This email relates to The Dakar Rally Recon trip of southern Patagonia in Argentina and Chile in March 09. For these and other advenutres please visit www.darkcydracing.com
Darkcyd Does Argentina/Chile (Dakar Rally Recon)
The Darkcyd team planned a Recon trip to South America and took two Offroad Landrover Defenders and two BMW enduro adventure bikes (a gs adventure 800 and a gs1200) to scope out the Southern Patagonia area where the world famous Dakar rally recently completed its inaugural event in South America after terrorist attacks forced them to cancel the annual race normally held in North Africa the previous year, which is the only year the race did not run after starting in 1979 at the Arc de Trimphe in Paris France on New Years Eve. This rally which is normally run over 2 weeks and typically spans in excess of five thousand miles running through North Africa and ending in Dakar Senegal- is considered the most difficult motorsports event in the world. Most diehard Dakar fans including me felt capitulating to the terrorists was a mistake and changing venues to South America was a cop out, and not the real thing. After watching the running of this years Dakar which ran through Argentina and Chile, I have concluded this may have been one of the best things to happen to the Dakar Rally and perhaps has invigorated the race by exposing it to a much larger audience. There was an estimated five hundred thousand fans at the start in Buenos Aires and an estimated two million that saw the event in person over the course of over two weeks in January, and probably upwards of ten times that amount watching live coverage either by Eurosport or a syndicated network throughout the world. Because of the previous remote location of the race which was primarily run through Northern Africa, there has never been a large live fan base other than at the start in Paris or more recently Portugal, and after watching this years race, it is clear that there is even more diverse landscapes which include desert, glaciers, salt flats, and the world famous Andes mountain range, with every type of terrain in between. Because the Patagonia area is so large spanning a space larger than most countries and for comparison purposes larger than Texas, we had to focus this trip on just the southern region which included both Argentina and Chile , and next year the plan is to follow the race through the northern area which will include the famous Atacama desert, and than follow up with my expected participation in the 2011 event in a Bowler Tomcat. So if this adventure seems of interest to you follow us over the next several days, as I try and complete a write up of our recon adventure exploring Patagonia with some great friends and amazing terrain over the next several days.
This email relates to The Dakar Rally rece trip of southern Patagonia in Argentina and Chile in March 09. For these and other advenutres please visit www.darkcydracing.com
Our adventure started with our plane landing in Beautiful Buenos Aires which is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of over eleven million and a diverse and vibrant culture. With lots of hustle and bustle, and famous for its beautiful Argentinean women whom seem to pull off sexy but remain elegant at the same time. We had to take the red eye from Florida and the almost 12 hour total travel time flight was a little rough with little sleep since we arrived in the early morning about 9am and it would not be possible nor wise to go to sleep at the hotel since we needed to rendezvous with the rest of the crew and plan our day. Unfortunately there were four members of the Darkcyd team that had last minute business and personal conflicts that forced them to miss this trip at the last minute which included Alex and Danyell and Bart ďThe BomberĒ and his trustworthy navigator Larry Wright . So at the airport we only needed to meet up initially with my old best friend from college days Adrian Minor who had a taste of our racing adventures by doing the last stage of Bullrun with us in 2007 from Miami to Key West in the Darkcyd Murcielago, piloted by the queen of the crew since I had -ahem Ėsome temporary license issues that prohibited me from driving under penalty of death but eventually got resolved.-cough Ėcough. As we arrived at the Glu hotel in the trendy Palermo Soho district which is the area much like in Ny known for its urban renewal with trendy restaurants and hipster hotels. We discovered already there Fernando Toledo who did the Baja 1000 with me in 06 and his hulking brother Mars (collectively the Brazilian Brothers) already at the hotel staring down the people at the reception area to encourage them to check out of the 11 room newly opened boutique respite so they could check in since they have been there since 5am. Fern is someone I have gotten in trouble with since I was 15, and he officially joined the Darkcyd crew last summer when we bombed through the swiss alps in some hopped up supercars and ended up in chilling like villains in Monte Carlo. Mars, who is a ďvery large manĒ and whom I had not seen since a snowboarding trip way back in 96, and although I wouldnít want to make him mad, you probably could not find a funnier and congenial member of the team. Unless of course you made him mad, and then the 300 pound hulking menace would promptly crush your skull.
So after we all checked in after some heavy influence by the Brazillian Brothers which strongly encouraged some of the other now rapidly departing guests to accommodate us by checking out early, we decided to walk to a Argentinian Steak house for a long lunch. As it turns out with every team member other then us being from South America on this adventure we easily slipped into the Brazilian type slowness as lunch ended burning up 4 hours as we all caught up on many things including the hard to believe fact that we have a 20th anniversary class reunion coming up in the summer which I probably canít attend since we will be enjoying the milder summer climate in Vancouver admiring the mountains from the tallest building in the city (up until last year) while enjoying the milder climate and beach scene. A little site seeing ensued including visiting the famous cemetery in recoleta known for its French archetiture and squares,parkes, and cafes where Eva Peron is buried. To my shock and amazement the level of detail and expense these familes went to celebrate their life with these large large marble mausoleums that in many cases were two stories high and included doors with stairs and intricate stained glass to house the entire family when it was their time. Most of them which were erected in the late 1800ís to early 1900ís were so large they could almost be considered small houses and in many cases mimicked roman architecture with large columns and intricate marble corbels. It made me think about the saying that was coined in the 1800ís ďas rich as an ArgentineĒ when the country was at the pinnacle of its wealth with its significant resource based economy that allowed such extravagant displays of wealth. Another disturbing fact was the place was littered with cats that seemed to live there and had an air to them which suggested they were protectors of the cemetery. While this may have been true to ward off rodents from the magnificent structures, apparently it was not effective with thieves , and several of theses structures had beautiful stained glass windows were smashed and the graves robbed presumably for their jewelry. In some cases we saw exposed casket which we could visibly see bones. By the time we left it was already dinner time and we went to a famous Argentinean Steakhouse La Cabrera in the Soho district, where we first witnessed the Argentinean attitude. I had heard about this before since most Argentineans are of European decent and are stereotyped as carrying an air about themselves that they are just a little higher on the totem pole than any other South American and this certainly included in that hierarchy any potential ďUgly AmericansĒ as well. Our concierge Vivianna had made a reservation at 8:30PM which is actually pretty early for dinner in that city, and they would not even confirm when we arrived that we would be seated at all since they could not find the reservation and we arrived 10 minutes early. They then promptly ignored us until Adrian who historically has a strong reaction to poor customer service, demanded they figure out the problem which turned out to make things worse. Only by our deduction after they said they could not help us that we determined the reservation was made with their sister restaurant one block south. It is quite common there to have sister restaurants often even with the same name and often right across the street. Upon arrival there we had a similar issue since we were still early and asked to wait outside until 8:30. The fact that their main restaurant could figured out the mistake was with booking the reservation with their sister restaurant but didnít dawn on them, or they simply didnít care since these are one of the most popular places to eat it in the whole city.. In the end it was an amazing experience including their lollipop tower, and we capped it off with some drinks at another trendy bar in the Soho Hollywood area, since the MTV invitation only party invites at a club down the street -ahem-did not reach us in time. The funny thing about the bar Fern, Mars, and I went to only about 5 blocks from the Glu hotel was there was a plethora of attractive women at the restaurant in groups, whom paid no attention to us at all. We concluded the night with the assumption that this must have been because they were all Lesbians. Only logical reason to explain the lack of interest.
