My other Lucinda is an AH 1W Super Cobra attack helicopter. She looks like this
She’s not the fastest, most powerful, most heavily armed, and her armour is only average. We’ve fought many real-time wars against real Russian and Chinese kids in the world of on-line multi-player. One day we checked in and found ourselves on a Spanish server. In fact, the technical discussion forum is dominated by conversations that look like this
I can easily afford with in-game money (won through battle points), a more sophisticated helicopter. There are about 10 superior machines, like this AC99 Scorpion
And here’s my partner in the virtual world of C.H.A.O.S., maybe the top-selling helicopter on-line multi-player battle game. Hey, it’s my eldest daughter, back in Vancouver, and she’s an ace
Her weapon of choice is the pretty Denel AH-1 Rooivalk. It’s in the hanger, where you do maintenance, upgrades, that stuff. It’s a bit complicated
Like any sophisticated video game, it takes practice to be goodwith the control features which are a blend of on-screen controls and iPad movement.
As long as we can both find internet speed with a ping of less than 200 milliseconds we can fight bloodthirsty kids worldwide, side-by-side, from continents apart. When I have fast wi-fi I email her and we set it up.
We run Skype in the background on our laptops, so we can talk and strategize as we fight kids worldwide on our iPads. Is this cheating, acting in concert? No. We rarely gang up on the leader unless the clock is counting down and one of us is only one kill away from one of us winning. Generally we talk about who to look out for, who is good. We can select the same battleground of the various live arenas at any given time, enter one together, and fight kids for the game duration, between 3 and 10 minutes. Never more than 8 players in an arena.
They’re intense, bloody affairs.
Here’s how it looks. Here’s a shot of me and my daughter in an industrial war zone. She’s the one marked with the green arrow, matched to her name rmdg in the sidebar. Here, we’re about middle of the pack score wise, to the left, early on. The clock shows 5.23 remaining
But we very rarely stay middle of the pack. Why? Because we’re good. Here’s rmdg leading the battle score to the left, me right behind, both screen grabs taken earlier a couple of days ago. But unfortunately there’s an almost unbeatable helicopter out there called a Kestrel, and we lose to it unless we play dirty
And me leading the board, rmdg right behind. You can see I’m pretty shot up. The red number top left is my health indicator and it’s not good. Exactly 2.00 minutes remaining of extremely high-intensity warfare
At the end of the battle you get all kinds of statistics and points and money are credited to your account depending on performance.
So what’s the point of this? If you click the link, install the app, you know who we are and we’ll see you out there.
We spent a few days in Puerto Montt after the boat ride. As previously mentioned, a working town
Some good buildings
And plenty of good graffiti
There are a row of busts along the waterfront. The usual Chilean heroes. But one caught my eye as I stumbled over his name: Dagoberto Godoy Fuentealba
Dagoberto, who was teased at school, at least I think he was, was the first Chilean to fly across the Andes, at a maximum height of 20,600 feet on December 12, 1918
After Claudia left for Guatemala we rode straight up the PanAm 700 miles over a couple of days
They were burning off fields on the way
A horrible road but we’re trying to wrap up Latin America. My mind is occupied most of the day with the track ahead, on the other side of the Pacific. But there are a few things to be done first. Pick up my new passport in Santiago, do some travel paperwork, change gears.
Lucinda is very tired. I’m going to do half the work she needs here and the more complicated half at our new destination. More on this later.
We’re going up the Chilean coast, through the archipelago then on to Puerto Montt. The trip is 800 nautical miles and takes 4 days.
We’re getting the Amadeo, a 190 meter cargo ferry. It’s off-season so no fancy ships going north. What’s a cargo ferry? Well it’s three levels of raw materials, trucks, containers and live cattle, with token accommodation for about 40 people in cabins of 4 or 6 people. There’s a primitive cafeteria with strict serving times, no lounge or anything. It’s spartan and just barely clean enough. Or if you haven’t been on the road for 18 months, not clean enough. The toilets were totally rough as you’d expect. We’re going to come off this looking like hell. But Claudia’s ok with the idea and Lucinda’s almost bouncing on her suspension with anticipation, so we’re a team.
