Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Cappuccino Tour

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rdwalker, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    For past several years I have been traveling with my friend Lewis, with whom we do have a running joke about always being on the lookout for a perfect cappuccino.
    This has become a theme and we call our rides "Cappuccino Tours".

    This is it, then: The Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Cappuccino Tour. This ride took place last season, but I never got to do a proper RR. Better late then never.

    A few teasers to let you know what to expect. Enjoy!


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    Entering Argentinean province of Tierra del Fuego.
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    Beautiful, peaceful glacial lake.
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    Been there, done that?
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    Crossing the Pampas.
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    Even the horses are posing.
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    Towers in Torres del Paine park.
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    Guanacos - roaming the tip of South America.
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    Windy, eh?
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    #1
  2. danno626

    danno626 Boom goes the dynamite!

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    More, More!!!
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  3. AdventurePoser

    AdventurePoser Long timer

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    Keep it coming!:thumbup
    #3
  4. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    The idea for this trip came from an issue of Dual Sport News several years back (nowadays, Adventure Motorcycle News). There was either an article or a letter to the editor that caught my eye: the author was describing riding in the south of Chile and mentioned in passing that he was just setting up a motorcycle touring and rental outfit.


    Lewis and I have ridden in several worldwide locations by then - South America became a logical choice for our next outing. We decided to rent bikes from that DSN writer, Roberto, and to hire him to accompany and guide us through Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, to reach World's End - the end of Route 3 in Argentina.



    The organization of the trip took quite a while; Roberto, an American expatriate living in Patagonia, had a rather sporadic access to phone and email. Fortunately, I started the preparations well over half a year in advance.



    Finally, the time of departure arrived. Our plans called for Lewis meeting me in Punta Arenas, Chile, on 2nd March 2009. My brother was going to join the fray as well, but a medical emergency in his family forced him to back out within a few weeks of the trip.


    It was a gloomy late-winter day at Newark Airport. At least I was flying into a similar climate: fall conditions in the Southern Hemisphere. Drastically changing climatic zones is a pain: one needs clothing for hot and cold weather and I somehow always mess that up.


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    First stop en-route: Lima, Peru. While waiting for the plane to Santiago, Chile, I had my first cappuccino of the Cappuccino Tour.


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    OK, here it is: the Santiago flight.

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    Santiago is a wonderful city and worthy of a report on its own. It's a motorcycling forum, though, so here are just a few pictures - to give you a flavor of the place.

    Santiago skyline:


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    A good attitude: cops on dual-sport bikes.


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    The city is very civilized and modern. Here is a food market filled with restaurants.


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    Street vendor selling 1973 memorabilia. We did not gain too many friends by installing Pinochet.


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    The inner section of the city really appealed to my Europhile sentiments. This would not be out of place anywhere in Central Europe - in Santiago, I felt right at home.


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    On the road again. At the Santiago airport, awaiting departure to Punta Arenas. Checking out the cappuccino, of course...


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    This will take me to the End of the World.


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    Punta Arenas: arriving by taxi from the town airport.


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    Afternoon stroll through the pleasant streets of Punta Arenas.


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    Punta Arenas ("Sandy Point") - and the whole surrounding region of Chile - is a geopolitically interesting place. It really has little economic standing of its own; the base for its 19th century development was sheep farming and prisons (Punta was a penal colony). Now, it is the "foot in the sand". Chilean government encourages and supports settlements here, by subsidies and by tax incentives - in order to be able to claim it rights in the upcoming struggle for sub-Antarctic natural resources. That is my political opinion, but well justified.


    Hotel Nogueira in the historic section of town.

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    City square. Another example of the phenomenon first seen in Santiago: streets in this part of the world are filled with stray dogs, seemingly everywhere.


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    #4
  5. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    This is going to be great :clap

    Thanks for the intro... and lovely pics.. :thumb

    :lurk
    #5
  6. gregneedham

    gregneedham I seem to fall often

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    :clap
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  7. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Getting to Patagonia is a haul, if I say so myself - especially if one needs to squeeze an adventure trip into a very limited, American-style time off. I had about 10 days to my disposal.

    The flight alone requires some 18 hours in the air, excluding the stop-overs. A distant land, indeed.

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    The night before, I successfully met up with Lewis in Punta Arenas.