Our last day in Buenos Aires before the flight to Patagonia to start the real adventure involved a lot more of the stereotypical tourist things. After walking around at there local Mall downtown and buying a Argentinan polo jacket from a place called Casa de Negro ( I couldnít resist) we had an authentic lunch with about 400 other Argentineans exploring the local fare and eating their version of pizza fugaza con queso which did not have tomato sauce on it, and more traditional items such as Dulce de leeche and Empenadas, my wife discovered a new addiction. There is a treat that is a caramelized version of chocolate called alphajores which we promptly referred to as ALPHA WHORES (primarily because Adrian is juvenile in mental age) that the queen of the Darkcyd could not resist. After 20 years with this women you would think I would know her better in certain areas, and this one was a surprise. This treat which mostly is famous under the Havana brand is a staple candy there and they have dedicated stores to this candy. It did nothing for me, although an ALPHA whore might.
Following lunch we got on one of those hop on hop off buses which toured the city and whose bus driver young girlfriend was the photographer probably because she needed something to do. We saw the presidentís version of the White House which happens to be pink. I think this was done long before they elected a female president, and there were many protestors outside in a designated mall area across the street which was destined for them to March in circles. This protest had something to do with agriculture prices and unfair treatment of the farmers I believe, but they must have lots of protests because nobody paid any attention to them as they did their laps. We then toured an amazing Catholic church across the street which is an amazing display of wealth and over the top just like the cemetery in Recoleta , and emblematic at least for me how religion uses its power to control people, and hence the reason to be strictly against birth control. They church certainly donít want to restrict its membership base which is in turn the source of its wealth and power. Based on the population of BA the power was still very strong. After that, we toured the La Boca the barrio district which is basically the equivalent of the Flavellas in Brazil, and the home to the Bordellos. With its brightly painted buildings in many pastel colors, it is quite reminiscent of something in the Caribbean, and that made sense since a lot of the slave population resided there in the days of slave trading. This is also the birthplace of the Tango, which in my mind is only still popular because of itís a revenue source from tourists. The younger generation has moved on. And we learned the Tango was originally a dance for men only. Last we visited Punta Madera which is the port area that has been revitalized with expensive office buildings and restaurants. Supposedly the water is so polluted if you drank it you would promptly be dead within 5 minutes. We stuck with the bottled variety.
Our last dinner in BA before our trip ended up being in Puerto Madaro was at Bice an trendy Italian place right on the water. The food was so spectacular and the dishes were plentiful fantastic seafood concoctions included some more exotic choices such as octopuss. Now aince this was our last night in BA it was suggested to the guys we go to a ďdiscothèqueĒ to see some night life. It was located in the Recoleta area on the way back to Glu so we certainly couldnít pass it up. For future visitors the term discotheque is assumed by most to mean club. Well that is sort of true but not in the since one might have initially thought. There is music, there is girls, there is dancing. When we arrived after paying a $25 dollar cover in us dollars only per person which seemed pretty high, we walked upstairs where the ration of women outnumbered the men probably by about 5 to 1.In addition, the majority of women were awfully attractive for an average place as if they were particulry selective about what women would by allowed in. A good portion were of model quality and if you even remotely made eye contact, there seemed to be interest. I now understand what the average attractive women in the states feels like in a typical club here. She knows she can have any man by simply giving a casual indication of interest through eye contact or casual conversation, and this was the opposite where the man was the prize. I was glad to have T with me as it clearly indicated I was here to be with my friends and enjoy the view. It was a hell of a view and although we decided to call it a night about 1am since we had a flight in the morning to Punta Arenas the view proved too inticing for Fern and Adrian to leave with ua who apparently wanted to continue enjoying the sights. Our wake up call was at 6:30 and Iím not sure if our Darkcyd compatriots made it back much before then ďQien sabes?Ē., although we did learn that the diet cokes and bottled waters we ordered were $25us dollars a piece, making for quite a hefty bar tab.
This email relates to The Dakar Rally rece trip of southern Patagonia in Argentina and Chile in March 09. For these and other advenutres please visit www.darkcydracing.com
Day 3-Travel to Patagonia
The distance between BA and our ultimate destination Punta Arenas is rather significant about 1500 miles or the equivalent of half was across the United States. Its basically an all day affair and we had to connect via Santigo, Chile. For the uninformed , many people would think Chile is a backwoods third world country like many of its close neighbors. This is not so. This country which recently elected its first women president is considered the only first world bond country in south America based n its economic environment, literacy rates, and general education and poverty levels. In fact they have a budget surplus of $1.5 billion annually and combined with more bi lateral trade agreements than any other country in the world. Combine this with the average person having two years of college education, signifricant government incentives to bring industry there not through tax incentives but straight cash payments, low taxes below (20%), and little corruption, there is a lot to offer. Also to my surprise some of the best roads I have ever seen were in Chile, that were not only new, but traffic free at least on the highways. GDP growth has been between 6-8% annually until recently so there is a lot to be said of this reformed regime previously led by Augosto Pinnochet Pinochet launched an era of deregulation of business and privatization. To accomplish these objectives, his government abolished the minimum wage, removed artificially lowered food prices, rescinded trade union rights, privatized the pension system, and reprivatized state-owned industries, and banks, and lowered taxes on income and profits. However, the large copper industry, nationalized mainly by Allende, remained under control of the government owned enterprise Codelco. Parts of its benefits were assigned by a specific law to the Chilean Armed Forces' budget.
Supporters of these policies (most notably the late Nobel laureate from the University of Chicago School of Economics, Milton Friedman himself), have dubbed them "The Miracle of Chile," due to the country's sustained economic growth since the late 1980s.
While we did not get to see much more than the airport in Santiago its capital city which is known for its European heritage and general cleanliness with the backdrop of the andes mountains, I was certainly impressed with the modern airport and genrally friendly people. There are always exceptions to rules and our onloy major hiccup was the Lan Chile counter women that insisted because we were not considered an international fligh even though we were coming from Argintina we all were over our weight limit and they required us to pay $5 dollars per kilo we were over. This came out to something on the order of $700 dollars collectively which clearly we did not feel compelled to pay. Adrain the deal maker argued with this women and her supervisor for almost 20 minutes but in the end we prevailed although were warned we would have the same problem upon our return. Ironically had we flown direct from the Us this weight limit would have not been an issue I assume because Gringos donít travel lite.
