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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by marcoue, Jul 8, 2016.
Thanks! Great to have you with us!
Thank you sir!
Day 101 to 107 – Chile – The Gateway to Patagonia
2017-01-18 – Day 101 – Santiago, CL to Colbùn, CL (350 km – 4,5 hrs)
2017-01-19 – Day 102 – Colbùn, CL to Concepcion, CL(274 km – 4,5 hrs)
2017-01-20 – Day 103 – Concepcion, CL to Pucon (463 km – 6,5 hrs)
2017-01-21 – Day 104 – Around Pucon, CL (33 km – 1 hrs)
2017-01-22 – Day 105 – Around Pucon, CL (60 km – 1 hrs)
2017-01-23 – Day 106 – Pucon, CL to Puerto Varas, CL (373 km – 5,5 hrs)
2017-01-24 – Day 107 – Puerto Varas, CL
Patagonia unofficially starts around the region of Chaiten, located 1500 km south of Santiago. It is perfect this way as this allowed me to get used again to my life on a motorcycle and restart the routine of my trip.
I left Santiago on January 18th with an initial objective to go to Pucon, but since my motorbike got out of the workshop only early in the afternoon, I reviewed my plans.
I did not really decide on a destination, if only a big region about 300 km to the south where several lakes are present. With the help of the ioverlander.com website and of its iPhone app, I looked at some places with the possibility of camping, because it was out of question that spent the night in a city. I also took my time by taking the small roads and that sometimes provided gravel portions. I arrived near the village of Colbùn around 5:00 PM, where I drove a dirt track along a big lake to end up finding in this place all to myself!
A few wild horses to keep me company…
I spent a quiet evening, even if my Chilean friends have to make noise that seems to cover the whole country as soon as the sun sets. It is nevertheless sad to waste such a quiet place with loud boom boom music.
But I nevertheless appreciated the moment and I woke up the following day quite late. I slowly lined up my things and set off around 10:00 AM to get to a big city which I was always curious to visit, Concepcion.
I took the time to reserve a hostal but unfortunately, when I arrived, the room was not available anymore and I had to go to only other available low-cost establishment, but it was so disgusting! Thank God it was only for a night!
It is not obvious to find cheap accommodations in Chile. On top of that, I have 2 very important criteria. First, no dormitories. My apologies, but I passed the age! Also, the place must have secure parking for my motorbike. If I had a 100$ budget per night, it would not be a problem, but I try not to spend more than 40$/night for this country, and it is proving to be a real challenge.
The road between Colbùn and Concepcion reminds me of some places of California and Canada. At the beginning, climate is very dry, there were several vineyards and I crossed countless wildfires!
Then, things progressively change to forests with large pines and the smell is exactly the same as in the Laurentides region, north of Montreal in the Quebec, during our beautiful summers.
I programmed my GPS not to use the motorway, therefore I got lucky and found myself driving alone on small quiet dirt tracks along farms and forests. It was very quiet and I appreciated driving slowly during several hours.
Concepcion is relatively large and the centre is very dynamic. Unfortunately, it is also very loud, especially due to the hundreds of old buses which go up and down at full speed on almost every street. There is a place reserved for the pedestrians in the centre, but the city was definitely constructed to favour cars and this is passed on in the vibe the city gives me. A lot of automobiles driving fast, many buses and taxis and as a bad memory of Peru, several drivers make a stupid usage of their horn…
It’s centre is not very refined in terms of restaurants and boutiques. The city is also a bit dirty. It is sad, because it is obvious that the local administration went thru a great deal of trouble to construct modern and sometimes impressive facilities, but by looking closely, maintenance is not there and it spoils the show.
As you can see, it is not, according to my criteria, a detour that was justified.
On January 20th, I headed for the region of Pucon. The road was correct, and once again, very similar to the roads of Canada. I tried to take the country roads, which are much more fun as the 90 kilometres which I had to go through on the highway 5 were not interesting at all.