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    We also met our guide, Roberto, and picked up the bikes. Since the trip was to be relatively short (5-6 days of riding) with an ambitious itinerary, getting someone with local knowledge and speaking the language to accompany us makes most sense.

    After an overnight stay in Hostel de la Avenida we are getting into the gear - ready for the first day of riding in Chile.

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    Lewis trying to squeeze his stuff into the side cases of the rental KLR's.

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    Last preparations in town. Everything a GO?

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    On the way out of Punta Arenas, we pass city harbor, where the ferry from Porvenir is docking. We will arrive back here in a few days, returning from Tierra del Fuego.

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    Heading north along the Straits of Magellan. A reminder of how treacherous and deadly these waters are: near San Gregorio, we pass a place where two wrecks from different centuries are almost on top of each other.

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    The boiler of a steamship wrecked here in 1932.

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    Just next to it, an elegant skeleton of a sailing ship that met its end here in 1893.

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    Stopping for lunch at Hosteria El Faro in Punta Delgada. We will take a ferry here to cross from the South American mainland to Puerto Espora on the Big Island of Tierra del Fuego.

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    The ferry is arriving. The water flow of the Straits is so strong that the ship is "crabbing": even though it is positioned sideways, it actually moves directly toward us.

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    Crossing the Magellan Straits. In all comforts of home?

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    Land Ahoy! Tierra del Fuego - straight ahead.

    The Tierra region is actually an archipelago of many islands; from now on, we will be traveling on Isla Grande (the Big Island).

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    Out of the ferry, we still travel a while on paved roadways...

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    ... to reach Hosteria Tunkelen in Cerro Sombrero.

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    The place is operated by European expats and seems to cater to motorcycling travelers. Soon after our arrival, the lot was full of bikes - a group with Motoaventura, a big-name tour operator in Chile, showed up just before sundown. Notice the ratio of bikes to cars!

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    #7
  8. Serge LeMay

    Serge LeMay Dirtmedic

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    OH YEAH!!! I'm in for the short trip south :clap

    bring it :lurk
    #8
  9. AZ_ADV_RIDER

    AZ_ADV_RIDER Demons In My Helmet

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    Sweet - bring on the extra butter :lurk
    #9
  10. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Thanks, guys! As we continue...



    Lovely house cats at Tunkelen. Even Lewis, a dog person, found some new friends.

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    This is the real deal - it's hard to believe that we are now crossing the pampas on the exotic Tierra del Fuego. I read so much about the place in my childhood - it is exciting to finally have arrived.

    One of the big industries here (besides oil, of course) is sheep ranching. The roads are lined with fences stretching out for hundreds of miles in the middle of nowhere. I could not believe the distances that were covered by fencing - I am guessing that the labor either is or was very cheap. :evil

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    The gravel roads have an excellent surface, hard-packed and well drained.

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    The route of the day will take us from the Hosteria in Cerro Sombrero, across the Chilean-Argentinean border, to the famed city of Ushuaia.

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    There are very few large wild animals around - aside the seemingly ever-present guanacos. After all, most of the land is fenced off for the sheep 'estancias'.

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    Guanacos belong to the same camelid family as the domesticated llama. They do roam relatively free, as they are able to jump the sheep fences.

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    Traveling east, we arrive at the border crossing into Argentina. In a long line of travelers, we spend about an hour processing our papers at the Chilean checkpoint.

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    Now, we travel a few kilometers over "no-man's land", to cross the actual borderline - entering the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctic and Islands of Southern Atlantic.

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    This is not like the quick check going from US into Canada (or the non-existent frontiers between EU countries). Here, after the lengthy procedure on one side, we go through the same on the other. Personal documentation is checked by the border police - that it the easy part. Afterward, we go through customs, filling out countless forms in order to import our motorcycles.

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    The Falkland Islands conflict took place almost 30 years ago - a classic case of "wagging the dog", when the Argentine junta in power at the time attempted to rally support and distract the public from the terrible economic and political conditions at home - by engaging in a war in pursuit of some old nostalgic claims.

    As we all know, the war was lost, but the feelings are still raw. Islas Malvinas is the Argentine name for the Falklands.

