Ushuaia to Parque Del Paine – Chile

Since the last post we have traveled from Ushuaia to El Calafate in Chile. About 800Ks

The long but beautiful (and Windy) road . Nearing Parque Del Paine - Chile

We left Ushuaia on 27th December and drove accross Tierra Del Fuego to Porvenir.

Porvenir Chile

It is “ripio” all the way. The countryside is bleak and reminds me of The Isle of Skye, without the white crofters cottages.

It took us three hours in Customs entering Chile….. No, it wasn’t because the Customs people thought we looked like a couple of dodgy bikers…There was just a massive queue and few staff. Totally ridiculous but patience is something I’m learning fast!

The ferry to Punta Arenas leaves from Porvenir. We looked up the times and found it leaves at 9-00am . Wrong! It actually leaves at 2.00pm so we had some time to kill in Porvenir. Another lesson learn’t…don’t rely on published timetables!

Our Hotel in Porvenir - really nice $70 though!

Porvenir is a run down little town that once was quite wealthy. It was settled by Croatians looking for gold. No gold now so it’s nerarly a ghost town with some surprisingly nice buildings still trying to survive! The people are an odd mix of Croatian/Indians.

On the road we met “Gilles” the Frenchman” extraordinaire!”

Gilles...The Frenchman Extraordinaire

He swept past us on ‘the ripio’ on his big 1200cc BMW.

Gilles is one of a kind. To describe him is hard. He is a cross between Maurice Chevallier (a super suave Frenchman) and Walter Mitty!

His trade mark is his accent which is perfect. He is definitely Mr Cool. A great person to meet on the road….  He seems to lead the near perfect life! He is President of the World Bee Keepers Association and also hosts a web site called “world bees.com” This gives him money to travel around which he does for six months of the year.

He also has a farm near Bordeaux and a beautiful Australian wife….I told him I also had a beautiful Australian wife and shared a farm near Melbourne……Actually, the similarity doesn’t end there. His Australian wife is one of Europe’s top Dressage Riders…

This was becoming ‘Duelling Wives” ….so,not to be outdone I was telling him all about Merry and her expertise as a Horsewoman.

Gilles’ wife meets him on his trips and spends the rest of her time with the horses…sound familiar? (Merry, don’t worry I’m not going to do this for six months of the year for the next eight years like Gilles!..promise)

After leaving Gilles to glide his way forward, we went and faced up to our first “HOSTEL”

Our first Hostel - Punta Arenas

Our room at the Hostel in Punta Arenas

NOT HAPPY! Azulo and Roho in Punta Arenas

We found a little place that cost us $20 a night. We were expecting to feel like a couple of old farts…Not at all…Just about everyone in the Hostel could have joined the “Old fart Club”‘ so we felt at home!

Next we rode the long road to Parque Del Paine in Chile.

Paine is one of Chile’s main attractions. It really is magnificent.

It was my birthday, 28th so we camped!

Camping - Proof!-Parque Del Paine on my birthday!

The next day was sunny so we hiked for SIX hours!

Hiking Parque Del Paine

It was very special although I was pleased to have a CERVEZA or two that evening

We were very lucky as the Park was evacuated the day we left. Some stupid Israeli boys camping lit a fire which has burnt down much of the park.

Parque Del Paine - Chile

We’re now at EL CALIFATE after another long drive.

The issue is the wind. It really is horrendous.

On the bike you are riding at a 45% angle and then you get hit by a gust that sends you half way across the road. When a bus comes the other way it can be nail biting, especially in the ripio! It’s amazing though how you get used to it but it is quite tiring as you have to concentrate 100% of the time.

Also, I must be several inches taller as the wind lifts the helmet and stratches the neck!

The wind is SO strong that it actually knocked me and Azulo clean over when we stopped at a cafe! Very embarrassing but no damage

We spend a few days here to see the Morino Glacier and Icebergs on the lakes.

Everything again closes down for New Year (like Christmas) apparently. I haven’t seen an Irish Pub yet and am hoping NOT to have Irish stew tonight!

It was great “skyping” home tonight and seeing Merry and our friends having our annual New Year dinner which is at our place this year. I miss them all.

Happy New Year to everybody. I love your comments. thanks so much

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Stew for Christmas!

Don’t laugh…It’s true!