When I got on the road leading to Pucon and passing thru Villarrica, it was a complete mess. I think that half of the population of the country arranged to meet in the region for this summer weekend! 2 cities are overcrowded and as it’s more than 30 degrees Celsius, I only made a quick stop, because I was a very warm in my motorbike gear.
I headed directly to a hostal that I had reserved online, located about 20 minutes outside the city. The place is a cottage with several rooms that are rented to tourists. As it is now custom, it was quiet during the day, but at night, when all clients were back, it became rather busy! The owners are great and helpful, but a single night here will be sufficient!
I was nevertheless took the time to take a nice walk to have a better view on the volcano called Villarrica, which besides being an important attraction for the region, is really splendid and imposing.
On the 21st, I packed my bags and headed for a mystical place at the motorcyclists Motocamp Pucon. I was hesitant to arrive during the weekend, but it was not justified and it is a wonderful place (I come back to it a little later).
I left my things there to rive to Parque Nacional Huerquehue to do a quick hike in forest. The place is very touristy and it is only a few kilometres of walking that I could really enjoy the moment.
A new friend, not at all impressed by my presence!
At the end of the day, I set up my things on one of the tables of the big terrace at Motocamp Pucon to spend a quiet evening and working on my blog, but the this was fast transformed into a small party. I got to bed way too late, and I drank way too much Pisco, thanks to a fellow Chilean rider!!!
Thank you also to Christian, the owner of the establishment, for his warm welcome and his good advice! A truth overlander with a motorcycle round the world trip under his belt!
Small side note on this place which is simply incredible. His owner is not only an adventurer, he is also an architect and this marriage of knowledge make the place perfect for travellers like me. Do not to miss if you are in the region, even without a motorbike! A note of 10 out of 10!
He is also a very good cook, starting with his great technique of the artificial volcano to light his BBQ! Only on match is needed!
The following morning, it was a bit difficult to get up, having quite a headache! I nevertheless took some time to work on the bike and later, I drove to the ski centre located at the bottom of the Villarrica volcano.
I then parked the motorbike and walked a bit in the city of Pucon. Interesting, but not my type of place. Way too many tourists! The beach was completely overcrowded of Chileans! It was even difficult for me to get to the water to take a picture because it was so packed! Not my type of place at all!!! The city is a bit of a bad crossing between Banff and Ogunquit during a 4th of July long weekend!
I also had the privilege to try a small and very new motorbike. It so much different from my bike that I looked and felt like a beginner!
I also met Thomas (and his spouse) who arrived directly from Germany 5 days ago and are also making their way south on their BMW 800GS!
Departure from Motocamp Chile was a bit difficult… It is such a great place!
But the landscapes driving towards Puerto Varas, especially when using the small roads, made me forget what I left behind!
Puerto Varas is also very touristic, but in a much more lesser than Pucon. I feel much more comfortable in this type of place. It is, however, necessary to mention that it was a week day. I might also get very crowded during the weekends. Besides, as you can determine from the photos, the Patagonia climate begins to sets slowly but surely!
Some weeks ago, when I had had problems with my suspension, I reached for assistance on the Internet, and more precisely, on the Facebook page from Horizon Unlimited. One of the persons to give me judicious advice was Daniel Palazzolo, an American from Atlanta, but but who now resides in Puerto Varas with his Chilean spouse. He is an accomplished mechanic, but also an experienced businessman at the head of Motorbike Patagonia, a firm providing motorcycle expeditions in the south of Chile.
We kept in touch and I ended up changing my route, which was supposed to go thru Puerto Montt, to meet him in Puerto Varas.
We went out for a couple of cold beers in the evening of January 23rd and he helped me to optimize my plans for Patagonia. He also proposed a tour of the region the following day, but the sky was a bit grey and I really had no energy to drive for anything else but to advance southward, therefore I took the time to go for a much needed 10K jogging session along the lake, and even had a small siesta in afternoon!!!
