Saturday, 31 January 2015

Ruta 3 - The long road to Ushuaia

Mar Del Plata
"Think positively" I told myself "and positive things will happen". I needed to remind myself of this after a pretty hard week of things not going particularly well all things considered!

One hour later, I found myself sliding to a stop, on my side, in front of a Truck! Positively - The truck stopped!

Since leaving the capital I have found very little of interest on my travels. Ruta 3 has been long, boring and very very windy. So much for my first impressions!

I ran out of fuel just after Dolores. In my defence there should have been 3 fuel stations on this road
Police Mechanic to the rescue
but they were all closed down. I managed around 30km on the hard shoulder on fumes before reaching a police check point. With no Spanish skills I asked if I could leave the bike there while I hitched a ride to the fuel station which apparently was a further 25km away. The officer made a call instead and within 15 minutes the police mechanic had turned up with 12 litres (just what my bike will carry) and a bill that was double what I would have paid at a pump. I was happy to pay it and shook his hand before waving goodbye and getting on my way again!

My stop in Mar del Plata was depressing with thousands of people on the coast where I had hoped to find Sea Lions. I have never seen so many people on one stretch of sand! It was not for me and I moved on very quickly to a slightly smaller and less crowded town just beyond it called Miramar. It was no more interesting but there was at least somewhere to lay my head.

Hooray! Some wildlife!
Biaha Planca looked good on paper but again was over priced and not very interesting. Once again I moved on after a good nights sleep. My only mission here was to get to Ushuaia but I decided on a detour to Puerto Piramides to see if I could find some wildlife to spice up the journey. The detour took me on a round trip of 120 miles of gravel. It was loose gravel and it was pretty thick in places. Then there was the corrugation! Oh yes, and the pockets of soft unexpected sand!! I did see some penguins though and managed to stay upright all day! Clearly I wasn't trying hard enough!

Now I was on the hunt for the dragon! I was entering the Welsh territory of Patagonia and I was interested to see if I could find any Welsh speakers or any red dragons to make me feel at home. I'm sad to say there was nothing of much interest here either. No Welsh speakers that I could find but I did find lots of dragons and even stayed in a place called Fferm Taid (Grandads Farm).

Chasing the dragon
The wind got stronger as I headed further south toward Comadora Rivedavia. It was the most boring stretch of road yet and I found it extremely difficult to keep myself entertained. The concentration and physical demands in fighting the constant side winds made it possibly the least enjoyable part of my journey so far.

Rivedavia has nothing to offer either aside from overpriced hotels and annoying one way systems, but I stayed a full day this time. I needed to rest before tackling more of the same to Puerto San Julian.

This time I found a hostel where the owners spoke English. That was enough for me! I took the windowless "cell" that was on offer and parked Rhonda in an indoor car park 2 blocks away so she was safe from the wind. The next day the owners told me the wind was going to be bad the next day and that I should not attempt the road ahead as it took out cars and trucks regularly in those conditions. I had no chance on a bike.
Gravel roads

Now you can say I was foolish to ignore local advice! However, if I had taken everyones advice thus far, I would not have got this far in the first place.
"Oh no madam you cannot take that road. Men with knives will get you"
"Oh no madam you must not go there on your own. You will be raped"
"Oh no......". You get the picture! You have to make your own call on these matters and I decided to go for it the next morning.

Before I even left the shelter of the town, I was fighting the winds. I knew this was a bad idea but I
was packed and I wanted to make some distance so I checked my map and saw the next town was just 70Km away. If I could not handle it I could crawl there at least and then push on to San Julian the next day. This was my mistake. Not listening to my own gut instincts!

As the buildings ended I found it was a constant struggle to keep the front wheel moving forward. It felt like it was being swept from underneath us. I kept a slow speed and moved on. This was not good. I wondered how long it would take to do the full 70k at this rate! Not to worry. Knuckle down and think positive!

As I reached the headland and rounded the corner, the cliffs that protected me on one side ended and an almighty gust of wind took hold of me. I could not hold her as we were thrown in to the path of the oncoming lorry, sliding to a stop on our side. The lorry, thankfully stopped in time!

As you do in these situations, I jumped to my feet and started dealing with the situation in hand. Check for further hazards (traffic), switch engine off and see who the hell is going to give me a hand to lift this beast off the ground! The first two cars amazingly gawped and continued on their way! The third stopped and ran over to help. By this time the lorry driver had climbed down from his cab and was at my side ready to drag her back in to the upright position after checking I was OK.  I was fine and between the 3 of us we got Rhonda over to the side of the road and out of harms way.

The driver of the car, got on his way. The lorry driver, went back to his cab but did not leave. He refused to move until he saw I was able to ride again. This was where the fun started! The wind was coming in gusts and was so strong at times I could barely stand. I knew I had to get out of the wind and back behind the cliffs but I couldn't get my leg over the bike, let alone hold her up. I lifted the side stand in an attempt to face her in the right direction but nearly lost her again and managed to get it back down just in time before we both went over. I clung on to her for support as I tried to figure out what the hell I was going to do next! The truck driver came back and between us we got her facing the right direction. He held her in place as I got on and after a few attempts, I was moving again, albeit slowly and unsteadily! It was just  a couple of hundred yards to the cliffs. I could do it!! And I did! There I parked up again and assessed the damage.

Aside from a broken gear lever (I had a spare for just such an occasion) and a clutch lever that was now pressed against the hand guard, all appeared to be fine. The truck driver sailed passed waving and I was left sitting on the side of the road. That's when I started laughing. It wasn't hysteria. It was probably relief. I giggled as I wondered what I was going to do next. No rush. Just relax a mintue! I got my phone out to check for signal. Present. My neck and back were hurting by now but I could easily ride. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I didn't want to face the road back in to town and there was no way I was going to poke my head out from behind the relative shelter of the cliffs in the other direction either!

What were the chances of hitching a lift with a motorbike? I giggled again as I pictured films where the good looking girl put her thumb and leg out as the guy hid in the bushes until someone stopped. Perhaps I could hide and Rhonda could be my lure? I decided to just try waving down vans instead! It was worth a try! I had nothing much to lose!

Guess what? It worked.


  1. You're not painting a very good picture of Argentina so far. I have read many reports about that fierce wind. Ride safe.

    1. 'm sure there are plenty of lovely places in Argentina! Just not on Ruta 3!!!!!

  2. If this is the only road down to Ushuaia, I wont bother. I looked at some of these tour companies and they are a fortune. No point paying good money to get blown off the bike, can do that for free most days here in Scotland. LOL

    1. See my comment below regarding Ruta 40 for an alternative route down to Ushuaia. It's rough going though!

  3. Hi Steph,

    I've been reading your blog since the beginning of your trip after the Sunday Times feature. Was looking forward to the NZ leg and the Argentina leg since I've spent a bit of time in both.

    I'm surprised you didn't ride from BsAs over to the lovely wine country of Mendoza (that ride is long and straight and boring but the roads are good and you could do it in a day or two). And then from there take the famous Ruta 40 all the way down to Ushuaia. The road is rough and gravel so you would not have been bored, riding along the Andes all the way! It would have taken you a lot longer than Ruta 3 so perhaps that is why you chose Ruta 3, but it seems you had a week to spare in Ushuaia when you got there anyway.

    All the best for the rest of your trip.