We show up at 9:00 pm to board. This isn’t a car ferry and no other motorcycles. Perfect
The other passengers wait outside the shipping company office. They’re split between Chilean truck drivers (travelling with their rigs) and sorry-looking backpackers looking for a cheap way home
I’ve made this excellent map of the journey for you with some of the event points. You’ll have to click on it to see anything. We’re moving north, up the page.
With the shitty photos and rough map, we’re off to a messy blog post start, but it sets the tone nicely.
At about 10 it’s time to board. This is fun, riding up into the belly of a ship. We haven’t done this since crossing from Baja to the mainland in Mexico
So the rag-tag group walks along the dock and up the ramp into the ship following a sailor guide and Lucinda and me riding off to the side.
The belly, empty. The backpackers and truckers are to the left, just out of shot
We’re told to wait separately. A couple of sailors walk the group over to what looks like a truck elevator
And yup, up they go. Somewhere. This could be a bad situation and they’re off to be slaughtered and turned into sausages I’m thinking. If this was Guatemala that would be inevitable. No point in first robbing the backpackers unless there’s a market for Peruvian touques or porn magazines. But omg they’ve got Claudia
Then it’s our turn. We ride on and wait. Up we go, the movie to the left (click, click enlarge, click HD)
When we arrive at the next level a guy shows us to a corner on the middle level. I ask him where to tie down Lucinda and he shakes his head, saying he’ll do it. This concerns me but I resolve to come down every hour to check on her until she’s secure.
No-ones around. I grab my duffel and tank bag and head off to the only person I can see. He shows me up a couple of flights of stairs, along the outside companionway
Into the ship and then the hunt’s on for Claudia. Who I find quickly as there are only about 8 cabins. This is ours, 4 bunks, shared with a young Spain-type Spanish couple, Alex and Marta. They’re on a 10 month trip of South America and Asia. The cabin is actually really cheery with nice bed curtains and stuff but tiny
I dump my stuff and we go to explore. First the cafeteria. The comfy chairs are hogged for the whole trip by the Chilean truckers. Gringos aren’t welcome in the comfy zone. Fair enough. Mi casa, no en su casa
Despite the lousy little cafeteria the kitchen was excellent and the Chef a terrific guy who didn’t want me to take his pic until he ran off and found his hat, but I had my camera up so anyway it went off somehow
Then he was back with his hat
Back to check on Lucinda. The empty deck
Same view from above. I wonder if we’re travelling empty since we’re sailing in less than 6 hours
We wait around for something to happen for a while, nothing does so we all go off to sleep. The next morning we wake and we’re chugging along. I go down to check Lucinda and somehow the boat is full of trucks, containers and cows. They’ve stuffed the whole boat, with everything perfectly aligned and secured in about 4 hours as we’re long gone.
Lucinda is tied down with respect in exactly the same chain pattern, but with webbing, as the trucks. She’s in the back corner here
How they got them from the elevator to their positions without moving them sideways I have no idea
Up top, cows. They’re in for a long journey. Four days on their feet
Off through the archipelago
The boat’s cruising speed is 11 knots btw
A great start
We’re all on deck in silent appreciation. The passes are tight at times
Passing little islets
We’re welcome up on the deck during daylight
The navigator has two big screens. GPS
It gets rockier
We’re all enjoying the close bits
Then an incredible view up to the Torres de Paine area. Pic is worth a click
Later, there are two Orcas. Claudia can’t believe it and is in excellent spirits as usual. I missed them. There are small sleek seals in small groups throughout the trip
The next day the weather and the mountains change
Looks a bit like BC at times
Passing a shipwreck parked on a reef
We’re looking forward to seeing the only town on route, Puerto Eden. We’re told it’s specially beautiful because it’s in a dramatic and very narrow pass. Furthermore we’re told that we’ll be arriving at night and will wake to it because it’s against some kind of local maritime navigation law to pass through at night. But when we wake in the morning we’re miles beyond. Nervous questions to the crew about this yield nothing.