The bottom of the world

Our christmas was, to say the least, unusual!

We asked the Information Centre whether we should book a restaurant for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. They said no. They were right as nearly everywhere is closed….They didn’t tell us that!

It seems here Xmas Eve is the main family night.

So, on Xmas Eve we roamed the empty streets looking for somewhere for dinner!

We eventually found a little place and went in…Well…It was like Faulty Towers. Actually it was really funny as the waiter was just like Basil Faulty. Just like Basil he got everything wrong.

We had NO IDEA what we were going to get. At first we thought it was just a buffet…so we stuffed ourselves on that (it wasn’t very nice but we thought that was it) Then we saw people eating steak etc and found out it was a set meal..except we hadn’t been told that. Basil ignored us for some reason.

Eventually in desperation,We asked a local if she could possibly speak to Basil and order our meal for us,, which she did . Suddenly a steak arrived!

It was really very funny and those in the restaurant saw the funny side of a shipwreck. We weren’t the only ones ignored. I’m sure Manuel was there somewhere too!

I skyped home and Merry and the family were enjoying a lovely dinner at Merry’s brother, Pete’s place. Karen as always, turned on a right royal lunch.. It was lovely to talk to them but I wish Mr Skype could find a way of beaming up some of Karen’s lunch to Tierra Del Fuego!

 

Christmas Day was no better….actually worse! We had a nice morning visiting the National Park and taking some pictures…One is the mandatory picture of the sign at the ” bottom of the world” The weather is nice today and the scenery simply stunning

Then back to town for our Christmas lunch. We couldn’t find anywhere except the IRISH PUB of all places. Not a big menu! So Irish stew it was for Christmas!

The Irish Pub where we enjoyed Irish Stew for our Xmas lunch!

Somethings gone wrong with the formatting on this post. Sorry. Can’t work out how to fix it!

Happy Christmas from Ushuaia

Happy Christmas to everybody ! Thank you for sending me your comments and support. It’s terrific hearing from you all. I really appreciate your messages and it’s great to feel family and friends and even some i don’t even know are sharing the trip! Keep the comments coming. I’ll do my best to reply!

Happy Christmas and good cheer!

There isn’t much happening here at Christmas . Very few decorations. Christmas Eve seems to be the main event. We will have a good dinner somewhere. but I will miss our family dinner which is at Pete and Karen Algie’s place this year and Karen does a wonderful Xmas dinner and Pete tells his jokes! Always a lovely day.

Today we took a trip on the Beagle Channel. The weather was good, if windy and the trip was fantastic. Very beautiful scenery and lots of wild life. The pictures don’t do it justice!

 

The Beagle Channel from Ushuaia

Beagle Channel

 

Sea Lions

Cormorants...Thousands of them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ushuaia 22-26 December 2011

The wonderful thing about travel is the unexpected gems you find quite unexpectedly

The ferry to Chile

We crossed into Chile and boarded a little ferry at Punta Dalgarda. It was free for bikes but $50 for cars…We were then in Tierra del Fuego…somewhere I never thought I would ever see. It was getting late and the places to stay are few and far between. Camping simply isn’t on the cards for us in this weather. It’s cold and very windy.

Azulo and Roho wait in the rain whilst we have a CUP OF TEA!

We found a little hotel in the most grotty little place called Sombrero.  It looked like a transport Hotel and, like the town was pretty grotty…but, this was the only bed around so we grabbed a room. The dining room was a shed out back but we were hungry and tired so at 8.00 pm sharp (when it opened) we were first in followed by a gang of workmen. Then, just like Cinderella everything changed.

The inside was charming and cosy. There was only a set meal but it was the best meal we’ve eaten on this trip and cheap too…about $25 each for a 3 course meal and wine. The host ” Carlos” was incredible. He alone had food on every table in minuters and ran the place like a drill sergeant! You would have Carlos running your business anyday. Totally wasted there! (SORRY, NO PICTURE OF CARLOS’ DINING ROOM)

The next day, we rode the final 400ks to Ushuaia, Since Chile and Argentina share Tierra del Fuego we had to cross back  into Argentina again. More customs.

A long WAY DOWN...NOW WE'VE GOT TO GO UP!

