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Xplore2Gether - California to Ushuaia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JimsBeemer, Mar 6, 2019.

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  1. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    And then .. we made it! Ushuaia! It has been our compass heading for over a year, and now here we are. Words can't describe it. Carol remembers back in Baja Mexico, after a full day on a pretty bad dirt road, thinking "I will never make it!" She was on the edge of giving up then, and several other times. For her in particular this is an amazing day. I am so proud of her.

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    As we rode into Ushuaia, looking for the "Fin del Mundo" sign to get the above picture, we saw two guys riding two-up on a KLR going the other way. I thought "that looks like Mike and Mike!" Mike Siemens and Mike Neudorf, Stahlratte alumni and riders we have bumped into several times starting back at the Mexico/Guatemala border.sd But I didn't expect them to be two-up. Short story - it was them, and they saw us and did a u-turn and caught up with us. And Mike N. took the photo of us at the Fin del Mundo sing - thanks Mike! They were two up because Mike N's DLR decided to throw a bearing (rear wheel) right as they got to Ushuaia, as if to say "Ok, I got you here - I'm done!" He was able to get a new bearing in town, thanks to the third guy in this picture, a local rider who just showed up as we were standing around, who knew the location of a Suzuki shop in town.
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    You have to get this picture or it doesn't count! :-) We spent a week in Ushuaia, and took one day to ride into the National Park to get to the "Fin de la Ruta 3" picture, a staple photo in so many of these ride reports. You can no longer ride your motorcycles up to the side of the sign - they have wooden pylons sunk into the ground to create a barrier, allowing only foot traffic up to the sign. You could get a bike around it, but there are park rangers everywhere, and I didn't want to be that obnoxious tourist who decided the rules didn't apply to him, so we settled for this. A Harley rider from Brazil took the photo for us.
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  2. Ohio_Danimal

    Ohio_Danimal If I die trying, at least I tried

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    DDC84300-887D-465A-BF75-878C4D144F65.jpeg Congrats Jim and Carol. It was great to get a chance to meet you!

    And concerning the sign at Ruta 3’s beginning , the Ranger there told us the pylons were put there to keep overlanders from hitting the sign with their large vehicles when going for pictures. He not only said it was fine for us to park our bikes in front of it, he removed two pylons from the ground to help us!
    So color me obnoxious lol
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  3. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    Wow, what a trip. I admire your tenacity, patience to enjoy specific areas and not just rush through. And what an accomplishment in particular for Carol after her experience in Baja. I have enjoyed your RR very much and look forward to the continuation since your trip is not over yet. Thank you for the detailed reports.
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  4. 95Monster

    95Monster Long timer

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    So cool. So very very cool! Congratulations to you both.
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  5. ADVer

    ADVer Been here awhile

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    Congratulations on making it to your goal!
    You trip down has been an embodiment of ‘Enjoying the journey’ to the destination.
    Well done!
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  6. Tsotsie

    Tsotsie Semi-reformed Tsotsi Supporter

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    Next?
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  7. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Damn! No sabia. I wish we had done it, it makes a great picture!
  8. roadcapDen

    roadcapDen Ass, Grass or Gas, no free rides.

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    Wow! "You made it"
    Liking Miles rig!
    Congrats!
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  9. JoeBiker25

    JoeBiker25 Been here awhile

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    Congratulations!!! So awesome and inspiring!!! Fantastic pics and narrative throughout to boot!
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  10. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    So ... for now we finish this trip, which includes heading north to take the ferry from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt (just completed). We are currently on Chiloé island. From here we will head to Argentina and Bariloche, and will spend some time in that area, and then head to Buenos Aires. So this trip isn't over yet!
    But .. I made contact a few days ago with Dakar Motos in BA, to start arranging for shipping the bikes home; that was a strange thing, to start actively planning for logistics related to the end of the trip. As I said earlier, it would seem natural and easy to just keep ridding, and endless trip as it were. But after over a year on the road and away from family, we really need and want to get back "home" - an ill-defined term since we sold our house and technically have no home, lol. But back with family. Then we'll see! We still are toying with the idea of shipping our bikes to Australia at some point.
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  11. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We spent six nights in Ushuaia, at the Cabañas Aves del Sur. They do not really have parking - but as is so often the case, with motorcycles they find a way, and we were able to park up off the street right next to the gate.