The weather on the third day is getting even worse. The sea is building. People are a bit jumpy because we all know that day 3 on this route is notoriously rough. The problem isn’t so much the wind, it’s only blowing 20ish but the big ocean swell coming at us broadside.
By mid-afternoon the ship is moving in a bad way. Not only are we rolling but the ship is pitching
At the time I thought this was a dramatic shot but like all sea shots it shows nothing
Claudia, Marta, Alex and I are on the ship’s bridge enjoying the show. I’m fairly sure people are going to get sick soon when Marta starts tending to Alex. He’s feeling ill. Claudia’s looking a bit green too. Uh oh. A lady officer says she has pills and Alex gets two and drops one on the floor. Reaching down to pick it up he freezes, then runs off to barf. OK, we’ve started I think, this should spread like wildfire, and it does.
Claudia immediately wants to go to the cabin, so off we go before she finishes the sentence. She says she wants to sleep. She does, which is a huge relief. Claudia has never been on a ship before in her life. I want this to be a good experience for her, not one where she ends up on an I.V.
The barfers, most of the gringos and none of the Chileans, are scattered around the boat looking lonely and defeated.
After checking on Claudia, who doesn’t want to be left alone but won’t eat, we head off to dinner about 3 or 4 hours after it all started. Because of the strict serving time, 7 pm precisely, we could do a body count. 4 gringos out of about 20 alive and well. Marta tells me it took forever to get Alex to the room. He was barfing off the side of the ship so violently and had so little strength he couldn’t make it down the companionway.
Unfortunately it got dark and the whole thing fizzled out.
In the morning there were a few backpackers in sleeping bags on the deck recovering. I guess they’d spent the night on deck
We see our first ship of the whole trip
The weather improves.
After 800 miles (and after missing Puerto Eden) we’d seen zero settlement of any kind, not even a token fishing village, and only one ship. There’s just nothing here on the huge southern coast, absolutely nothing. That was the big realization
An uneventful day. The backpackers got out to watch the sunset
It was the last night. Somehow being seasick had bonded the backpackers. Some of them produced bottles of random booze and got drunk in the cafeteria. No problem with that obviously, but they got loaded super-fast, like in about 20 minutes they were falling over chairs and hugging each other. One guy was attacking people with a Sharpee.
Later that night we arrived. I woke up to the lack of sound and went out for a look. At some point after this they started unloading the ship.
After disembarking we could see the whole ship for the first time
Everyone was driven by bus to the shipping company office about 5 miles away and Lucinda and I tagged along, changed Claudia over to a taxi, and headed into central Puerto Montt, which although an essential waypoint is a town to not hang around in.
It had been a worthwhile trip. It felt very authentic being on the Amadeo. It was interesting not being prioritized as passengers on a boat or ferry normally are, and the ship somehow fit in well with the overall Patagonian ride.
The road distances south of Puerto Montt are huge. It takes weeks to get to Ushuaia and back if you take the western route. With so little on the map, you don’t realize it until your into it. With a little bit of diligence riding around Central and South America is no huge hardship. But the combination of the Carretera Austral and Ruta 40 south of that is a true adventure ride.
Nothing is less fun than backtracking, specially if it’s a big distance. There’s no alternative route back to Natales where we have a date with a boat.
On day 2 of the return, we hid behind this building from the wind on the way back to Porvenir
Hours later we were back on the coast of the Magellan Straight. Lucinda posed for a shot
Wrecked fish boats every few miles
With some time to kill before Porvenir and the wind down we rode down a track to the fishing village. A collection of shacks really
There were 10 or so homes. A man appears from one. We look at his net
And his boat
He’s finished fishing for the day. He can’t believe I’m from Canada and have ridden my bike down. So he insisted he makes me te (tea) in his home. He tells me about the fish (no less than ever) the birds (he loves them) and the sea (he loves it). He’s been here all his life
It was a shame to leave such a gentle soul without hearing more stories. We had one thing in common – something neither of us had
Lucinda likes riding these tracks through the turf and we took a long detour back
The next morning we got the same pretty ferry out of Porvenir. No wind. Sun. Warmish for the first time in days
We roll on and this guy insists on doing the tie-down. He makes a mess of it but is very funny as we go very slightly off-topic
He ends up untying everything, chocking her up and throwing a single line over. I don’t really care as the water is as smooth as glass. Lucinda’s cool with it either way I can tell
Then it’s a windless and fast ride back to Punta Arenas. Claudia’s flying in tomorrow and I have to meet her at the micro-airport. It’s taken her 24 hours and three connections to get here from Guatemala.