That evening, Daniel invited me at his home to have diner with his girlfriend and a couple of friends from Oregon, but have been living here for the past 3 years. A superb night surrounded by nature, birds, a superb view of the lake and the mountains. Thank you Dan! I strongly recommend this guy as guide for all of those who would like to make part of this trip without starting in Canada. Besides being a certified mechanic, he knows the region very well and is one really cool guy. On top of that, his motorcycle fleet, made up of KLR’s, is very recent and in perfect condition. I invite you to visit his website: www.motopatagonia.com
Day 108 to 110 – Chile – Carretera Austral
2017-01-25 – Day 108 – Puerto Varas, CL to Pucon, CL (323 km – 17 hrs)
2017-01-26 – Day 109 – Pucon, CL to Coyhaique, CL (453 km – 8,25 hrs)
2017-01-27 – Day 110 – Coyhaique, CL to Cochrane (323 km – 8 hrs)
The Carretera Austal is one the most mystical route of the planet. I suffered driving it, but it proved to be some of the nicest moments of my adventure!
In the morning of February 24th, I left my hostal at 6:00 AM to finally undertake the famous Carretera Austral. The first part takes place between Puerto Montt and Chaiten, and features 3 ferries.
I did my duties and searched for the information but sources sometimes contradict themselves, therefore I validated the info with the tourist office of Puerto Varas, which gave me a brochure and confirmed that with a moto, no reservation was necessary.
The first crossing was not problematic because it is very short. it links Arenas and Puelche and is available every 30 minutes.
The next passage is much longer and there is, according to the brochure, a departure at 10:30 and another one at 14:30. The link is between Hornopirén and Caleta Gonzalo.
The last ferry is about 45 minutes and located only 15 minutes down the road from the arrival port from the previous crossing. it is part of the previous trip, therefore included in the ticket price bought for the previous passage.
I board the first ferry without any worries and head for the next point.
As you can see, not much room for La Gorda!
My 2 GPS’s send me to the same place for the departure of the next ferry but when I get there, around 10:00 AM, it is completely dead and I have a feeling that something was wrong. I ask a person who was standing by the water when was the next crossing and he responds that there is not boat here, that the the ferry is located in a city that I went by 30 minutes ago!
I therefore go back full throttle to try to make it before the 10:30 departure!
My efforts were not in vain because I arrived at 10:25, except that there was no boat at the port! I entered the office where they sell tickets to get told that the boat was et 9:30, that there is another one at 12:30 but that it is full and as I do not have a reservation, I can get on the 16:30 one… With the consequence that I am going to arrive at a destination around 23:00 and that I have almost 6 hours to wait!
Having no other choice, I buy the ticket, hoping that they could let me take the next ship, considering that my motorbike does not take a lot of space. Indeed, I was always cable to board on all ferries that I took in North America without reserving.
Unfortunately, this is not going to be the case today. 2 days ago, the ship got fined for having had too many passengers on board and so, starting a couple of days ago, they do not let any one on board above 257 passengers. I tried hard, by every possible means (please read between the lines!) but unsuccessfully. The boat left with space for several additional vehicles… But without me.
For those who would want to reserve in the future: www.tausrtral.cl
The only thing to do was to get changed and go for a walk in the small village. I ended up in a small feria and I ate like a pig! A great piece of lamb cooked on coal (parrilla), great home fries, all of it accompanied with almost a litre of Crema de Aji Chilena. Wow!
I also chatted a bit with other motorcyclists who were waiting just like I was. Most of them were from Chile and Argentina, and on smaller motorbikes (125cc to 650cc). Most will not go to Ushuaia.
Guess who boarded first! We finally left the harbour around 17:00.
Landscapes are superb and I am extremely lucky to get good weather.
We arrived around 20:00 and as planned, the drive towards the other ship took 15 minutes on a small dirt road, full of dust. Thank god I could leave before all the cars!
