- ibis #1
- our tree
- yellow bird
- our friend the pied kingfisher
- fish eagle
- birds and cameras
- Little egret
- Golden weaver
- Burchell’s starling
- cross border, yay
- first catch
- Okavango rescue
- nothobranchius capriviensis 2
- Botswana and coronavirus
- Delta drive
- the Boro in flood
- river 4
- nothobranchius capriviensis 1
- hornbills and mirror
- thread snake
- micropanchax hutereaui
- sun and cows
- micropanchax katangae
- sun and goats
- Bots on lockdown day 9
- blog reboot
- Delta exploration
- mole rat
- road trip, back country namibia
- truck build 1
- 2 places
- in another camp
- bad pennies
- semi official
- the rain is coming, maybe
- land cruiser prado
- the ride in
- old, green
- salon change, plus intestines
- so 3
- so 2
- update 2
- stickers and stuff
- the river 3
- the river 2
- situation 2
- situation 1
- into Botswana
- gnu 3
- the river
- shongololo 3
- the sky 2
- tractionator GPS, from motoz
- gnu 2
- gnu 1
- the sky
- swakopmund flora
- swakopmund fauna
- epic find!
- before Windhoek
- the hunt
- the weavers
- Sandhof Farm, and Crinum paludosum
- filler 2
- filler post
- shongololo, again
- in trees
- on r/t_d, sunday is gunday
- on r/irl, it’s wednesday
- to deadvlei
- on the farm
- Namibia, orange river to helmeringhausen
- just a few movies
We’ve been riding away from the coast for a while, then we turn back through some hills. Plenty of Guanaco around. Every few days you see the dried remains of one that didn’t complete the jump over the endless fence and got hung up
A lot of road shots recently. I think because it’s been pretty barren since the Carretera and the surface has been more of the adventure. Anyway, here we have a good track to follow despite the wind.
(on that subject I just read that Jeff crashed in the wind approaching Tres Lagos (see the post to Chalten) and came across two Brazilians whose bikes were knocked down simultaneously. So it looks like me and Jerzy were the only people we know who didn’t crash somewhere on Ruta 40. Heroes in our minds, both. Jeff said the wind which Lucinda thought was about 50 mph was more like 70 to 80 for him)
We have to cross into Argentina yet again. I’ve counted all these crossings in my passport-stamp-space issue. More on that to follow. Anyway, here we are, some outpost in the middle of nowhere. Very quiet, no breeze
But because they’re rich, the Chileans make a show of their border post. It’s efficient, no more than 20 minutes and we’re through. I’m bored by the lack of border buzz in South America and have a hankering for the chaos and corruption of say, El Salvador. No kidding, the worse it is, the more addictive
Then our first view of the southern mountains. I had no idea if the pass was going to be snowed over or not as the only person I know in the area is Jerzy and I’m not sure if he’s on the same stretch. We both decided to do the full 450K to Ushuaia today and not stop at Rio Grande I was to learn later.
It had been snowing in the pass. We’d been fighting a big headwind for the last few hours and it was near here that we got hit with a directionless (maybe straight down) gust that was so strong I was momentarily confused and nearly lost Lucinda. I had no idea what direction it came from but it was like we’d had a collision with something
The last hour was a frozen struggle against the breeze. Of the nearly 4000km’s on the Carretera Austral and Ruta 40 since Puerto Montt, already pretty far south, about 2500 has been dirt and 1000 in strong wind. This isn’t much short of the drive from Vancouver to Toronto Google Maps tells me.
Only 700K south to Ushuaia now.
The landscape from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas was mostly a cold wasteland. We woke up to the wind screaming, relieved we had a paved section for the day. Distorted trees outside of town, the last we’d see today
What was noticeable was the cold. I bought another cheep fleece layer back in Calafate and was now riding with 3 layers under my jacket, long-johns and glove liners (also bought in Calafate)
Featureless riding day number 4 out of 550 and the coldest yet. Because of the wind, colder than riding through snow in Rugby, North Dakota or Lake Placid, New York.
Excuse the bad shots. And we’re behind posting, so no history lesson today.
The next morning we leave for the ferry to Porvenir. This is exciting – our first crossing of the Magellan Straight and a reminder that we’re extremely south. The words remind me of our own magnificent Georgia Straight but best not to think about that. It makes me sad and homesick. But I have a feeling that’s a good thing somehow.
And we see Jordan and James. They’ve got matching retro Honda 600’s, matching work jackets (over a riding jacket) matching pants, matching everything. They’ve gone for the dirtbag look, I guess for security through Central America. I don’t comment. Great guys
We wait for the foot passengers to disembark before easing off at an unnaturally slow speed, up on our pegs balancing the bike and blipping the gas as we ease through them. Anyone who doesn’t showboat (at the right time and place) in 2nd and 3rd world countries is suffering from depression Lucinda says
Calafate was a good place to hang out before the last days south. We explored the area and rode as far around the lake as the road allowed. One breezy morning on the waterfront we had a big surprise. Flamingoes again!
I suppose my childhood introduction to flamingoes were African photos in National Geographic so I think of them as tropical. Also, for my generation, African shots from National Geographic were our introduction to something else just as spectacular and seared into my memory but anyway. There are three species of flamingo in South America, this is P chilensis and it clearly doesn’t mind the freezing cold.