After landing in Punta arenas at about 5PM we still needed to drive about another 200 kilometers once we met up with our private guide Anibal who handled the support for the trip including bikes and Defenders. I had coordinated this entirely by email and never even spoken to him on the phone by once which many might consider a little nuts. I also had not even contacted him by email once so although I was confidant he would be there to pick us up, I learned later he was a little concerned by the lack of contact. Upon arrival although I had not a clue what he looked like, I see a guy with a slim build about my age with a BMW jacket on smiling at me (I later learned we our birthdays were only 13 days apart). Although I never mentioned the team by name to him, apparently he figured it out himself about who we were, and knew exactly what I looked like and how crazy some of other adventures have been. Although he later admitted this concerned him a bit upon reading about us, he was more excited about the upcoming trip than to worry at the moment. This would soon change.-lol
When we walked out to the Defenders, they were both meticulously clean and well packed with all the outdoor gear we should need to traverse the wilds of Patagonia. Behind the secondary Defender was the trailer with the two BMWís. They were just beautiful. The gs1200 and the recently released gs800 adventure were the perfect bikes for this terrain. They were brand new with few miles between them and thankfully Anibel convinced me to get the 800 since I initially wanted a 650 Dakar. The 650 would have been underpowered in hindsight, and honestly I did not know BMW had a 800 until he suggested getting that instead. Combine their preparations with all the special riding gear suggested by a friend of mine Allan Karl who previously not only traversed Patagonia solo but did most of the world to boot (worldrider.com )over 3 years really helped get us ready for the terrain.
So after the pleasantries Anibel handed my the keys to one of the Defenders and we were off on Routa 9 to make it to the first hotel just south of Puerta Natles by nightfall.
This email relates to The Dakar Rally rece trip of southern Patagonia in Argentina and Chile in March 09. For these and other advenutres please visit www.darkcydracing.com
We left off on the drive via Routa 9 to the hotel where Anibal and I talked a bit to get to know each other. Although I speak a little Spanish its not enough beyond talking like a 3 year old, and his English which is better then my Spanish, needs some work. So it ended up being a blessing that every other member on the trip spoke Spanish fluently. The drive on the highway was smooth and on brand new paved roads. I could have been driving in Colorado from this perspective with the plains to each side and some mountains in the distance. Anibal had just told me how he broke up with his girlfriend and his new ďgirlfriendĒ of 2 weeks was introduced by the old one which obviously created some tensions. She was supposed to meet up with us later in the trip. He was in love with her already and she was a model from Holland finishing up some research here in Chile for her thesis. This ďrelationshipĒ would end up being a point of some jokes at anibals expense unfortunately as Adrian likes to push buttons and things unfolded. On a separate note I was in a hurry to get to the hotel and while I technically might have been speeding it seemed he was already a little stressed about the driving. Pablo our other guide who has a lot more guiding experience could not keep up since he was pulling the bikes for this short hop. The hotel when we made it was beautiful right off Routa 9 and had a lake in the back with a waterfall and a beautiful vista. Its was called Llanures de Diana and one of the many quirks we learned about was despite costing about $4million to build did not even have a web site, and the rates were only about $75 a night. Its like what the hell invest the extra grand in a website for christs sake! The other obscure fact we learned was they did not accept credit cards. For anything. Its funny that they built this fabulous hotel in the middle of nowhere just before the entrance to the most beautiful state park Torres de Pines yet nobody knew about it hardly and they was no easy method for most people to pay for it. Just one of many bizarre things about Latin America. We checked in, had a great dinner and got to know each other a bit. Things were shaping up as we planned the run starting to Puerta Natales which is the entrance to the state park.
The next morning which was the first day on the bikes, they were all ready in front of the hotel lobby ready to go. We took the obligatory pictures of us with the bikes and before they were potentially wrecked which considering what we were doing was a distinct possibility, and I did a lap in the gravel parking lot successfully and joked I was done since the bike was too nice to risk crashing it. Fern and I then hopped on and we were off. Since this was Routa 9 the pavement was still smooth and perfect. Jamming out to my latest favorite artist with my iphone Finley Quaye (chillout music with a reggae beat) just almost seemed magical. It was coold maybe 10 degrees Celsius but because we had the proper gear it felt great. Combine that with the great scenery, Fern and I were in a state of bliss just smiling at each other as we passed the occasional car. I was on the Gs800 and that theme would continue with since I thought it was the perfect size and had plenty of power for the job. The Gs1200 certainly had more power which was great for the highway but we were not going to be on highway as much as offroad, and I wanted maneuverability.
With the defenders chasing us, we quickly learned they were no match for the bikes. Even on the highway they had no chance and we soon lost sight of them. This was a problem because we didnít know were we were going and so we needed to periodically stop for them to catch up and no where to turn. This turned out to be a problem for us later on a couple of times where they had to hunt us down when we did not make a turn, only one of which got my a little concerned when we were low on gas and truly in the middle of nowhere. We parked the bikes on the side of the road just before the entrance to Torres de Payne to gas up and to buy a cowboy hat which would have a very specifc purpose later on. We then went on our first grvavel road which at first proved relatively easy. We keep hearing about the famous Patagonia winds and how they things could literally blow over a bike. Seemed a little dramatic to me as it didnít seem to bad. This would certainly change a little later on. We stopped at a abandoned estanica which is a ranch to have the Defenders do some climbing and get up a small hil to view a special vista of the park. One of the views is of what is called mountana de negro or Black mountain and the other part shows two peaks that looks like horns and is appropriately called the devils horns. Anibal and Pablo pulled out a table for lunch and we placed it behind one of the defenders on this small peak overlooking the entire park. The wind started to pick up and was a precursor of what was yet to come. I looked around it to me it seemed like something from the Sound of music. T and I frolicked abut running hand in hand being silly as we we the only people around for mile and miles. Itís a crazy feeling to be so isolated but wonderful at the same time.
After lunch, we drove back down the hill I gave my bike to Adrian who was dying at this point to ride and we continued on to the official park where we ended up driving through these crazy windy roads to an amazing waterfall. I had really wished I had my rally car on the trip as this would have been just like a WRC stage. When we return next year I may need to see how to accomplish this as this could be more fun than the bikes. When we got out the wind was so bad we could not even walk. T had to grab Fern and Mars to refrain from blowing over, and we took our obligatory waterfall shot. I then had to water the bushes so to speak and hopped over a low lying chained fence to do my business in privacy. Adrian always being the clown ran fast after me to try to capture my private moment and did not see the chain. He did a face plant at full speed and I was oblivious to what had just occurred until I saw everybody laughing as I turned around. Serves him right. We then hopped back in the 4x4ís and bikes and raced back down the mountain with aibal not driving at wrc speeds. Now it was the bikes who could not keep up and although I was fine with his drivng and just imaging how much faster I could do these gravel roads in my rally car, it was clear to me t was a little scared. We then stopped so they could catch upwhich literally took about 10 minutes after only perhaps 25 kilometers , and cruised together to the last challenge before we made it to our hotel that was right in the park called hotel Las Torres. The bridge which was made of wood and had a weight limit of 1500 kilos could technically not even handle one Defender and the mirrors had to be pulled in because it was not wide enough. I did not realize this when both Defenders decided to cross at the same time with bikes riding behind them as Anibal did not think it was a problem. Considering how cold that water was below Iím just glad I was ignorant to the situation until after.
