNN so we filled up on food and news.

A warm shower always cures a lot of ills. We squared our things away then decided to walk. The town is strange. It’s a company town and ENAP, Empresa Nacional de Petroleo, Chile’s National Petroleum, is the company. An Architect from Tennessee designed the entire town in the late 1950’s. The USA influence is obvious, the place looks like tract homes surrounding a school, store and restaurant. A red/brown colored A-frame Church adds to the bazaar time warped look. A “Back to the Future” feeling would hang in the air if the air would slow down for a minute or two.
Wind ENAP Church
Homes Gymnasio  

The wind is still strong but now at least walkable. There is an Internet connection at the Grocery Store. Surprise, it’s pretty fast and functions well for us. We read and sent messages. Weather Underground tells us that the wind at Rio Gallegos blew 80 KsPH strong (50 MPH) today. No wonder we struggled so!

 StoreClub Social The Restaurant is called Club Social. The wine they offered looked less than so-so, so I went back to the Market and got a nice bottle. Food was really great and the two girls there were more than friendly even though none of us really know completely what was being said.

Back at Hosteria, we sat in and talked with Hamant, Trevor and John, 3 guys from England. They Hamant, John & Trevor are here with an Engineering firm on contract with ENAP. They have plenty of wind and dust stories. Hamant is going home to London in 2 days and he seems pretty happy about that.

 

September 8, 2004
Big Wind in Cerro Sombrero

The winds returned with a vengeance and awoke us during the dark night. Trees and flags bending to the wild wind greeted us as we pulled ourselves from under the heavy covers and into the cold. Breakfast, the Brits were leaving as we came down. Marbelle introduced us to her Sister Gloria and told us that she was going to Puntas Arenas. These sisters own the Hosteria, their parents opened it and they’ve been working it for over 25 years. Dirt, even small rocks were flying past the front door as she exited.

We ate breakfast, watched CNN and decided that there’s no reason for us to go out into this storm. Gloria told us we could stay I the same room. I sat up the computer and began working on our journal. Cat curled up in the corner near the heat with maps and books, adjusting our plans. The TV only receives 2 channels at a time. Gloria tuned it to Sony and Cat watched her favorite comedies. We asked about a Lavanderia and she volunteered to wash our dirty clothing. What a wonderful family.

Wind Snow and Hail

The weather was more than harsh. The wind began to fill with rain then snow that suddenly turned to hail. Christian, Gloria’s husband told us that he works at their nearby Panaderia. We asked if they could make us sandwiches. He was happy, even delivered them to us. So it was lunch in and more CNN.

Big Blow

Hail? Yes!

As the day neared it’s end the clouds began to break up and the wind slowed. Cat jogged to the Market and cleared more messages from friends. The e-mails and journal can be big time consumers but they’re a true joy for us in times and far away places like this.

Stars shoe brightly through the clear cold night air as we walked to dinner. Another evening at the Club Social. Another nice wine from the market, Steak, Eggs and Fries. Greasy and oh so good.

Back at Hosteria Base Camp, the Brits were at the table again. We talked, traded stories and jokes until after 10:00 PM. They think we’ll have a few days of good weather, we hope they’re right.

September 9, 2004
Cerro Sombrero to Rio Gallegos
6 Kilometers on Bike/166 on Ferrari Transporte

Gloria & Marbelle The sun was up and so was the wind, as we got up. We decided to make a dash for it. We needed our clothing that Gloria had taken to wash. I went down and asked Marbelle who was now back on duty. There was a little trauma but we finally found them, in a neat stack. She told me that the Ferry crossing was terrible, big waves, as high as 5 meters. (More than 10 feet) CNN and breakfast then we packed up, paid up and headed out.

The wind was a lot heavier than it appeared from the windows. Within just a few hundred meters we were struggling, again. Riding some, pushing a lot, it took an hour to get back to the highway. Then as we turned the corner we were hit with the cold blast that was now blowing at least 50 KmPH. (30 MPH)

So, our choices became, go back or get a ride. We pushed up the road to the little market. A truck and pickup pulled in as we approached. Inside, we surveyed the group and worried. They looked like gangsters, long shaggy hair and unshaven. The one seated across from us worked through the language difficulties and told us that we could ride with them but the boats weren’t going because of the wind.

It’s only 44 Kilometers to the Straits of Magellan and the boat off of Tierra del Fuego. The boat he mentions is the Ferry. Bad weather has forced them to discontinue service. The guy thinks it will be an hour or so delay. We sat and watched them smoke and joke around. One spoke a little English and confirmed that the other two were brothers. They are all here driving a caravan of trucks from Ushuaia to Bolivia. It was almost as cold inside the store as out in the wind. We had some wind, every time the door opened and occasional blasts through the broken window.

A stream of a dozen trucks came from the direction of the Straits, the guys jumped up and said, “Vamos”. We hustled the bikes to the pickup and Leonardo, one of the brothers helped lift them onboard. The other, Claudio, the one who was paying for things and looking like the boss drove the pickup. The others followed in huge flat bed trucks with signs on the side, “Ferrari Transporte”.

Ferrari Bros Leonardo Claudio and Leonardo are Ferrari brothers but their other brother is “El Jefe”, the boss. They have 10 trucks total. They are from Buenos Aires but spend a lot of time on the road hauling petroleum and heavy machinery. We reached the Straits and had to fall in a long line of trucks. They have closed the Ferry service again. We sat in the pickup, the guys all crammed into one of the truck cabs.

We thought about taking a room at the little Hostel near the Ferry Ramp. Cat had to go so she braved the cold wind and walked there. Back soon with sandwiches and a decision that we’d be better off to cross with these guys. So we ate and waited.

Suddenly, after waiting for 2 hours, the trucks all started their engines. Claudio came back to us, the engine purred and the heater hummed. It was a long process, creeping forward then waiting. There are two Ferries. The largest can take 15 trucks. We made the second because they allow pickups to slip in between the big guys.

Hamant on Ferry Hamant came up and knocked on the window. He and John were on board, getting him to the airport. We went inside the cabin and chatted while Cat’s teeth chattered. It’s a 30-minute, rough seas boat ride. Funny, a sense of nostalgia sort of surrounded us, maybe knowing that we may never see each other again? Or, knowing that Hamant would soon be home and we’ll still be fighting the wind?

Back on the mainland, Claudio spoke with the others on their CB Radio. They were still in line, waiting. Claudio told us he’d rather be driving one of the big rigs. He gunned the engine and headed inland. The Hosteria owned by Ernesto from San Sebastian’s son was closed. Claudio sat patiently while we considered our options. We asked in jerky Spanglish if there were other places on the road. He didn’t think so but called the others again and they confirmed, “No”. Claudio sat in front of the locked gate, engine idling, and waited. We figured that we were out of options. I asked if we could go on to Rio with him. He looked over and emphatically said, “Si”. Not just “Si” but that long drawn out “SEEEE” with a lift at the end. So it was on to Rio via the pickup.

 Escape From Tierra del Fuego

 Bye Bye Tierra del Fuego

It’s another 10 Ks or so to the Argentinean Border Crossing. We pulled up, Claudio left the engine running and after digging out his vehicle registration, led us into Immigration. It’s a pretty stark place but they do have toilets and a little stand selling food and trinkets. The line to the Immigration Officer passes I front of the counter. One of the guys there began reading the back of our jackets and said, “Pat & Cat”. We tried to talk as we waited but it was difficult. I gave him and his buddy one of our cards. He got it, “Todo el Mundo en Bicicletta” and the news spread down the line. We were an attraction, they all stared.

The Immigration guy looked at us, entered our Passport numbers in his computer then opened the Passports to stamp them. Another stir, more stares, he exclaimed out loud that there were no pages left to stamp. He thumbed through and called out several of the countries names that we’ve visited. The trinket seller leaned across the counter and repeated, “Russia”, as a question. We said yes and that too caused a little stir.

Hotel Costa Rio is adjacent to a Casino. Claudio had mentioned it but we didn’t connect the two until he pulled up across the street. He waited, I dashed across and, yes, they had a room. Back at the truck I started to unload but Claudio pointed and indicated that he’s pull up in front. He roared off down the block with Cat on board. I went over and the desk clerk told me that we’d have to park the bikes in the garage. He opened the door and as Claudio came down the street he motioned for him to turn in. I motioned for him to pull up and he did. The guy thought he was staying, too. We dropped the bikes, Claudio was in a hurry. I tried to find a pen to get his e-mail address. I offered him food or drinks, he said “Mas tardes”. (Later) He said something about coming back or staying here too? He’d give us his e-mail address then.

Hugs for both of us then Claudio was off in a cloud of Rio Gallegos dust.

I struggled with the getting the bikes into the garage with the help of the Bellman. The garage is only a courtyard, open to the sky and I didn’t feel it was secure. Finally the Bellman went in and asked about taking them to the room. They didn’t like it but after lots of asking, gave in. We took them up the elevator, 1 at a time. He wanted them in the little kitchenette and worried about scratching the walls. We were careful about that and I warned him 3 or 4 times about not picking the bike up by the seat. I knew exactly what had happened when I heard the ripping sound. He apologized and hustled back down stairs. It may have been a good thing, it eased the tension about parking the bikes.

I went back down to collect Cat and our loose bags. She was talking with 3 guys, all from the US. Two are pilots, Carl and Bob are with NOA, the weather and oceanographic research firm. Well it’s Government but in an independent way? They fly P3s and are here preparing for flights over Antarctica this summer to measure Global Warming. The other, Randy, is a Defense Department Attaché with the US Embassy in Buenos Aires.

Another Case of Small, Small World

Carl told Cat that he had been riding bicycle on the Promenade in Ventura just a week ago. His brother lives there and he was flying out of Point Mugu. His brother, Paul, owns an Environmental Impact company doing work for developers. We started talking about people he probably knows when Carl mentioned his Uncle John. We know John, he was a Charter Member as we are, of The Tower Club, a Health and Dining Club. He had been Chairman of the Board of Directors but died recently. A friend had e-mailed us of his demise.

John and Carl, his brother, Carl’s Father, were born on Irvine Ranch. That means little to many of you but it’s most of the land that makes up what we know as Orange County, today. They both had careers in agriculture. John became President then Chairman of the Board of Sunkist, one of the worlds largest Citrus Co-ops. Carl’s Dad went with Sunkist to Florida. Carl is a Florida boy with California roots.

We were tired so, all things stowed, we went down to the Cafeteria. We’ve lost that hour we gained in Chile. It’s 10:00 PM here. A bowl of soup with bread then we hit the bed.

Our room is actually a mini suite with kitchen, living room and bedroom. The only disappointment, no CNN or any other English language news on TV.

September 10, 2004
A Day in Rio

Slept in until 9:00, the included and nice little buffet breakfast at 10:00. A short walk to the Tourist Office and a disappointing attempt at getting info. None of the staff speaks any English and they have no maps, just a few Xerox copies. Worse yet, they have very little knowledge of the area to the north between here and El Calafate.

They did mark the essential on a City map like Market, Bike Shop and Shoe Repair. We hit the Internet and worked through messages. Surprise, Todd the guy that does the does the Video Infomercials for LandRider Bicycles is coming to meet us and do a segment in South America. That’s kind of exciting, we have been sending them the little clips we take and they’ve used some but this will be sound and professionally done. I sent back to him and promised to send the stuff we have, the Elephant piece in Kysna, South Africa and our start from Ushuaia.

We walked to the shoe repair place. One of my bike shoes is coming apart at the toe. The guy wanted to make a major repair, sew etc. I asked him to just glue, he didn’t like it and thought it wouldn’t hold but I insisted. We had a great lunch at Pizza Express, no pizza but wonderful chicken and vegetable tarta. The price was unbelievable, only 12 Pesos. (About $4.00)
Pizza Cat & Casino Rio Main

Alejandro and MarianAlmost as a last resort we stopped at a Travel company, South Roads Tours, to see if they might know what the road ahead will be. The young guy, Mariano, spoke no English. We were about to give up when Alejandro blew through the door and filled the room with a heavy accented English. He’s a character but he did know the route and he did help us with ideas for places to stop. He even took our map and marked spots for camping and where we should find Estancias, Hosterias and small Hotels.

Back at Hotel Costa Rio, I remembered that we couldn’t mail the tape to Todd. The Aduana closes at noon and they don’t work tomorrow, Saturday. Cat went back to the Internet, I worked on the tape, making sure it was the right one. I have an idea, I will ask Carl to take it back and mail it for us. He’s a very giving guy. When we told him of our loss at DHL he offered to see if the battery from his computer would work and wanted to give us his Memory Stick. We declined so I figured this favor would be easy. I called for Carl but the desk put me through to Randy. Carl’s out but he told me to bring the tape down. I ran it so he’d know that it wasn’t something subversive. He said that he’d make sure it got to Carl or into the mailed.