The next morning we walk the waterfront to see the birds. There are three species of cormorants, two albatross and numerous gulls
We’re not the only ones out birdwatching
It seems to me that birds can show brilliant colors like no other life. So maybe someone could explain why marine bird life, shorebirds, cormorants, penguins, gulls, you name it are nearly all black and white
The industrial buildings on the waterfront are painted with murals. They’re not for the benefit of tourists. They have a strange quality about them
Punta Arenas is a great place. My favorite Chilean town except Valpo. But this blog is a road report only, so limited in what I get up to or photograph, so just get down here and see for yourself.
Then there’s a logistical thing. Lucinda hasn’t the room to carry a passenger with the duffel so we put Claudia on a bus and follow/lead it to Puerto Natales. I’ve explained this to her in advance.
Along the way we finally get close to the Rheas we’ve seen off and on. These are maybe 40 or 50 pounds of huge flightlessness, maybe 3 feet tall at the shoulder, 5 feet tall when looking around.
Meanwhile the ride has been mostly like this and freezing
When we get to Natales I can’t believe it. What was a maelstrom a couple of weeks ago is a millpond
Por ejemplo, here it is today
And was two weeks or so ago
Clearly no predators around
This being Chile, the boats are sophisticated
But on the dock is a rope drying. Depth knots in meters? Not fathoms, too close. Why anyone is doing this is another mystery
The water’s clear cold and beautiful
The passport epic worked out. Everything always works out. As the space for stamps got more desperate, the officials looked more carefully at my problem. And they all cooperated. The bad start was because I flirted with the Chilean lady officer thinking that was a slam-dunk winning strategy and she wanted to correct me on that.
So, they had no problem with overlaps. I can’t tell you how grateful I was to all of them
The Selk’nam Indians, also called the Ona, first arrived in Tierra del Fuego about 10,000 years ago. The southern group of the Selk’nam, the Yaghan (also known as Yámana), occupied what is now Ushuaia, living in continual conflict with the northern inhabitants of the island.
For much of the latter half of the 19th century, the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego was populated by a substantial majority of nationals who were not Argentine citizens, including a number of British subjects. Ushuaia was founded, informally, by British missionaries, following previous British surveys, long before Argentine nationals or government representatives arrived there on a permanent basis. The British ship HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, first reached the channel on January 29, 1833 during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego. The city was originally named by early British missionaries using the native Yámana name for the area.
One of the interesting things about the Yaghan tribe was that they ran around naked. I know, you’re immediately thinking that with the year-around freezing temperatures this must have been embarrassing for the guys, but whatever. When the British missionaries clothed them they got sick and many died from the various bugs in the clothing
The Beagle Channel from above the town
The setting is gorgeous
We forget that we have solo round-the-world sailing brothers that share this important waypoint. This (approx 80′) steel ketch was Dutch registered. Suddenly I got an idea
But anyway, what really got Ushuaia going as a town was the building of a jail in 1896 for dangerous criminals and reoffenders from Buenos Aires. So off we went. It’s not hostile looking at all
I was surprised at how few cells there were
The common area
There were small naval boats in the harbour flying colours
There was a gathering at the park around a sculpture of the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. It was the 32nd anniversary of the war
Children, officers and cadets
A military band played
The park was ringed with war images. Most were powerful and I photographed them all. I asked an older guy a bunch of obvious questions
Hanging white crosses for the men from Ushuaia who the British killed