I was walking down the main street and saw a Triumph Tiger parked outside a restaurant. I may have mentioned it before but there’s one universal thing among long-distance riders: Tiger owners love their bikes. Normally I’d be somewhat frightened by anything made in England but there’s no arguing with the riders, the bike seems to do this well. I walk in the restaurant and meet Steve. I borrowed a photo from his Porvenir ferry ride as it’s better than mine
He’s riding from Buenos Aires to Alaska then New York. Being Scottish he drinks and we did. So here’s a story: what would you like to be most if you had to hang out in Guatemala City? A just-retired British Commando with the 29th regiment, with a tattoo of a huge dagger and the word COMMANDO in big letters beside it. Also perfect for the El Salvador/Honduras border crossing. Riding skills? Currently races motocross, showed me a photo of himself about 30 feet in the air. Experience overseas with people trying to rob or kill you? Tours of duty in Afghanistan, Beirut, etc etc. He OK’d me to write this. Steve’s the guy who told me that regarding self-portraits ‘if you don’t pose, nobody knows’. There are only 5 towns from here on down so if there are any riders around, we’re going to meet them, and being a bit off-season they’re likely to be the hardier types. Me, I’m just late.
Before a long dirt road ahead we’re greeted by this spooky person at a cattle grid. Click the video to the left (click, click enlarge, click HD). I’ve developed a superstition about ride videos and so no more of those until I get over it
Back onto great although rocky road. The Ruta 40 has every type of surface. Even sand and mud back in Belen
I give my speech and they’re brilliant and find a small spot for the stamp. Then off to the Chilean building. I’m in luck and they also find a tiny space for the stamp. I think the harder it gets the more they enjoy this. At least when I give my speech they all look up and listen intently to the gringo with a problem. A small epic is fun for everyone
Climbers will know what I came to Chalten to see. But first, it had snowed overnight. This was slightly worrying as I have further south to go, and one more low pass ahead. It’s late in the season and although I’m sure there are other bikes behind me, I only know of one
I woke up to the sound of the wind exactly as expected. In fact I’ve expected today to be like this for more than a year. It’s the toughest stretch in South America and in a way it’s not even technical. It’s blowing maybe 30 mph when I wake up, strong and nasty on gravel but not terrifying
We ride through nice curves and join Ruta 40 again. There’s about 100K of pavement, which ends here. At this point it’s blowing over 40 from right to left. Very hard work and the hardest wind so far on the trip, much harder than Lake Michigan, but the easy part of the day. I lean poor Lucinda into the wind at 20 or 30 degrees at this point
I stop to get a picture of an approaching car to show the dust being blown level. Stopping at all would be impossible without being blown over very soon. The camera leash is lashing me hard. This picture shows one of the two main difficulties, other than just being blown off the road. The tracks made by cars and trucks leave tracks that are free of gravel but pile up small berms of loose rock between them. And this is the big joke, known by all who’ve ridden here: you have to stay in the track. If you hit the berm you may lose all grip in the war with the sidewind and you crash. The only way to do it is solo – I can’t imagine having anyone else around for this private battle. Check out the berms here. Just loose gravel, normally you don’t think about this. But in this breeze they can be the end
There are many horror stories about this leg of Ruta 40. Just recently a friend of Ben’s got blown off the road 4 times. Steve (who you’ll meet here in a couple of days) got blown off the road further south once and blown over stationary once. Trevor, a pro who I rode with in northern Argentina said that in his 75,000k on this trip this was the only time his heart was in his throat.
Fortunately the wind was no more than about 40 here. Around the corner below is the long hard stretch of about 100K of much higher wind. Here the road is loose gravel with no tracks or berms which was even harder, but predictable
Then, out on the plains, it blew over 50, the heaviest wind I’ve ever experienced bike or not. How can I guess? Years of sailing and talking to the locals. I kind of know what 40 feels like and guess from there. Obviously no pictures were possible for the 3 hours of the central section.
Because of the gusts we couldn’t ride the extreme right side in case of being bounced off it to windward in a lull so picked a line most of the time about 3 or 4 feet from the right and about 10 or more from the left.
Threading the line between the berms was a nightmare. Keeping the bike moving forward at a crazy lean angle I won’t even write a guess of here, full strength fighting the gusts and keeping straight was almost an impossible task. Every time you hit a berm you nearly loose the front end. That happens a lot and you don’t get used to it. Maximum speed was about 30mph for the hardest 100K.
Twice we got blown completely over the road but by some miracle not off the road. The moment you lost it and you raced across the road is unforgettable. You’ve lost control, the three-way conversation you had going now excludes you and is entirely between God and Lucinda. Somehow what happened is that we recovered before disaster and I no idea how. This was a very difficult time – when the wind had picked up to its maximum, well over 50, and I’d just survived two huge crash misses with 100K to go I seriously thought I wasn’t going to make it. But there’s no way out at all. No shelter, no options, no-one to help if you crash and you can’t stop or you’ll get knocked down. So I just told myself and Lucinda to ride it 10 feet at a time and hope for the best and not think about not making it. We didn’t crash once for which, as they say, I’m extremely grateful.
In two areas the landscape breaks up, you get partial shelter and can take some pictures without being blown over.
The town. It was freezing and I was dehydrated after neglecting to pack more than one bottle of water. So I rode through this near-Ghost town looking for a tienda. There was a building with an old Pub sign. I parked and opened the door to a dozen ruined people crashed out on adjoining mattresses and squalor
It was over. I was completely exhausted. But happier than I can describe.
I rode fast today and there wasn’t much to photograph anyway. Just endless nothing. So this marks the shortest ride report ever, but we can’t have blanks in the ‘day’s tracks’. Tomorrow’s a big day.