I plugged away on the journal pages most of the afternoon. Carl came knocking when he got back in. I told him about the tape and he was happy to help. He came in sat on the uncomfortable couch and we talked. He really is a thoughtful and interesting guy. He’s worried about the decision whether to fly out of Ushuaia or Rio Gallegos. I told him of our fears as the plane skimmed over the mountaintops on approach. He agreed when I told him that it felt like they were picking up draft from the hillsides. What an amazing world. Small enough that we can meet a guy who was just in Ventura. Small enough that he’ll be back in Maryland day after tomorrow. Yet, large enough that when you do it on a bicycle it’ll take almost a year.

Cat picked up toothpaste, food and my glued shoe. We dined at a place Carl had recommended. They had eaten steak, we ordered lamb and pork. Something happened during translation, none of the food was very good. The best of today, it was sunny. Windy but sunny.

We took a quick tour of the Casino then ducked back into Hotel Costa Rio. I drug the TV into the bedroom and we found a movie in English with subtitles.

September 11, 2004
Another Day of Rest and Readying in Rio
3 Years Have Passed, Al Queda and Osama Reek Havoc, Yet!

Woke up to gray skies and memories of 9/11. The Spanish news stations were full of the same footage, planes crashing into the WTC, over and over. It’s windy and cool outside and the streets are empty. We sat at the window and watched the few people scurrying about with heads down, plowing into the wind.

Rio is a town built upon functional values. Nothing very pretty but everything looks substantial. We walked the city street down to the riverfront. A sea wall, tidal flat and brown silty water. We did take a few pictures of the park across the street.
Rio Gubenador Happy Store
Diagnostic Tattoo Monument
Point San Martin Hats
Corner Store MBZ  

Butch Cassidy and The Sun Dance Kid?

Back to the journal for me and Internet for the Cat. She looked up something we’d read about and remembered from the movie. Two wild-west, US bank robbing characters of the early 20th Century, Butch and Sun Dance had retired to a life of seclusion and bought a Ranch near Rio. (About 1908 or so, we think.) They got bored, threw a shooting contest that Butches Girl Friend won, then went into Rio and held up the Bank. That didn’t set well with the locals. They had to leave the Ranch they’d bought and head out on the run. A guy we talked with who seemed to know said that they’d made it to Bolivia but were caught and shot, there.

Lunch in our flat, ham and cheese Empanadas. Cat then re-worked the bags and dug out our goggles. We’ve carried them since Reno, Nevada and never used them. They steamed up back them, we hope that the cold will take that problem away and they’ll keep the dust out of our eyes.

Dinner at the white tablecloth and linen napkin spot next to last night’s not so good place. Salmon and Veggies. Great.

Appropriately, we watched the dubbed version of the movie, 911.

Sunday, September 12, 2004
Rio Gallegos to Guer Aike
36 Kilometers

Up early and ready to ride. A change in the weather and a change in latitude and attitude. Breakfast, loaded up then out the door at 10:00 AM. A 1 Km backtrack then turn to the west and voila, wind in the face. Not overwhelming but slowing. They say “Los Vientos de Patagonia”, the Winds of Patagonia. The good news, it was at least 50 degrees, warm enough to work up a sweat.

The 33 Kilometers to Guer Aike took more than 3 ½ hours. First stop, a Comedor, kind of a rough little café. We had a bowl of good soup then asked about a place to stay. The Gaucho looking waiter/owner indicated “Camping only” and pointed down the road. We could see an old looking green building across the field, he didn’t know whether it was open. He called out and a woman came out of the kitchen. They conferred and she confirmed that it was closed. Another ask, The Estancia Guer Aike? “Si esta abierto”, it’s open. They both pointed out the window and said, “3 Kilometers”.
Stairway to Heaven Rio Gallegos Est. Guer Aike

Turn Back It’s still early, we rode out then started up a long slow climb. Sure that we’d come more than 3 Ks, we stopped at a Truck Repair Garage, the only place between here and know where it looked like. The woman and her 2 boys came out and finally understood that we wanted the Estancia. She pointed back toward the village. Okay, we don’t know how but we’ve past it.

Backtracking, again, we found the road in, no signs except a small board on the locked gate. Hmm, a small gate allowed us in and we rode back toward the house. Greeted by 2 huge yelping dogs, we stopped and leaned the bikes. A ranch hand looking guy appeared and gave us news they didn’t know in town. The place is closed until October. We tried to get him to allow us a room or camping spot but he remained firm in his “No”. Then he used sign language to accuse us of having cut the lock off the gate. I told him we used the little gate, he said, “Awe chica puerta”.

Okay, back to town. As we cycled out 3 cars pulled in past us. We held out our hands but they didn’t even slow down. One woman waived so we thought it worthwhile to circle back and try one more time. A woman spoke with the ranch hand then came to us. Two young boys followed. We did our best to explain then virtually begged her for a room. We would cook our own food, no problem. She also stood firm, only her family now, open for guests in October. Another backtrack, our 4th of the day.

We could see the camp sights at Club Pescador on the shore of the river, Rio Gallegos. As a last resort on a windy night that felt like as though it would dip below freezing we decided to try the Hotel since Mr. and Mrs. Gaucho had been so wrong about the Estancia.

A couple of Moto Cross looking bikers came out the door. We asked, “Abierto” and they nodded yes. In fact there were several people in the bar area. The lady in charge, Alicia, greeted us but was at a loss for language. I went with her to see a room then as we passed a table the guy seated spoke to Cat in English. We had a new friend, Paulo, and a translator. Yes, the room is basic and the bath’s down the hall but it’s better than camping and the price, 20 pesos per person including breakfast. (40 pesos = $13.50 US)

Paulo is doing paving work on the highway, the guy, Gaston, with him is the Inspector on the job. Paulo explained that he’d been an exchange student in Cambridge, England. Really a nice guy and helpful, too. We excused ourselves and headed for the room and communal shower. The room is high ceiling and the walls have been papered several times then painted over. The floors are old wood plank and there are a few splintery places. There’s a little electric heater and we need it. The sun began to set and the temperature slid downward with it.

Cat got first dibs on the ducha (shower), she had just started when I heard her scream. She’d just soaped up when the water suddenly went ice cold. Alicia came running. She went in and adjusted the “on demand” heater while Cat stood shivering, wrapped in a towel. My shower got so hot it was unbearable.

We went to the bar/restaurant to socialize with Paulo. He introduced us to the other guys, most of them working on the road together. He would listen to our stories and translate them then the questions from the other guys. Really a fun time. We sipped wine, they all drank beer from liter bottles.

Paulo and Pals The big event was Futball. All the guys there are Rio fans except one. He’s a die-hard Boca lover. Rio was playing and they were betting. Rio lost and they really moaned and groaned, all save the one. He picked up the bets. The next game was Boca vs. some other team. Another shouting match. We sided with the one guy because Eduardo is a life long Boca fan and we loved the Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The group gave us a pretty hard time.

The bar tender/waiter, Marti, has MS or some other form of motor syndrome disease. He has a hard time walking and talking but he is love and treated like one of the boys.

The workers started beginning to drift away. Paulo and Gaston were driving to Rio Gallegos, we were worried because they’d each downed a couple of liters of Quilmes beer. He gave us both hugs and cheek kisses for Cat as they departed. We sat looked at pictures in some wonderful Argentinean magazines. Just as we ordered dinner a woman and little girl came in. They talked with Alicia then approached us. She said, “I hear that you speak English, do you need any help”?

Ann & MercedesSAnn & Mercedeshe helped us order our food then as we talked I gave her one of our WR2 cards. She looked then almost as though amazed said, “My name is Ann Patterson-Jamieson”. Their family migrated from Scotland to the Falkland Islands but the harsh conditions there soon drove them toward Argentina. They own a large Estancia somewhere near here. She introduced her granddaughter, Mercedes, who has an e-mail address. As she wrote it down we compared family histories.

Her Grandfather was named George Patterson, my Grandfather was named George, too. They came from Dumfreys, the Scottish part of our clan came from near there. We must be related, somehow. What a small world. She had to go, Mercedes has school tomorrow and they need to get to Rio Gallegos for dinner. They live in town and are raising Mercedes, Ann said something about her son being killed in an accident. Obviously they have done well ranching but are tired of the lonely existence.

Gaucho Plays Dinner was really great. We enjoyed a full evening here in Guer Aike. That’s what this trip is all about! The little heater glowed orange as it worked hard keeping the cold at bay.

 

September 13, 2004
Guer Aike to Las Horquetas
50 Kilometers

Carlos, Alicia, Marti & FabinoMartiA brilliant, sunny morning greeted us as we pulled back the shade. The wind has taken a little break but the air is colder. Marti served toast and coffee, we took a picture of Alicia and her husband Carlos then pushed out the door. (The other guy in the picture, Fabino, may be their son?)

The climb is gentle and though cold it was little more than a breeze that blew in our faces. Past the Paulo & Pal Truck Repair place where we’d turned back then we ran into Paulo and a pal at the roadwork. Once again he offered any help we might need then it was handshakes and hugs and off again. Off up the first steep of the day.

The road is paved and good riding as we worked our way through a small range of foothills. The wind kicked up a notch and we shifted down to 2nd. At 1:00 PM we leaned the bikes on a road sign, squatted down behind them and ate the left over sandwiches from Rio Gallegos.
Open Spaces Gaucho Sheep Ranch
Endless Big Country  

Las HorquetasThe wind was by now troublesome enough to make the bikes wobble when trucks roar past. We began stopping as they past due to the turbulence. A turn to the right then another and we were in a more favorable wind. The last 15 Ks into Las Horquetas were easier to pedal and faster, too. We were in by 3:30 PM.

The little restaurant is cozy. They wanted us to leave the bikes outside, in the back. We objected and had Carlos, the Manager, walked with us to the hallway then explained that they couldn’t block the door. The bikes remained outside in front and in full view. Even Carlos wouldn’t make a decision but deferred to the big boss who’d be here at 8:00.

The other 3 servers, Mirta, Hector and Jose made us feel at home. They were able to tune us into CNN. Cat headed for the shower, I ate 2 ice cream things and watched all the latest news.

I enjoyed a long hot shower then we sat and sipped a glass of wine and more CNN. At 8:00 a heavy weight fellow came in, talked with the crew then left without a word to us. We’d seen the Boss. Carlos came over, told us the bikes were banished to the food storage room out back. He even helped me push them around and, they were under roof.

Dinner at 8:30, great chicken and potatoes. They have 2 TV sets, we watched part of a subtitled movie then went back to CNN and rerun news.

September 14, 2004
Las Horquetas to La Esperanza
62 Kilometers

Carlos, Marti, Hector & Jose Another bright beautiful day, another cold day, too. Carlos hovered over us during breakfast, they served omelets, juice, toast and coffee. We recommend this place. Carlos even called La Esperanza, our target for today and reserved a room for us. We were out the door by 9:25 AM. Mirta came running out as we pushed in the gravel and gave me a Gideon Bible that she’d written a message into. What a kind thought.

The driveway’s steep, we roared forward then gave in and pushed. Our legs are a little stiff and this is only day three. That wasn’t the last push of the day, we met a long steep hill at Gobernador Mayer, a one house and barn town that shows on the map. Once on top it was flat and flat out all the way. The day warmed but the wind just held steady. This is our best day cycling since we started in Ushuaia.

Lunch At the halfway point we ate the remainder of the dry sandwiches from Rio. We even ate without gloves. The sun was actually warm, a sign of things to come, we hope. The few trucks and cars passing all honked, waved and gave us thumbs ups.

Glacial MountainsA few kilometers from La Esperanza we got our first sighting of the Andes since leaving Ushuaia. Gob. MayerThey are distant snow covered and a reminder that we still have a lot of weather ahead of us.

Mpeg w047 Montanas

La Esperanza is a service station, truck stop. The guys there, Rene and Daniel were expecting us and had been getting progress reports as cars and trucks pulled in at 4:00. It’s a bus stop, too. Reminds us of some of the places we pulled through on our ride north. We got soup and ate it with bread as the two daily buses pulled in then out, again.

Sunset at La Esperanza The rooms are in a separate building. We pushed the bikes over and in. They had no problem allowing them in these rooms. Easy to see why, they’re rough and rugged. Small too, we really had to struggle getting them in. Moved the beds then I hooked my cycling pants on a spike on the footboard.

Cat sewed the hole while I showered, she freshened up then we went back to the Restaurant. Rene even tuned CNN for us. Steak and eggs with fries and the latest news. Life is good.

Early to bed.

September 15, 2004
La Esperanza to El Calafate
34 Ks on Bicycle, 102 Ks via Bus

The bad news, I called Esperanza Maria Elisa and the guy contradicted the lady we spoke with when we called from Rio. He wasn’t friendly and said that the girl was wrong when she told us they’d be open today. He was almost belligerent as he told me that his Father is the owner and he didn’t care what the girl had said, there was no way we could stay there tonight.

La Tronchita Daniel & Rene Another piece of bad news, the kitchen doesn’t open until 9:00 AM? They only serve toast and coffee. We did get them to heat one of the ham and cheese tortas then Daniel packed empanadas for our lunch stop. They are playing a CD and we’ve fallen in love with it. The artist, Jose Larralde reminds us of Jacque Brel, he almost talks the songs. I got the name of the CD, we gotta have one.

