Sunday, 22 March 2015

Back on the road!

Rhonda arrives in style
It's already 3 weeks since I left Antarctica behind. Since then it has been mostly logistics.

I flew to Punta Arenas where I celebrated my victory with a group of British guys. This "quiet night" ended in one of them falling down the stairs and smashing his head open leaving him unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor at 3am.  This is what happens when you start drinking BLUE drinks after dinner! The emergency services was engaged for 10 minutes and things got pretty stressful for a while but he made it to the hospital and in to good hands in the end. His flight home was delayed for 10 days while he recovered but last I heard he was doing well.

The adventure never ends....even when you want it to!!!!

The Beagle channel from Navarino Island
From Punta Arenas I flew to Puerto Williams. As far south as anyone lives. It feels like the end of the
world too! The houses are built of wood and metal corrugated sheets and in a strong wind they feel very flimsy indeed. There is nothing much here but it is a beautiful area. It is the only town on Navarino Island which creates the southern bank of the Beagle Channel. This is where I would meet Rhonda again off the Russian Ice Breaker. In the meantime I hung around, did some walking and made friends with the local dogs!

Rhonda arrived safe and sound. I went aboard to have a coffee with the crew again and thanked them for delivering her safely. She was craned off and within an hour the paperwork was sorted and we were free to go. I had been a little worried about this stage as the bike had left Argentina to Antarctica with no stamp to say we were leaving. Rhonda was now coming back in to Chile with no record of where she had been. There was no issue in the end! I did wonder though if it would raise it's ugly head again when we tried to ride back in to Argentina!

Celebrating with the boys in Punta Arenas
After a few days waiting for the ferry we were off again and back to Punta Arenas. Here Rhonda was cleaned up and serviced and finally we could get back on the road! Good as new and ready for the next challenge!

I couldn't find my passport at the border crossing between Puerto Natales and El Calafate. The officer was lovely. I was clearly the first to arrive and so he came over to help with his phone at the ready to start calling hotels for me to see if I had left it anywhere. I travel with two passports as I have dual nationality. I always thought the Canadian one would come in handy for this very occasion and so I whipped it out and presented it to him. What I had not realised is that if you enter on a British passport, you can't leave on a Canadian! He could not let me leave without the same passport! I searched again and thankfully found it! It had been where it should have been all along!

It seems to me that long distance cyclists are put on this earth to knock us motorcyclists down a peg or two! Just as you are riding along in some remote place on tough terrain and thinking how well you are doing, you come across a lone cyclist doing the same thing BUT WITH NO ENGINE!!!! This happened to me in the crazy heat and wilderness of the Northern Territory of Australia and it happened again on a 150km cold and windy gravel track between Tres Lagos and Gregores! I stopped to say hi and know a little of his story. This guy, who had given up trying to ride the gravel and was now pushing his bike,  turned out to be from Holland and had been on the road two years. After a quick chat I left him and carried on my way. The rest of my journey that day seemed extremely easy! I was grateful for the comparison!

Ruta 40
Tres Lagos had been the midway point for me that day. The only place between El Calafate and Gregores where I could get fuel. When I arrived I found a couple of tents at the gas station, a Swiss couple with a 4x4 and two French bikers. "Do you need fuel?" they asked as soon as I pulled up. "Yes"  I said "Don't tell me there is none!" They proceeded to tell me that the gas station had been waiting for the truck to deliver fuel for 9 days now but yesterday when they had arrived they had been told it could be in the next couple of hours. They ended up camping there and waiting. There was little else they could do. Eventually they had found a guy in town who provided them with what they needed (at double the cost of course) and now they were having their morning coffee and getting back on the road. They told me the guy in question would not be there now! "Oh well" I said. "This is what it's all about" and I sat down and joined them for a coffee while I considered my next move.

The French bikers who shared their fuel
After some discussion in French between the two bikers, they clearly came to the conclusion that they
had enough to share and offered me 3 litres. This MIGHT just be enough to get me to the next town. "Are you sure?" They said. " The next leg is very bad with gravel and mud. It took us two days to get here as we burt out a clutch and we got stuck several times. We had to camp out there. We would hate for you to get stuck on your own." I was grateful for their concern but now a little wary of what was up ahead! "I'll be fine" I said. "Thank you. It should just be enough to get me there". They had had to deal with the track in the rain. It had not rained now for 24 hours and the wind was strong. The track should have dried. I hoped!! "If it starts getting at all sticky TURN BACK" they warned. They gave me a card "Please email us to let us know you made it". I agreed and set off to see what happened next!

The track was fine. I had no problems at all. In fact once I had got over my nerves of what lay ahead, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The wind had died down and the rain stayed off. The weather had been kind this afternoon.

The wind had been playing with me of the last few days. It was icy cold and gusting in true Patagonian fashion. I had to stop every 20 miles to remove my gloves and stick my hands in my armpits to defrost (I'm afraid I didn't take many pictures for that reason!). It felt like a game of cat and mouse. The wind was the cat and I was it's prey. It would jab from the left, then another from the right before SWIPE! Keeping the bike upright was hard work. I have learnt not to let go of the throttle when those gusts come. Don't slow down or it will have you. Keep fighting it. On some corners, whilst on an angle it felt like it was going to win and pick me up like a kite. The temptation is to shut off but I have learnt the hard way that this is the worst thing you can do.

In Gregaros I realised my mistake. I had come in to Argentina with only enough money for a couple of days. I had forgotten that foreign cards seldom work here. I had a few Chilean pesos left and a few dollars. It was just enough to pay the hotel if she would accept it. At first she refused. I was already in the room and it was dark and very cold so I persevered. After much debate (once again with no Spanish skills) we came to an agreement and she even ended the discussion with a coffee and a smile! I was very grateful! I had no food that night but I kept enough money back to buy enough fuel to get me to the next town.

On route to Perito Moreno I came across an old friend of mine. Nick Sanders was filming on the side
of the road. At first I waved at the biker and rode past. Then suddenly it clicked and I spun around. It was lovely to see him and in usual Nick Sanders fashion, after a quick hug, he whipped out his camera and started interviewing me! We rode together to Perito Moreno and I was treated to lunch and a coffee before he sped off again to get another 300km under his belt that day. I settled in for the weekend. My only choice was to wait for the Western Union to open on Monday so I could get some money and continue North. The Icy cold wind had died down now and the sun was warmer.

I'm at a fork in the road here and I have found it difficult to make a decision as to which way I should go next. Head in to Chile and take my time riding up towards Santiago or continue on Route 40 in Argentina and make better time. I have decided that as I am heading for my 40th birthday I will continue on Route 40! This way I am likely to meet more bikers. I have also just discovered that a Facebook friend who is currently riding around South America is on this route in San Carlos de Bariloche. I could be there in two days and Claire would be waiting with a beer in hand! That was the clincher for me! Decision made. It would be great to have some company for a day or two.

I've now been on the road 12 months and what have I learnt? Judging by the last couple of week? Not very much at all!! : 0 )


  1. Keep going Steph and keep writing, really enjoying reading your news,UKev

  2. Happy 40th Birthday when it happens Steph. Safe riding!

  3. Not learned much, but a whole lot wiser. Happy birthday Steph, stay safe