The countryside suddenly became beautiful and then we’re there in Ushuaia…the first major goal achieved! HOORAY

We found our hotel with help from the locals. I asked a Telecom man (who looked
ike a Rugby player) by the roadside where ROCA Street was. He asked asomeone else who asked someone else then that someone jumped on his motorbike and led us to the Hotel. Amazing

Our Hotel, Rosa De Los Vintos

My bike has been a bit naughty! I’ve had more trouble with the battery terminal and it needs an oil change so at 5.00pm I asked the hotel if there was a bike shop nearby. They directed me to PABLO MOTORS and I arrived at 6.30 PM. Then and there, they serviced the bike. They fixed the terminal, did an oil change, tightened the chain and even washed the bike!

Pablo is some local “OFF ROAD” Champion and has literally hundreds of Cups on the walls!

Pablo, with some of his cups

So were here. Its a busy little place surrounded by mountains.

Ushuaia

Marshall Glacier....sadly it's receding quickly

London Bus City tour. Very good way to see the town

We’ll have a four day break here and do some sight-seeing.

On Boxing day we head north into Chile again and the Andes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The seemingly endless road to Ushuaia

The clock shows I’ve done  2900 kms and were still 800 kms from Ushuaia!

Azulo and Roho at rest...Roho grabbed the garage...It is a BMW after all!

The weather is getting colder, the wind howls all the time and today we had some rain! It was horizontal and freezing!

Azulo proudly showing her flags!

Not much to report. Its a fairly dull road to put it mildly. Very flat and sparse. Good for riding though and we’ve lifted our average. Thank heavens for that as we just want to get to Ushuaia.

We visited Puerto San Julian which tries to be tourist resort but clearly fails! There is a War memorial for the Malvinas…They are still smarting about the Falklands War. This mamorial has a picture of the three British ships sunk by Exorcet missiles.

Malvinas War memorial

We have found a nice little Hotel in Comandante Luis Pledrabuana. Miles from anywhere!

We are famished after a long ride but everything is shut till 9.00 pm so I bought a bottle of Vino at the shop to kill the time…disaster! …couldn’t open the bottle!…. The cork was so stuck it broke the cork screw!…. Luckilysomeone came to our rescue…The bottle cost all of $2.50 but this time it tastes like a $2.50 wine Maybe better luck tomorrow!

Valdez Peninsula

Its very barren and dry but really quite beautiful.

The Bank in Puerto Piramides

The Peninsula is a wild life reserve with very few animals! At least that’s our impression. We drove 200 Kms on gravel …”ripio” as they call it.

 

Azulo on the Ripio

We saw a few Guanacos (a bit like a deer) an Armadillo, some Penguins and Sea-lions

We have had a time out to do some washing (apart from riding 200Kms on gravel….good training for the roads ahead

No sign of the Orcas…they are big Dolphins apparently. The male can be 6000kg and lives for 30 years. The female can be 4000Kg and lives for 50 years! Just not fair!

See Merry..I do do some laundry

Tomorrow, we make the big push south. It’s still 2000 Kms to Usuhaia where we spend Christmas.

 

Learning fast!

The roads are good but it’s basically hundreds of kilometers of flat Pampas.

Riding through the Pampas

We have now arrived at Peninsula Valdes which is a wildlife National Park. Here at certain times of the year the Orcas come in close to the shore and kill the baby seals. Luckily we will not see this bloodthirsty event as its the wrong time of year. We should see lots of penguins, seal and other wildlife as well as interesting scenery.

We will stay here three nights for some R & R

Yesterday my bike played up. The battery terminals came loose. The “boys” at the warehouse had incorrectly attached the battery connections whilst I was frantically searching for THE part!.

Fixing my bike

We stoppped at St Antonio de Oeste to get it fixed. We stopped by a hardware shop and a lady asked us what the problem was. Somehow she understood our feeble Spanish. She got on the phone and five minutes later a young guy arrived on a bike. Within minutes there was host of helpers! Whilst I could easily have fixed it myself they insisted on doing it for me and wouldn’t accept payment! ….Lots of fun. They are such happy and lovely people

Instead, I gave them one of the little toy kangaroos I bought as give aways. They were delighted. They insisted I send the photo!

My team of helpers

Yesterday we learnt THREE more lessons!