The last ferry was waiting for us we arrived at the destination around 22:00. I had another hour of driving which I did relatively slowly because the sun had set and visibility was reduced.
To my surprise, the hotel I had reserved is clean and welcoming, in spite of the fact what I am in a small isolated village!
I have a cold beer a good bag of healthy chips (!) before getting to bed. It didn’t take much effort to fall asleep that night!
The following day, my objective is to get to Coyhaique. But what was waiting for me was one of the most difficult motorcycle days of the trip.
And it started with this!
On a bike, riding on a gravel road can be very difficult. By car, it is unpleasant because there is a lot of vibration and it is necessary to reduce speed, but on a motorcycle, it is sometimes almost impossible to stay up, and this, especially when the road has just been graded.
In that particular case, I was driving in several centimetres of gravel and it was simply impossible for me to go on.
I was going slowly, therefore no damage, if only for a bruised ego. Except that to find myself in such a situation after only a few kilometres of the Carretera Austal is rather discouraging, considering that there are more than 1500 km left!
Some sections were paved but the most part was in gravel, under construction and in very bad state. The day was very very long and I worked extremely to deserve my arrival in Coyhaique.
My super 5 start hotel!
Seeing this city appear was nevertheless surprising. To find a community of more than 40000 inhabitants, having gone through such an isolated road was like a mirage in the desert!
I left early the following day in spite of the rain. It was not an option staying one more night in this place! The first 100 km is made on a perfect road and I drive relatively fast in spite of the rain and cold. The true challenge was the first 50 kilometres of the gravel road I had to drive in. Phew… Really not easy. Big round stones which make me go from one side to the other. Not fun!
At least, the scenery is great!
Later, the state of the road improves and the show becomes sublime! I am going to let the pictures talk.
A rather proud warrior, having survived the Carretera Austral!
Next stop, Argentina!
Premier mot qui me vient en tête..WOW! Quelle paysage magnifique! Merci de partager avec nous Marc!!
Magnificent photos! Thank you for taking the time to share...
Wow! That looks pretty steep!
thanks for sharing your adventure Marcoue, I'm taking notes - I especially like the non-touristy slant to your preferences and think I'd like to do it much the same way. You're getting some great photos and making me really miss my GSA.
Merci! Ça me fait plaisir. J'ai tellement appris en lisant les blogues d'autres aventuriers que c'est la moindre des choses!
My pleasure and thanks for taking the time to read and comment!!!
My pleasure. I know I might sound negative sometimes but it reflects how "I" feel. it should not be taken at face value. I have had the opportunity to travel a lot in the past, including in Central and South America. This may be why some of the things seem very "touristy". I guess it is also part of the trip. After all, I did and will visit great places and it's only normal that others want to visit them. That said, I do my best to keep clear of places that are tourist bubbles, in other words, places that would not exist if tourism wouldn't be present. It's not always easy but I've managed pretty go so far, in my opinion.
Well, tonight, I'm in El Chalten, Argentina, and oh my... Only tourists here, but the feel of the village is great. Almost everyone here made a huge effort to get all the way to Patagonia and are looking forward to some great kicking. It makes the vibe much better.
I must also note that food and accommodation are VERY expensive. Oh well, I might come here only once in my life so what the hell!
I wish I could post pictures but the connection is very very sloooooooow!
To tell you the truth, it was not at all! Just an optical thing (and a incredibly good photographer!! :)). Nothing compared to Peru!
Only 1,500 miles or so to Ushuaia. Thanks for the updates and photos.
haaaaa, El Chalten, que de souvenirs (microbrasserie bien sympathique!). Bonne continuation...
Yes, almost there!!!
Je confirme... Plusieurs microbrasserie et mal de tête assuré le lendemain matin!