    Most of the hostels and hotels we have stayed in on our trip are not corporate, chain establishments - they are small businesses owned by a type of person or persons that enjoy meeting people from all over the world, and are naturally gifted at the art of hospitality. Which sort of makes sense - and explains why so often you see "the owners were really great people" when riders are describing their stay at some hostel or hotel. Which is a long way to say .. the owners of Cabañas Aves del Sur were really great people! :-) They have owned the place for a long time and are now semi-retired; in the winter they leave the operation of the Cabañas in care of a manager and they head back to their retirement home in the hills outside of Cordoba, where the weather is mild. As long-time residents of Ushuaia, they were great at giving suggestions on where to go, and even made reservations for us for our trip to see the penguins on Isla Martillo.

    We spent our time in Ushuaia touring the museums, taking the day trip to Isla Martillo, and a day hike to Glacier Martial. The museums were interesting - I knew little about Ushuaia other than it is the proclaimed southern most city you can drive to. But after two museums I sort of reach museum saturation! I think we went to four. FWIW - We learned that Puerto Williams (Chile) on and island across the Beagle Channel, visible with binoculars from Ushuaia, is actually further south! But you can't ride your motorcycle there as far as I know!

    Here is a short summary of what I learned and found interesting about Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego:
    Their were four separate indigenous people groups on the island, all eventually died out after the arrival of westerners. They had their land taken, some were killed for "poaching" on land that was now "owned" by colonizers - they had no notion of land ownership. In the end, diseases like measles and typhus, for which they had no built up immunity, played a huge roll in their demise. Unlike the more "civilized" indigenous peoples of Peru and vicinity, these peoples were very basic hunter-gather types living in relatively small groups. The first westerners in Ushuaia and surroundings were Anglican, not Catholic, missionaries. The Anglican missionary Thomas Bridges, and later his son Lucas, became ardent defenders of the native population, recognizing the threat to them from western colonization. Darwin, Cpt. Fitzroy and the ship known as the Beagle were here (I really want to read about the voyages of the Beagle some time after we get back, seeing how prevalent it has been in the histories of the places we've explored, from Ecuador south). Fitzroy discovered the channel that was named after his ship (The Beagle) on his first voyage (w/o Darwin). The town of Ushuaia was just a small outpost until the Argentinian government decided to create a penal colony here in the late 1800's - following the example of the United Kingdom and Australia. That penal colony is what put Ushuaia "on the map" and basically defined the town for decades, until it closed in 1947, after which it slowly morphed into the tourist town it is today.

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    View from the shoreline. The mountains are the constant backdrop to Ushuaia.

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    One of the museums is in the old jail - the displays are actually inside of the old jail cells. The jail is ... a jail, with four "blocks" of cells laid out in four arms from a central courtyard. Some of the worst offenders were sent here, because it was considered to be impossible to escape from.
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    Jail museum - this is the main courtyard where the four arms of cell-blocks meet up.


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    This is Sergey - a Russian born but German raised rider that we met through Mike and Mike (riders from Canada) at dinner our first night in Ushuaia. A few day later when we rode into the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, he pulled up next to us in the parking lot next to the "Fin del Rute 3" sign. We forgot that we were almost out of gas (we had been parked for several days) before we got into the park, and were not sure Carol would make it back out - but Sergey had a gas bladder with him and gave her a few liters - thanks Sergey!

    Sergey has one of the most interesting jobs I've ever heard of: His family business is the procurement and sale of Siberian Mammoth Ivory. A completely legit business it turns out. He is in charge of sales and marketing, and since it is an international business, he can work from about anywhere, so he ships his KTM around to interesting places and rides, and makes sure he has internet connectivity at least every other day to keep up with business.

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    Sergey joined us for a hike from the "Fin de Ruta 3" sign, along a trail that leads out to this vista point. This is not a lake - that is ocean.

