Saturday, December 15, 2012

Punta Arenas

We left El Calafate headed for the Argentina / Chile border.
Preparing to leave El Calafate and Hostal El Calafate
It was a rather cool 55 degrees when we left and the temperature dropped to the high forties.  But all in all it wasn’t all that terrible, the wind had let up a little and the ride was fine.  There was another 30 miles of dirt on this leg. 

I wish I could say I enjoy this riding, but the roads are just so rough.  They have taken rocks the size of a human head and mushed them down into the road, apparently when it was muddy.  So the tops of all these rocks stick up.  There is NOTHING difficult about riding these roads, but the rattling and jarring is awful.  It’s like riding cobble stone roads, like we did in Ollantaytombu in Peru. 
Hard to tell but the base is all rocks the size of turtles.
We crossed into Chile at a town called Rio Turbo.  I recalled meeting Chuck last February in Hunt, Texas to begin planning our trip route.  We talked about coming back into Chile from Argentina at Rio Turbo.  At the time it was all theoretical, now it has become real.  Rio Turbo was bigger than I thought, but pretty much an industrial town dedicated to some type of mining.  We rode through without stopping.
Rio Turbio, pretty much an industrial town at the border
The border crossing was a little different than other crossings.  First there were at least two tour buses and a bunch of other cars.   But for some reason the guard took pity on us and took us around to the front of the line … score!  We were processed and out of Argentina with our bikes, very quickly, probably fifteen minutes.

Then we had to ride about 3 or 4 miles to the Aduna / Migracione for Chile.  Here’s where I made a grievous mistake.  I passed a line including a bus and some other cars and the border guard got all bent out of shape at me.  Came out and started waving me back.  He instructed me to pull in behind the bus and a car, but still well ahead of some other vehicles that were there. 

We were processed and got the bikes processed and then they wanted to check our luggage.  So both Chuck and I had to pull off our top case and side case.  They checked for tomatoes, oranges and any other fruit or vegetable, kinda like California does.  When we left the border guard that was so irritated at me, gave me a thumbs up.  I just stared at him.  I didn’t take any pictures of this because I didn’t want him to get angry again.
Entering Punta Arenas
We rode into Punta Arenas, another city we had talked about in our planning session in February.  Again, a large city, but nothing special.  We did spend two hours looking for a place to stay, who knew that there were at least for Hostels named Patagonia.  The first one was obviously not the five star rating we read about.  The second one was Very nice but full (at least for a couple of bikers). 

We didn’t find the third and the forth until the next day.  We settled on Hotel Chalet Las Violetas, at Waldo Seguel N 480.  The proprietor is a nice fellow that helped us put the bikes in the side area for security.  We rented a room with three beds because he didn’t have a two bed available.  We have some time so we are spending three days here before heading to Ushuaia.

Hostel Chalet Las Violetas
The next morning I woke up intending on getting some laundry done at the lavanderia and getting the elbow patched on my sweater that was damaged during my accident.  I also wanted to tighten the gas container holder because it had come loose AGAIN!  Chuck was going to have his back tire changed, so I pulled my bike out. 
bIn the process of pulling the bike back in, I bumped the gate with my gasoline container.   The rack had cracked again, for the third time.  We should have brought a welding machine with us.  So today I spent most the day walking through Punta Arenas with my gas rack looking for a welder (soldare).  Eventually I found a welder at a muffler shop who fixed did the job quickly and well.  When I asked “quantis”, his reply was “nada”.  I left him $20 US equivalent.

So, I heard about the shootings the other day in Oregon and just today in Connecticut.  The news seems to be filled with these things.  What is going on in the US?  I am very sorry for all the victims, especially the children.  I am angry but there is no one to be mad at.

When talking about South America, everyone mentions how unsafe it may be traveling in these countries with banditos waiting to kidnap you at every opportunity.  Yet, it seems the things we hear about are all the crazies in the US.  The news as I write this in Argentina was headlined by Madonna’s visit to Buenos Aires, no kidnappings, no murders, no crazies.  Something is not right in the US.

End of soapbox.

While walking to dinner last night we heard someone yell out hola!  It was Roberto and Doriano again.  We had thought they were headed directly for Ushuaia but here they were in the square in Punta Arenas.  I finally remember to grab a picture in front of the statue of Magellan and Terra del Fuego in the Punta Arenas town square.  We will overlap a little in Ushuaia before they head back to Italy, so we agreed to have dinner and some beers before they left.
L to R: Joe, Chuck, Roberto, Doriano
We catch the ferry tomorrow crossing the Strait of Magellan and head towards our destination; Ushuaia.  We could be there tomorrow if we rode long and hard, but we have some extra time.  We will probably stop in San Sebastian or Rio Grande for one night.

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