Grays We rode off, thinking that we’d be camping before this day was done. Let’s call the wind moderate and the sun warm. The road bears left, past a deserted Estancia inhabited only by sheep and a herd of horses. We took pictures then after 20 kilometers we bore right and right into one heck of a head wind. It was blowin’ at least 50 Ks per hour. (30 MPH) For the next hour we pushed and strained into it with all our might. We’d barely covered 5 Kilometers when we took the vote. It would take hours to make any headway and, we couldn’t imagine setting the tent in this tempest.

From the moment we decided to flag down a ride there was a complete lull in traffic. We pushed onward but knew with each step that we’d had it. The wind was actually increasing in intensity. An old Ford pickup came at us from the north. I pushed right out into his path as Cat squawked, “What are you doing”? We were sweating and chilling at the same time, we needed a ride.

The guy pulled up, almost slid in. He never got out of the drivers seat. I asked in my best, begging Spanish and he indicated that we should throw the bikes in. We pulled the gate down and struggled lifting them up. He watched then when they were aboard he got out, spoke not a word but threw me a piece of rope.

Tied down, he roared off, down wind. We sat then tried to talk but he just drove fast and nodded as though he didn’t know what we were saying or didn’t care. Though he wasn’t a talker we were glad to be in his cab. We didn’t pass a single vehicle as we sped back to La Esperanza. He got out, even helped lift the bikes down then shook hands and roared away.

Rene and Daniel were shocked to see us. The next bus to El Calafate isn’t until 4:00 PM. We took a seat, ordered soup and hoped for a truck that might take us aboard. Several pulled in for coffee or Mate water but they were all going to Rio Gallegos. Our bus came in, it was now raining and blowing. I ran out and asked the driver where to put the bikes. He shook his head and spewed Spanish but I was getting the point that he didn’t want them on his bus. Then, I thought I saw a glimmer of hope. He sort of indicated that I’d have to take bikes apart as he went in for his fresh Mate water.

I hustled in the roaring downpour, got the handlebars turned and tried to jam them into the open bay. Struggling, I had Cat’s bike half way in and knew that I’d have to take the front wheel off. As I backed it out a pair of hands lifted with me. Cormack is from Ireland, here to climb. He stood in the cold wet wind as I pulled the wheels then helped lift them both into the tight fit. He’s just one of hundreds of good hearted who’ve been there for us before.

Then too, there were only 2 seats left on the bus so we had to sit in separate rows. I was across from a couple that’d been watching Cormack and I struggle, through the Café window. Never assume, we say in Real Estate. It’ll make an ass/outa/u/and/me. The guy sort of nudged the gal and pointed to my pants leg. I looked to see if it was torn or muddy. Then he said, “Where are you cycling to”?

John and Jean are from England and on an around the world, one year tour. That gave me a pretty good couple of hours, talking and comparing notes. Poor Cat, she was jus one row behind us but in the back seat and it was full of noise. John and Jean booked one of those World Round Trips and are just 3 months into it.

The bus pulled in to the El Calafate Station, everyone took off in different direction. Cormack called out a goodbye. John came over and gave me a card from a gal hustling them to go to her Hostel. I was busy unloading, Cat was guarding. We shouted a goodbye over the roar of engines, they all left and we were alone on the platform. Even the bus pulled away.

Cat got info from the tiny Tourist Office inside while I rebuilt the bikes. We loaded the bags with out strapping them and were ready to roll down, into town. There are 8 motor homes and campers parked in the field nearby. They honked and flashed their lights as they passed us 2 days ago. I wanted to know who they were, the sign says, “Tour the Americas”.

The campers were vacant, I stuck our cards on the windows of a couple and was turning to go when a guy crawled out of the back. He was sort of paranoid, talked in halting sentences and looked around nervously. I had noticed that none of the rigs had license plates. He was obviously from the states, maybe Texas based on his accent? He said that they’re a group from all over the world. I began to get the gist, it’s a tour that ply’s the road from Alaska to Ushuaia. He didn’t want to tell me where he was from but did say that some of the group had been in Alaska before. Strange?

We chose Hotel Michelangelo and rode down the muddy streets of the hillside into town. It’s a mid-range in the LPGB. It’s okay, a huge bed good bathroom and CNN in English. The room is warm and Cat loved that. They wouldn’t allow bikes in the room but did give us a nice spot in a storage room out back for them.

Showers then we went across the street to what looked like it should be an upscale Italian Restaurant. The food was rich and so was the cost.

CNN until our eyelids fluttered.

September 16, 2004
Plans for Ruta 40 and a Visit to Moreno Glacier

The Lonely Planet says “Buffet Breakfast”. It was slightly more than coffee and bread. They did have some fruit cocktail from a can and yogurt. Guess we think of breakfast as “ham ‘n’ eggs” these days.

Essentials first, we found the laundry and dropped our completely soiled cloths. Next, the Tourist Company we’d connected with in Rio Gallegos, South Roads Tours. A great young guy, Martin, greeted us. They seem to specialize in custom tours and couldn’t help with a bus to the Glacier. There is an office next to them that specializes in Estancia Stays. Rolando tried hard but he just doesn’t have any Tourist Estancias along our route. His only suggestion, ride up to the house and ask.

Our WorldTake Care of IT!The Tourist Office is in the Bus Station. Cat had picked up a few brochures there so we decided to try them. Up the stairs from the main street and into the terminal only to find that they had little and the gal spoke only Spanish. A man walked up and she asked in Spanish if he knew English. Nahuel is quite a character, he jokes and talks like a good salesman. He translated the little that she had to offer then got his own 2 cents worth in. He did know a few things about Ruta 40, most were not real positive and Cat didn’t need to hear that.

Back on Libertador Street, walking and talking, we stopped and looked at pictures in a tour company window. The guy, Jorge, stepped out and asked where we wanted to go. Moreno Glacier is their main stay. The operate morning and afternoon tours. He suggested that we could still make it this afternoon but we really don’t want to go until tomorrow. His price was good and we liked him, we booked. He got the tickets prepared then had us watch a series of 3 photos showing the collapse of the ice earlier this year. He told us that the buildup usually takes a fall every 10-12 years. The last was in 1988 and this one occurred last March. The theory is that global warming is fooling with Mother Nature? We traded our card for copies of his photos, he e-mailed them to us. (Hope we can post a copy, you’ll find it interesting!)

Just down the street is Chalten Travel. They operate buses up Ruta Quarenta (Route 40) to El Chalten right now. They send a daily bus beyond the El Chalten road but don’t start service until November. The girl seems to know the route well. She told us to prepare to camp. Cat shuddered. She did say that she’d tell the drivers about our trip and ask them to watch for us.

A few frustrating minutes at the Internet Shop. We just couldn’t get the machine to allow us to answer messages. There is a nice Super Marche, we picked up things for lunch and headed back to Michelangelo. A picnic then I Journalized while Cat went searching for a functioning Internet Computer. She found sunglasses to replace her falling apart pair and a good computer. She even picked up the laundry on the way back home.

We had dinner in, a very good chicken dish. We were the only customers in the place.

CNN, a movie and sleep.

September 17, 2004
Moreno Glacier
A John and Jean Reunion

Breakfast then the bus. As we ate a fellow diner’s bus arrived unexpectedly early. He scurried away leaving his English language newspaper. I grabbed it and we enjoyed reading, even though it was 3 days old.

Our bus was right on time. We boarded and nodded to the others. There are 3 young folks, a girl and two guys from Madrid, Spain. They speak great Spanish and that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, they speak no English, bad for us. Kimio, a young guy from Japan sat behind us. He does speak a little English and is interesting to talk with. Our Driver/Guide, Sebastian, drove and talked into a microphone. Once we got him to turn the volume down it was very good.

The Moreno Glacier lies 80 Ks from El Calafate, 50 is paved and 30 is mud and rock. Sebastian stopped, pointed out birds and allowed photos, whenever one of us saw something that moved us. He also filled us in on details of the Glacier and the surrounding area. One thing of interest, Bennaton the clothing maker, you know, “Colors of Bennaton”, owns one of the largest Estancias in Argentina. They raise sheep and pay the help as little as possible. Something like $200 US per month. Well, that’s Capitalism, they must be paying the going rate? However, it seems a little unfair to pay the least and expect big profits. Sort of like robbing the POOR?

The route skirts the shoreline of Lago Argentina. It shone in a translucent green. There was a rainbow hovering at the west end. As we entered the tough part of the road rain began to pelt down. Sebastian and Jorge have a pretty good plan, they tour the shoreline, give us a first glimpse of the glacier then get us to the boat in time to make the first tour.
Rainbow Lago Argentina Meadow
Lago Argentina Mundo Tours  

The wind was picking up and rain continued to spatter us as we stood in line waiting to board. The craft is modern and can accommodate 100 tourists. Today our trip will have fewer than 40 aboard. Cat and I settled into a window seat then watched as we Glacier Moreno drift by. Mother Nature’s finely sculptured white and blue ice was a bit muted by the lack of sun.
Glacier Glacier Kimio
Arg. Ice Rock ‘n’ Ice Mo Rock ‘n’ Ice
Rock/Snow/Ice Cracks Cracks
Mtn. & Ice Deep Blue Saw Tooth Ice
Us & Ice Lateral  

Kimio

"You Must Be Crazy" Japanese

Moreno

Kids in Snow

Ashore and freezing we fast shuffled to the restaurant hoping for a hot bowl of soup. Just as we were seated John and Jean, the Brits from the bus, came in. They sat at our table and we traded more travel stories. This time Cat was in on the conversation. We made plans for dinner tonight as they quick sipped their soup then hurried off to the boat. They’d been here yesterday and raved about the way the sun shown on the blue, blue ice.

Back outside, it had begun to snow. Not just snow, it really poured the white stuff down on us. There is a series of walkways at one end of the ice. Sebastian dropped us there. Cat was going to stay in the heated van but decided that if I could do it she could, too. We got a couple of pictures but turned back due to the large amount of slippery snow on the stairs.
Blue Ice Cat in Snow Cat at GPM
Snow & Ice Floating Ice Glacial Lake
El Calafate    

Back at our Michelangelo Home, I worked the journal while Cat re-worked the bags.

John & Jean John and Jean stopped by at 6:30 PM. We had a couple of glasses of wine in the lobby then walked to dinner. Cat had lamb chops, lamb stew for me. John and Jean had been here last night and wanted to come back for the steak. They urged us to have steak. Our lamb was very good, the steaks looked great. The conversation was even better than the food.

It was 10:30 by the time we got back in. Larry King was half way into another of his murder exposes. Boring, we hit the sack.

September 18, 2004
Snow, Cold, Holly and Greg’s Wedding

Calafate SnowAwoke to the sound of wind and the sight of snow. It was beginning to pile up on the cars out front. Breakfast then a brisk walk. There is a shoe repair guy here, my helmet strap has broken and I have an idea for a fix. The guy works out of his house. We had to ask several times but did find him. He took a look, indicated that he got it and took the helmet back inside. We can pick it up later this afternoon.

Another picnic in the room for lunch, another day of journal for me. Cat walked back to Internet and picked up the Helmet. The snow stopped but the wind only got stronger and the cold, colder.

Thanks to Sebastian we connected with Hugo. A retired guy with a small pickup truck. He came over to have a look at the bikes. Nice guy, his truck will work just fine. We agreed on a price of 50 Pesos for the trip. He has to drive out and back. He will meet us back here tomorrow.

There’s a bicycle shop here too. We cruised by looking for heavy-duty tubes to replace the ones that split at the seam. They’re open daily from 5:00 until 10:00 PM. Well on weekdays that is. They’re closed on Saturdays and Sundays. We did find a Sporting Goods Store open and bought a can of gas fro the cook stove.

More journal pictures for me then we decided not to brave the cold and had dinner in, again. Pasta and it was GREAT.

So tired, we just headed for bed as soon as we were back in the room.

Congratulations Holly and Greg. Sorry we can’t be there. Cat’s entire family gathered this afternoon in Long Beach, California to witness their nuptials. Well, the entire family save us.

Sunday, September 19, 2004
A Failed Attempt to Escape El Calafate

Our original plan was to cycle back to the Ruta 40 turn off. I had no problem taking a ride back, into the brutal wind for 30 Kilometers. We had breakfast and called Hugo to confirm. He’ll pick us up this afternoon at 2:00 PM.

Breakfast, the same guy that left in a hurry and left his 3-day-old news was in the dining room, again. We took seats then I walked over and said, “Where’re you from”. He was a little shocked and stumbled on the answer. “The US, how’d you know that I speak English”? He, Paul, is from Santa Rosa, California. A little nervous but then maybe Business Consultants are supposed to be. He finished his food then came to our table. We invited him to sit but he was again, in a hurry. Maybe Business consultants are supposed to be in a hurry when they’re on vacation?