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    In the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego

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    In the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego - we ran into this tour group that had another female rider (pillion). All the guys wanted to talk to Carol (hey - I'm just another dude on his BMW), and Carol and this woman really enjoyed each other, despite the language barrier. What we learned is that during summer in Ushuaua there are SO MANY motorcyclists - and many motorcycle tour groups. You will not feel alone :-)

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    Ushuaia is a busy "port of call" for tour boats, as well as a port of origin for the tour boats going to Antartica as well as other local destinations (e.g., Falkland Islands). Almost every day there was a new tour boat or two at the dock.



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    There is another private museum which uses manikins in all of it's displays, giving it somewhat of a "Disney-esque" feel. But it is actually quite interesting, and does a good job of displaying the history of Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. This is me giving Captain Fitzroy a hand at the helm of the Beagle.
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    These are representations of the Selk'nam, also called Ona, indians, one of the four people groups. The headgear here was used in ceremony, and they are supposed to be embodiments of various spirits that were part of their religion. They used these in a coming of age ceremony for young men.

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    This was in the courtyard at the museum - I just thought it was humourous.

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    Cabañas Aves del Sur - and where we parked. Taken as we were about to leave.
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  12. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    I think this will be the last penguin post! These photos are from the day trip we took to the Isla Martillo. This took us by bus to the Estancia Haberton that was built by Thomas Bridges and named after his wife's home town in England. The property is still in the Bridges family four decades later. From the Estancia you get on small boat to go out to the island. There is also a marine museum located next to the Estancia, and that is part of the tour.


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    This is the dock at the Estancia - the boat with teh blue cover is what took us to the island. We managed to luck out and had a perfetly gorgeous sunny day. Our host at the Cabañas Aves del Sur made sure we understood how special it was to have such a day in Ushuaia! SHe told us that even the locals would be out touring on such a day!

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    And ... there were penguins! Lots of penguins.

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    We were told there would be two types of penguins on this island. This is a Gentoo penguin, a type we had not seen before. They are, to my eye, prettier than the Magellanic penguins that we saw on our excursion to Ilsa Magdalena out of Punto Arenas. The orange beak, dusty white cap and white breast are very striking.

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    Gentoo penguin

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    Another Gentoo penguin

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    View from the island - sans penguins, but you can see the penguine feathers on the ground!

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    And .. what!? He (or she) is not supposed to be here! This is a king penguin, and they said only gentoo and magellanic penuins were on this island. I showed the picture to the tour guide and he got excited and asked where I'd seen it. I pointed it out, and he explained that a lone pair of king penguins had shown up three years ago, and had been trying to hatch an egg, and that this was the first year they were successful. The baby penguin is under the belly flap of the adult (mom or pop - not possible to tell by sight).
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    There are other tours that leave by boat from Ushuaia, and stop at other sights along the way, but they do not get off the boat. It was recommended to us that the tour we did was more interesting, since you get out and walk among the penguins. I know it looks like that boat is on the island, but it is just offshore!
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    A magellanic penguin - same species we saw on Isla Magdalena
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    Magellanic penguin next to its burrow.

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    A pair of upland geese mixing it up with the penguins
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    A gentoo penguin on it's rock nest. The three species we have seen all have different nesting habits. The magellanic make burrows in the ground, the king penguins keep the egg and eventually the chick on their feet and under their belly flap, and the gentoo make a more traditional, but rock, nest.
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    Whale skeletons at the marine museum next to the estancia. They had a lot of bones of various sorts. And we got a tour of the de-fleshing house where they take dead sea animals and strip them down to bones. Next pic.
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    This is in the shed filled with dead sea animals being stripped to bone. Note the scarf over the nose ...
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    Some porpoise or such not quite done being converted to skeleton.

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    Me examining a piece of whale baleen at the marine museum.

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    On the way back into town, the bus stopped at this vista point. The way these trees have grown tells you something about the wind!
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  13. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej Supporter

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    Excellent report and pics once more. Just to make sure, is this the place where you stayed? - https://goo.gl/maps/gFL6rWq16SH8cd9H9

    Look forward to the rest of your trip.

