6th Jan 2006 - Harberton Est to Rio Grande


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Sep 23, 2003
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Manchester, England
Mileage - 200 odd kms

Up to wind and very light rain, packed without too much problem, to cafe for coffee and cake to save using stoves. we ride out, track very wet by end but safe for 50kph, wind and chucking down over mountain pass, dry but cold on other side, repio dusty as hell.
Uninspiring ride to Rio Grande and back to Canoe Club (Club Nautico Oniken) for welcome return, happy to see us.. That night lots of people turned up to doss on floor upstairs were we decided to sleep too instead of camping. 14 folk sleeping on floor, some snoring problems. Bad nights kip for some

Saturday 7th January 2006

Rio Grande

Mileage - virtually 0 kms

Decided to have a 'rest day' before moving on so chance to air and dry tent. Andy discovers the damper on sidecar wheel had become loose and the bearing had gon AWOL...oops. Typically everywhere was either closed or closed for lunch. Carlos's friend a mechanic came and took damper away and sorted bearing and Andy got all back together. bit of internet on their computer.
Feature of living in these places were there are proper kitchens and eating areas is the food we've had. Tonight Bev and Maya did full roast beef and veg, and home made Apple pie for afters. We've had a roast chicken with all trimmings, sheppards pie, tuna bake all things that you need an oven for.

Same again in evening, loads of folk turning up late, 5 at near 12, to dos down - 13 at end, but surprisingly good nights kip !

Sunday 8th January 2006

Rio Grande - Punta Arenas

Mileage - 240 odd kms

Well it's goodbye to the Canoe Club for the last time, Carlos and his partner whose name escapes me, are some of the kindest of hosts you could ask for. It is genuign the responce you get on return, and the hugs and best wishes when you leave, really, really nice people, can't recommend highly enough based on the kitchen facilities and warmth of the hosts. I think I'd put my tent up at w/e's during the holiday seasons if you don't fancy dossing down with a whole group of folk upstairs.

So it was out of town the same way we'd come in for quite a way, at least until past the border and onto that wonderful (ulp) repio.

Fortunately the border was considerably easier on our passage through that way, the Argentinian side was quick (especially compared to last time) and the Chilian side, though more 'firm' was no problem either and our temporary import document last until April some time. Of course that's of no use what so ever which will become abundantly clear when you look at a map of the area. Though we're in Chile, we will be back and forth through Argentina several times before we eventually reside in Chile semi-permanantly. So basically, bloody paperwork, with only days use.

The repio didn't seem so bad going back, probably due to the off road down at Harberton. Up to the turn off taking us onto virgin territory was hard packed repio anyway, after that very variable.

A few further words on repio.

To try and paint the picture imagine this. You have been asked to ride down a slowly meandering narrow garden path at 70kph with deep ornamental gravel either side. Not easy. At times you have 2 to 3 foot of safe passage with the build up of loose chippings either side. At other times the width you are safely riding on can be as narrow as 2 or 3 times the width of your rear tyre. The reopi varies hugely over quite short distances so you can never truly relax (well, we can't, as it effects us both). Sometimes it is gritty stoney material, sometimes a bit of clay content which is no fun if damp like at times today, and other times almost like polished gravel or small pebbles - that's the worst, almost like ball bearings.

We appear to have got the intercom working, in an occasional manner and it is fantastic to be able to have a conversation again....without shouting over the shoulder. Anyway the reason for saying all this is that when Bev says something, at times I'm unable to answer for a couple of seconds as it takes that long to check the road and compose an answer. I know there's that old adage of men not being able to do two things at once, but on this type of occasion it does take some thought as the old brain is working overtime balancing huge amounts of incoming sensory information and trying to get the body to minisculy adjust the riding. Poor old Bev says 'look at those Guanaco's over there' and I just can't look until it's nearly too late, and then it's the briefest of looks unless the bike moves more than a few inches.

The repio really does focus the mind, what ever speed you're travelling at. The concentration required at times is ridiculous, but the risks are considerable. Sometimes the gravel is only an inch or so deep at times, but then can change to 6 or more inches, which is not something you want to touch.

Of course the other factor in all this is that the roads are narrow and two way, but often the wheel tracks are only two, ie the oncoming vehicles use the same tracks...until a vehicle comes the other way. There have been numerous serious accidents when vehicles have met on crests, we always slow and move to the right for hills.

We also slow down whenever anything is either coming towards us, or when something is catching up, just to be sure.

The landscape headed for Porvenir was not disimilar to - you guessed it - Scotland, for a while, and the road was quite attractive as it dropped to the seashore in a sequence of bends and rolling hills. At various points we saw Guanaco's, and at one point a wild horse was running full pelt along side us, at once impressive, and worrying - but it kept to the verge fortunately.

Povenir was a much larger place than we expected, even had petrol and hotels. We aimed straight for the ferry terminal (Ok slipway and cafe) and as it was only 3pm where surprised the boat was already there.....along with what looked like more vehicles than it could hold.


At the starting gate

We hoped we could slip on in the way they manage to get room for bikes, but weren't entirely sure. Hannas and Christina pulled up in their car too - they arrived the day before and were booked. The booking offoce was closed but the girls went with Hannas oin the hope of using his excellent Spanish to wangle us a ticket.

Just aftre that the captain and loading guys came off theboat, looke our way, and said theose magic words "moto's". No check for tickets, Andy and I thought fine, and rode down onto the boat.

