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South to Ushuaia

Leaving Buenos Aires behind, it’s a 3-day ride across the vast plain before reaching the Andes once more. My view for hours on end is pretty much an empty landscape.

Empty, that is, except for a tiny dot on the horizon in front of me, that slowly grows larger. Soon I find myself traveling behind a Honda 125 set up as a travel bike. We stop for a chat, and I meet Miguel.

He’s doing a similar trip to mine, but on this tiny bike. Anyone can ride a bike like mine on such a trip, but it’s much more difficult on a bike as small as Miguel’s. We keep in touch with each other's progress and we cross paths several times in the next few days.

At last the Andes are in sight as I zero in on the beautiful town of Bariloche.

I stay at a rustic little cottage in the hills nearby. Fabio is my host, and I’m his first customer. He’s quite the character and uses his 1960’s Jawa as his daily rider.

Fabio is a small firewood merchant, and at his age he’s beginning to feel the aches and pains. I can sympathise. He’s set up his little cabana nicely and I enjoy my stay there.

He’s over the moon to have a motorcyclist as his first customer, and to celebrate he pulls out a six pack of beers and throws some chorizo on the parrilla (BBQ).

Next day is an early start and I’m soon in Patagonia. Here I meet my companion for the next week or so, the notorious Patagonian wind.

Miguel messages me to tell me he had head winds so bad that he couldn’t get his little 125 out of 3rd gear and had to retreat and set up his tent at a gas station until the wind subsided somewhat. He’s a hard man and is a day in front of me. The weather site is a very useful tool, and it’s a daily ritual to check the strength and direction of the winds and to try and plan our route accordingly.

I’m riding the notorious Ruta 40. It was once unsealed but now only a 75 km section remains dirt and gravel.

It’s here that me and another couple of bikers get blown off our bikes. The wind gusts here are so strong it’s impossible to stay upright.

There is no chance of picking up our bikes on our own, it’s hard enough just standing. Together the 3 of us work to right the bikes and get them on their centre stands facing into the wind. Then we sit and wait it out. Eventually the wind subsides a little and a small truck rolls up, and I ride away carefully beside the truck, sheltered from the gusts.

Next day I do another roadside service on the bike. It’s a huge advantage to have a simple machine and to be able to do these services myself and not have to schedule a date with a dealer in the big cities. That would do my head in. The downside is the bike is very basic, and there’s times I’d love a smooth and comfortable BMW or similar.

I’m close now to the Falkland Islands and the roadside propaganda lifts to the next level with signs proclaiming the Falklands belong to Argentina.

Lots of memorials also to those that served and those that were killed.

Interestingly, the new President stated that he also believes the Falklands belong to Argentina, but was quick to point out that in a recent poll of residents, 95% wished to stay under British rule. He said it was up to Argentina to change that, and until Argentina was once more a country those people would be proud to be aligned with, things would not change. Wise words indeed.

I’m closing in on the climbing and hiking town of El Chalten, and as I start my ride up beside the lake it starts raining and sleeting. I’m hoping to see the famous Mount Fitz Roy but it’s completely clagged in, and I head instead to a German beer Haus to dry out by the fire and console myself. In the morning the skies have cleared somewhat, and as I head out of town, Mount Fitz Roy almost clears the clouds for me.

Another day with my constant companion, the Patagonian wind, battering me from the side, and a visit to El Calafate and the huge Perito Moreno Glacier.

It really is something special, but it’s also a tourist side show and I get a few pics and leave them to their souvenir shops and head into town.

From the Atlantic Ocean city of Rio Galapagos, I get an early start for my long ride to Ushuaia. I must cross from Argentina into Chile, then cross an inlet by ferry, before once more crossing into the southern section of Argentina.

Chile and Argentina are not particularly friendly, so each border crossing has two separate immigration and customs buildings, separated by a stretch of no man’s land. It's a pain in the arse and means dealing with officials in four separate offices, just to cross Chile.

The road is notorious for its winds and cold weather. Along the way there are several truck wrecks and as I climb into the mountains on the outskirts of Ushuaia, I encounter hail and snow.

The scenic ride down into this southernmost city is spectacular, but my fingers are too cold to take any pics, and I’m grateful to a fellow rider who took the pic of me on the outskirts of town.

Ushuaia is a refuelling and restocking point for many cruise ships that visit Antarctica, and there are several in port.

I find myself a cheap but warm hotel, thaw myself out and head downtown to enjoy a meal at a local parrilla restaurant.

It’s all about roasting meat over fire, something that man has been doing since forever, and the lamb is succulent and delicious.

Tired but pleased I made the effort, the next day I fuel up the bike, oil its chain and retrace my steps back north.

Ushuaia. Interesting city, but I wouldn’t want to live there.


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