to Puerto Natales

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. P1020510 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.

As well as the flamingoes they’re plenty of horses around. They look too sleek to be wild but there’s never any signs of enclosure P1020518

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 crossing the magellan straits

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.

Off to Puerto Natales. The day’s track on Ruta 40 Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 7.20.36 PM

In the big picture it’s here Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 7.20.03 PM

The ride out of Calafate takes us up onto a plain P1020559

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

The road’s an unusual packed rock and dirt and fast. There’s not a lot of landscape today, so this is more of a ride report than usual
P1020568 Another of the many streams that cross the flats P1020570

Spectacular riding, changing surface all the time
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We think we see something on a pond
P1020606 Sure enough, more flamingoes

We approach slowly and discover something. Flamingoes don’t fly away, they walk away P1020609

We scare off a group of other birds. The wing markings are extraordinary, no idea what they are P1020614

They’ve decided to flatten out some of the long dips by pouring a rock road P1020621

The surface is lousy. Maybe 50 miles of on-the-pegs lousy P1020595

An unusual sight: sheep
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Further along something that’s fairly common, a fox. I’m guessing they eat the bird’s eggs. They’re very small, maybe 20 lbs
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Back onto great although rocky road. The Ruta 40 has every type of surface. Even sand and mud back in Belen

The road turns crappier than usual and we have to pick lines
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We cross marsh and ponds on the elevated road. If you click in this photo, tons of flamingoes
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On the other side and up close, these two swan-like birds. They’re huge but have duck bills, not swan bills
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We come to crossroads and the end of the dirt. There’s a gas station, closed. No problem, we’ve lots of gas
P1020637

The windows are covered in traveller’s stickers, including this one
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Now we’re racing for the border again through hills
P1020640

Through a border town, the name escapes me, under various layers of clouds
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First out of Argentina again. My passport stamp space is scary and causing me some stress. Photos coming up. The building’s a converted house and quiet. In fact I’m the only one there
P1020646

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
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Downhill and another maybe 50 miles to Puerto Natales. The wind is strong and blowing us across the road again
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A panel truck, blown off
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Into the town. It’s blowing a gale
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Interesting buildings
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What look to be Coast Guard boats
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Around the corner in the lee, fishing boats
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Looking up the sound, here we are at last. Tierra del Fuego
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