Plastic Bubble, Saran Wrapped Tours

Paul found our trip interesting but said that he’s doing it the American or maybe Californian way. He’s been hopping around via Jets, seeing all the high lights and nearby sights. Hey, back when I was too busy to stop and read the paper I used to take those crazy, frantic trips, too. Later I began to think of them as plastic bubble, saran wrapped tours. You do get to see a lot of things in a short amount of time but you don’t really touch the people. Oh, you can talk with the few Tourist savvy locals whose lives are different due to the constant contact but not the ones standing along the road or sitting at a bus stop as you pass. Don’t take this the wrong way. If you can’t take the time or are uncomfortable outside the norm, do travel. It’s the great equalizer that may, one day, bring the “Peace on Earth” that we all dream of?

Once again, the bus pulled up and caught Paul by surprise. We’d just finished comparing notes on travel and didn’t get to finish telling him about Cat’s best friend since 2nd grade Laurie and her husband Paul who live in Santa Rosa.

World’s AirEl Cal TreesWe tried to call Hotel Rio Bote, the little place on the highway near Ruta 40 but couldn’t find a number. A walk into town to ask Jorge and the gal at Chalten Travel also failed to find a phone number. She thought it probable that they don’t have a telephone. Jorge wasn’t in but the girl there assured us that there is a Hotel then called Hugo to confirm that and our 2:00 PM date.

We took our last shot at the Internet Cafe, even had a pretty good Pizza between reading and writing e-mails.

Back at Michelangelo, we pulled the bikes out and loaded the bags in the passageway between the Hotel and storage room. It’s windy and cold but we’re excited to be getting back on the road. The Michelangelo is completely booked for tonight so there’s no turning back now.

Hugo Hugo pulled up exactly at 2:00. He’s a man of few words and they’re all Spanish. We lifted both bikes up and strapped them down. The Cabin, as he calls the truck cab, is crowded for 3 and all our loose gear. The wind is really up now, it seems that 3:00 PM is the witching hour. The little Ford was buffeted about like a cork in a whirlpool. We were glad that we wouldn’t be starting out this afternoon.

No Room in The Inn

Hotel Rio Bote is 7 kilometers beyond Ruta 40. Hugo pulled in then followed me to the door. We found it locked? He banged on it and a woman came from the back. She didn’t seem to want to open up? Maybe because of the wind? Hugo talked with her and she finally opened the door. They both spurted Spanish at me and I began to get the picture, the place was fully booked, too. She kept saying “Trabajadors”, the road workers stay here.

So, we have a decision to make, push onward out Ruta 40 or backtrack and find a room in El Calafate. We held a short discussion while Hugo waited patiently. The wind would mean pushing, only. It would limit us to just a few kilometers then challenge us as we set the tent. A Hotel sounded much more to our liking.

We remembered seeing a place called Hostel Glacier as we left town. Hugo knew the place, he sort of indicated that he lives near there. He wheeled in across the street from it and I ran across. The place really is a Youth Hostel. Bunk beds, a kitchen with refrigerator and breakfast is extra. I reported back and Cat said, “What the heck, it’s just for one night”.

She checked us in while Hugo and I off loaded the bikes. He lives directly next door and the clerk is his nephew. Small town, eh? Cat learned that the place is part of Hostels International and remembered having to buy a card somewhere in Europe. She dug it out and the price dropped 20%, to 40 Pesos for the room and 10 for 2 breakfasts. ($13.50 room, $3.35 breakfast)

FarmersWe left the camping gear on the bikes and lashed them to a post in the luggage room. I set up shop and did a little journalizing while Cat made a trip to the market.

AsadoWine Label Dinner, we walked to nearby La Cablita. A great looking place, atmosphere and a terrific menu. We chose Patagonian Lamb from their Parilla. They served us grilled vegetables and a huge pile of lamb on a blazing grill. Mmmm, a very nice bottle of wine, too.

Jim & Paula As we ate a couple was seated next to us. I thought she was speaking Spanish but he sounded like Middle America. Jim works with AT&T, Paula is a flight attendant. We had a nice talk with her but he was nervous. Maybe fearful that we were banditos? We took a picture together near the door then he skittered out, into their waiting Taxi. She shook hands then followed. The waiter rushed up with Jim’s coat in hand as the taxi was pulling out. We caught it, waved goodbyes again and they were gone. Though they said they were married the way he rushed off reminded us of a couple we met in Canada. We were great friends, they too were cycling. Cat felt close to the gal. The guy, another Jim, did send us and e-mail once and that was the last we ever heard from either of them. We began to think that they were married, to 2 other people.

Back at Hostel Glacier we asked about a store, we decided that we’d have the breakfast but wanted more than just coffee and bread. Hugo’s nephew gave us directions to Tio No No, a convenience store sort of nearby. We did find eggs and bananas. Uncle No No packed them in plastic bags and thanked us in English. His family stood by staring curiously at the foreigners.

September 20, 2004
Ruta 40 to Camping
35 Kilometers

The room is heated through the floor. It is pleasant when walking around but too hot when sleeping. So, it was a sort of toss and turn night. Anxious for an early start we jumped up at 6:30. Cat headed for the kitchen and scrambled eggs. I worked on loading the bags. She hollered at me as she delivered the huevos. We loaded up pretty good on them, the toast, juice and coffee. We’re expecting a tough ride today and will need the fuel. Cat also boiled 4 of the eggs to take along for lunch.

Yesterday we had to remove the front bags to make the bikes fit in the pickup bed. I thought about that last night, while tossing, and decided that we should be able to rearrange things and lift them on and off, fully loaded. Hugo agreed to move his spare tire and the idea worked perfectly.

Ruta Quarenta He wheeled out of his driveway, into a beautiful, sunny, wind free morning at 8:00 AM. We were at Ruta Quarenta (Route 40) by 8:30. By the time we leaned the bikes and took a kick off photo and tightened the bags it was 9:00. Onward, onto the dirt and rocky road.

SpaceThe workers that take all the rooms at Hotel Rio Bote were all here, driving heavy equipment or Road Work pushing shovels. They are beginning the base work for paving. Hugo told us that it is always “next year” and they’ve promised “next year” for more than 10 years, now. The road is pretty loose in the construction area. It takes a turn to the right and a swoop down to a large new bridge. The workers all stop, turn and stare as we pass. They yell out things in Spanish, encouragement, we hope. From the bridge we pulled a fairly steep hill away from the workers and all other human life.

The little breeze we’d felt as we loaded began to rise up. It was just a small irritation in our faces until 1:00 PM. Cat describes the road as “All degrees of BAD”.

We stopped and sat with our back to the wind for a rest and lunch. The picnic was great but the wind seemed to be increasing its level of force audibly as we ate. Onward and upward, the road seems to be moving up in stages. Baby steppes? Rounding the lake shore we began to feel the full force of Ma Natures breath. On the push, we rounded a corner and felt the full force of Los Vientos in our faces. At was across the road when the giant hit. Gravel was in the air, hitting and stinging us as it flew past. Suddenly, during the burst, the bike spun around and Cat really struggled to stay upright. The airborne rocks pelted her and the bike. It sounded like a small symphony when they struck the bike frame. Frightened, she let a tear or two trickle down her cheeks. We sat on the leeward side of the road and gathered our strength and courage.
Lone Guanaco Space Ice on Lake

Wind, WOW

Now we were ground down to pushing, even downhill. According to our calculations we had only come 30 Ks or so in the 5 hours that’ve passed since start time. Leaning, struggling into the wind we began to know that we weren’t going to get to La Leona or anywhere close to it today. By 5:00 we were looking for a bush or embankment to pitch the tent behind and hunker down for the night.

Cat’s Virgin Voyage at Free Camping

The largest Calafate bush we found wasn’t much shelter but better than none. We pulled the bags off then sat and rested as the wind continued to whistle. A car passed with a couple of curious locals gawking out the window. I got started on the tent. Put the bags inside her before trying to setting it up.

Camp CookCamp SunsetWith the bags scattered inside the tent wasn’t going anywhere but as we threaded the two aluminum stays through the wind actually doubled one of them almost in half. Neither of us are fearful of freezing but neither likes the cold. I got stakes in the ground on the windward side then set the little camp stove and Cat began cookin’.

The wind died down as the sun set behind the mountain. We sat in the doorway of the tent and sipped a glass of wine while the pasta boiled. It was a good dinner. The night air cooled down fast. Stars are abundant here in these southern skies. The advantage of the Calafate bush were obvious as the wind began to howl off and on, again. However, the clumps of grass and brush on the ground led to a lumpy bed.

We had the bikes locked together and to strung up to the tent. At 9:00 PM we zipped out the night air and turned off our lamps. This was Cat’s first time at FREE CAMPING.

September 21, 2004
The Calafate Bush to La Leona
40 Kilometers

Between the lumpy clump grass and the off and on howl of the wind we thought we got little sleep. I had to make on nature call, it was blustery but the night was full of 10,000 stars. A couple of times we were sure we heard voices but lay and listened then decided that it was only wind. At 6:30 AM we woke up and peaked out. It was still dark and very cold. Snuggled back down, we snoozed and relaxed until 8:00.

First CampsiteCat got the coffee going wile I began by unlashing the bikes and carrying the bags out if the tent. We each ate a banana, Cat cut hers up into the instant oatmeal. She didn’t like the coffee but may have made it a bit too strong? One of the downsides of camping is the set up and tear down time. It took 3 hours to eat, dismantle the tent and stow all the other camping gear. It was 11:00 by the time we got the bags back on the bikes and headed west into the sunny tranquil morning.

The first kilometer went bumpily by then we turned the corner and turned into the wind. After an hour and a half of struggle we rounded another bend and the wind became our friend. We sailed over the bumps and rocks and into Luz Divina by 2:00 PM.
Pat Pushes Ma Nature Sculps Wild Horses
Rio La Leona Landscape  

ManueloManuelo, a silent type, retired gaucho was there, sitting near the fireplace. He had a few morsels of food spread onto a table. We chose slices of a meat roll, spicy empanadas and soft drinks then I had a sandwich. Manuelo’s face is so weathered, from years of sun and smoking. His eyes reminded me of my Grandfather Patterson. He sat or stood and stared at us and in those eyes I also saw a look of despair. Maybe a look that said he wished he’d had other opportunities or taken other opportunities. And, a look that expressed a feeling that it’s too late now.

Out the door by 3:00 and off up the hill. A 4WD pickup pulled up, they rolled down the window and 2 of the guys said, “Hello Pat & Cat”. It was Alejandro and Martin from South Road Adventures. We chatted briefly then they were off in a cloud of dust. The next turn in the road was a turn for the up and the worse as winds go. We were climbing and the wind was howling. We were walking and the wind was so extreme that we were leaning into it and struggling with each step.

Cat WarmingIt’s only 10 Ks from Luz Divina to La Leona. The struggle took more than 2 hours. Irma is the Inn Keeper. Her family has owned the property since 1967. She was born and spent her early years here. They had a caretaker on the property for 10 years then in 2001, after a trip to New York City, she moved in and set up the little business. She lives her with a helper, Carmen, her white horse and flocks of chicken and geese.

Our room is in an adjacent building. We pushed the bike across and stored them in the hallway. There are 4 rooms but only the one is complete and available for sleeping. We didn’t change cloths as there is no bath in fact, no hot water. We went back and Irma started a fire. Cat hovered near it and we listened to stories of the early days here and Irma’s travels. She was in New York just days before 9/11 and stood on top the WTC. We talked about the event and it’s impact on the world. She almost made it sound as though it had convinced her to seek the solitude of this place.

Irma likes being far from cities, cars and people. She’s only 32 years old but has been to Europe and spent several months in Tasmania studying English. Somehow she found a nice bottle of wine for us and we drank slowly while staring at the warm flames. Carmen made dinner, chicken and rice. We’d just finished when the Chalten Tours bus pulled in on the way back from El Chalten. The tourists flooded in, anxious for a toilet and food or drink stop. We talked with Id, a young Polish guy from Israel. He says that he had to spend 2 years in the Military even though he disagrees with the current Governments actions. His Father moved the family to Israel from Poland when he was a young boy. Cat talked with Mary, a girl who works with a designer in Buenos Aires.
Id Mary Irma

The bus pulled away at 8:30 PM. Silence and darkness filled the air. We went to our cold little room, jumped in bed in our cycling cloths and huddled down under the down duvet. There is no electricity here either. I had my headlight on as we took off our shoes. We could see our breath, that’s how cold it was inside.

September 22, 2004
A Surprise Bus Ride to El Chalten

Up early, I had to go but Irma had locked the door to the main building and lonely toilets. I knocked on the window and got her out of bed, barely made it inside, in time. Irma cooked and served breakfast in her kitchen. It was warm near the big cook stove but the place is in total disarray. They are refinishing the kitchen floors and have a lot of the things stacked in the nearby dining room.

Funny, Irma is in several states of disrepair or refurbishment yet she told us that it now seems inevitable that the Government will build a dam and flood the valley leaving her place under water? Seems that President Kirchner is from Rio Gallegos and was Governor of Santa Cruz before being elected President. He wants the project because it will bring needed electricity and jobs to the area. She hates the idea because it will take her beloved home and desolate lifestyle away. (However, at one point in our conversation she did hint that they would have to buy the place and the money would allow her to do more traveling or select a different lifestyle.)

