December 9, 2010

Blown Away

Well the winds down here are frightful!
But the scenery is so delightful!
So no matter how hard it blows,
We've got to go, got to go, got to go!

Patagonia is know for its tremendous winds which are no wonder when you see how close the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are at this narrow point of South America. Cold winds blow across the Andes from the Pacific side and then are pushed back by gusts from the Atlantic. In the middle are four very small motorcycles being tossed around like pinballs! But in answer to that frequently asked question-yes we are having fun yet.

Every country has its own unique characteristics and Argentina immediately struck us with the awesome beauty of its snow capped mountains reflected in bright blue lakes. We crossed over from Chile into the Lakes District where its Spring and the flowers are in bloom everywhere. Purple, mauve and pink lupins line the roads and contrast with a verdant yellow bush similar to our forsythia, that has taken over the countryside. On a tour to the Black Glacier, I asked our guide the name of the bush and he said “plague”! Seems its the gift that keeps on giving. Crossing over the border through a national park, we saw the monkey trees for the first time. They have the size and shape of a pine but the branches look like monkey's tails and are very sharp like cactus. We took a time-out for some sight seeing in Bariloche, a bustling tourist town that looks like it was transplanted from an Austrian village with its chalet style architecture and window boxes.

Then it was on to Patagonia. They call it “mystical” and it truly is, firstly for its vast wilderness and secondly for its variety of wildlife. Picture land stretching as far as the eye can see with only short scrub and all of a sudden a herd of guanacos appears. They look like llamas with dirty faces but in fact are a cousin of the vicuña. This is followed by what at first appeared to be miniature ostrich but turn out to be rheas. Condors once again make a brief appearance and we pass a lake full of pink flamingos. The occasional gaucho, wearing a 'Zorro' hat, can be seen riding horseback with his dogs following behind as he inspects his estansia.

Ok, you motorcycle enthusiasts ask, what about the riding, the bikes, Ruta Cuarenta? Well the riding is fantastic! Great roads, well signed, little traffic. The bikes are performing admirably with nothing more than chain lubing and periodic tightening. Ruta Cuarenta, the longest road in Argentina with over 5,000 kms and one of the longest in the world, is also one of the most challenging in parts where it is not paved and is buffeted by the aforementioned winds. So we blew that off and only rode the paved sections which we believe still qualifies us to display the “I rode R40” stickers.

We are now back near the Chilean border to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine before continuing the trek south. They're calling for 120 km winds for Sunday-think I'll go to church!


  1. Hi Jean, I'm enjoying your travelogue immensely. How are you able to avoid the gravel sections of Route 40? Ken

  2. If the winds are going to be 120km/hr then I hope the church has a storm cellar. Sunday sounds like a good day to stay put

  3. You folks are getting down there!!!

  4. Hello Ruth Ann and Steve. I am following your posts and have studied the map (left a comment there, too). Continue to have a great voyage.