After a light sleep in what was supposed to be a 4 star hotel which in reality would be 3 anywhere in the states, although the location could not be beat situated right where the park is and the Andes Mountains in the background we got ready to depart for our second day in the park. The only thing that was a good value on what was about a $250 a night hotel which was clearly built in the 70ís and still had the original décor in most of it was the message I received for a mere $30 bucks. The only thing about that which was a concern was there was no lock on the locker for my things, and she then took me to a completely different part of the ďspaĒ which made me think I was going to have my wallet picked through. Ofcourse, that did not happen and its just the cynical paranoid in me always thinking the worst of people.
There seemed to be an issue with us burning more gas than planned and Anibal and Adrian took the bikes to behind the Las Torres where they had fuel at some also outrageous rate. Standard rate is about $4 bucks a liter but this was higher. Simple supply and demand. When you are in the middle of nowhere, if you donít pay the price you are simply going nowhere fast. While we waited for them we went in the educational center the hotel had which had a classroom and podium where Fern practiced his speech for when he takes Chile by force and becomes the new dictator since he was told the army is not that strong. We decided to learn about the local wildlife such as including the Guanaco which looks like a beefy deer, the Lesser Rhea which looks like an ostridge, the grey fox, and the Andean Condor. The had a stuff Rhea which Fern promptly started to choke after nobody cared for his victory speech.
Meanwhile it took a long time for the bikes to return and we learned it was because the guy who pumped the gas was on his lunch break. Never mind it wasnít noon yet. Never mind that the guys were happy to pump their own gas. Never mind the other employees at the station could not do it because it was not their job. Welcome to south America. So after the bikes were gassed up, Fern and I lead the way through the pot hole infested gravel road, if you cold call it that, that was infested with young college backpackers hoofing it around the park on their spring break. Coming up on them at speed I scared more than a few that would jump as it they were about to be pounced on like a puma-also a local animal to the park although we never saw one Ėwhich I will not complain. In lieu of death, they were occasionally sprayed by debree that the gs 800 kicked up as I negotiated the meandering road back to the bridge that could of ended the trip for us all. Negotiating the bridge was easy on the bike, and while we waited for the defenders we could see the not too pleased backpackers giving us the non so eco friendly eye. What can I say other than they must have been jelous of al lthe fun we were having.
Our first major stop after the bridge was were there was a waterfall again, although this one was much larger. It was a little offroad to get too and after seeing Annibal successfully run down the hill to the bottom of the waterfall which was actually semi dangerous considering the drop was at a 40 degree angle, I made it without injury as well, accept being yelled at by the queen. After a victory photo shot, climbing up proved more difficult in its own way, and I was glad when I made it. I then wanted to celebrate me victory conquering the hill by jumping on the bike and racing up it to the road and rode the perfect wheelie just at the pinnacle, until of course I landed on a rock, bent the gear shifted and almost wiped out in spectacular fashion. This was my fist of three close calls that day.
The next stop was after about a 50 kilo ride through spectacular windy mountains terrain where I was getting the bike easily to about 120 kilos, which was too much fun but admittedly a little aggressive. We kept going higher and higher in the mountains and continuously opening gates that prevented us from going further. Technically this was no longer park land and by the time Fern and I got to the top, the road was super soft and loose and it was hard to keep the bikes up. After about 30 minutes the crew caught up with us, and we played around and rode the bike even higher after a dare of sorts from anibal who is clearly a more accomplished rider than I . The funny part aqboout this is they are videoing me doig this and although I take things more cautiously then Annibel I make it up without any issue, smile at them, put my foot down , and promptly fall over. If that video lands on You Tube, Iím kicking that mmber off the team for sure.
Next was was suppoised to by about a 35 kilometer ride and Adrian and I took off again ahead of the group. He and I once agin were ripping up the terrain at between 100-120k which may not sound fast but for gravel undulating curves proved quite exciting. Once on the main road we were told to wait for them and we would then turn off to the private Estancia where we were going to stay for the evening. Excitement getting the best of us, we rode way too far way too fast until the road actually turned until pavement again which encouraged us to simply to the ride faster. At some point I looked down at the odometer and realize we have gone way too far, but we never saw a perpendicular road. Its now starting to get dark and Adrian then infomes my he is now low on gas. So we wait and wait at the side of the road, and nobody comes. Its at this point I start to worry a little since we not only have no working phone, little gas, no map, and are lost in the middle of Patagonia on a road which has not seen a single car. Just at this point I do see a car, it not the support crew, and ask them for a map. They oblige but since we donít know the name of where we are supposed to go its not much use. Its at this point I ask Adrian what he thinks plan B should be as its getting dark and colder. Being the consummate smart ass, he in turn asks me what was plan A, of which I shrug my shoulders and indicate, it must be to backtrack and find the crew. So thatís what we do and after about 10 minutes of riding in the opposite direction we find annibal searching for us with a look on his face like we are naughty children that need some discipline. He then gets more agitated when Adrian indicates the gas problem since they dropped off the extra fuel at the entrance to the park which is now abut 150k from where we are. We shrug to ourselves and race to meet up with the rest of the group which is chilling out at some dirt intersection that barely had a sign marking it. I feel better and they all smile while they are enjoying some coffee and the spectacular scenery.
We then make the turn on the long windy road which is about 20k all on private land running parallel to a spectacular lake. As Adrain and I race through what is not our race course, I almost get tagged by a bus coming the other way, who then flashes his hzards at me to tell me something. I donít know what he means but prepare for something significant about to happen. After about 30 seconds I come across a Bus heading towards me which I was prepared for kind of, and Iím sure I gave the tourists a hell of a show as I slid around the turn spraying gravel and dust in the air. Now pretending Iím in the Dakar race chasing down Marc Come for the stage win, I pick up some speed , and start looking for my apex and racing line. The air blowing in my face, the windy road, the ipod jamming to Felix Lebandís Dark Days Exit, I am in a state of bliss with man and machine as one. Until ofcourse, I hit that decreasing radius too hot and realize I have a quick decision to make. Either I low side the bike, which is the safer option but is something I loathe to do as this confirms I phucked up, or I can stand up the bike, jump the semi hard pack berm on the inside track, and continue this offroad adventure with the penalty of destroying the bike and myself in the process if I donít pull it out. If you even remotely know me, my decision is automatic. I launch the bike in the air off the berm, ride the bull like the rodeo star I am not, and successfully land it into offroad at about 90k, where I quickly realize is only the first test. The second test is getting the bike back on the road before I wipe out in spectacular fashion as I am going way to fast for the terrain and my skill level. I then launch the bike the second time land successfully, apply the brakes as quickly as I can, and realize somehow I pulled it off. This entire episode lasts no more than 10 seconds but was a lifetime. I look back and see Adrian behind me and can only imagine what he is thinking since I cannot see his face with his helmet on. Instead of stopping I keep going figuring I well loose my nerve to ride if I stop and ponder this near catastrophic episode. I see Annibal and Mars in the chase truck behind and wonder if they saw it. We soon get to a small wooden bridge that there is no way the defenders can cross because of weight, and wait for them to navigate the water crossing below as itís the only option across the small river. We make it to the Estanica about 3k later, and as I jump off the bike Adrian just shakes his head and smiles knowing what a disaster I averted. I tell him to shut his mouth, and as Annibal and Mars arrive he cannot help but ask what they thought of my offroad adventure. They look puzzled and ask him what he is talking about. I then swear them to secrecy in order for my riding privileges to be revoked by the queen for my over aggressive riding.