Her main lifeline to the world is the morning radio. There is a program for the ranchers that allows others to ask them to call or check in. Yes, she has a Radio Phone but refuses to leave it on because she hates the chatter of her neighbors. Just as she told us of the show she got a message from the DJ to call a friend. She told us that she also calls her Aunt every morning. We enjoyed the warmth of the kitchen and food.

The Lioness and the Explorer

Back in the late 1700s Juan Perito Moreno came through this area and was the first European to see El Chalten. He camped near Irma’s place and during that night a Lioness attacked him. Not a Lion like those we saw in Africa, those here are Pumas. He killed it and like it, most of its ancestors have also fallen victim to hunter or farmers guns. Moreno decided that the river flowing between the two glacial lakes here should be called “La Leona”, the female lion. Funny my parents had a friend, Leona, in Idaho. I wonder if she even knew that her name was “Lioness”?

To Go or Not To Go, That is The Question!

The skies have thickened to black and the wind was howling by the time we were ready to push off. Irma says that it will be bad, all day. I stood in the wind chill and worried. It’s 57 Ks from here to Tres Lagos. Once past the turn off to El Chalten there will be little or no traffic. We’ll be out there on our own and could be forced to camp again if we loose the fight with the wind. We do have choices, we could just stay here and wait out the weather or take the bus to El Chalten, get a bed and shower there, see the place and return tomorrow hoping that the worst of it will have blown over.

Cat really wanted to ride. The wind is usually pretty calm in the mornings but whips up big in the afternoons. I convinced her that we didn’t want to be struggling in it especially if it would only get worse as the day wears on. In the end we decided to hurriedly repack our clothing bags and grab the bus.

The Chalten Bus was on time, the anxious tourists again rushed to the toilets then the hot drinks and cakes Irma and Carmen have prepared. We rushed to the bus and after conferring with the driver, threw our bags on board. We took a couple of seats and waited. The others re-boarded and at 10:30 we were off.

We talked with 2 gals and a guy, JJ, Lisa and Chris as the bus bumped along. They’ve been teaching disabled people how to ski in an exchange program at Bariloche. They’re Certified Disabled Ski Instructors from Crested Butte, Colorado. They raised funds, got some of their own students to sign up and pay their own way and come here to teach. The program has been great and they’re here taking a deserved break. A French guy, Michel joined in the conversation. Really nice young people. We tried to take a few pictures from the bus, most were bad.
Flat Tops Contours Winter

When you reach the gate they have you de-bus and go through a little indoctrination. You know where things are which trails to take etc. A lot of it was educating us about camp etiquette and how not to litter but bring trash back in. We could see the peaks trying to break through the gray cloud cover but it was less than impressive. We decided that the trip was worth it for us if we could just get a hot shower.

The bus pulled into the Rancho Grande Hostel at high noon. We checked the place out, all their private rooms were booked. They offered us a 2-bunk room with bath down the hall. The girl was really nice and called around looking for a private room. There are only a couple of places open this time of year. She found one at Hotel Kalenshen they even sent a guy, Juan Pablo, to pick us up.

The Hotel is just fair but it does have hot water and wine. We showered, the first in two days then I typed while Cat took a walk looking for a grocery store. Nothing open so we ended up having the expensive Hotel wine. It was raining and miserable outside.

South Roads and a New Plan

Surprise, surprise, just as we settled in at the dining table Alejandro, Martin and their client, Luciano came in. we sat together, drank wine and enjoyed hors d’ouevres with them. Another surprise, Martin’s family owns Kalenshen in fact Juan Pablo is his brother.

Alejandro & MartinWhat a fun time we had. Alejandro was a real comedian. Luciano is a Real Estate Broker from Buenos Aires and, he has a flat in Rio de Janeiro. We talked, laughed and made a deal with Martin to come pick us up in Tres Lagos and drive us to Rio Mayo. Cat is completely burned out on the dirt and wind and I’m beginning to agree. It’s hard on us physically and mentally and it’s killing the bikes. It ain’t cheap but it allows us to see the important sights and take a couple of days doing it.

A Pirate?

September 23, 2004
La Chalten back to La Leona

It wasn’t easy getting out of bed this morning. I wanted a picture of Luciano for the website. They were in a hurry, he was afraid he’d miss his flight to B A. They drove off just as I came down the hallway. Well you’ll just have to imagine what he looks like.

What a change. What a beautiful day. Full of sun and no wind. Oh it’s still cold as heck but clear and beautiful. We went on a shopping trip looking for CDs. The town is virtually closed for the season and won’t open until November. Ask after ask and finally we found a few at the Telephonica stand.

Awe, and we did get some awe-inspiring pictures of Fitz Roy and the jagged peaks of El Chalten from the village streets. We had thought about trekking up but decided against in lieu of a warm afternoon at Kalenshen.
Winter Meadow El Chalten Rocks & Ice
Spike Fitz Roy Sunset

A Mountain Named Fitz Roy?

Even though Juan Perito Moreno claimed discovery it took another 50 or 60 years before Charles Darwin made his way here and named the big one after one of his expedition fellows. Darwin really spent a lot more time here in South America than we had known. Remember the Darwin Mountain in Parque National Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel?

Back at the Hotel, we had a call from Martin confirming that he’d pick us up day after tomorrow in Tres Lagos. Part of our plan is to make the final day on rocks, in wind and desolation. We feel comfortable with it because our deal with Martin is that we’ll meet in Tres Lagos or along the road, just in case we don’t make it and have to camp.

We sat around until boredom drove us to have Juan Pablo drive us back to the Hostel. The room that had been warm and cozy and full of people yesterday was empty and cold this afternoon. We snagged a seat and waited. They did have soup, we each had a bowl then I fulfilled my desert desire with a huge piece of apple pie and ice cream.

Our pals, JJ, Lisa and Chris came in from a trek. Michel who had been out alone soon followed them. Then a surprise, Cormack, remember the Irishman that helped me unload the bikes in El Calafate? He is here, climbing, one of those crazy guys that don’t think trekking is enough? We sat and talked and wiled away an hour.
Chris, J J & Lisa Michel Cormack

Goodbyes then we rode off into the sunset at 6:00 PM. And a beautiful sunset it was, too. The two-hour ride was the same bumps in reverse. We pulled into La Leona at 8:00, right on time. A couple that we’d said hello to earlier began to talk with us. We showed them our bikes as we heard of their lives. Vicky and Samy are from Denmark and both are teachers. We had to tell them of our Danish family and voila, she knew them from the TV shows of their adventures. They’ve been traveling for 3 months but will fly back to Copenhagen tomorrow. Fun, talking about the family and our days in Copenhagen.
Adolfo & Sylvia Gaucho Vicky & Samy

Irma and Carmen had to cook on a little camp stove because they’ve just varnished the kitchen floor. Dinner, pasta with hamburger after the bus departed. The room was at least as cold tonight as it had been 2 nights ago. We watched our breaths in candle light for a while then blew it our and surrendered to the dark and sleep.

September 24, 2004
La Leona to Tres Lagos
57 Kilometers

The flag was flaccid, not a bit of wind this morning. Breakfast, we huddled near a small stove in the room adjacent to the kitchen. Irma cooked us eggs and fresh backed bread for our sendoff. At 9:30 AM we held an appropriate goodbye ceremony, hugs, handshakes and one cheek kisses. It took a long time to get back to the road, we had to walk up the steep driveway. The sign clearly states 57 Ks, we stopped on the bridge and took pics of La Leona and Fitz Roy then pedaled off onto the rocks.
Irma’s Stove Irma & Carmen La Leona
Rio La Leona Fitz in Distance  

Plenty Rocky Road

It Ain't Easy

The snow-capped mountains add beauty to an otherwise tough rocky ride. Not gravel, these rocks are big and really test our arms and bikes. The best news, no wind, difficult but no wind. As time wore on the wind actually became our friend but the road was more and more an enemy.

We lunched roadside, sandwiches Irma made for us. Then came the hills. We had to push quite a bit. Once we past the El Chalten turn off we were truly isolated. One pickup truck came toward us as we pushed up the biggest hill. They stopped then backed up and took our picture. Later the second and only other car past, they honked and waved. It was 30 Ks without a sign of water and only those two contacts with humanity.
Cat & Cloud Cat & Rocks Pat Pushes
Rocky Ruta 40 Wind, Rock and Up  

Rock 'n' Roll

The road dropped down, the wind picked up and almost blew us over as we cornered. Wamsutter, yes it reminded us of Wamsutter, Wyoming. You’ll have to go back in the journal to get the full story but suffice it to say that the wind began to push us. It gained force to the point that we had to apply brakes on the flat. Oh, Wansutter was tough but it was no pavement. It’s hard to describe the thrill of almost out of control cycling in a gale force tailwind on a rocky road.

Tres Lagos Almost suddenly we were on a cliff over looking Tres Lagos. Another treacherous twisting road down to the YPF Station. The nice gal there pointed to the rough road and indicated that it was still 2 Ks to town. We blew in at 5:00 PM.

It was ask, ask but we finally found that the unlikely looking Hotel was actually called Sorsona’s Comidas Minutas, a bar and café. Teresa, the owner had her hair up in curlers. She must have been getting ready for a big Friday night. She was shadowed by her nieto (grandson) Eduardo. He’s 9 years old and either lives with her or is spending the weekend? A nice young boy with big brown eyes.

The beds (yes, twin beds) squeak and squawk. The down the hall shower is a small stream of water in a tiny plastic curtain enclosure. These are small inconveniences in the grand scheme of things.

Cleaned and dressed we took a seat in the restaurant and ordered one of Teresa’s best BOXES of wine. The room was hot, several gas heaters were working overtime. Then, as she served the wine Teresa lit the fireplace. It was just us and a little old guy who limped in, took a seat and had a glass of wine.

The TV was blaring out a soap opera in Spanish. I asked Teresa if she could get Las Diarias (The News) in English. She was adamant that it was impossible but I continued pursuit. “Usted tiene Directo TV, si”? She nodded a yes so I took the remote and suggested trying canal 626. It was like a revelation, she smiled, again said, “Si” and voila, we had CNN, in English.

Teresa had told us that she serves La Cena (Dinner) at ocho. (eight) We waited and watched as Iraq continued to burn, then at 8:20 I asked about food. She suggested things we couldn’t understand so we fell back to a comfort zone, hamberguesas y papas fritas. (Hamburgers and French Fries)

Cat thought our room was cold until I reminded her of La Leona last night and seeing our breath.

September 25, 2004
A Day of Waiting in Tres Lagos

It was another bread and water breakfast. (I have begun thinking of coffee and toast as bread and water, they have little food value.) The marmalade did add taste and calories. We hustled to get our bags ready, Martin would be here between 9:00 and 10:00 AM. We took a seat near a heater and waited.

At 10:00 three gauchos drifted in, took seats at the bar and began drinking boxed white wine. We watched in awe as they laughed and joked about things we couldn’t understand. The only coin telephone in town is at the Police Station. I walked over at 10:30 and tried to call Martin. I got his voice, a recorded message then left one for him. I gave him the number of the Police Station and told him that we were waiting patiently at Sorsona’s Minutes.
Eduardo Bar, Café & Hotel Gaucho Bar

Gaucho & HorseStrange StirrupBack to the Café, we watched the Gauchos continue to clutch their glasses of wine, sip and chat. I got a picture of them at the bar then one of them signaled for me to follow. We walked outside and down the street then into a weed covered lot with a falling down building. There was also a good-looking white horse and an honest to goodness Gaucho. He, Faustino, had been drinking, too. He slurred unintelligible Spanish and the other guy helped translate. Both of them are Tehuelche, native Americanos. We got a couple of pictures then returned to the bar and our wait.

I walked back to the Police Station and the officer said that Martin had called and would be here by 3:00 PM. More waiting then at 4:00 I went back, the officer helped me call on the coin phone and this time I did reach Martin.

A HUGE South Roads Adventures Disappointment!

Martin told me that the Rover had broken down. He was still in Rio Gallegos and wasn’t planning on coming for us. He apologized and said that he’d told the police the same and that we could call him at 3:00. His only advice was to try to find a local person of he would get another guy to come from El Calafate. I was just a little miffed. It was too late to start today even if the car was here, much less 2 hours or more away. I told Martin we’d talk it over and call him back.

When I hung up I asked if the Policeman knew anyone who could drive us to Perito Moreno. He looked in the telephone book then ran out and stopped a guy walking by. Nothing but negative responses. I was ready to give up and call Martin back when the officer got a point across to me, he’s new here, this is just his 2nd day on the job and he doesn’t know anybody.

