Thursday, January 3, 2013

Puerto Natales Ferry

Saturday morning (12/22) we were up and packing.  Leaving Ushuaia and Villa de Valejos Su, was like leaving home all over again.  We had made some real friends.  First Lucas, the proprietor, who let us put our bikes in front of his office blocking his view.  Try that in the states. 
L to R Charlie ILucas's brother) and Lucas
Christian a representative of Johnny Walker in Patagonia from Bariloche (where we had the great steak), working in Ushuaia for a week.  And we met a great couple from Boseman Montana.  Dave (a research professor in Boseman), Sandra (a nurse in Boseman) and Aldo their son. 
Aldo and Sandra
L to R: Dave, Sandra, Lucas and Christian bidding us farewell as we left
Our destination was Cerro Sombrero which is after the last stretch of dirt we will ride for quite some time.  And then from Cerro Sombrero, we will push on to Puerto Natales where we will catch the ferry, for the ride to Puerto Montt, about a third the way up the Chilean coast.

The ride back through the mountain pass from Ushuaia, was quite beautiful, but chilly.  It had snowed, while we were in Ushuaia, and the snow in the mountains actually extended at some points all the way to the road we were riding.  It was also quite chilly, I saw 35 deg F. 
Snow Down to the Road
Sometimes, I envy Chuck knowing he was wearing his electric vest, all warm and toasty.  All it would take would be for me to stop and put mine on, but I guess I am just too lazy.

We rode to Rio Grande about a 130 miles and stopped to fill up with gas.  While I was sitting at the pump a british fellow came up and began talking to me.  He had had a flat tire on the dirt road between San Sebastian and Cerro Sombrero and was stranded there for two days.  This is the stretch of road we were are getting ready to ride ourselves.  Finally, someone stopped and took the tube out of a tire on a motorcycle that they had on a trailer they were towing.  I don’t believe the roads are that untraveled, I am sure there is more to this story, but I didn’t have time.  We gassed up and we were on our way again.

No issues crossing the border again.  We are getting pretty good at this, just a few minutes at each side and we are on our way, riding on dirt and gravel.
Road to Cerro Sombrero
We made good time into Cerro Sombrero and actually arrived before 5pm.  That was good, because at my last stop the electrical for my heated grips, cruise control and GPS had gone out.  To figure out what was going on, involved removing the glove box again, there in the parking lot.  Turns out, with all the shaking, the solenoid that I installed to regulate the power had become disconnected.  Problem solved, and another half hour to reassemble. 

In the meantime, I took a look at my chain.  I had just brought it to the right tension the day before and today it was very loose again.  Something is not right.  As I tried to tighten the chain, I could no longer bring the wheel back, it had reached the maximum extension. 

Oh, this is not good!!!!  The chain was gone.  I was not going to get much more out of this.  And Chucks was not much better.  We had to find chain.  We felt we could make it to Puerto Natales, a fairly large town, but how much further?  The next morning we left Cerro Sombrero for the ride to the ferry.

So, some things don’t always make sense here.  The paved road from Cerro Sombrero extends 8 or 10 kilometers west to the main artery running north and south.  The other paved road from Cerro Sombrero extends north and then turns west again for 6 or  7 kilometers to connect with the same main artery running north and south.  So we had come in on the north road so we decide to take the west road to connect to the main artery for the ferry.

When we get to the main artery, the part of the road extending south is a beautiful paved road, but the part heading north is gravel and deep too in places.  Why would you not pave the whole road.  We rode the 7 or 8 kilometers of gravel and when we reached the other alternative route out of Cerro Sombrero, the road again turn to pavement. 

No issues, just questions why things are done the way they are done here.

We rode pavement the rest of the way to the ferry.  The ride across the ferry was very uneventful, in fact the bikes weren’t even strapped down.  Chuck watched the bikes while I went and paid the fee and took a few pictures of the crossing.
Chuck Guarding the Bikes
Once off the ferry, it was only a couple hundred miles to Puerto Natales.  During our ride to Puerto Natales we crossed several rain showers, nothing large but enough to get us wet.  When we arrived at the Hostel and I removed my boots, they showed signs of leaking.  Great, just what I need leaky boots.  I had spent good money at REI for these things.  They have a gore-tex liner and are guaranteed to not leak.  I will have to deal with this when I get back to the states, but it is no fun having leaky boots.

At the Hostel the first question we asked was; where is there a motorcycle mechanic.  Right up the street and they took us there.  We worked with him a little and he confirmed, the chain is shot, may be another 1,000 kilometers.  Unfortunately, there are no chains the size we need in Puerto Natales.  He helped quite a bit, but in the end we have found two chain sets in Osorno about 100 kilometers north of where we get off the ferry.

Chuck checking out his bike at the Hostel

Everywhere we go the bikes draw a crowd.  We had to check in for the ferry at the hotel near the dock.  While Chuck waited in line (FOR TWO HOURS!!!!), I watched the bikes.  Inevitably, people stop, take pictures of the bikes, talk about our journey and once in a while one of them wants a picture on the bike.

Her, her boyfriend and her father were curious about our journey
After a chase around worse than any border crossing at the dock to get registered and our passport stamped, we waited and finally loaded the bikes on the ferry. 
This is the first time I had to turn sideways and put it on the center stand
I don’t know how I got the camera set on Sepia but in this picture, the owner of the truck (a Hilux) to the left, for some apparent reason set his car alarm.  I have been listening to it beep for almost a day now.

The scenery through the Magellan Straight is beautiful.  Just a few pictures from the ferry.

We are headed for the little gap on the left between the island and the land

Close Up
Looking Back
Looking North

A cruise ship heading the other way (we later met people on this cruise later in Buenos Aires)

A couple shady characters
Sometimes things are lost in the translation.  Somewhere there is a gap between the sewage system and the sea wage system.
So what is a decent Sea Wage? :-)

During the trip, there were a group of us English speaking guys who had kind of hung together.  John and I spent a lot of time discussing arguing philosophy, politics and general perceptions of cultures and in particular the US culture.  Apparently, the perception of many outside countries (according to John) is that the US is a very violent culture, and uncaring of the environment.  The rest of the guys would get tired and wander away after a while.
L to R: me (US), Carl (Germany/Belize), John (Australia/France), Chuck (US), Angle (Argentina)

Chain at maximum adjustment is still a "little" bit loose.

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