They wanted us at the far end in a lower portion out of the way of cars etc and so began the familiar comic routine of trying to get things in spaces not realy meant for them. It was the usual disorganised chaos (can chaos ever be organised) that we have become so familiar with, but as usual, it all worked out in the end.


Disorganised chaos

Our bike was wedged in and the outfit was manhandled into the space behind it, neither of us was going anywhere. The girls weren't too surprised to here we were on board, and they'd got tickets. We seem to have saved a small amount as everyone else has paid for bike and a rider, but in fact the price is a bike and rider, and any pillion extra. A guy in the queue pointed it out, saving £4. Everyone else we spoke to had paid for the bike and themselves. The bike and rider was actually £7. Not bad for a two and a half hour crossing.

We were first on board and so took seats upstairs, but soon the boat filled with a large amount of foot passengers. A couple of vehicles on the dock didn't get on. Well worth booking if you can, we tried the internet but got no response, better trying an agency in advance for certainty.

The journey was pleasant enough as we caught up with Hannas and Christina and watched the sea in now pleasant sunshine...we'd had heavy showers on land earlier.

As we left Porvenir we were treated to one further site, a black and white dolphin lept clear out of the water three times ! i could hardly believ my eyes and was amazed no-one else on the deck saw it before me. magic.

Disembarking was another laugh. We got our bikes out ourselves, easiest option, and watched the rest attempting to get their cars off. quite interesting.

Punta Arenas was quite a surprise as the buildings were grand all of a sudden and colonial French or Belgian looking. Some money there at the turn of the century. Hannas offered to show where there was camping in a park outside town (no campsite surprisingly) after leading us to an ATM and the supermarket for supplies.

The Chilians were at once a different people. Much less forward and much less friendly, not unfreindly, just not forthcoming. The Argentinians have been brilliant.

After following Hannis to the park we were greeted by a very glub faced official who told us the park closed at 20.00 abd we would not be able to go in. bugger. So, 9pm, no campsite, and no place to stay at this time. Hannis asked about camping and the guy said people do wildcamp but he couldn't say were.

He left and we effectively camped outside the gates were a Chillian family had been set up for there Sunday evening asada and campfire. they were very helpful and said it wouldn't be likely to be a problem camping there. As we had food etc it was probably our best option but not ideal with the amount of rubbish litter and worse in the area. Still, needs must.

It was bitterly cold and we got the tents set up quick before dark. The family had left a fire going and we set about finding more wood to keep it stoked. The view over Punta arenas - we were on a hill - and over the water to far side was quite impressive.



We soon had a plate of hot food in front of us and a warming fire burning. turned in tired and slept fairly well. a vehicle had pulled up just after we all climbing into our bags but never caused any problem.

Monday 9th January 2006

Punta Arenas - Puerto Natales

Mileage - 340 kms

After not too bad a night kip we were up a little early at before nine, since it was 1am when we'd finally crashed. We were all a bit knackered as we had little water and so were quite dehydrated. There was only a litre of water for breakfast so not great, no local water around either, if there had been it would have been dubious to say the least.

So we broke camp and with blackening skies headed for the road to Puerto Natales At least the road was not repio, it was concrete all the way, bliss !

The weather was suspect with strong mainly side-winds and occasional showers and the scenery for most of the day wasn't too inspiring. The highlight was stopping for lunch at a small family run place were the hospitality was as warm as the food.

At last we were able to find that the Chileans although perhaps more reserved are a friendly bunch. the lady owner was very friendly and made sure we were happy with everything.

The menu prices almost looked a mistake even by argentinain standards. The plate of the day for instance was £3.50. for that we got salad, steak or chicken, blancmange (?) and nice hot chocolate and cups of tea that tasted like tea (a welcome return) She also brought a local liquer out for us to try and the quest book.

It was a great place to stop and very welcome.

We continued on our way and fairly easily got to our destination. Finding the camping was more difficult thought. The book had one, Josmar 2, in town which seemed unlikely. We fancied a room as they also had supposed cheap ones. Finding the place was the usual nightmare with the grid blocks as we always ended up wanting to go down a round that was one way...the wrong way. Eventually we found the place and it looked like a corner house. It was the camping though, out back were plots and quite nice. I asked about the rooms and the old guy showed us a room with three bunk-beds that we could have for the four of us for 4,000 Chillian Pso's p/p p/n, so say £4. Camping was £2 so it was a bargain.

Nice enough place, little run down, uineven floors, but helpful people and a restuarant. We decided to eat in as the price for Salmon and chips was 2,500, bargain, and it was. we had more besides, including beer and the local hooch, pisco sour and still only paid about eight quid each to be stuffed. Pisco is the Chilliian grape based drink that is mixed with lemon juice and egg white and icing sugar to create Pisco sour. For citrus haters like Bev, the alternative is Piscola which tastes better than it sounds !

Tuesday 9th January 2006

Puerto Natales

Rest day after a great nights kip. Quick tour of the bizzare flora and fauna museum which was basically a large collection of stuffed animals from a few years ago based in a Silisian church college. Nearly all buildings here are either corrugated, or galvanised sheets over assumed timber frame. Rare to find a house more than one story high and near all are very brightly painted.

The town is basically a base for entering the National Park Torres del Paine as there are no shops etc in there. Many tour companies, kit hire shops and other supplies. Interesting for about half a day. Some nice Black Necked Swans and some other smaller ducks on waterfront, and the supposed impressive mountain views obscured by cloud. Cold too, biting winds.




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