Back to Sorsona’s, I hated to tell Cat the bad news. She hated to hear it. Using our best Spanglish we asked Teresa if she knew someone who would drive us. Like the TV she was negative at first then sent Eduardo away, on the run. He returned soon followed by a young guy, Luis, in a Camionetta. (Pickup)

He sat and we slowly communicated. Yes, he could take us but he wanted 700 Pesos. When we complained he got another point across, “Yes, 500 Pesos but in otra camionetta”. Then he stood and invited me to follow him. We drove in his slick, thick tired Chevy pickup to a fenced area nearby and he pointed to an Isuzu mini pickup. We inspected it, I was sure we could fit things in, we made a deal. Back at Sorsona’s I bought him a Coke to seal the deal and he agreed to pick us up at 9:00 AM manana.

Teresa again talked about dinner at 8:00 and took our order then. She suggested chicken and potatoes natural. It was almost 9:00 PM by the time the food hit the table. It was good, that helped make up for the late hour. By 10:00 we were full of CNN News and food. Larry King Live was a re-run of one of those Wife Murder exposes he often does. There were a couple of other guest, late arrivals, tonight. They are working on geological things? Nice guys but a language chasm between us.

We were in our squeaky beds by 10:20. I have been developing a terrible sore throat. Tonight it feels like it’s sticks together when I swallow. Cat is getting that old familiar stomach pain, too. Sleep didn’t come easily for the sick cyclists.

Sunday, September 26, 2004
Tres Lagos to Perito Moreno
470 Kilometers via Luis’s 4WD

I heard the two guys exit at 6:00 AM. Dozed and gargled but couldn’t get back to sleep. By 8:00 AM we were ready to get the bikes and baggage out to the door and have some breakfast. Teresa was still sleeping. I rattled her door, she mumbled something so I went back and sat on the bed. After 10 minutes I rattled again, this time she sounded like she was complaining. Well, we supposed that she’s closed the bar sometime after midnight so 8:00 seems early for her.

She did come slowly dragging out at 8:30 and began working on breakfast. Luis showed up at 8:45, just as the eggs hit the table. I wanted to make sure that things were packed well so that they wouldn’t get broken. It was 9:00 by the time I got to eat the cold eggs. We gulped down coffee and were ready to go in just a few short minutes.

Luis is a man of few words, at least few English words. It was just drive and boy could he drive. The road is rough and rocky, we felt like we left the ground several times and slid sideways on a few corners. It was like riding in one of those European Road Racing Cars. He was clocking 100-120 Ks, a lot of the time. It had to be bad on the Isuzu and we were sure that our bikes would have suffered. He had us on the main street of Perito Moreno at 2:30 PM. That’s 470 Kilometers on roads almost unfit to drive in just 5 hours. He did slow for a fox that dashed across in front of us and a herd of guanaco, other than that it was pedal to the metal.
Luis Rocky Road ‘n’ Ice Guanaco on Run
Herd    

Dusting BagsWe quickly unloaded, paid Luis and he spun away from the curb. The gal who had shown Cat the room came out and offered us a feather duster to clean the bags before bringing them inside. Hotel Belgrano is purported to be the best place in town. The room is less than average but we do have our own toilet and shower.

Starving and almost car sick from Mr. Luis’s wild ride, we had ham and cheese sandwiches in the restaurant downstairs. There was a group of local guys playing a very noisy card game near the door. We sat in front of the big screen TV and to our surprise, they were again able to tune in to CNN.

We took a walk along the Main and I found a throat spray at the Pharmacia. It’s Sunday so most of the town is closed up tight.

Dinner down, gnocchi and soccer. Good food and interesting game or maybe, more interesting to watch the others watch it.

We do have a tiny screen TV in the room but it isn’t on Direct TV. We caught a movie in English with sub-titles. Cat slept through most of it.

September 27, 2004
A Cold and Windy Day in Perito Moreno

Even with generous use of the throat spray I continue to suffer and it affects my sleep. We enjoyed CNN, coffee and some very tasty media lunas. (croissants) I tried to trade the toast for more media lunas but the lady, the Donia as the others call her, told us that they were out but would have more later today. She is a hard worker, she’s bent over with scoliosis and walks with stiff legs and hips. It looks like it hurts her to move around yet she really moves. She waits on tables and cooks.

We bundles ourselves and our dirty cloths up and walked to the lavanderia. On the way we met a guy, Damian, who spoke English and was really helpful. Contrary to what Luis had told us and the map indicated, he says that the road continues to be ripia (dirt) from here to Rio Mayo another 114 kilometers. I was hopeful that we could cycle but Damian recommended against. He assured us that there is absolutely nothing out there in the way of food, water or shelter. I held to the conviction that we should try it. Cat opposed, we put off the decision. Damian also recommended the same guide that our Lonely Planet had. He even pointed out the street and gave us the address of GuanaCondor Tours.

The tour office turned out to be a house and nobody was at home. We left a card on the gate and walked on to the Laundry. A huge dog barked viciously but was tied to a tree and could only lunge at us as we approached the door. The woman there was inundated with baskets and baskets of clothing. She looked stressed but took our bags, dumped them into another of the white plastic baskets and told us it would cost 8 Pesos. (less than $3.00) No wonder she looks stressed, that’s a lot of work for such little money.

I had my head cover on and was shielding my throat with my hand but the cold dry air was really bothering me. We walked back to Belgrano and called the Tour Company. A machine and a message then Cat went to the Internet shop while I worked on these pages.

A knock on the door and there stood Juan Enrique from GuanaCondor. A truly affable fellow, we hit it off right away. He stepped in, I showed him some of our pictures, told him of our trip and the web site. He seemed excited and we set an appointment for 9:00 AM tomorrow. I told him that we were quick studies and would probably only want to see the cave, skip the other things he suggested. He then urged me to think of taking only a little more time and see the countryside. It is a 3-hour drive out and 3 hours back so why not take the extra hour or so to really appreciate the place? I agreed.

WE dined down, again. Good food and service by the Donia. Steak and potatoes smothered in CNN news.

September 28, 2004
Those Hands, Those Hands and Olga, Too!
Back in the USSR

Olga Harry, yes, he told us that even though his name is Juan Enrique everyone including his parents calls him Harry. Harry appeared at 9:00 AM in Olga, his 1986 Russian Van. It was love at first sight and a rush of memories of the Soviet Union and my trip there in 1989. Harry says that the UAZ is said to never wear our but drivers must be replaced regularly. (A joke about how tough they are to handle.)

Olga

Our first stop was Estancia Telken, about 50 Ks from Perito Moreno. Harry’s Mom, Petti and Dad, Coco run a combination working sheep ranch and Bed and Breakfast. What nice folks, he’s of Dutch decent, her Father and Mother came from New Zealand. Her Father worked with Braun Estancias for a while then went with another guy. During that time they made a trip into this area and he staked out Estancia Telken for his own back in 1915. Petti was born right here. She and Coco are in their mid 70s, work everyday and are full of energy and pioneer spirit.
Telken Olga Poster Coco, Petti & Harry

Harry talked and explained details of the history and geological makeup of the area. He even stopped a time or two along the route. Once he slammed on the brakes and had us watch a Pichy (small armadillo) run across the road and under a bush. I took the stop as an opportunity to visit a bush of my own. Harry was intrigued that the Pichy had stopped and was staring at us from under his bush. He got down on his hands and knees and grabbed the little guy then held him up for us to make a close inspection. When he sat it back down it really scurried away into the Calafate bushes.
Wide Open Spaces Painted Desert Guanaco
Moonscape Olga Pichy
Pichy Pintura Canyon  

Pichy

We saw several herds of Guanaco and quite a few small flocks of the fast moving flightless Nando (Nyando), an ostrich like bird. Not as big as the ostrich we’ve seen in Africa but these guys run wild here. And when we say run, they really go using their flightless wings to swerve duck and dodge as they scurry away from danger. In fact both the Guanaco and Nando are wild and are sometimes hunted. Harry says the meat isn’t very good and steaks are so cheap that most people prefer them. Perhaps the strangest of all, there are flamingos here, pink, long necked flamingos. We always thought that they were tropical birds. It’s anything but tropical here!
Sitting Ducks Flamingo Flamingos & Snow
Mt. Belgrano 2306 Meters Monument Guanaco
Nando    

Ducks

Touched By 9,000-Year Old Hands!

The road is dirt and rock all the way. At the edge of the canyon that Rio de las Pinturas has carved over the centuries. The area is like the Painted Desert, quite different from the usual brown we’ve become accustomed to. Olga is a 4WD and should be. The Parque Headquarters is down, halfway down into the canyon. We could see it from the edge. I took a picture of the little house with a car parked nearby to get a feeling for the size of the canyon.
Pintura Canyon Park Headquarters Horse and Canyon

Olga doesn’t have lockable doors so Harry had us take our things including the computer, inside. The attendant had a Gaucho visitor, of course Harry knew him so the 3 of them chatted while we ate the sandwiches we brought along. Though the air is cool we sat in the sun and enjoyed the heat.

The car’s a VW sitting next the building with the hood up. The Italian family traveling in it came toward us as we started down into the canyon. They explained that the fan is broken and the engine has been overheating. They asked us to keep an eye out for them in case they break down.

Harry knows the canyon and caves like the back of his hands. He even carries a set of keys to the gate so that we can get close to the cave. The Italians had to peer through the fence. This place is magical. Imagine living here 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. Imagine how primitive life must have been. Harry conjured up visions of Tehuelche ancestors running after Guanaco, skin capes flying in the wind. The amazing story though is of a person about 9,500 years ago learning how to crush red soil, make a paint of it then blow it through a bone and make a negative print of his of her own hand. Were they memorializing themselves? Did they think that maybe someday they’d be remembered or thought of? Perhaps they knew that Pat & Cat would someday cycle by and be amazed with their artistic achievements? We felt like we’d touched the past, not just the past but living breathing humans, maybe even our ancestors?
To the Cave To the Cave The Cave
Cat & Guanaco Today/Yesterday Los Manos
Mas Manos Guanaco & Moon  

We the quick studies lost track of time. Harry had to remind us that it was after 5:00 and would be dark before we get back to town. This has been one of those lifetime unforgettable experiences. We hope the pictures do the experience justice, we hope you too can feel the connection with these flesh and blood memories etched on stone.

Oh, Harry tells us that there are many theories about the meaning of the paintings. Most center around religious experiences. Harry sees everyday life here, he pointed out crippled hands, right and left hands even Guanaco hooves and Nando feet. One of his favorites is a painting of two guys running from a Guanaco. He believes it’s a joke that one of the hunters thought up. Guanaco never chase they always run away. And, as much as we’ve loved the being here we’ve truly loved being with Harry.
In the Cave Tehuelche Man? 9,000 Year Old Joke
Manos, Theirs and Mine Cave Critter Later Man
Flowers? Collage Collage, too
Critter Canyon  

About My Age?

Valeria, Dario & Rene The Italian family was stopped letting their car cool down. We talked then followed them back to Perito Moreno. It was 8:00 PM when we pulled up at The Belgrano. We chatted with them, Livio, Valeria, Dario and Rene, after dinner. I grabbed the camera and pounded on their door later. Too late to get a picture of Livio, the Dad but I did get the Mom, Valeria, aunt Rene and son, Dario.

September 29, 2004
A Day at the Doctors

One of the things we convinced Harry to do yesterday is to drive us over the rough road into Rio Mayo in Olga. Cat is anxious to go but I feel like heck. I called Harry and told him that I was going to the Doctor and we might go later this afternoon. What a great guy, he just said “no problem I’m on standby”.

We walked to the Clinic, waited in line then saw Dr. Javier Flores. He took a look down my garganta (throat) and said “You have puuus”. It took a minute to realize that he meant pus. Infection might be a better word in English. He prescribed Bi-carbonate of Soda to gargle and an anti-biotic. The biggest surprise of the day, the office call only cost 3 Pesos 50 Centavos. (About $1.20 US)

After a visit to the Pharmacia Cat dropped off at the Internet and I headed for the room. I did a little work on the journal then lay on the bed. She couldn’t get on line with AOL and came back frustrated. We had soup for lunch then I went back to bed.

Cat went back to try to connect. I followed a couple of hours later. She was on, Wally has received the pictures and she sent the story. I spent a couple of minutes then went back to my bed. As she walked back Harry walked up with bad news. Olga is sick, she broke a motor mount. So much for the “Made in the USSR and runs forever”. He thought he could find someone else and flagged down three passing trucks. One, his friend Daniel was interested. They spoke in Spanish, Daniel agreed and we had a ride, tomorrow at 10:00AM.

We both had lasagna for dinner.

September 30, 2004
Cat’s Birthday!
Camionetta to Rio Mayo 114 Ks

Perito MainDaniel Up early, anxious to move on. Same breakfast served by the bent over Donia. This is a familia operation. She’s the Mom, her son is a heavy weight whose pants hang low and tummy hangs out. He serves, runs the bar and plays games with patrons. They are from Lebanon, they have a picture of Beirut hanging on the restaurant wall.

Gaucho & FlockGuanacoFirst, the bags to the door then I brought the bikes out and we loaded up. Daniel was right on time, 9:00 AM. We lifted the bikes in, strapped them down and were off. The first 10 Ks is asphalto then it’s rocks and washboard for the next 2 hours. Daniel has a good eye, he pointed out a couple of herds of Guanaco and Nando. We saw Gauchos rounding up sheep, too.