Day 111 to 115 – Argentina – Routa 40 and my First Steps into Patagonia
2017-01-28 – Day 111 – Cochrane, Cl to Gobernador Gregores, AR (439 km – 8,5 hrs)
2017-01-29 – Day 112 – Gobernador Gregores, AR to El Chalten, AR (296 km – 5,5 hrs)
2017-01-30 – Day 113 – El Chalten, AR
2017-01-31 – Day 114 – El Chalten, AR to El Calafate, AR (218 km – 2,75 hrs)
2017-02-01 – Day 115 – El Calafate, AR to Perito Moreno Glacier, AR (151 km – 2 hrs)
The Carretera Austral was a real challenge, but the famous Road 40, leading the Terra del Fuego in Argentina, might just well be even more difficult as it’s very isolated, but also, because some of the road portions are hit by strong winds and in very bad condition.
As if what was waiting for me was not enough, I decided to thru a remote road. Most people head towards Chile Chico, but I decided, after judicious advice from Daniel (motopatagonia.com, from Pucon), to venture towards Paso Rodolfo Roballos, an alternate border crossing between Chile and Argentina.
I left my superb 5-star hotel (no comments!!!) at about 9h30, which is a bit late. Since I left Santiago, I have a tendency to eat get to sleep quite late and it is a bit difficult for me to wake in the morning! The sun sets late here, therefore it is less problematic if I need to drive past dinner time. The morning is cool and I must slip on my heating jacket. What happiness to have this piece of equipment with me.
I must drive back 20 kilometres northward to get to the intersection heading east. Rapidly, the landscape is completely transformed, passing from green mountains to a more deserted scene.
I make new friends, but they are not very social. They are very shy and run away quite fast!
The road stretches for several dozen kilometres. I crossed only a coupe of cars and I also met 2 Canadians on motorbikes. They are from British Columbia. I come back to it a little later.
The road seems to stretch out infinitely. It reminds of me of when I was lost on remote roads in Peru. The difference here, what helped me a lot to be more serene and to appreciate the landscape, is that I know that it is an official road and where it leads! This long gravel road section was one of the nicest moments of my trip. Perfect weather, isolation, good gravel road, animals, all of these ingredients together is the perfect recipe for a feeling of pure happiness!
After a few hours of driving, I arrive at the Chilean customs post. Procedure takes 5 minutes and 2 agents are nice extremists. Why it isn’t always so simple to pass borders?
The place is quite isolated, but I am apparently not the first adventurer to come thru here! It is nevertheless touching, because I must admit that some of the stickers from people I followed on the web during several months while preparing the trip. Now, it is me who is here, in 24000 km from Montreal, lost at the border between Chile and Argentina, in Patagonia!!!
Afterwards, I head towards the office of the Argentinian carabineros, located 15 km east. Passage is also very simple. I import my motorbike as well as myself in 5 minutes. Insurance proof was not asked for. My bike is permitted to stay in the country 6 months. As for me, I have a 3-month tourist visa, but it is not so important as I am going to go back to Chile in a few days.
I am not a big fan of selfies, but I could not resist here. My big face spoils the photo quite a bit, you understand why I do not use this technique too often!
Entering Argentina, 3 things happen….
The region becomes almost instantly deserted
The famous strong Patagonian winds make their appearance
Road quality degrades badly
Some stretches are really dangerous and it is essential to be completely concentrated on driving the bike. Gravel is not as what we have in North America. Stones are not crushed. Here, the road is composed of big round rocks. On 4 wheels, it is difficult, because it is easy to reck components under the car. On a motorbike, it is like trying to walk on a surfboard or a floor made of balls.
I did, many times, almost drop the bike but no damage. This time…
After a few days driving on gravel, this sight was a pure joy!
Even if winds are extremely strong, asphalt and motorcycles make a very pair! I even could, when the wind came from behind, drive as fast as 180 km/h without feeling anything, in silence, as though I was stopped! It is really special.