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    Very soon, we reach Argentine Route 3 following the coast of the Atlantic. A well-paved road, takes us south past oil pumps exploiting the newly important local resource.

    Our destination is Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

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    En route, just below Tolhuin, we stop at the very picturesque lake Fagnano.

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    A brief break at the local Hosteria. Roberto is trying to score some points with the girl running the bar.

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    No luck... I think she has seen - and resisted - much better attempts... But she makes some great cappuccino. Of course.

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    The hosteria is directly on the shore of Lago Fagnano, with some spectacular views. If I ever do this run again, I'll try to stay at this place.

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    We cross the last mountain range before Ushuaia, passing Lake Escondido. A glance down the cliffs reveals old Route 3. Traveling on that must have been an adventure, for real.

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    A Route 3 rest area displays the latent patriotic fervor. The graffiti says "Malvinas are Argentine", "The English are Pirates".

    Amusingly, with regard to pirates, the Argentine claim to the Falklands is partly based on landings by pirate David Jewett - an American corsair licensed then by Buenos Aires (United Provinces of South America, which in early 1800's gave birth to Argentina) .

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    The climate and the terrain become beautifully stark. We are nearing Antarctica!

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    By the evening, we reach the town of Ushuaia. For adventurers, its main claim to fame is the location at World's End, end of Route 3, right at the Beagle Channel - most southern city in the world. Its harbor is an important departure point for Antarctica, handling traffic ranging from major cruise ships to supplies for Antarctic research stations.

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    It was also a staging point for the invasion of Falklands thirty years ago; memorials of that effort are everywhere.

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    The Argentinean Tierra del Fuego region is very much like its counterpart in Chile. Initially settled as a prison colony, now it is the doorway to the riches of sub-Antarctic ocean floor, maintained to validate any upcoming claims and support any upcoming conflicts for rights in the area.

    The region is so important that - 3 years before the Falklands war - the countries of Chile and Argentina were on a brink of war for ownership of the archipelago. According to official history, the invasion of Chilean territory by the Argentine forces was averted 6 hours before beginning, by a last-minutes appeal from the Pope. Contemporary reports are more clear-headed: apparently, Pope's pleas were a face-saving mission for the junta; in reality the attack was given up by the Argentineans as they realized that their chances were poor.

    Still, bad feelings remained. As a result, Chile supported UK against Argentina during the Falklands war - and, on this trip, I have seen mine fields still guarding the border between the two countries.

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    #10
  11. the darth peach

    the darth peach eats crackers in bed

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    :lurk
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  12. rawdog

    rawdog Been here awhile

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    Way cool. :lurk
    #12
  13. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Very good. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. :clap :clap :clap
    #13
  14. cleanair

    cleanair Been here awhile

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    enjoyed the rr and pic's.

    if it was a mile or two closer!!!!!!!!!
    #14
  15. BarkALot

    BarkALot inhabitant

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    enjoying the report! I appreciate the fly & ride information as I don't have the time to ride all the way there ;-)
    #15
  16. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Darth Peach - I am honored.

    Well, this is my problem as well, in a sense. I tremendously enjoy those fantastic reports posted here by the intrepid travelers who head out from their home location and cross half of the world to get to and through amazing destinations. And by the way, my current heroes are Colebatch in Siberia and Sambor1965 in Central Asia - I'd love to ride there.

    However, these super-long distance adventures always require months if not years of available time.


    The same problem is with organized group tours. While requiring much less preparation, these still take an amount of time I cannot afford - it's not the money, it's the time. Just recently, with great trepidation, I went away for 2 weeks - this was the first vacation of that length in well over 25 years. (Yes, I can hear the snickering from our European inmates...).


    This is how I came to my traveling formula, where it comes to oversea trips: fly, rent and do your own ride. I feel comfortable and familiar anywhere in Europe, so a whole trip can be done on my own: I fly in, rent a bike and within half a day from picking it up I am on exciting motorcycling roads. I have ridden in almost every country there, by myself and with a few other riders - and the rides were as short as 4 and as long as 6 days in the saddle. Perfect for my schedule.


    Elsewhere, my short travel window is not well suited for exploring on one's own. I have found that it is best to hire someone to ride along and assist with all arrangements, especially if in a language I do not speak. It is the most effective combination of convenience and the ability to determine my own schedule and itinerary. It is also quite educational.


