Making it to Ushuaia

Posted: May 27, 2012 in Argentina, Chile

I changed the tube with the one I bought from the nice gentleman in the estancia and I was hoping it would make it for 70-80km to the town of Gobernador Gregores. I had to pass through there anyway to get gas as it was the closest station. It’s a bit of a detour off the main road but most bikers have to go through there as the tanks in the bikes are too small, even with reserve canisters sometimes. The road was really windy with currents so strong that they would push you from one side of the gravel road to the other, just like a sailboat. Luckily parts of the road were being paved and although the access was closed, the workers didn’t mind letting the bikes through. I was of course worried about the tube blowing as it was larger in diameter than the wheel and narrower than the tire. I got lucky though and made it to town. First off, there was no gas at the station, something pretty normal on the Argentinean side in the south. The guy at the station said I should come back in a few hours so I went on a search for a new tube. I asked in every store in town and there was nothing to be found. I was also running low on cash and the only bank in town wouldn’t take my card. Close to the gas station I asked a guy who had a dirt bike parked in front of his house where he gets his tubes from. He said that there were none in town but told me to wait. After a minute or two, he came out with a brand new tube and gave it to me. I was still the wrong diameter but at least it was the width of the tire so I thought that it should get me at least till Calafate. He didn’t want to take any $ for it which totally blew my mind as I had only talked to him for less than a minute. Thanks again, it was much appreciated!

Now that I had a tube, I only needed some gas and I could ride out and try to make it for new years to Calafate, about 300km south. At the gas station, still no gas. The guy was nice and gave me some of the reserve they use for Ambulances and such. I filled up and noticed that the wind had got stronger. The young guy looked at me and suggested that I’d stay a bit as the winds were too strong. I decided to try and ride. Out of the gas station, about 500m down the paved road I couldn’t keep the bike straight and I was getting thrown from one side of the road to the other. I tried to turn around but the wind gusts were so strong that I couldn’t hold the bike up even with both feet on the ground. I waited for a few minutes and took advantage of a few seconds of slower wind to lift the 300kg bike back up. I turned around and made it back to the station. The young guy said that the wind gusts were at 120km/h and a few minutes later they got up to 150km/h. A few more people showed up and took refuge as well. While waiting, another German adventurer, Holger, showed up whom I had met a couple of days earlier on the road. I knew he was a couple of days behind and he also had a spare tube so if I wasn’t gonna make it to this town, I was just gonna camp one more night on the side of the road to wait for him.

Here’s Holger with his Honda TransAlp 650 twin. We camped in the municipal campground for free as it was too windy and late to get out of town.

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Next day, the mission was to try and make it to Calafate. It was the 31st and it would have been nice to party the new year in a place with some clubs and bars. On the way out of town, I went and bought a bottle of champaign and left it on the porch of the gentleman who gave me the tube for the bike, and hopefully he got it before someone else took it.

Back on the road, you could see traces left by the wind from the day before, such as this SUV that lost control and flipped over.

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A few km down, we caught up to a group of Italian bikers. They had shipped their bikes down from Italy along with a 4X4 and a driver for the car. They would keep all their luggage in the 4X4 and travel nice and light on their bikes.

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Some of the scenery along the way.

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Some friends we had met in the campground in G. Gregores.

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And more punctures! This was the 2nd one of the day. After riding like maniacs with the Italian group, at a short rest stop I noticed that my tire was low and it was loosing air fast. I checked the valve and it seemed ok so it must have been punctured. I changed the tubes and replaced the one from the estancia which was the wrong size anyway with the one I received from the gentleman in town. It turns out it was the valve even though I had checked it. The spring had broken on the valve. Oh well, no big deal, but about 60km down the road this happened. The tube I received from that gentleman had punctured. I took it out, patched it and a few minutes later back on the road. The tire curse was not giving up, but it’s all part of the adventure.

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Two tire problem stops on the road but we still made it to El Calafate before night fall, not by much though. We found a camp site, rested a bit and went out to party for new years eve. Next day, relaxed with a big hang over. I split up with Holger as he was on a tighter schedule and I wanted to spend a few more days in El Calafate. I had to find a tube but everything was closed till the 2nd or the 3rd of Jan. and also wanted to check out the glacier.

Pictures of the glacier park

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After asking everyone around town, I found out that there was a guy selling bike stuff out of his garage. No one else had any tubes. I found the mechanic’s house and was able to get an 18″ tube (still the wrong diameter) for the inflated price of 120 pesos (30$). Better than nothing!

It’s good that I bought that tube too because a few km south of the city I got another puncture. Actually, I don’t remember if it was a puncture or if the patch had come off but I do remember being in the middle of nowhere with super strong winds again. The winds were so strong that when I had put the bike up to take the wheel off, the wind pushed over the bike on it’s side, on the kickstand side. I couldn’t lift it by myself but a nice old gentleman stopped and helped me. It was one of the hardest tube swaps because of the wind.

So now I was a tube short again but I was heading towards Punta Arenas and thought that they must have tubes there. Punta Arenas has a huge duty free market with a tone of stores… although much junk and not much good in those stores. Right before crossing the border though to Chile, I asked some guys on scooters if they knew anyone selling bike parts and they brought me to some guy’s house. He wanted 130 pesos for the same tube I had paid 60 pesos for in Bariloche, but he did let it go for 100. Now I just needed a new tire as my rear was getting really slim.

Right before Punta Arenas, I found a place to camp for free. Nice spot with some trees and a hill to keep some of the wind away.

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Then I went to Punta Arenas and found a Maxxis rear tire for 70$ (great deal!) as well as a front tube as I had no more front spares either. I bought a few more things for great deals at a Wall Mart like store and headed back south.

Here is the Ferry crossing from Puerto Espora.

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A truck had broken his rear axle getting off the ferry so we had to wait till they towed it with another truck.

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Getting closer to Ushuaia. Only a few km away, the scenery was starting to be nice again.

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And here is Ushuaia! I made it! The weather was a bit rainy and chilly while the town itself wasn’t that appealing.

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A few km up the road, there’s a small train you can take into a national park. The price tag was 160 Pesos (40$) for the train and another 80 (20$) for the entrance to the park so I decided against it. I did go check out the park though and for the 80 pesos I was able to get in and also camp for free, so it wasn’t a bad deal really… cheaper than Banff in Canada still!

Pictures from inside the park.

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Alaska… almost 18 000 km away…

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The end of the road

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Comments
  1. E- says:

    When you were a kid, you made it to the Northernmost point of the road in Quebec and the Southernmost of North America, in Florida. Now you made it to the Southernmost of South America. And you already made the Est to West of the Americas. Bravo!

  2. Alexandra says:

    This is starting to sound like the curse of the bike, not the tire! Good luck!

  3. Vlad says:

    Wow it really looks like you are at the end of the World.

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