Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America
Day 64: I was ready to leave at 8.30am. There was ice on the bike:
it was minus 0.3 degrees C!
The golden daybreak did not bring much cheer...
...because after two attempts to start the engine, the battery gave out, not due to being flat, I think, but due to the sub-zero temperature; cheap batteries lose cranking power at low temperatures. I had to take all the luggage off to get room to use the kick starter; even then it took me almost half an hour of kicking and cursing before she fired up.
Chain-oiling stop at 10.40am; temperature was still only 5 degrees.
Not long after I came to this bridge where the wind almost blew me off the bike.
Near here is a shrine to San Expedito (St. Expeditus); today being the 18th of April, tomorrow is officially St Expeditus' Day. But I think only the very devoted would climb those steps on a day like today, despite the handrails.
According to Wikipedia, St Expeditus is the patron saint of "emergencies, expeditious solutions, merchants, naviagators'" and more recently, computer nerds.
More sheep huddles
Another police control point. The officer just waved me through, unlike the cars in front of me who had to produce papers.
I filled up both tanks at Rio Gallegos, as it is more than 250kms to my destination, Punta Arenas. The station attendant assured me there was no fuel available anywhere in between, I doubted his word, but its better to be safe than sorry.
A policeman asked me to step inside this check point and present my papers. The officers wore thick clothing; the station was heated thankfully. The officer cleared his throat and said "It is my duty to inform you that today is a very bad day for wind, and you should be especially careful on a bike like yours."
After Rio Gallegos the scenery started to morph: exposed rock outcrops made a welcome change to the flat, tundra-like Patagonian plains.
These guys were spray-painting the dividing line on the road; the wind made their job just that more difficult.
I thought this was the Argentine customs check point, but they waved me through.
Both Argentine and Chilean customs were done in this one building. There was a tame fox wandering around here, but he seemed uncannily camera shy. After passing from desk to desk inside the building, a customs man inspected my bike, and asked lot of questions. Then I was off.
Keeping an eye on my odometer, I chose this place - I think it was a truck stop cafe - to park out of the wind and re-fill my tank. It was still windy and a lot got spilt.
It had a nice view of the Straight of Magellan:
I tested the wind again - it was even winder than yesterday - 22.8m/s is equivalent to 82kmh or 51mph... and I only held it up for a few seconds.
And despite the sunny aspect, it was a mere 5.3 degrees at 2.24 in the afternoon.
Type those two figures into this wind chill factor online calculator, and you get a temperature of minus 10 deg C (12 deg F) or minus 2.35 deg C (28 deg F), depending on whether you use the old or new formula. Either way it felt bloody cold, even though the sun was bright!
Another danger around here is there are places where land mines have been laid:
I would think, if you rode through here at night, and decided to pitch your tent here, you could easily miss these small signs... with fatal results.
I came, totally unexpectedly, to what appeared to be a ghost town. Cocina translates as kitchen.
The group of buildings looked worth exploring
On the shoreline were not one, but two shipwrecks.
The first one was called the Amadeo.
A sign said it was a 36m steamer, which sailed from 1893 to 1932.
The other ship was called the Ambassador, built in London in 1869, arrived in this area in 1899, and sailed for 40 years.
Of course I shot a gigapan - click on the image below to see the two wrecks in much greater detail
A bit further on were more interesting buildings - they looked habitable save for their smashed windows.
The ghost town was once a huge estancia, or sheep station, called San Gregorio.
Not far along the road here I found a lonely service station. The attendant asked me first if I had Chilean currency; I did, but when it came time to pay, I found I only had 10,000 peso notes, so he filled up my spare tank as well. While he was ferreting around for change, and I was stretching my legs, the wind blew my bike clean over. I got it back up in about 2 minutes with the help of another driver who was just as amazed as I was.
Back on the road, I could see on my GPS that Punta Arenas was almost within reach. A light rain started, it didn't last long. There were major roadworks happening, which proved fortuitous for taking the next two photos:
Finally Punta Arenas swung into view, though it was still quite a few kms before I got there.
I will always remember arriving in Punta Arenas because it was the first time I have physically connected with stray dogs. A bunch of about 6 of them, all with very shaggy coats due to the cold, singled me out from the other traffic at a stoplight and one of them actually bit my leg as I was moving at about 10kmh. He didn't do any damage though because I was wearing my motor cross boots. I saw street dogs go crazy in Valparaiso at motorbikes, perhaps from a dog's point of view they look more manageable than a truck or car. When there are two bikes together, they seem to go for me over the other bike, I am guessing perhaps to the sharper note of my exhaust, due to a small leak that has developed.
As I had no headlights, I had to find a hostel quick before it got too dark, and the first one I tried was closed for the off-season. I was circling the town centre when a taxi driver asked if I was looking for a hostel; if it has parking I replied. The taxi driver, called Christian, motioned me to follow him. That's how I ended up staying at the Hostal Patagonia House.
Day 64 GPS data: 395kms covered
From GPS Log Labs:
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Text and photos copyright © Glen David Short 2012