Firstly, we cannot do the distances we expect in the time. We expected to arrive at PUERTO PIRAMIDES on the Valdes Peninsula at 4.00pm. We rode in exhausted at 8.00pm (still daylight). Not good. We wont do that again

Secondly, dont expect there to be money in the bank!…Believe it or not THREE banks John  tried to get money from were empty

Thirdly, don’t expect the Petrol Stations to have Petrol! We got caught yesterday. Luckily we eventually found one with Petrol (we visited 3 empty petrol stations before we found one with petrol. This is a BIG worry for later where the petrol stations are sometimes 250 Ks apart!

One other little incident yesterday…I’m using my British passport because with the Australian passport there is an entry tax of $100 in Argentina and Chile. Well….we were stopped by the Police yesterday. A very smart older Policeman came up to me, demanded to see my passport. looked at it and said something about the MALVINAS….I have NO IDEA what he said, but hoped I wasn’t going to get locked up in the gulag!

Anyway he smiled and let us through! I wonder what he DID ACTUALLY SAY!

Azulo and Roho having some R & R at The Paradise Hotel

Gentlemen, start your engines!

At last, we’re off!

The boys starting the adventure

We head south to Patagonia. It’s just great to be on the bike. Anyone who rides a bike knows the feeling of freedom and happiness that riding a bike can give. After all the troubles, frustrations and the sense of achievement too that we have overcome all that was thrown at us it makes the ride even better!

AZULO ready to go

Our first stop…AZUL a few hundred kilometers from BA. Appropriate for AZULO to be spending his first night in AZUL!

Me and Azulo on the road somewhere

 

Our Hotel costs us $18.00 each. Wine in the nearest little restaurant sets us back $6.00 I can afford this !

Chilling out in Buenos Aires and Colonia

We pick up the bikes (we hope) tomorrow (Monday 13th) so we will have had 10 days here. Once over the drama of customs we have been able to do some sightseeing. I think I’m an expert now and I really like it here.

 

The Market Ricoleta

Painted corrugated iron houses in La Boca

Poor Perro...I wonder if he got the meat!

She really wanted to dance with me!

The city has many aspects…La Boca is a colourful ex-working class area where they have painted the corrogated iron which make up the walls of the houses. There are markets and Tango shows and all sorts of things going on. San Telmo nearby has a greaty market on sundays. Recoleta is a swanky suburb near the city which is a great place to stay and also has craft markets and an amazing Mausoleum where Evita is buried . There is a “docklands” area called Puerto Madero which is like most renovated docklands areas.

We went to a restaurant called ” SIGA  LA VACA” (Follow the Cow) one night. Amazing! It seats at least 2000 and for $30.00 you can eat as much meat and salad as you like…Included in the $30.00 is a bottle of wine and a dessert. There is a massive BBQ with every conceivable type and cut of meat on it!

The area I love is Palermo Soho and Belgrano. They are lovely suburbs a few kilometers out of the city. Great restaurants and lovely tree lined streets. The city centre is bustling and hectic. There is a 16 lane road that cuts straight though the middle with the Obelisk in the middle… that appears in all the travel brochures.

I bought a lovely little painting of La Boca for $10 from this lady

There are lots of lovely squares in the city. The main square is Placa De Mayo and the Rosario is the Government House. It’s all a bit run down which is a pity. This is where Evita used to rally the crowd.

Placa De Mayo

Placa De Mayo and the Rosario

The people are generally friendly….

although we find the service is variable (as everywhere I suppose) ranging from charming to curt and rude. The wine is great…an OK bottle of  Malbec (their main red variety) costs around $15 in an average restaurant. They are great meat eaters and the “Parriella” which I think is basically a roasted plate of meat is huge and enough to feed half of the Roman Army. They often just have a great plate of meat…no salad or vegetables, just this enormous plate of meat!

We visited Colonia in Uruguay yesterday. It is a 60 minute ferry ride from BA. It is a quiet and pretty little place but frankly I expected more having read the brochures and even having seen a TV documentary on it.

Colonia

Just to show i was in Uruguay

Lots of old cars in Colonia. This one a Vauxhall

So, tomorrow we pick up the bikes. We will buy Diego a good dinner as a thank-you. Then …Gentlemen, start your engines!

Karen…If you read this…are there enough pictures now!

