Argentina is demanding your attention…. and to the degree you do not pay attention, you pay with pain!
The distractions are huge and incredibly beautiful – but the pot holes are huge too, so paying attention is a must.
My first encounter of Argentina and Argentinians were Buenos Aires. The fox and I took the Buguebus ferry from Montevideo which docks in the heart of this enormous, bustling capital.
Buenos Aires inhabits close to 15 million people (greater BA included), the second largest city in South America.
So, as you ride off the ramp you are introduced into the notorious traffic of the city, which requires that you dial up the aggression and stay wide awake to keep up and out of harms way.
I stayed with friends of the family; Gustavo and the lovely Magdalena, and not to leave out the most delightful cat, Gladys!
I spent a couple of days being a proper tourist in the city centre checking out the main sites, but it was really interesting to stay with my hosts, to get their perspective on Buenos Aires and Argentina in general…Oh, and Gustavo taught me some fabulous, “porteño” swearing! You never know, it could come in handy.
The Argentinians (or the people of Buenos Aires mainly) come across as confident, proud and brash at times. But this is understandable given it’s diverse culture and history.
Argentina is not cheap, especially Buenos Aires, so I saddled up the fox and after some consideration I decided to head straight for the Andes, crossing the Pampas and make my way down the western part of the continent towards the land of fire and the end of the world.
With the help of Gustavo and Maggie, we came up with a plan to ride out of BA on Christmas eve day, which was a good call, because it was relatively quiet.
We made it to the town of Tandil and set up camp for the night, however in the early hours of the morning the heavens opened and the campsite turned into a river. It was a wet, wet Christmas.
Riding past Bahia Blanca westbound we were about to enter the Pampas and serious prairie-territory. We crossed Plainicie de los Vientos, the windy plains, which lived up to its name, with hot winds relentlessly blasting the fox and I for the entirety of the ride.
I have to say that the onslaught these legendary winds does drive you “un poco loco” and the thought of the even stronger winds in south Patagonia, made me quiver in my boots! The fox would look reassuringly at me, and in a sort of quiet way say: “Gaby, you’re a pussy”.
Soon the dread was entirely replaced by total excitement and sense of adventure when I saw the first peaks of the Andes appear on the horizon – a fantastic sight! There were squeals of delight in my helmet – (drowned out by the roaring winds of course)!
The landscape soon changed from pampas to more hilly, to full on mountainous, as we made our way to San Carlos de Bariloche – a rather touristy, but lovely, “alpine – style” town on the shore of lake Nahuel Huapi. As soon as I had applied my lederhosen and arranged my Heidi plats I wandered to the lake, to practice my yodelling.
With the dramatic change in landscape, came a dramatic change in climate, cold and wet…oh and not to forget, windy!
I was keen to get to Chile, so the day after new years day, we headed for the border at Paso Cardenal.
Approximately 5 kilometres before the first border post, the traffic came to a grinding halt – at first I thought there might have been an accident, but as we overtook the cars and trucks, it turned out to be the queue of Argentinian holiday makers headed for Chile. Thank the gods for riding a bike!
The border crossing itself was easy, apart from a complete strip down of the fox in Chilean customs. Every bag was searched for contraband and they seized two carrots from me!
Chile met me with more rain and wind and a very shy volcano (Osorno) which I didn’t see for three days, as it was shrouded in cloud. I am glad I insisted and didn’t miss out on this opportunity to see it, as it was a stunning sight.
The following day we boarded the ferry in Puerto Montt bound for Puerto Natales which sails through the channels and fjords of South Patagonia.
This is not the ferry – thankfully, but a ship which was purposefully run aground in the sixties to claim the insurance. The channels and fjords are very deep except for this place, which is only a few meters deep
Boarding the ferry I met Siri and Thorsten, another moto travelling couple en route to Ushuaia.
Check out their adventure here www.henn-photography.com
The ferry crossing took three days and whales, dolphins and seals were spotted among a lot of other wildlife. The temperature dropped steadily as we sailed south, and riding off the ramp in Puerto Natales was like landing on the Faroe Islands. Bleak, windy and barren – but beautiful.
The final stretch to the “end of the world”, Ushuaia, was an extremely windy affair – but some of the best riding I have ever done. Including a fantastic stretch of dirt from Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego to the Argentinian border at San Sebastian. The scenery changed form barren, to dotted with dead trees covered in lichen, to full on, jaw-dropping, “lord of the rings – scenery”
It’s a fantastic milestone for the fox and I. The long way up the continent is about to begin.
See you out there!