On the other hand, when I must fight frontal wind, I am happy to have a motorbike equipped with a good windscreen and a good protection for the legs. I raise my hat to people who pass thru this place with smaller bikes. It must be very exhausting to fight this dreadful force. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to take a photo of the wind!
One of the problems in the Argentinian Patagonia is filling up. I am lucky to have a machine with a normal autonomy of more than 500 kilometres per tank. Some can only go through 200 or 250 kilometres, what is an issue here. For example, I went drove 250 km between Cochrane and this petrol station, located in the tiny village of Bajo Caracoles.
And guess what, the guys simply decided to close the pumps, because it was the birthday of one of their friends, and that they absolutely had to participate in the party! If I was the only place where people could fill up for hundreds of kilometres, I would plan a timetable to remain open and be able to serve people in need!
Lessons learned, always have a lot of patience or to plan enough petrol to have the luxury to be able to pass one of the stops.
I chose the second option!
Everything is good, I had enough petrol to get to the next service station located in the superb (read: the opposite) village of Gobernador Gregores. It unfortunately was not the case for several other drivers who had been parked there for several hours.
In this city, which is a compulsory stop more than a place that needs to be visited, I paid myself the luxury of the nicest hotel around. Fortunately, it was not too expensive (around 50$). It feels so good to sleep in a warm, quietly, modern and clean place with a bed which does not date from the previous century!
The wind was blowing very hard in the village and I could not cook (impossible to light my stove). I therefore searched for a small restaurant, but I determined 2 things.
Firstly, prices are mad, then, after having found a small that was not so bad, I noted that people smoked inside bars and restaurants. Yes, yes, in 2016!
It was out of the question that I spent more than 30 seconds in this place which smelt an old ashtray.
I ended up getting 4 empanadas in a corner bakery for a few dollars, opened a wine bottle, which I always carry with me for such emergencies, and used my luxurious and clean room to dine!
This Gaucho spent the evening on his horse with his dog braving the wind and cold. A true combatant! Or perhaps I had too many Quilmes (the local beer!)?
The next day, a challenge was waiting for me.
Indeed, a portion of the road 40 is not paved and has a nasty reputation! Big stones, holes, construction, but especially the wind, which makes it difficult to go thru it with a motorbike, and sometimes, impossible. It is strongly recommended not to venture on it in case of rain, because some portions become very muddy.
The first portion, about 70 km, is in perfect condition. The wind is however present, but I push it and go through the distance in a little more than 35 minutes (make your own calculations!).
Then, this is what I get myself into…
With this consequence…
The only thing which makes driving here possible on a motorcycle is, for the pilot, to stay in the tracks made by 4 wheels vehicules. They are about 30 to 60 centimetres wide. I must concentrate all the time not to deviate from my trajectory. Even looking in my rear-view mirrors is difficult, it is essential to keep your eyes on the road so that the front wheel does not go towards one of the stony borders which are present on each side of the track.
It is not possible for a person not riding a motorbike to understand the feeling being in this type of situation. I swear to you that it is even sometimes difficult to walk in this type of gravel as it is so deep, unstable and hollow.
I am not a racing driver, I am not a professional motorcyclist, I have never driven motocross or enduros, but I have, nevertheless, a little bit of experience on the gravel behind the handlebar of a big GS. When the track, which I was following, simply disappeared and found myself in 30 centimetres of loose gravel, there was nothing to be done. I knew that I am going to fall.
Problem, it is that I was driving at speeds between 60 and 70 km/h.
The first thing to be made when the ground becomes softer (sand, gravel, mud) is to try to go faster! Indeed, transferring the weight of the motorbike towards the back allows to gain more speed and to augment the centrifugal forces produced by the wheels (my apologies if I’m not using the proper physics notions!) and to, as a reaction, augment the capacity of the motorbike to remain vertical, in spite of the opposite forces which are applied.