The estancia we stayed at was a true working ranch with real ďgauchosĒ or cowboys, horses, and lots of sheep. Im not sure of the exact size of this place but was told it was several thousands of acres. In fact most estancias were quite large because of a rule relating to sheep. The rule was something on the order of one sheep per acres but that number had to be multiplied since the sheep were rotated as they grazed on the pasture. We had a true experience which included homecooked meals by the family who owned it, that was far better then most any restaurant would serve. It also had limitations such as not having any power after 11pm. Since it was run on a generator being too far for electric lines to reach, we had to adjust. In fact they had battery operated lamps in case would needed to move about at night. I always thought cowboys got up early, and Iím sure they do but apparently they donít need electricity until 7am because when we woke up at 6:30 we still had none. No matter as we did have running water, although I did not attempt to take a shower that morning since the facilities were a little rustic. Breakfast was not rustic though, and your typical farm fare with cereals, local eggs, and lots of very sweet home made breads that mostly had lots of sugar on them and were almost like a pastry.
It was also during this time that we saw our first in climate weather and the rain started. We could not try and wait it out as time was ticking, and we had some decent mileage to drop in order to make it to El Calafate, which is where the Glacier was. So Adrian and I volunteered, Adrian opting for putting his rain gear on of which I had none, and we were off. As we backtracked through the windy hills I could only be cognizant of my close call the night before. The queen would eventually need to know but I wanted to gtet through the trip first inorder to prevent unnecessary worry. But backtracking did remind me that if something were to happen the only way out was by helicopter and that would be 30 minutes. With resolve I vowed to take it a little easier.
It was also during this time we learned how crazy the Patagonia winds can get on the bike. They started blowing at an estimated 50-70 miles in hour in unpredictable gusts, and it was so hard to keep the bike in the correct lane especially on the gravel portions. The bikes were leaning almost at 45 degree angles and the Defenders were visibly moving from side to side. We ended up to the entrance of the park again which is also where the Chilean/Argentine border is. Borders crossings are never fun, but overall the Chilean side was not problematic. It seems such a waste to fill out all this unnecessary paperwork which nobody will ever look at and just restricts travel all for the illusion of security. Individuals with bad intentions fake paperwork and passports easily so itís the straight shooter that really is the only one penalized. I think what the EU did dropping border crossings was brilliant and other regions should look to it as a model as they clearly have had a net positive benefit as a result. Once through the Chilean side we had to traverse a no mans land of almost a Kilometer and repeat the process. The paperwork on the bikes was scrutinized more since we were entering the country with expensive equipment and they want to tax or extract bribes where they can. Chile has very little corruption compared to Argentina, and perhaps that was another throwback from the dictatorship. If you got caught accepting bribes in Chile you didnít spend time in jail, you probably lost your life. An effective deterrent I may add. Upon leaving, we noticed a small Rottweiler puppy chasing a random chicken also protecting the border house. After scooping him up, the puppy not the chicken, and placing him in my helmet for a picture, Adrian pointed out that the odds the puppy was potty trained was nil, I they better get the pic fast or I would have a new method of cooling myself. They did, and we were off. Upon leaving the border Aniball warned me this would be very difficult to pass through because of the winds withoht falling. He said most bikers at least fall in this area of the famous Routa 40 since the wind combined with the gravel is too much. After my close call from the previous day, I renewed my resolve to be careful and Fern and I then took off. Routa 40 is so wide and so empty its lack of danger is deceptive. As I got in a rhythm wrestling with the winds, jamming out to more Dark Days Exit, I glanced in the rear view and saw nobody. I looked at the speedo and see 120 and chastise myself for leaving them I the dust. Fern which has a lttle less experience then I and running on the 1200 is a little less maneuverable in the gravel, and I guess he is just more intelegent then I am . I backed down , he caught up and we rode the rest of the way to the paved part of Roua 40 which was about 60 kilometers in total. It took several minutes for the Defenders toi catch up, with Mars saying they simply couldnít keep up with the winds so strong. I could only think about how fun that portion would have been in my race prepped STI which I use for NASA sanctioned rally events.
Up until that point, T had not been n the bike so we thought this would be a good opportunity. Anibal suggested the wind would be worse here as we drove ion the coast and I should wait until we reached the valley. I didnít listen of course, and we jumped on the 1200 and took off. After 2 minutes I knew he was right. The wind was so strong and felt so dangerous that I backed up to about 80k. Even then it was terrible and had this been gravel , no way I could keep the bike up. As I wrestled with the shifting winds and leaned into the turns, I could only think what T thought since she had no perspective. Just 30 minutes prior I was in heaven and now I just wanted off this thing and have her and I safely in the warm Defender. When we arrived at El Calafate, asked her if she was ok, and she said she didnít love it but it was not that bad. I was glad that since she was behind me on the bike, I clearly blocked most of the wind for her. As we waited for the gang to catch up, we noticed dogs everywhere that seemingly were wild. All of them seemed friendly and considering this was a tourist town, well fed. Many also seemed to be on a mission busily heading to their destination wherever that may be al by themselves. Iím a huge dog lover, and while I certainly donít like the idea of homeless dogs, they al seemed to be collectively adopted by the town and happy and well taken care of. For a third world country this is a big accomplishment, and someone famous once said you can tell a lot about a culture based on how it treats its animals. I would concur. Upon the rest of the group catching up, we had a great Pizza joint at Pablos recommendation, that seemed to have all these cute college girls working there perhaps at the end of their summer jobs. Plenty of corn empanadas, and special pizzas. Upon filling up, we checked into the finest hotel in the city called El Mirador which was a modern boutique hotel owned by the former president of Argentina. Word on the street was nothing in this town happened without his approval and considering the new president of Argentina is his wife I believe it. This hotel almost seemed out of place here as it could easily match any hipster hotel in Manhattan such as the Gansavort, or Soho Grande. It was amazing and just our style with rich dark woods and an indoor wedge shaped pool right off the lobby. The place was empty which is good because we probably would have scared the guests. Thanks to good planning we all had bathing suits and decided to end the day relaxing in the pool which had these special arc shaped nozzles where hi power water jetted out to massage your back while you relaxed. And so we did!!