    If I may pick your brain. Did you consider doing the trip in reverse? That is, flying your bikes to Buenos Aries, head down to Ushuia then up to the U.S.? Itchy Boots is doing it this way https://www.itchyboots.com/route and I'm intrigued by it. Of course she flew in from The Netherlands.

    I'm wondering if, doing it that way, where getting near the end of the trip would be getting closer to home, would make a difference. I'm planning on following in your footsteps in 2022, so gathering info from the pros. Tks.
  14. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Last bit of Ushuaia pics - these are from the hike we did up to the Martial Glacier. The glacier itself is not so much to see - but the views back down over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel are amazing.
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    Starting out on the trail, which starts out by following a ski run from a now-defunct ski resort that operated here in the past.

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    Eventually you get up past the top of the ski run, and the trail becomes .. a trail.




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    That is the glacier, up ahead, trail clearly visible. It is a very small glacier.

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    The view from the end of the trail, at the base of the glacier. We lucked out with another incredible day, in terms of weather.

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    On the way down we discovered that there is another trail that parallels the ski slope path, which was much more interesting. It goes through some woods, and next to a stream. It is a well developed trail, with stairs in some sections - no idea why the signs direct you to walk up this boring, baren ski slope when ou could go this way.
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  15. Ohio_Danimal

    Ohio_Danimal If I die trying, at least I tried

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    Brilliant posts Jim
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  16. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    One of the things we had to do while we were in Ushuaia was to come up with a plan for what to do next! Of course we had some general idea, but now it had to have some meat to it. Back in Punto Arenas, I contacted the Navimag ferry office about availabililty for the Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt trip, for their posted February 12 departure. But they never responded! I finally was able to call them from Ushuaia, and short of it was that I was able to secure our passage for that February 12 departure, and also learned that you board the evening before, on February 11. So now we had the beginnings of a plan - we needed to be in Puerto Natales by February 10.

    I got this all settled on Wednessday February 5, and realized that with that schedule, we had time to spare. We discussed it and decided we'd much rather "kill time" in Ushuaia (which is gorgeous) than hang around in Puerto Natales, so we extended our stay from four nights to six (thankfully the Cabañas were available for those extra days).

    Our route back would be different - we re-traced our route at first, and spent one night in Rio Grande (at the same apart hotel as on our way down), but rather than going back through Porvenir, we took Rt 257 and the short ferry at Cruce Bahia Azul (name on Argentinian side), and then spent a night in Chile in Punta Delgada. From there we rode to Puerto Natales - three days riding total from Ushuaia to Puerto Natales. And as I mentioned earlier, this route is 100% paved (minus a few miles of construction near the border) vs the 60 miles of ripio coming in from Porvenir.

    Since this was a route more or less presviously travelled, we did not take many pictures. But a highlight was in Riio Grande where we were able to meet up with fellow advrider imate Ohio_Danimal. We have been in contact off an on for months, sharing info on the ride, and he has always been "just behind" us. He is riding with a couple of other people he has met along the way and they had just pulled into Rio Grande heading south. We rode over to the hostel he was staying at (right on the beach - ver nice place) and spent a few hours with him. So glad we were able to meet face to face! He has a great trip report going - if you are not following I recommend you check it out.