That morning, there was simply too many forces which worked against me. The gravel was too deep, too big and rounded stones and the wind was very violent. My choice was narrowed to how I was going to put to lie motorcycle to rest! I did try to move accelerate, but I rapidly realized that I was going to be on the ground soon enough. I then tried to decelerate as slowly as possible with the rear brake, but shock was violent.
Luckily, damages were very minor. It’s as if the deep gravel had smoothen the shock. The right pannier is a bit bent, there are some scrapes on the protectors, but fortunately, only on the motorbike! I am OK, if ever somebody wondered him!:)
However, ironically, I laughing my head off, as though I knew that this is going to happen and that finally, it did. But also, as though now, it was a formality, or something insignificant to find the 250 kilograms beast in the horizontal position, having a small siesta (how would say my friend Peter P.!).
It was my third fall in 24000 km. Not so bad! Just enough not to start making too much out of it anymore. Of course, this always remains a kind of failure to drop La Gorda for me, after all, my only responsibility towards her is to keep her vertical! But its scars will be a reminder of our superb adventure!
I had to take my backpack off to be able to pick up the bike, and all this time, I was laughing!
For many years my previous career, I have studied, or should I say, tried to understand, and I trained myself against the effects of vision tunnel during crisis situations. Here is a nice example of my failure! During all this time, I had not even seen that I had this friend who was looking at me from a short distance, probably having made the jump of all the noise produced by Gorda when embracing the gravel and thinking: “What is this Canadian doing here? Trying to disturb me during my lunch?”.
About 70 kilometres farther, I crossed, in the middle of nowhere, the small village of Tres Lagos.
Lots of action in town this afternoon!
Let’s get back to the 2 travellers I met the day before just before the Argentine border. While I took I was taking a break (a rare one for those who know me!), they passed by and stopped to rest a bit as well. We shared our stories and the continued on our respective paths. They are really nice and very well prepared. They travel much lighter than I do! I nevertheless passed them at good speed the day before on a gravel road! Boys will be boys!
I unfortunately do not have their names, but I raise my hat to them to travel this way, with each their bikes, camping almost every evening… I could also make do it, but for several reasons, I decide mostly to get myself a room at the end of the day. I know to what extent it is necessary to work hard to camp at the end of a long stretch of riding. Make it night after night, and especially in Patagonia, where nature has completely the control over you, a something which I admire. Bravo!
The last 150 km are done on a superb road, especially when arriving at El Chalten, where huge mountains and glaciers suddenly make their appearance. Ah yes, and so did the rain!!!
Prices to eat and sleep in this city are completely mad. The day before, I had reserved an modest room in a hostal for 115$ per night. Wow! My technique here differs a bit from the rest of the trip. First of all, I do a research with hotels.com or booking.com. I also use Google Maps and the iOverlander.com app.
I am hesitant to reserve online, because if something happens and I am not able to get to my destination, I still have to pay for that night.
What I do here, to avoid this, is to contact the hotel directly to reserve by telephone, as almost everywhere in Latin America, they do not ask to get your credit card number to secure a room. I am therefore free to go or not.
In this case, I was able, by knocking on a few doors, to find a great big room for 35 % less! As I make do, I took the time to contact the other hotel to cancel. It is a question of respect and it is, I believe, always appreciated, especially in the smaller establishments.
Unfortunately, winds were very much present as well as strong rain at times. I therefore rested a bit in my great big room and prepared my things for a trek which I was planning to do the following day.
I went out to try to find myself a beer in a market not very far from my hotel. The city is very dynamic, filled with tourists, but with a positive vibe. People who are here have worked (or paid) extremely hard to get there and the majority enjoy trekking and nature.
The consequence, of course, is that the offer does not meet the request and restaurant prices are prohibitory. I resolved, once again, to eat empanadas at the hotel!
Some might think that I am little greedy.
Yes, you are right, but it is necessary to put it in perspective. I am on this trip since September. I must pay the big price for almost every minute that I sleep and every calorie that I eat. I make a serious effort to keep things to a reasonable cost, but in Patagonia, it is a difficult task.