The estancia we stayed at was a true working ranch with real ďgauchosĒ or cowboys, horses, and lots of sheep. Iím not sure of the exact size of this place but was told it was several thousands of acres. In fact most estancias were quite large because of a rule relating to sheep. The rule was something on the order of one sheep per acres but that number had to be multiplied since the sheep were rotated as they grazed on the pasture. We had a true experience which included home cooked meals by the family who owned it, that was far better then most any restaurant would serve. It also had limitations such as not having any power after 11pm. Since it was run on a generator being too far for electric lines to reach, we had to adjust. In fact they had battery operated lamps in case would needed to move about at night. I always thought cowboys got up early, and Iím sure they do but apparently they donít need electricity until 7am because when we woke up at 6:30 we still had none. No matter as we did have running water, although I did not attempt to take a shower that morning since the facilities were a little rustic. Breakfast was not rustic though, and your typical farm fare with cereals, local eggs, and lots of very sweet home made breads that mostly had lots of sugar on them and were almost like a pastry.
It was also during this time that we saw our first in climate weather and the rain started. We could not try and wait it out as time was ticking, and we had some decent mileage to drop in order to make it to El Calafate, which is where the Glacier was. So Adrian and I volunteered, Adrian opting for putting his rain gear on of which I had none, and we were off. As we backtracked through the windy hills I could only be cognizant of my close call the night before. The queen would eventually need to know but I wanted to get through the trip first in order to prevent unnecessary worry. But backtracking did remind me that if something were to happen the only way out was by helicopter and that would be 30 minutes. With resolve I vowed to take it a little easier.
It was also during this time we learned how crazy the Patagonia winds can get on the bike. They started blowing at an estimated 50-70 miles in hour in unpredictable gusts, and it was so hard to keep the bike in the correct lane especially on the gravel portions. The bikes were leaning almost at 45 degree angles and the Defenders were visibly moving from side to side. We ended up to the entrance of the park again which is also where the Chilean/Argentine border is. Borders crossings are never fun, but overall the Chilean side was not problematic. It seems such a waste to fill out all this unnecessary paperwork which nobody will ever look at and just restricts travel all for the illusion of security. Individuals with bad intentions fake paperwork and passports easily so itís the straight shooter that really is the only one penalized. I think what the EU did dropping border crossings was brilliant and other regions should look to it as a model as they clearly have had a net positive benefit as a result. Once through the Chilean side we had to traverse a no mans land of almost a Kilometer and repeat the process. The paperwork on the bikes was scrutinized more since we were entering the country with expensive equipment and they want to tax or extract bribes where they can. Chile has very little corruption compared to Argentina, and perhaps that was another throwback from the dictatorship. If you got caught accepting bribes in Chile you didnít spend time in jail, you probably lost your life. An effective deterrent I may add. Upon leaving, we noticed a small Rottweiler puppy chasing a random chicken also protecting the border house. After scooping him up, the puppy not the chicken, and placing him in my helmet for a picture, Adrian pointed out that the odds the puppy was potty trained was nil, I they better get the pic fast or I would have a new method of cooling myself. They did, and we were off. Upon leaving the border Aniball warned me this would be very difficult to pass through because of the winds withoht falling. He said most bikers at least fall in this area of the famous Routa 40 since the wind combined with the gravel is too much. After my close call from the previous day, I renewed my resolve to be careful and Fern and I then took off. Routa 40 is so wide and so empty its lack of danger is deceptive. As I got in a rhythm wrestling with the winds, jamming out to more Dark Days Exit, I glanced in the rear view and saw nobody. I looked at the speedo and see 120 and chastise myself for leaving them I the dust. Fern which has a lttle less experience then I and running on the 1200 is a little less maneuverable in the gravel, and I guess he is just more intelligent then I am . I backed down , he caught up and we rode the rest of the way to the paved part of Roua 40 which was about 60 kilometers in total. It took several minutes for the Defenders to catch up, with Mars saying they simply couldnít keep up with the winds so strong. I could only think about how fun that portion would have been in my race prepped STI which I use for NASA sanctioned rally events.
Up until that point, T had not been on the bike so we thought this would be a good opportunity. Anibal suggested the wind would be worse here as we drove ion the coast and I should wait until we reached the valley. I didnít listen of course, and we jumped on the 1200 and took off. After 2 minutes I knew he was right. The wind was so strong and felt so dangerous that I backed up to about 80k. Even then it was terrible and had this been gravel , no way I could keep the bike up. As I wrestled with the shifting winds and leaned into the turns, I could only think what T thought since she had no perspective. Just 30 minutes prior I was in heaven and now I just wanted off this thing and have her and I safely in the warm Defender. When we arrived at El Calafate, asked her if she was ok, and she said she didnít love it but it was not that bad. I was glad that since she was behind me on the bike, I clearly blocked most of the wind for her. As we waited for the gang to catch up, we noticed dogs everywhere that seemingly were wild. All of them seemed friendly and considering this was a tourist town, well fed. Many also seemed to be on a mission busily heading to their destination wherever that may be al by themselves. Iím a huge dog lover, and while I certainly donít like the idea of homeless dogs, they al seemed to be collectively adopted by the town and happy and well taken care of. For a third world country this is a big accomplishment, and someone famous once said you can tell a lot about a culture based on how it treats its animals. I would concur. Upon the rest of the group catching up, we had a great Pizza joint at Pablos recommendation, that seemed to have all these cute college girls working there perhaps at the end of their summer jobs. Plenty of corn empanadas, and special pizzas. Upon filling up, we checked into the finest hotel in the city called El Mirador which was a modern boutique hotel owned by the former president of Argentina. Word on the street was nothing in this town happened without his approval and considering the new president of Argentina is his wife I believe it. This hotel almost seemed out of place here as it could easily match any hipster hotel in Manhattan such as the Gansavort, or Soho Grande. It was amazing and just our style with rich dark woods and an indoor wedge shaped pool right off the lobby. The place was empty which is good because we probably would have scared the guests. Thanks to good planning we all had bathing suits and decided to end the day relaxing in the pool which had these special arc shaped nozzles where hi power water jetted out to massage your back while you relaxed. And so we did!!
Thr previous night we had walked around in the town in El Calafate controlled by the president which had the feel of any ski town in say Tuluride, or perhaps Jackson Hole. Lots of small boutique type shops, with trinkets, tshits etc. I fouind similar Argentian polo jacket similar to the one I had purchased at casa de negro except it was only 70 bucks after Adrian haggled on my behald and had a silly hat thrown in from the ski bum type counter girl who was very playful with us banter wise. Fern and I had wandred into a store afterwords that had hardmade knives. Not that Iím some weapons freak, but I keep thinkinh of the funny line in the movie Snatch ďGuns for show and knives for a proĒ. Onbe of the knives handles was an actualclaw from the local bird in the area that looks like an ostrige called a Lesser Rhea. I guess the bird is not on the endangered species list, and it was really evil looking so had to buy it. I told Fern to get one too and he picked something with a black handle that later he regretted picking because nothing was like ďThe clawĒ. Anyways, the morning of day 7 was about riding not knives to stab people with, and we had some great riding ahead to the Glacier.