Birthday Wish

Rio Mayo (Mayzo) is a military outpost. All the streets are dirt and rock. The Hotel El Viejo Covadonga. (We had to ask and it is named after an old town in Spain.) Maria, the hostess greeted us and led Cat to the room. Pretty banal but not bad for the middle of nowhere. No TV in room, only in the dining area and it doesn’t receive CNN so, no debate for us, tonight.

Maria made soup and sandwiches. We ate and watched the end of a movie in English with subtitles. I unloaded the bikes and worked them over, the best I could. Fine tuning as best I know how, the front derailleurs and grease on the chains. Cat walked the dusty streets looking for the tourist office and an Internet connection. The Internet connection was down and she couldn’t find the T O.

Cat re-worked the bags, I napped. There is a computer here at the Hotel, Maria knows nothing about it and it doesn’t work? After a short snooze we walked to where Maria told us the TO would be. Two young guys came out of a sort of guardhouse and greeted us. They escorted us into a small office that contained little or no information. They did have a map book of the area but someone had spilled on it and the pages were stuck together. The best of the entire experience was seeing a 1950ish Mercedes Benz. Awe, and caught without a camera?

Back, we loaded the bags onto the bikes that are resting in a huge, cold party room. We sipped a little wine and watched a movie with sub-titles then enjoyed dinner. The menu today is Bife de Lomo con verdures y patatas. (Beef loin with veggies and potatoes.) The Lomo was pretty chewy.

Felize Campleanos Cat Then, as we finished eating a young guy turned the lights off and Maria carried a cake in with one candle burning. The rest of the customers sang, Feliz Compleanos as she carried it through the darkness. How fun, how thoughtful. I had mentioned that it was Cat’s BD but was as surprised as Cat when the lights went out.

Felize Camplanos

Early to bed, wondering how the Debate went?

October 1, 2004
Rio Mayo to Rio Senguen (Estancia Pat & Cat)
48 Kilometers

MariaNo problem getting up and at ‘em’ this morning. We dressed, packed and loaded the bags on the bikes before Maria had breakfast ready. It was to be the typical toast and café but we asked and Maria delivered two ham and cheese omelets. Mmmmm.

A bright sunny morning and a paved road greeted us. Down to the corner past the Tourist Office onto the paved road and into a huge blast of wind. Clouds began to gather, the wind continued but took a slight turn to the north and gave us a left side push. As we struggled the bike began to complain. The rear derailleur clattered and complained.
Up & Out Last Dirt Rio Mayo
Flamingo    

Last Mile

Onward, at least until pieces of bike began to fall off. I tried to continue then looked down to see that a screw had come loose. The chain was now riding on the AutoShifter pulley. I had to give it up. We leaned the bikes on a guardrail, I started analyzing the problem while Cat broke out the sandwiches.

 Broken The shifter has lost an integral piece, I will replace it and save the pieces for later use. This is a problem of ignorance on my part and a total lack of maintenance. So, the next struggle was installation of the new shifter. Something went wrong, maybe working on the bike upside down in the Southern Hemisphere? I just couldn’t figure out how to replace the chain properly. By now it was spitting large raindrops. A guy in a big van stopped. He spoke no English and knew about as much about bikes as I. We struggled, tried two different ideas then he scratched his head, shook my hand, got in his van and drove away.

Perplexed, I was ready to give up when Cat suggested a different idea. Amazing, she who is usually so mechanically challenged had found the right route for the chain. We were ready to get back on the road. I stuffed the rest of my sandwich down with my greasy hands and we talked. It was now 2:30 and damp. Cat wanted to stop and find a place to sleep. There is a house nearby. I walked there only to find it deserted. We rode a short way then down a dirt path along the highway to find shelter under a bridge.

The Rio Senguen runs deep and swift. I feared we might be trapped or flooded out if we stayed there. Also, it’s a party place and this is Friday night. There are signs of hot times, empty bottles and messages on the concrete. There is the foundation of an old house with trees around it. A great campsite but it isn’t that easy to get to. We had to lift both bikes up and over a low barbed wire fence. A real struggle but we made it without ripping any bags.

 Rio Senguen Camp The tent was up quickly to avoid raindrops and we were soon settling in. Cat’s kitchen, the little camp stove soon had a pot of water boiling. She whipped up a big pot of hot soup. We supped then settled in for the night. All was quiet, we dropped off to sleep talking about bygone days, glory days that must have abounded with family and life here a hundred years or more ago.

October 2, 2004
Rio Senguen to Estancia Tamariscos
54 Kilometers

The early birds chirping brought us into a bright and sunny day. We got the little stove going and heated water for coffee and oatmeal. Not a bad breakfast, we’re getting better at making the instant coffee. Camping on a nice night in a nice place like this is a nice way to spend a night. However, set up and tear down are time consuming. It was 10:20 AM before we had the campsite back in the bags and were struggling to lift the bikes back over the barbed wire.
Rio Campsite Estancia Senguen Campsite

That ‘a’ Way The wind is there but fairly gentle. It’s a long slow climb up and away from the river, the old Estancia and Rio Senguen then more of the same low scrubby bush and brown. In half an hour we were at the crossroad and made a left turn onto Ruta Vente. (Route 20) It was a turn into the wind, too. Another hard fought 12 Kilometers and we pulled up at the dirt road turn off to Facundo. We can see the little burg 5 Ks below, next to the river. For us, the remains of yesterday’s sandwiches and a hope that we’d draw strength from those dry morsels.

Onward into the wind. The route is fairly flat but it’s uphill all the way in the wind. At 5:00 PM we finally caught sight of buildings. The boys at the Tourist Office in Rio Mayo had told us that we could stay at Estancia Tamariscos but it is 3 Ks off the road. A sign drew us to Museo Tamarisco, which would turn out to be a little store, bar and a place with one room for us. Yes, they have one room that they rent but the adjacent toilet has no running water and there’s no heat in the room.

Trudy is truly a gem. She has lived on this Estancia since 1938. We first came in and sat at a table in the bar/store area and I drank 2 Sprites. Cat asked about the room and Trudy took her for a look. Cat came back and said, “We’re back in Africa”. Okay, there are buckets of water for toilet flushing and Trudy volunteered hot water. We are pretty grateful just to have a roof over our heads.

Trudy brought a plastic tub and bucket out with warm water. We did spit baths, Cat was a little less enthusiastic than I. I actually stood in the tub and poured warm water over my head and body. I felt clean, she felt slightly cleansed. We hung our clothing to dry on a ladder and the fence in the waning sunlight.

Maxi & LuzTrudy & Lilliana Just as we came back in Trudy’s family, Lilliana, her daughter, granddaughter, Luz, and grandson Maxi came in. They had groceries and other things from Esquel for her. Once again, we found ourselves a part of another family. These moments are some of the best experiences for us. Cat was cold, Trudy fired up a wood stove in their living room and we clustered around it. The kids brought out guest books and photo albums with notes pictures from other travelers that have stopped here over the years.

Lilliana and Trudy spent time finding notes and pictures from cyclists who have passed this way. During this interesting time Trudy found a box of wine for us. Yes, “A BOX” of wine. It was at least okay, we sipped and enjoyed the heat and stories. Lilliana took me on a tour of the little museum in the other wing of the old home. They have a collection of local items and family memorabilia that grabbed my interest. This is a Museum of real items used by real people, Trudy’s family and others who lived and worked on this Estancia dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
Museum Arrowheads Victrola
Accordion    

Later, as I perused the guest book I came across the message from a JERK. A person who made fun of the collection, called it garbage. Obviously a shallow or affected person? So, I added a full page of comment telling of our feeling that a close, personal collection like Trudy’s is probably a better gauge of life as it was than items found in the large Museums. Sort of a counter to the one signed by “Unknown”.

DomingeThen, the best of it, we joined the family for dinner. A guy they call “Tio” (Uncle) and 2 construction workers who are building a house at Facundo. None of them speak English, the Uncle, Dominge, didn’t feel good, barely ate a morsel then switched to Mate and sat near the stove. The other two talked and Lilliana who has a way of working with language told us that they spoke of a domestic dispute at Facundo that ended with the Policia shooting and killing the Husband. Some things are the same worldwide.

Trudy & LillianaDr. LuzWhat a great evening. The food, a sort of stew with bony meat and vegetables, was great. And, Trudy and Lilliana made oven baked Empanandas. They too were very tasty. Trudy even made 8 extras for our lunch, tomorrow. The room is cozy because of the wood-burning cook stove and the light and heat of the gas lantern. They have no electricity here and never have. The wonderful end to a wonderfully full day.

Empanadas

About Trudy and Los Tamariscos

Trudy is 74 years young. She’s very independent yet has been tied to this property since she was 4 years old, in 1938. Her Father came from Germany and settled in Punta Arenas, Chile in 1920. There he met and married her Mother, also of German decent. They drifted into Argentina in the late 1920s and began a family of 10 one of which was Trudy. This place, Los Tamariscos, is isolated now, imagine what it was like in 1938 when the family made the move. No paved road, that didn’t come until past here until 1979. Trudy’s family had horses at first then old cars. It had to be several days trip to any sizable city. They had to grow their food and make many of their household furnishings. Is it any surprise that she clings to that history and holds it out for passersby to see?

Then, Trudy married and had 7 children of her own. They lived and grew here, too. Tragedy struck 30 years ago and left Trudy a widow at age 44. She had to make enough to support the kids, herself. She is a huge success, she is a fighter and a person who proudly loves her family. The world needs more good people like her.

October 3, 2004
Los Tamariscos to Nueva Lubecka
54 Kilometers

Trudy whipped up fried eggs, the first we’ve had in weeks. Home made bread, toasted on the stovetop and strong coffee with hot milk rounded out the fare. Trudy packed in the extra Empanadas and a couple of boxes of wine for the road. The entire bill for room, dinner, wine and breakfast, 60 Pesos, just $20 US.

The morning was full of sunshine and no wind. We pushed off at 9:30 AM as the entire family called out well wishes and waved. More of the same as far as terrain and flora except that we are noticing a little more green mixed into the brown. We rode without our head masks most of the morning. By noon, the wind began to whistle.
Bridge to Snow Shrine D S M R

We sat behind the bikes for shelter from the wind and enjoyed the bright sun as we ate Trudy’s empanadas. From this point on the afternoon was a tough battle with Los Vientos. (The wind) We stopped often to rest and gather strength. I began to feel a need for more food but we had no ready to eat items aboard.

Nuevo Lubecka, the place of trees, is nothing more than an Estancia home, yelping dogs and a couple of grazing horses. There is an old Mercedes bus parked near a grassy spot in the trees. We pulled in and leaned the bikes then went over and talked with the guy, Victor. Working through the language barrier he suggested that it was okay to camp here, it’s part of the highway right of way. He also told us that a guy he calls “El Paisano” lives in the house. I watched our things while Cat went to let El Paisano know that we were his neighbors for the night.

The gate was locked, we assumed that nobody was at home. On the way back I met here and we asked Victor if he was camping here tonight, also. He let us know that he was going to Rio Mayo to sell his apples and oranges tonight. We asked to buy some, he pulled out a handful of each and handed them to us. When we got money out he shook his head, he refused to accept any. What a nice guy. He lifted the hood of his big old bus, poured water into the radiator, fired her up, waved and roared away.

I was tired and hungry. I leaned against a tree and cut the apples. We shared them then got busy setting the tent and putting our home together. The horses drifted over and eyed us as they grazed. Feeling better with two apples and an orange inside, I did my part to get camp in order then we sat on our chairs in the sun, counted our blessings and drank some boxed wine.

Cat whipped up pasta mixed with soup mix. She complained about the smell of horse manure and the shards of glass scattered about by previous residents. We talked about today, Trudy’s family and imagined getting to Bariloche. The sun slowly set behind the trees and the night sky filled with sparkling stars. Dozens of cars and trucks passed, honked and waved as we ate and relaxed. Relaxed and sleepy we crawled into the tent.

October 4, 2004
Nueva Lubecka to Gobernador Costa
60 Kilometers

Nuevo LubeckaIt was cold but beautiful as the sun began it’s journey up over the hill and into the sky. By the time we had the tent down and coffee ready we had a bright warm morning to drink our coffee, eat our remaining empanadas and the remaining oranges donated by Victor. We had the rain fly dried, bags packed and were on the road by 10:00 AM. We’re getting a little better at this camping thing!

Est. Don Guillermo Just down the road, we passed Estancia Don Guillermo off to the right. It’s a huge looking collection of houses and barns. It too is shielded from the often constant wind by a buffer of trees. For 2 hours we sailed along in sunshine without wind. A rest stop and we shared the last apple from Victor as the wind began to gather.