    For example, when we have ridden with Lewis in South Africa and Swaziland, we rented bikes from SAMA in Pretoria and paid for an accompanying rider - in the end, the company owner went with us. We were able to have a wonderful adventure in just 6 short days, we did see a lot and we learned a lot about the country and the people from our guide.


    Similarly, with the Patagonian adventure, having Roberto allowed us to just ride and enjoy the vistas, not worry about other arrangements. In particular, his knowledge of Spanish was invaluable during the complicated border crossings. That is how we could squeeze a Patagonian outing into just 5-6 days of riding. Still, it is far away: the whole trip took about 11 days, which included one-day stopovers in Santiago and in Lima.
    #16
  17. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Thanks, all, for your encouragement. Back to our scheduled programming... :D

    Ushuaia! The morning finds us enjoying an elegant breakfast in Hotel Canal Beagle. The Argentine Automobile Club operates the establishment - I was told that I would have received an additional discount, have I had my AAA membership card to show. Too bad.

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    Getting ready for the short ride to World's End.

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    Winding forest road towards Bahia Lapataia.

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    Well: here we are. Park the bikes...

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    ... and walk up to the famous sign, shown in pictures of all visitors to this area.

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    Want a proof? Here is your proof!

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    "Usted Esta Aqui" - You Are Here, End of Route 3.

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    A bit of a distraction: no alimony payments from Zorro? A deadbeat father? (Actually, sign says 'Do Not Feed Foxes', but I like my interpretation better.)

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    From now on, it's going back... We are riding the park road in direction of Ushuaia ...

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    ... enjoying the views ...

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    ... and taking a detour toward Beagle Channel.

    Beagle Channel is one of the historically important navigable connections between the Atlantic and the Pacific (the other well-known ones are the Straits of Magellan and Drake Passage). It is named after HMS Beagle, which mapped it during the first cartographic voyage in the 1820's. Of course, today's fame of Beagle stems from the second journey, in early 1830's, when it carried Charles Darwin as the ship's naturalist.

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    At Puerto Guarani, there is a tourist trap: the little wooden pier supports a shed containing what bills itself as "South America's Southern-most Post Office".

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    Inside, throngs of visitors are scouring the goods, looking for the cheapest souvenir that still impresses friends back home. Well, I did that too - End-of-Route-3 sticker still adorns the side case of my GS.

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    Cutting back through the Martial Range, we pass Ushuaia and continue north.

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    Overnight in Rio Grande. The pleasant hotel offers an enclosed parking lot, which for some reason seems like a very good idea there.

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    That evening, we got first whiffs of the famed Patagonian winds. Somehow we got lucky on our way south and felt nothing unusual. Yet, everyone was warning us about them prior to the trip and thus we were beginning to wonder if this was not just a marketing ploy.

    Well, it was not. The powerful wind was bending and moving the vegetation and became a major factor affecting our riding from then on.

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    #17
  18. rdwalker

    rdwalker Long timer

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    Next morning.

    A little stroll through Rio Grande. It's always interesting to explore foreign towns on foot - one does get the sense of life there.

    It's really windy. The power and telephone wires overhead stretch and bow in the air.

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    Local fauna in Rio Grande... quite domesticated.

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    Throughout the region, I have seen these elevated containers for household garbage. Finally, it dawned on me: this is to protect the refuse from the ever-present stray dogs.

    Where I live in NJ, we have bear-proof garbage cans; apparently, on Tierra del Fuego, they have dog-proof garbage baskets.

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    We are packing up and leaving. The plan for the day calls for re-entering Chile and then crossing the Straits of Magellan on board of a ferry from Porvenir.

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    Continuing northwest against the wind, we reach the border crossing. Lewis was trying to prepare his customs paperwork, but it left a lot to be desired. Luckily, Roberto is fluent in Spanish and was able to straighten out any kinks in the procedures.

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    Trying to protect its cultural artifacts and geological fossils from being taken away by tourists, Argentina created this public-service poster. I've seen it at several border crossings and on public buildings.

    The way I understand it with my poor Spanish, the left panel says "Take This", while the right one says "Don't take that".

    Hmmm... I do not know what the poster designers had on their mind, but - given a chance - I'd be very tempted to "Take This".