We had about a 60 k ride, and this time it was Mars and I . So we jumped on the bikes, said goodbye to El Calafate for the time being, and took off. I was weaved our way of the mountin with beautuf sweeping turns that reminded me of the Blue ridge parkway, I could not get over the roads. These things were brand new, with nobody on them. As I leaned into the turns I could not help but to think about how the guys in the defenders must have been jealous. It was a perct day, with perfect roads, clear skies, and no traffic. The road straightened out and I had to give it more throttle. 120/140/160/180 and slowly back down. Theses are kilos guys so its not that crazy, but on endures with the wind it sure feels fast. . We arrive at the entrance to the glacier and wait for the trucks. About 5 minutes later we show up and then the real fun starts. Once you enter the park, the roads are seemingly endless tight switchbacks designed for no more than 30k an hour. Ya right! So Mars and I go at it again but this time it feels like Deals Gap in North Carolina which is a famous biker road. I was enjoying things so much, I ignored the workers on the road as I try to drag my knee a little, and rich the top. Then some security worker tells me Iím not suppoed to be up here and my friends are looking for me. Whoops. So I meander back down, quickly find them, and we disembark for the small surprise anibel and Pablo put together and we run down the boat ramp as its leaving to see the glacier from the water.
As we all barely make it, and the boat sets off the glacier is amazing with its shifting colors. We learn that the Glacier is larger in land mass than all of Buenos aires and only 20% is visable above the water. This thing is huge, and just as we are about to return we witness a large pieces of ice break off and crash into the water making a thunderous sound. Its quite amaing and Pablo who is quite the photographer gets the shit on film. We had back to the bikes and cars and I have a mission I have to complete.
Back in 1996 the Brazilian Brothers join me on a snowboarding trip to Tulleride for New Years Eve. Despite all kinds of funny episodes relating to that trip, the highlight was convincing Mars to strip to his birthday suit with the exception of a cowboy hat and champagne bottle to take a snap in the snow with some boots on. This is one of the funnier pictures I have ever seen, and the brazillian boy is a ďBig ManĒ. Anyway, I thin you know whre Iím going. Mountain top, cold weather, cowaboy hat purchased just days ago???? Now 12 years later Mars wants to think he is more mature for silly pictures like this. But peer pressure is powerful, I I hound him into compliance So we send the rest of the grou[p ahead of us and Anibal , Mars, and I go to the workers that I pissed on on the bike by ignoring them and driving to the top. He lies to them and say we need to go up to pick up someone in our group. The guy is suspicious and doesnít want to let us up.aibal basically says we wil just be 2 minutes and we take off. On the way to the top I see a tour bus, and instruct anibal to pull over prior to the bus. Mars is clearly a little nervous seeig too many episodes of Locked up abroad, but I convice him I know a good spot with the glacier in the background. He and I bold out of the car and find a spot. Iím not happy with it because its not certered so I tell him he needs to move about 10 feet to the left of the bush which is clearly more visable to everyone but is the perfect shot. He reluctantly complies, drops his drawers, and I got what I thin is the perfect shot but want to take a couple more to be safe. This is officially called the Recola shot since it reminded us of that silly commercial for those cough drops with some silly may in a traditional Kiln with the alps in the background. By the time I tel him to hold on, he is pulling up his drawers, and running to the Defender with Anibal ready to race away. We quickly drive down past the worker without our other friend and act like we couldnít find him Qien sabe??
On the was out of town, I insist we stop back at El Calafate so I can buy more knives. They are so nicely made and I want more for the display case at home. I get Fern to try and negotiate on my behalf since Iím such an obvious gringo, and boy does he bomb out. They are 150 pesos each but she will discount them to 125 for cash. Iím trying to buy 10 and just the difference is just credit card fees. We are in a hurry so I pick the best 10 and get some more Claws for the newly formed Claw Club. Its an exclusive membership you know. So we had back to meet the rest of the group at the same Pizza joint La Lechuza with the same young pretty college girls serving pizzas and indoctrinate our new members by giving them their claws. Lunch is so filling with all that dough that I want to take a siesta but no rest for the weary. We have about 300 kilos to do and have to get back to Chile. Backtracking through routa 40 and inkling the 60k stretch on the loose gravel proves just as challenging the second time around with the winds not letting up much and the fear of losing grip into a turn with no one around. Adrian and I push ahead and then switch with fern in Mars just at the right time. We canít believe their bad luck as it starts storming in te windy and cold Patagonia stretch to the border. We we get through both borders nobody wants to ride, especially after the bastard guards make us pull all luggage from both vehicles in the rain to scan them, so we load one bike, and Anibel takes the other. We cruise back to the initial hotel from our first night and call it a day!
Travel from hotel to hotel every night reminds my of the cross country rallys like Bullrun or Gumaball 3000 that we do in exotic cars which is exciting and tiring at the sand time. Half the time you are running on adrenaline and just not used to constantly being on the go like some fugitives running from the law, or some convulted traveling circus. When we reached the hotel, everyone was tired and being with people can wear on you. Ous usual cheerful dinners seemed less so on this night, there was a small payment issue that anibal and I had to resolve amicably since the group at the last minute had dropped by 3 members which had to be made up by someone. While I was a little disaapointed that it was brought up so late in the trip, it ended up getting resolved amicably and we moved on. Adrian does like to push anibals buttons regardless though with respect to his ďgirlfriendĒ Susan who decided to be with another ď friendĒ instead of joining us. At least I had given anibel a ďclawĒ so he could now stab him if he got too out of line. Adrian likes to push buttons sometimes does not know when to let up. I guess the same can be said of me so I donít want to be a hypocrite, and when he tried to push mine, I tend to push back harder. The night ended up being a late one as we all decided to use the immaculate billiards room which had several brand new pool tables. As we all played against each other, I think Pablo ended up winning and supposedly he had never played before. How pathetic is that??
Day 8 which was our last day on the bikes was a trip to the caves where a prehistoric creature called a Milidon inhabited like a tenthousand years ago. While it almost seemed that this was ďdiscoveredĒ to to bring tourists to an area that otherwise would have none, with an estimated 60k visitors a year, it was an interesting site nonetheless, and when we were leaving we says some wild foxes playing in front of the entrance which almost seemed domesticated.