The village of El Chalten, during a few minutes per year while it is not covered with clouds and rain!
In the morning of January 30th, I had a superb trek towards the mirador of mount Fitz Roy. The trail starts in the city therefore not need to drive. What a bonus! The wind is blowing very hard and the time is variable. When clouds recede, it is necessary to make it quick taking pictures! It really changes fast.
The forests are impressive. Trees do demonstrate very well the toughness of the climate as they have to fight the elements season after season to survive.
In just a few minutes, clouds make their appearance!
The trail was about 10 kilometres one way, and is nor difficult or technical, but nevertheless rather long it’s a good workout for the old knees! Some portions are exposed. It is therefore necessary to bring good clothes for the cold, wind and rain. Note that the last kilometre is rather abrupt, but nothing tragic.
After a 3 hours walk, I arrive at the mirador. Unfortunately, the cloud cover spoils the show, but still, what happiness of the old hiker!
The next morning, I finally had the chance to observe the show for which so many people come here! Impressive!
I then headed for El Calafate, a big city per say, but nevertheless a very touristic ambience. The main street, which is called, as in 99 % of other Argentinean cities, San Martin, is overcrowded with restaurants and tourist shops. Although the place is nice, and that I now in mystic Patagonia, I’suppose that I’m beginning to be impatient getting out of this circuit dedicated to tourism as it’s becoming a bit too artificial to my taste…
While driving the Carretera Austral, I had met a couple from Massachuset who rented a motorbike in Osorno, Chile and going almost thru the same path as I was, but ending it Puerto Natales. It is special to cross paths again in a small grocery of a town, in another country, more than 1000 km from where we met! This time, we took the time to swap our information and who knows, we might perhaps meet again before the end of their trip.
Driving a GS in flip-flops??? Hem, not sure!
February 1st already! The day is dedicated sorely to drive to and visit the famous Perito Moreno glacier. It is a very touristic place which is also a compulsory stop in Patagonia. I’m quite lucky and the day almost perfect, with no wind and a superb 21 degrees!
Summer is back and the season of selfies as well… Twice in so many days! But I have a good excuse, it is rare to find a stop with a big enough rock to perfectly position the camera for a shot of La Gorda and El Canadiense!
Perito Moreno is about 75 kilometres from El Calafate. The road is superb and worth the detour by itself.
And of course, so is the glacier.
It is very difficult to show the magnitude of such site in a photo, especially with a small pocket camera and an iPhone!
Here is the first test. Do you see the boat navigating close to the glacier? Hint. it is right in the centre of the photo.
Here it is with the help of the zoooooom from my great 100$ Canon camera! Even if it looks like a rowboat, it is a ship with a hundred passengers. It gives a small perspective of the sheer size of the glacier, well, the visible part. Several dozen kilometres are not visible behind and many meters below water as well.
I am not the only adventurer wanting to visit this wonder of nature.
Another selfie??? No no! Technically it is not since another person took the picture.
The glacier is more than 60 metres high.
A footbridge is build throughout the path.
This small protuberance is… 200 metres high!
When one of these mastodons breaks loose from the wall, the sound is impressive, unique and intimidating.
Just before dinner time, I was invited by the local radio station for an interview to describe my trip and my preparation. Cool! And all of this in Spanish. Thanks to Sivia Sotelo Echeverria from FM 100,3 El Calafate for this unique experience!
I often think how I would have been able to convince my girlfriend to accompany me on such a 6-month trip… Have I found the answer!
And a parking sport for La Gorda! Oh Lala!
La Routa 40 was not easy, but I was in for imperishable memories and I could finally demystify a place which I wanted to know for many years!
Tomorrow, I go back into Chile and I make the final approach towards what will be the final point of my trip south. Tierra del Fuego, also known under El Fin del Mundo, The End of the World.
I've been with you from the start. Excellent adventure and thank you for taking the time to share this with us! You are inspiring!
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