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    Ohio_Danimal! Daniel's trip has been a very long one. He started out a couple of years ago then got deathly ill in Mexico, ended up in the hospital and eventually had to go back to the states. Then after recovering, he headed out again - hence the name of his trip report: "Cycle Soutn 2019 la segunda parte." 20200209_203746.jpg
    There are not a lot of places to stay if you take Rt 257 from Rio Grande to Puerto Natales - I can see why a lot of riders just do it in a day. But a short detour takes you to the little town of Punta Delgada, which has a hostel. The is a small town (can't be more than a few hundred people) and has no paved roads, but has all sorts of other infrastructure; sidewalks, a nice park, an exercise area, and other things that seem so out of place. And government signs all over explaining each project, when it started, when it will finish or did finsih, and how much was spent. To me it honestly looked to be the type of thing you get when a politician made some promises, political pork or such. There were so few people here and no one was using these facilities. What they could have used was some paved roads! One interesting note: This is very remote, and we found the generator plant tha provides power for the entire town! They are "off the grid" - except for the (again - government sign explaining the project) coummunity-wide WiFi. That's right - they have free public wifi with signal broadcast all over the town. Pretty bad WiFi, but still.
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    Sunset from Punta Delgada
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    On our way from Punta Delgada to Puerto Natales, we stopped for a break and this gaucho came by hearding a small group of cattle. He was the real deal.
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    What you cannot see is the three dogs that were working with him. They are obscured by the grass and by the time they were in plain site, they were to far away for a good picture. But they were really something to watch - the gaucho really didn't have to do much - he just made various calls and those three dogs did all the work. Our son in law is a cowboy (in Wyoming) and I've learned from him the value of, and difficulty of obataining and training, a good cowdog.
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  17. RidewithAB

    RidewithAB Just Ride! Supporter

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    Nice report Jim, thank you.

    You seem to cross between Chile and Argentina rather casually as opposed to some of the more convoluted and time consuming crossings between Central America/North SA countries. Can you give us a perspective?
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  18. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Then it was ferry time! We boarded Tuesday night (Feb 11, 2020), and the ferry debarked the next morning. We arrived in Puerto Montt Saturday morning, finally getting off the boat around noon. Our cabin had a window, and by putting my Inreach Mini in the window, it was able to get a GPS lock, so I was able to track our route the entire way (minus the first half day before I figured this out). You can check it out on our "Live map" link on our website. We traveled just over 900 miles in 3 1/2 days, and if we had ridden from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, it would have been about 1,300 miles. So that really gave us a jump start on our trip north, and it was mostly enjoyable.

    Mostly enjoyable because there is one section where the boat has to go out on the open ocean, for about 24 hours. They give you plenty of warning so you can start your meds early (which I did) and Carol and I were both "ok" during this part - but just ok. We mostlly laid in our bunks reading and really did not feel up to doing anything else. If you did get up - it was really quite a thing to try and walk about. It made you appreciate what those hand rails are there for! I went out on deck once "just to see" and experience it; it was raining, cold, and the sea (which I'm sure was not so bad from a mariners perspective) was rolling big time (from my perspective). Meals are served cafeteria style in a big dining hall, and usually there would be a long line unless you got there early. But that night at dinner, it was EMPTY! We were one of the few who felt up to eating food. And walking across the open floor of the dining hall to get to the food line was quite a thing - nothing to hold onto! You really were walking at an angle to the floor as the boat tossed back and forth.

    But then it was back into the channel and calm again - and overall it was a great choice. Thanks agian to 95Monster for getting me to reconsider this option.

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    Our cabin - we paid to have a cabin to ourselves, and used the upper bunks to store our luggage. The window allowed me to track the journey using our Inreach Mini.
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    The first day and a half are the most scenic - some really increadible scenery as the boat meanders through the channels, sometimes going through some very narrow passages.
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    The narrow passage to the right is the one we went through. When the boat was in the middle of it, it was strange to look off both sides of the boat and see land so close!
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    A closup of the same passage. This is as we are approaching it. Note the rainbow.

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    Lots of glaciers. The montains to the right (east) are butted up against the "Great Southern Ice Field" which after Greenland is the second largest ice field on the planet, and it spawns most of the glaciers (including Perito Moreno) in southern Patagonia, including the ones you see on theis voyage.
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    That is a life boat. They are an enlosed cabin, and are motorized with a single prop at the back, operated from the watch tower at the top.
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    Giant Petrel. There was almost always a couple of these following the boat. I enjoyed the challenge of getting a picture - the trick I learned is to use shutter priority with high sutter spead, and then to follow the bird as it goes by with the camera.
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    Before Puerto Montt, the ferry makes one stop at this isolated fishing village - only access is by sea.
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  19. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We got a tour of the bridge one day. It has an auto-pilot! I guess it isn't surprising - I expect that on an airplane, but somehow had not considered that ships would have similar.
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    This guy is the 2nd mate - "Number two" as it were. And both Carol and I were stunned at his close resemblance to Commander Riker, "Number two" from Start Trek Next Generation! He just followed with a watchful eye as our tour guide gave the tour.