It was time to get back on the bikes and anibel wanted us to stay behind the Defenders for this stretch presumably to keep Adrian in line for all the Susan jabs , and the fact that it constanly seemed he was pushinh his limits on the bike and anibel was hoping for a crash free end since this was the last day. Our containment on the offroads lasted about 5 minutes and since we could travel so much faster in the offroad terrain, he jumped ahead but not at any race pace. Their were several large ditches that had tobe negotiated, and there were cows everywhere. Both Adrian and I loved to ride up real slow then twist the throttle and chase them. This was quite funny, until Adrian had a misstep and did some convulted offrpoading adventure that almost ruined the GS adventure. I was the only one who missed it since I was ahead of him, and considering I had my own o shit moments that were actually much worse I could not criticize. It was about this time we rolled up to was not a cow but rather a bull. He was a Big Boy, and while the cows run away from us as we raced toward them, the Bull looked at us like he knew better, and he was going to teach us a lesson about Hunter and Hunted. So instead we stared each other down as we slowly passed just feet away from him. We coninuted on till we reached Pearta Natles again for lunch. We had this very fancy restaurant all to ourselves. When I mean all to ourselves I mean there were 25 tables completely set up overlooking the port and 4 waitstaff serving just us. It was almost as if they had opned it just for us. To make it a little moiré bizarre they thought we would like American music so they put on this 80ís mix tape which was so bad it was funny. I didnít like Pappa donít Preach in 1986, I certainly didnít want to hear it now. To make it worse it seemed to be a sample mix, so it would only play about 30 seconds of the song, then switch to something else just as horrid, or funny depending how you looked at it. I thought I would never hear Men at work ever again but I was wrong!! Despite this the fresh Crabs, and other specially prepared seafood gumbo was exceptional.
Since this was the last day, I tried to encourage the queen to ride with me one last time, on the way to Punta Arenas. This was a long haul about 200k, but she agreed. So as Tara jumed on the back and Adrian and I took off, the defenders quickly disappeared, and we didnít see them again. After about an hour of pretty fast ridding the Patagonia wind gods related T was back on the bike and the winds kicked up. It was cold and ďMuy ViernoĒ, while I was not blown into another lane this time, I knew she must have been misaerable so about 100k in, we pulled over and decided to wait for the Defenders. After a challenging time trying to relieve myself without giving myself a bath at the same time, Adrian decided to be his silly self again and lay in the middle of the highway on the ground. While I had my fill of Adrian for the week, this would have a difficult thing to explain to his wife. ďYa he just laid down like an idiot and got raun over by a LorrieĒ, so we got him up and all laid out flat by the bikes like we were sleeping since it took the trucks 20 minutes to catch up. They finnaly arrived, Fern asnd Mars said no way they wantedf to ride with this cold and wind, so Adrian and I took off to se who cold get to Punta Arenas first. Dispite the cold and wind, the roads were long sweepers, with huge vistas. It was exciting and fun to test the bikes a bit, and we made it to Punta arenas rather quickly, perhaps in 45 minutes, where we then had no choice but to pull over again since we had no idea where we were going. I went to buy some Hot chocolate at the gas station, while Adrian kept an eye out for the rest of the team , and I realized I had lots of Aregentian money but no chiliean pesos. Shit, I need my hot chocolate. The lady took sympathy on me and took my agentian money, probably at an exchange rate that made the chocolate 10 bucks. I didnít care and it was worth it.
By then the rest of the crew found us, and we went to the garge to drop off the bikes. Punta Arenas which is the furthest metropolitan city in the world, although Ushuia is further south I get its not big enngouh for that distinction. Wit the bikes safely in the garage, we went to the hotel which certainly was not very luxurious but was right on the straight of Mageliion, and a fitting end regardless.
Thats All Folks
End of Adventure
The last and final dinner in Punta Arenas was a fitting one for the dynamic of the group. We ended up having dinner in an upscale converted house the was supposedly run by a hard working gay couple but to me it seemed more of a time warp to the 80ís. We were seated upstairs in initially what was a private dinning area that if it remained so would have been better for the restaurant. As the wine flowed for most, we recounted the various adventures, Adrian still continued to give Anibal crap about Susan, Anibal continued to dish it back as he should, Pablo seemed to just let it go and laugh at the verbal sparring, and the Brazilian brothers recounted many tales that are better not put in writing, although one of them involved Anibal resembling some adult film star which was lost on most of us but seemingly made him quite happy and later involved more Susan jokes. The table ended getting so rowdy the other patrons asked the owners to quite us down, which obviously had the reverse effect. Boys being boys with only the Queen to keep us in line, we got to the point we just better leave, and we did so and instead of causing more ruckus in Punta Arenas, we intelligently called it a night.
Driving to the airport was uneventful for the flight back to Santiago, and the only thing we leaned from Pablo that was a mistake of the trip is we could have taken a boat and in 45 minutes been to Tierra del Fuego the southernmost city on earth. Had we known we certainly would have done it but you canít do everything , and maybe others can learn from our mistakes. Probably will be a while because we get that close again.
Upon arrival in BA Fern and Mars had to leave for their connecting flights, and we bid them farewell. Soon enough it was just Adrian the Queen and I , and although I was disappointed we were not returning to the Glu hotel, upon entering the Buenos Aires Sofitel, with its early 19th century architecture and tall marble columns, it actually seemed more fitting after all. Right on the Avenue de Americas which holds the worlds record as the widest avenue in the world, it is great for people watching as it also has a spectacular median with concrete chairs for doing just that, including the flower vendors, the students leaving school, or just general traffic commuters heading out of the city.
After an amazing dinner right of the Avenue at a local Italian Favorite where the waiter did not properly explain all plates where designed to be shared, and we ordered enough Pizza, Pasta, and Pastries for a family of 6, we gorged ourselves and left enough for a new meals on wheels chapter. With T not full and tired from a long days travel, she decided to call it aw night , and Adrian and I decided the city was still too exciting to not explore a little more.
Boys being boys, we ended up at another disco to have a few diet cokes, and see the local sights. Again BA has a reputation for some of the most beautiful women on earth, and while I donít think that it has a monopoly on beauty, it does hold up very well. The aggressiveness here was a little more than expected, so I at least was safe since my Spanish is not up to par for significant conversation, but Adrian being a fluent speaker was more of a target. One of the prettier girls in the place was interested in some conversation and I had fun observing the dynamic between my old college best friend and his new Blonde beauty. Anyway, other than some dancing and laughs it remained innocent enough, although I did play a joke on him upon returning to the hotel room suggesting he would soon have a visitor. He didnít but he didnít know that, and Iím sure he spent at least an hour sweating a knock at the door and trying to figure out how to explain his way out of it.
The next morning was spent walking around this fabulous city and exploring more parks, dog walkers, and in the Queens case, a hunt for a stash of Havana Alphajores. We then just spend time on the Avenue chilling out in the concrete chairs on the Avenue, watching the city wrap up on a lazy Friday afternoon. As we observed young street vendors selling flowers to cars stuck at the light. Adrian and I observing the kid and with a keen objective on improving his business explained to him that he would increase productivity by walking no more than 12 cars deep timing the light. He didnít seem interested in the advise and we bought two dozen roses anyway, as we walked back to the hotel to catch our car for the last flight home, we passed the roses out in a competition to see who could do it the fastest, and while people initially thought we were trying to sell them something, they were much more receptive than say trying that in NY where we probably would have got decked.
All in all the trip was a great success. Any time you can share a great experience with people that are some of the best friends you can have, you canít go wrong. My only regret was not being able to share it with our other close friends, which simply means there will have to be more adventures!