Monday, February 22, 2010

Rio Gallegos to San Sebastian - February 16

Another cold start at only 3.9 degrees C heading to the Chilean Border at Monte Aymond, but we had only a short distance to go until our first border crossing.  The process is fairly straightforward - 1. Police Check - 2. Immigration - 3. Customs - and the officials handle things well even given that our bikes are from Canada.  It took us about an hour and a half to get checked out of Argentina and into Chile.  The only problem we had at the crossing was that we arrived just behind a bus load of tourists, so the line-ups were long and in a building designed to serve only a few people at a time.

After a short ride into Chile we stopped for an early lunch in Pali Aike.  The restaurant has a fixed menu and caters to a crew of men working on the gas pipelines in the area.  The food was excellent - a delicious potato and pork broth followed by a cheese covered sheppard's pie with a spicy salsa on the side.
Heading for Bahia Azul and the ferry to Tierra Del Fuego, we timed things perfectly - pulling to the front of the line just as the ferry began loading.  Bikes ride to the head of the line as they can be fit into small spaces as the ferry loads.  We put chalks under the bike frames in case of waves and went topside to enjoy the short ride across the Magellan Straights and into Tierra Del Fuego.

I met an english couple on the ferry.  Phil and Liz are heading to Ushuaia to begin a 9 month bicycle ride to Alaska.
Loading the ferry - Tierra del Fuego in the distance.
Our first stop on Tierra Del Fuego was Cerro Sombrero for fuel followed by 190km's of sand, gravel and stone road called "ripio" (I think that's Spanish for rip out your engine).

It was a long ride at 60kmh max and often long stretches at 30kmh so we were glad to see the Chilean Border outpost at San Sebastian around 5pm. I bumped into Phil and Liz again, but unfortunately it was only for them to let me know they had seen Petra's rear tire flat!  Removing the tire and changing the tube took me about an hour and then we checked out of Chilean customs and immigration.

Our mechanical difficulties weren't over with however, as Petra's bike refused to start.  My initial assumption was that I had left the headlight on during the tire repair and drained the battery. With the help of one of the Chilean border officials we made a few unsuccessful attempts at push starts and then set about looking for some jumper cables.  Our border guard friend came through again and delivered some cables, but when I accessed the battery conmpartment we found that the ripio had shaken loose the positive terminal.

Accessing the battery means unloading the bike, removing the panniers, side panels, and seat. So by the time we were underway it was getting close to 9pm, but with only 14km to go to the Argentine border outpost and a hotel bed - we pressed on.

The ride was beautiful with the setting sun behind us casting long shadows of the bikes across the landscape, and we saw more flamingos and a Patagonian fox.

Re-entering Argentina was effortless, as we were almost the only people there, and then we put up for the night.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Petra and Peter,

    ?Como estan? !Parece muy bien!

    Well this is the first time that I am blogging, but the occasion seem worth the while. Petra I am sure that you still remember me, Rolf Caroline's dad. I must say I envy you to be able to undertake such a trip. Would I love to be there. There may be some hardships, but they are worth the efforts. I was three years ago at the other end of the world. Hiking and camping on Ellesmere Island, 900km form the North Pole. What an experience?

    Have a good trip.

    Rolf and Rosemarie