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    This was one of theh two tour guides on the boat. I feel bad but I forget his name. These guys did everything - they were naturalists, and gave lectures on flora and fauna of the region. They helped with the loading and unloading of cargo. They swept floors. And here he is giving us a pretty detailed explanation of how the ship navigates, and what each piece of equipment does.


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  20. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    We had left the decision on whether or not to go to the island of Chiloé up in the air - we figured we'd check the weather forecast when we got to Puerto Montt and decide. Our friends and fellow riders Chris and Sharron had been there a month before, and suggested that if it is forecasted for rain, it might not be worth the trip, but if weather was good, we should definitely go. When we got near Puerto Montt I had cell signal again and could check the forecast. It called for mix of sun and cloudy with showers; we decided to go for it. We had a few hours to kill while they got us docked, let all the other "non-vehicle" passengers off, and then moved some containers and trucks out of the way before we could get off. So during that time I found and booked a hotel on Chiloé in the town of Ancud. We finally were allowed to go down to the cargo deck with our gear around noon, and after loading up, we took off for what was supposed to be a quick 2.5 hour ride.

    Since my Garmin NAV VI died some time ago, I am relying on my phone and Google Maps for navigation, which normally is fine. I entered the hostel as destination, and Google routed us onto Rt 5, a major highway which continues onto and through to the end of Chiloé, and then it started raining. We stopped and pulled on some gear - and kept going. Google said "do this" or "do that" and I dutifully did - and it took us off of Rt 5, and after a while I noted that the route was getting more and more "rural". Then the pavement ended. Mind you - it has been raining now for hours, and what probably was an ok dirt road was now mud. We road for a mile or so and it was slippery. I thought "this just doesn't seem right!" I knew that the road to Chiloé should be a pretty major road. So I told Carol to stop so I could check on the route. Hard to do in the rain because the touch screen doesn't work so well with rain drops falling! But I was able to zoom out and could see that Google had taken us off of Rt 5 on a shorter path via some (very) secondary roads. We were only about 10 miles from getting back on Rt 5 just before the ferry, but as far as I could tell, that was going to be all dirt, now mud, and I was sure one or both of us had a good chance of going down. Going down in the mud is not fun. So I told Carol we were going to back track, all the way (about 30 miles) to Rt 5 if we had to - and she was all for that! But looking at the map, I noted that there was a side road a ways back that connected with Rt 5, which would shorten our back-track route, if it was paved. I decided to ask Maps.me (which will tell you if the road is upaved) and it suggested that exact route, with no indicaiton of lack of aslphalt.

    So we headed back, and I left Google Maps on and routing, to see what it would do as we disregarded orders and backtracked. I figured that sooner or later it would come to it's senses and route us via Rt 5. But even as we were approaching Rt 5, a mile away, it was telling me to turn down one dirt path after the other, or do u-turns. Finally, once we were on Rt 5 (which is basically an interestate freeway at that point) Google is still trying to get me to get of and take side roads. At a toll stop, I had an epiphany. No way Google could be that screwed up! Only one possibility. I tapped on "settings" and ... sure enough; the "Avoid Highways" option was selected!

    I have no idea how that option got turned on, but to be fair, this was not Google Maps fault - it was doing what I had told it to do! It was operator (me) error, and cost us an extra hour driving in a cold rain. We were wet and tired by the time we pulled into our hostel in Ancud. We walked to a grocery store, bought some food and were happy to use the hostel kitchen to make dinner.

    Not much in the way of pictures to go with that story - to wet for pictures! Below is a shot of the Evangelista (name of the ferry) pulling into the dock at Puerto Montt. Rain has not started yet at this point.
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    chilolac, Kyron, jowul and 1 other person like this.