It was another struggle with the wind. So tiring and so demoralizing. We found a place, two houses surrounded by a form of Juniper trees and sat in the sun, out of the wind to eat our leftover pasta mixed with a can of Tuna. A pretty good lunch. The houses were vacant, one was boarded up.
Lunch Pines Grass Land Flamingo
Long/Lonely Trees  

Moving onward, we pressed hard into the wind. A Nissan Camionetta (Pickup truck) passed us several times going back and forth. We rolled up wind, into Gob. Costa at 4:00 PM and went directly to the Shell Station. I ate 2 Popsicles to sooth my sore dry throat. Still taking the antibiotics and feeling a little better but they soothed. Oh, they have Directo TV so we watched CNN as we ate. What a treat. The next half hour was spent looking and asking about a Hotel. We rode past one and decided it wasn’t for us. We stepped into the next one and right back out. The furniture was ragged, stuffing hanging out, we imagined what the rooms must be?

AlejandroWe found the only market in town and rested the bikes in front. The Nissan pickup that had been passing us today pulled up and a guy went into the store. When he came back out we asked if he had noticed us and if the truck which has writing on it, is a racer. He, Alejandro, laughed and said, “No, not a racer, we have a dealership and the writing is propaganda”. Then he told us that he owns the Estancias, Nueva Lubecka and Don Guillermo. His English language comes from childhood memories. His Grandmother was born in London and spoke English with him but that was years ago. We traded cards, he also owns a Golf Hotel near Bariloche. He asked if he could give us a ride then chuckled when I told him that we are trying to cycle everywhere. He said, “I will offer the ride if I pass again”!

The little store had only basics. We replaced some of the food we’ve used then took Alejandro’s suggestion and rode on through town to Hosteria Mi Refugio. From the road it appears to be shacks behind a fairly nice looking Restaurant. There is junk next door and the parking is dirt and rock but the room was pretty nice. They have TV but no satellite so it was local programming but some English with sub-titles. Cat notes that, though it looks rough on the outside, our room was clean.

And, a HOT SHOWER, our first in 3 days. Sheer luxury. Dinner was also very good. We had huge pieces of grilled chicken with veggies and potatoes. Two movies as we rested and prepared for sleep. The bikes are inside with us and it’s pretty crowded but safe.

October 5, 2004
Laundry and a Rest for our Legs

It was coughing and sputtering as I awoke. The sore throat is still a problem. Our legs are shot, too. We’re both tired and our legs are shot from pedaling so long and hard against the winds. Today will be a day of rest.

The restaurant up front isn’t open this morning? We walked to the YPF Service Station and had juice, coffee and bread. The juice was great the coffee was weak and the bread dry and tasteless. The worst of it, their prices were high.

It was cold this morning. Most of the people speak with us as we walk. This is just a one street town. Several young people and a few adults ride bicycles. I lay back and relaxed, Cat went back out, walking and checking out the place.

We walked together to the Shell Station for lunch and CNN. Hamburgers that were at least okay. The election news is all about the debate that they say John Kerry won. After almost 2 hours of slow eating and watching we took a tour of the Pueblo. There are a couple of interesting things, a memorial to local Native Americans and a Shrine built on a hillside. Also a house with fences of plastic water bottles.
Gob. Costa Wagon Cocky Rooster
 Shrine Americano  

Back in our little room we watched “On Golden Pond” for the 4th time. Cat restocked and reworked the bags. Another movie, “Twins” featuring our own Governor, Arnold.

Dinner up front, steak and veggies then another movie. Oh yes, we asked and were told that if we wanted to have breakfast all we had to do was ask tonight. We asked!

October 6, 2004
Gobernador Costa to Pat’s Birthday Campsite
70 Kilometers
Reflecting on 65 Years

Where have they gone, these past 65 years? The little black haired baby boy born in Bonners Ferry, Idaho is now old and gray. Wait a minute, I may have the seniority but I’ll never grow up. Get past the sore throat, the stiff legs and back. Forget the mornings when you wonder why? I feel good, in fact better than when in my 30s and a heavy smoker and scotch drinker. What a diverse life I’ve lived. Coming from very modest beginnings to success in business and life. Yes, I consider my life successful, I’ve been able to work and earn then chosen to do interesting things. Two wonderful daughters, 3 Grandkids and thousands of friends around the world. Now that’s what I call success!

RyooEst. GrandeA filling and fulfilling breakfast and we were back on the road by 9:20 AM. It’s cloudy and cool but no wind as we exited Gob. Costa. At 10 Ks out we came face to face with Ryoo, a 22-year-old student from Japan. He began cycling on the north coast of South America and has been on the road for more than 2 months. His goal is Ushuaia. He has just a month to finish. We told him of our struggle with Ruta 40, the dirt, rocks and washboard bumps. Because he has limited time he’s decided to choose Ruta 3, the Pan-American Highway. It follows the east coast and should be with the wind. What a nice young guy. He asked my age, I told him that he was my birthday present.

Ryoo

Onward, past a huge home near the road, then around a corner to the right and right into the wind. It was a real struggle, slight up hill and into heavy, 25 to 30 Kilometer wind. (15 to 20 MPH) A couple of hours and a changing scene from brown bushes to green grass then we found the gate of Estancia Don Juan to sit behind and eat lunch. Fried bread, ham and cheese.
 Pastoral Holy Skis Flamingo
Snow Plough Climbing Sheep Cattle Guards
Estancia    

Ever Present Wind

Birthday Horse

Onward, we came upon a couple of Gauchos riding along the fence. They asked where we’re from, shook their heads and moved on, down wind. The rest of the afternoon was just hunker down and ride. Alejandro had suggested that we might stay at Estancia Blancha. It was 5:30 PM, we’ve cycled 8 hours now and we’re tired. A clump of trees off to the left then the noise of a tractor. They are grading a new road. We pulled through the fence and leaned the bikes. I started to walk to the grader as a truck pulled in. The driver stopped and got the point across that they don’t have authority to allow us to stay and they will lock the gate when they leave.

Onward, we shortly came to the over crossing of a creek. It was a struggle getting down the bank, off the road. Once there, we were sheltered from the wind and hidden from the traffic above. I began to feel a case of Birthday Guff Guff. Three quick trips to the bushes interrupted progress as I set the tent. We were soon huddled at the doorway and cooking Birthday pasta with ham and cheese. Cat had put a couple of Apple Tarts in the bags for a Birthday cake. They had been crushed but the crumbs tasted great. Despite the Guff Guff, I find this celebration as fulfilling as any of the other 64 I remember.

Rain began to spatter on the tent. We sat inside and talked, covering our headlamps each time a car or truck passed by, above. It was like a game, we felt like kids hiding from possible bad guys. Well, we are all just kids, after all. Even if we’re 65 and 51, right?

October 7, 2004
Campsite to Tecka
25 Kilometers

The morning sky was thick with cloud cover. We struggled to get the gear back in the bags after a light breakfast of coffee and oatmeal. It was 10:30 by the time we struggled to get the bikes back up on the road. It’s cold and the mountains to our left are now covered with snow. The air is so thick it threatens rain, at any minute. Once on the highway we were greeted by a strong wind coming off the snow.

Most of the ride was down hill. The wind though strong, was sort of with us part of the way. Then, as we neared Tecka the road took a hard left turn and left us in a howling head wind. It took us an hour of struggle riding the final five Ks into town.

The highway runs parallel to a dirt road with a YPF Service Station. The dust swirls every time a truck or car moved in or out. We closed our eyes and pulled through the brown cloud and into the station. There are tables and chairs but no real food. The gal there confirmed that there is a small Hotel with a restaurant and directed us to go 2 blocks then turn for 3 blocks. The streets are all dirt and dusty, too. We found the Hotel, leaned the bikes and ate lunch. Soup, bread and I had a sandwich.

The room is out back, we had to take the bikes around then through a fenced rear area. They did let us keep the bikes in but it wasn’t easy to get them down the narrow hallway and around the corner.

The shower is down the hallway but the water is hot. It felt good to get 2 days dirt and dust off and down the drain. Pulled the computer out and worked on photos. Cat took our pots, pans and water bottles to the shower for a bath. There is a TV in the Café but they have locked the door and we can’t get back in until 8:00 PM. The wind continued to howl through the trees and swirl up the dust out our window. Cat ventured out and made a quick visit to the market.

At 8:00 PM we knocked on the door and were allowed access. Being the only patrons we chose a movie with subtitles. The girl brought menus then left. We watched the movie and wondered? Finally at 8:30 we asked and were told that they only had one thing, Asado, for dinner. We agreed of course and she disappeared again. It was 9:00 PM when she came back with food. A few others drifted in including the guys working on the road that we talked with about staying on the property last night.

It was another BOX WINE night. My meat was eatable, Cat’s was tough and full of gristle. We did get the point across that we’d like to have chicken and a vegetable tart to take with us for lunch tomorrow. The bill, 75 Pesos for wine, food and tomorrows lunch. (About $25 US)

We got the bags back on the bikes before hitting the beds.

October 8, 2004
Into Esquel
80 Kilometers Cycled, 8 on Jorge’s Camionetta

The Hotel doesn’t open for breakfast. The lady who we think owns the place told us to go to the YPF Station. We decided to leave the bikes in the room and walk back. The guy there is husband of the woman at the Hotel. No wonder she recommended the place. He was nice and made a good cup of coffee. We had good boxed juice and yogurt then stale rolls and good coffee.

MeadowAStraight & Narrow s we walked back to the Hotel the wind died down a little. We pushed out the door and onto the road at 9:00 AM. The wind was slow but the look of rain was gathering. Just a couple of Ks down the road we turned right and into a canyon following Tecka River. What a change, green grass and trees, horses, cattle and sheep. Flowers too, even leaves popping out on the trees. Spring is springing!

Lilliana had warned us that it is hilly getting into Esquel. We were pleasantly surprised that with the exception of a few small rolls it was a flat, down river ride. Our plan was to make 50-60 Ks and camp. This plan had factored in wind and hills. We were flying along and had covered 40 Ks when we stopped for lunch. The girls had really done a great job on the chicken. There was more than we could eat. We sat on a little bridge above a babbling brook. Pleasant except when trucks flew past and the draft caused a rock and dust storm.
Calafate Bush Wind Esquel Valley

The day was almost warm. Though we had some drizzling rain it didn’t last long. This is the best ride we’ve had since well before El Calafate. The hills Lilliana had prophesized finally stood before us. We’d come 65 Ks but the long pull looked ominous. Several mountains around us are now snow capped. The wind began to pester us, again. We rode most of the hill. Nearing the top we were surprised to see the road take a turn up and to the left. We have begun planning on getting to the cross road and catch a ride on in. We leaned the bikes, watched another truck turn upward and the watch tick down to 5:30 PM. It was time, we decided, to get a ride in.

Several cars and trucks past us then Jorge pulled up. His old Ford had tow barrels of oil aboard already. We lifted the bikes in, setting them almost sideways and I tied them down with our straps. Jorge cautiously move ahead, around the corner to the left then looped back to the right. There, below lay Esquel. We could easily have cycled on in. It’s all down hill. Oh well, we’re already on the move.

Well, it might not have been as easy as we thought, the wind was really gusting upward from the valley below. Cat checked our Lonely Planet and we chose the Tehuelche Hotel. Jorge knew where it was and helped us lift the bikes of just a little after 6:00 PM. What a kind guy, he refused payment.

The Hotel has a room for tonight but is fully booked for the next few nights. The sky was darkening, we decided to stay. The guy at the desk wasn’t very helpful and sort of less than interested in us. We left the bikes in a hallway but were told we cold move them in an hour or so. The room was okay but overall we didn’t care for the Hotel. A shower felt pretty good and the warm water eased the mood.

We dined at a very nice little place nearby, De Maria, another place touted by LPGB. It was so good that it made up for the disappointment of the Hotel. Lamb on a table top grill, potatoes and Veronica, our waitress were all wonderful.

On the way back to Tehuelche we check the other Hotel mentioned in the guide book. It too was pretty seedy looking. We moved the bikes into a meeting room and locked them.

Into our twin beds and lights out, we were tired. We’ve been on the road 38 days.

Reflections, On The Road Again

This has been the most difficult and challenging cycling we’ve done. The wind is our greatest adversary. When you combine that with cold, ice and snow it’s easy to understand why. There are so many miles of nothing but Calafate bushes and sheep that we began to feel the loneliness that early pioneers must have lived with. Geez, we tried, we rode in snow and rain, we pushed in ice and mud. The rocky road took a toll on our bodies and bikes but it was the WIND, that ever present, persistent, always in or face WIND that took the rubber off the road. Okay Terry, the rubber did come off the road almost as much as we rode but then, you had to be there, see the rocks and washboard bumps. You have to struggle all day just to go 25 Kilometers to really understand that Ruta Quareta isn’t a road, it’s a torturous trail of bone jarring stones and unfriendly winds.

Out of Esquel, we are really anxious to get to Latitude 40 just above Bariloche. Most Argentineans tell us that good weather begins there. We have been telling people that like a carrot hanging in front of a donkey, we see a bottle of Latitud 33 Chardonnay dangling in front of us, leading us onward toward Mendoza, Latitude 33 South and the wine capital of Argentina.

977 Kilometers Cycled from Ushuaia to Esquel (606 Miles)
23,747 Total Kilometers Cycled in the World (14,724 Miles)

Thanks again for reading along with us.

Pat & Cat