 

The Argentine Customs saga

Sometimes things just seem like a dream. Things are so bizarre that they simply can’t be happening and surely you will wake up… In the last few days we have witnessed some bizarre bureaucratic  incompetence, some hilarious moments, endless waiting and disappointment and finally one of the most remarkable acts of service and generosity I have ever seen..

It looks like it will take us ten days to get the bikes out of customs! As I write we have the papers and are now stuck in a four day public holiday. The warehouse is closed so AZULO and ROHO have to wait till monday!

Before describing what was about to unfold let me introduce DIEGO, our saviour! Purely by luck we had booked a Hotel for our first few days and were met at the airport by Diego, a guide. He duly delivered us to the hotel and kindly offered to help us through customs

The saga began on Monday 3. We visited the shippng agent. We paid USD$516 and were told we needed a Manifest number before we could go to the Customs pier.This might take 2-4 days to get. We were told that once  we received the papers signed. it could take between 2-5 days before we could collect the bikes!

Imagine how we felt at hearing this…All this was a complete surprise

BOTH THESE THINGS LATER PROVED TO BE RUBBISH!

The entrance to Hell..the customs area

Wednesday arrived and we received the number so off we go to customs. The customs area has no signs no nothing to identify it. All one finds is a few tired people patiently sitting and waiting and waiting… We got our number “6” and waited. We were happy as there were only 5 ahead of us. That was 11.30 am. At 12.15 we were summoned through a nondescript door to the inner-sanctum. This is where it took all one’s restraint not to burst out laughing. Chaos was one word for it.

The Officer who attended to us (toothy) from here on sat us down and looked seriously at our paperwork. Drama…the “packing list” wasn’t in Spanish! Diego to the rescue. Problem solved. Toothy then shuffled the papers, lost some reshuffled them and smiled. Over the  other side of the room was a female Dragon Lady who was devouring some poor tourist. Next to Toothy was the BOSS..He was a fat chap wearing a flack jacket. he looked out of a B grade Mexican gangster movie. Then there was ” the fixer” who looked like a bookie at the races. All he did was rush around doing nothing but looking incredibly busy. This lot could have been lifted for a John Cleese TV show or maybe Monty Python episode. No need to hire actors, this lot looked and acted the part magnificently!

All was going swimmingly and we even entertained the remote possibility of getting the bikes today….then 12.30 arrived. Up they all got. Toothy put on his jacket, and they all went off to lunch! back at 2.30 they said.

Well, 2.45 arrived and they came back. it was nearly 3.30 before toothy recalled us. More shuffling of papers and then outside we went again. 5.00 arrived…time to knock off for the holiday…Our spirits were down then miraculously out came toothy and gave us the papers!! HOORAY.

This magnificent band of  high octane workers must have processed not MORE than 6 people ALL DAY! John and I cannot see how on earth it took so long as there is nothing much to do!

Next stop was the Freight office to pay the wharfage. that luckily was open till 6 pm. In we went. The man shuffled our precious papers and announced that the PACKING LIST  was missing!  Back we rushed to find Toothy…Luckily he and BOSS in his Flack jacket was still there…Dragon Lady and The Fixer had long gone!

Boss, to his credit because it was way past knocking off time, took the papers and told Diego THEY WERE ALL WRONG! Toothy had not only left out the Packing list but had sent us to the wrong warehouse. Boss man fixed the papers then off we went again to the new warehouse. It was now 6.30 The traffic was horrendous. It took half an hout to go 1 km…we should have walked

The saga was almost over…Just one last drama which will remain a secret for now. Again Diego to the rescue!!!!

The warehouse was closed so off we went into the sunset back to our hotel. It was 8.30 pm. The Cervesa and Malbec were calling!

Me and Diego with THE PAPERS

Now the last but wonderful part of the saga

Diego had been wonderful. He had saved the day several times. We could not have done it without him. He had spent best on 2 days with us. Always cheerful and smart. What were we to pay him?  We didnt know so we thanked him and said we would like to reimburse him for his fantastic effort.

He FLATLY REFUSED PAYMENT! he said (and means it) that he wanted to help us. We will take him out to dinner this monday but it seems so little for all his wonderful help

Diego’s gesture is amazing to John and myself. It shows there are some fantastic people in this world

 

Sorry if this is a long blog. They will not normally be this wordy but this was an amazing funny dreadful experience which ended in a magnificent gesture of generosity to complete strangers with no personal gain