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    Goodbye, Argentina!

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    And hello, Chile!

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    Of course, more paperwork. Now in the Chilean post, we hand the passports to Policia International and bike titles and importation forms to Aduana (customs).

    A bit of commotion ensues: apparently, there is some problem with the title of one of the KLR's - even though they were already registered in Chile. Again, we were quite happy that Roberto is able to smooth things over.

    I encountered more of this in my youth, but I am not used to such complicated frontier crossings any more. In order to just peek out from Chile into Argentina for a few days and to return, we went through 4 separate immigration checks and 4 separate in-depth custom checks.

    It could be worse: most of the people in the picture were on a tourist bus. Many of them were asked to bring their luggage and run it through a conveyor X-Ray machine, similar to those used at airport security checks.

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    Departing the border, we head now southwest, to reach and follow the shores of Magellan Straits.

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    An obligatory shot of yet another herd of guanacos crossing the road and the fences.

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    Delayed by the winds and by the time spent at the borders, we reach Porvenir just after the departure of daytime ferry to Punta Arenas. The next one is due to leave in the evening - we have several hours to kill: time for a long lunch.

    Beside the expected Spanish mix, this area is also a home to a sizable Croatian population that arrived during a gold rush in the late 1800's (exterminating the aboriginal Selk'nam people in the process, needless to say).

    It was pretty weird to have lunch in "Club Croata", the Croatian social club, located about as far away from the Balkans as one can get on Earth.

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    Lewis and Roberto spend the rest of the afternoon checking up on email in the local Internet and call center.

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    I wander through the streets, but find Porvenir to be a singularly unsightly place. It is a distinctly industrial and utilitarian center of the local fishing and sheep-farming communities.

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    Like most other towns in this part of the world, Porvenir is full of telephone poles and wires strung in every possible direction. Over street intersections, the wires actually have crossings of their own. Pretty neat.

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    But, never mind the streets. The real attraction of Porvenir for me is its location: on the shore of Straits of Magellan. I leave the guys in the Internet café and ride out of town to catch the last light over the waters.

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    The story of Magellan's expedition, their trials and tribulations (and deaths) is quite extraordinary. Just consider the audacity - and greed - of Magellan and his two-hundred-something crew from most of seafaring European nations, setting out on five ships to open a spice route to the Indies.

    The expedition departed Seville in the summer of 1519. Almost exactly three years later, the sole surviving ship, "Victoria", returned to Spain with only 18 of the original crewmen aboard - after completing the first circumnavigation of the globe. Remaining four ships were lost, as were some 230 expedition members, including Magellan himself.

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    It was exciting to be in place so full of maritime history. It is the site of one of these pivotal events that shaped our world; an event that, for better or worse, affected the lives of everyone on Earth.

    The inscription simply states "Straits of Magellan - discovered by Ferdinand Magellan on 21st of October 1520."

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    Just before sundown, the ferry to Punta Arenas gets ready for boarding.

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    Gusts of wind are powerful even on the car deck - we are holding on to the bikes while strapping them down.

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    Curiously, we watch a horse being walked onto the deck. Not something I have ever seen in my North American ferry crossings.

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    Stray dogs watch the proceedings with great interest, but stay put.

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    In short order everything is tightly locked down and ready to sail. (I am not sure about the horse...)

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    Coming out of the Porvenir harbor, we are accompanied by a fishing boat. These are tough waters to work - the men appeared to wear Mustang suits (insulating emergency suits).

    According to what I read about the town, the area is suited only for small fishing boats; larger vessels are held back by the great number of wrecks in the bay.

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    Once in open waters of the Straits, we settle down for the 2-hour crossing. Lewis tries to affect a cultured and intelligent look, but the tiredness from several long days of adventure wins over.

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    Arriving in Punta Arenas in darkness, we quickly check into a hotel and grab a dinner before the restaurant closes.

    I am quite beat - I spread the gear all over my room, with the best intentions of repacking, but instantly fall asleep.

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    #18
  19. quicktoys2

    quicktoys2 ADVrider junkie :)

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    Nice ride report ............ thanks for sharing
    #19
  20. Sportakus

    Sportakus Been here awhile

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    THANKS FOR GIVE US ENJOY :clap :clap :clap
    #20