The road south through Argentina we had to take is the famous Ruta 40. It is known for being very windy. As far as I understand it, the pampas area is flat and the sun heats the air which rises causing cold air to flood in from the Andes. Because the pampas is so flat, there is a lot of air to rise.
We were lucky enough to have a few quiet days as far as the wind was concerned but we were still leaning over into it as we rode. The main problem on a bike is that you’ll hit pockets of air where the wind comes from a different direction and so you are suddenly thrown one way then another. When there is other traffic on the road or you’re going around a bend, it can get a little exciting.
We had one other concern though, fuel stops. We know our bikes should do about 350 km on one tank of fuel. Following Ruta 40 there are in theory enough stops but they are so far apart you fill up at every town. However, one town is known for being frequently out of fuel and people have reported being stranded overnight at the hotel, only for fuel to be available next morning and for being over charged. We were keen not to experience that but that put us in a position where we filled up at Perito Moreno with our next stop at Gobernador Gregores.
Gobernadore Gregores: Total distance, 355 km. It was likely that we could make it but anything out of the ordinary might leave us stranded. In Chile Chico we bought a 5 litre gas can and filled it up, just in case.
So, we crossed the border and headed East finally leaving the huge Lago General Carrera behind. We had been skirting the edges for over four days. At 290 square km, it is a pretty impressive size.
We fueled up at Perito Moreno and I did a bit of maintenance. I wiped the chains down after all the ripio and gave the bikes a look over. All looked ok and we were off. Ruta 40 starts out winding sinuously through low hills and the scenery is absolutely stunning. It is smooth tarmac and the riding is easy but your neck gets sore from looking all around.
We were really happy. After feeling a bit down over Christmas, it was good to be riding day after day again. After riding for years in the UK, nothing really prepares you for the landscape and how you can ride and ride and see no-one other than an occasional car or truck going the other way.
After a long time, the highway becomes straight, very sraight. Corners can be 20kms apart and the road stretches into the haze in the distance. It is quite lovely.
I got to see my first flamingo, wading in a pool with some ducks and we stopped to have a look.
After a full day of riding we came to Gobernador Gregores. We had no problems and just as we went past the signs to enter the town our fuel warning lights came on. We still had about 50km of fuel left. It looks like the fuel can was a waste of money after all. The whole journey had been smooth except for Guanoco Llamas of which there are many and a flock of rhea’s running across the road.
Zona de Baches, (zones of potholes) riddle stretches of the road. They can be small, the size of a football that you skip over before you see them. They can also take the form of trenches across the road. Cars and trucks have to go off road to avoid some they are so bad. They certainly kept us awake. Usually you would hit a few just before the warning signs to say there were more. Skidmarks in the road helped indicate where they might be. One particular stretch was really bad and we hit some of them quite hard. At the end of the day though we didn’t seem to have any damage.
We stopped a garage at Gobernador Gregores and bumped into a really nice couple, Pippa and Adam. She is from England and Adam from the US. They were riding bikes they rented for a couple of weeks and were having a great time. We stopped and chatted for over an hour and while we were there, the Harley Davidson from a few days earlier pulled in and then two Brazilians touring on a smallish bike stopped and said hello.
We had to go and find a hotel eventually and get some sleep but not before we went out for a meal at an Argentinian restaurant. It was a meat buffet. If you like meat, go to Argentina! There was some salad too.
Our second day in Argentina started well. Tanks full to the brim, we left the hotel where the owner had insisted we put the bikes on the patio area. He moved all the chairs and table to the grass for us. The hotel room was small with a huge ceiling fan that rumbled away. It was quaint. Tucked into the corner of the room was a table and two chairs and the provided breakfast was crackers with butter, jam and manjar. It seemed a bit skimpy when we saw it but after the meat fest the night before it was just right.
Anyway, we hit the road again. We rejoined Ruta 40 after a quick police checkpoint stop. We headed on down again. We left Ruta 40 to head south east and had a fuel stop at La Esperanza. However a couple of km’s from town, I felt a grinding though my feet. We stopped and I could see that at least one link on my chain had seized. We limped into town and I got the tools out. My first thought was to split the chain and replace the one link. However on further inspection, a few links were seizing and I could see the O rings one one side of the chain were missing in places.
There was nothing I could do other than slacken the chain off and keep going. Our first thought was to limp to Punta Arenas, 500km further south where we were confident we could get a new chain. La Esperanza is pretty much a roundabout with a petrol station and a cafe.
So after filling up both the bikes and us, we were off again, albeit at a slower pace, keeping the speed down to 100kmh.
Relaxing the chain had helped and all was ok again. The next stop planned being Rio Gallegas. I had decided that as we were stopping the night it was at least worth a look for a bike shop but as we neared the city my chain was grinding away again. Another stop, now nearly half of the links had seized. Obviously the ripio had managed to get in. Clair’s chain is fine however which is a relief so I cant think of what has caused this early failure on my chain. We both have the same setup.
We made it into town and found some wireless. Clair looked for a room to rent and I looked for help. Clair found a room for £14. Result. I found a shop and crossed my fingers.
I made it to the shop, Moto Lucha. I asked for a chain and not only did they have one, it was an RK chain. I confess that I had worried I would end up with a knock off Chinese one which I have read are really bad.
Unfortunately the chain was expensive. What would be £50 in the UK was £114. The owners were apologetic about the cost and while it stung a bit, I was very happy to have a good quality chain.
I paid in dollars and got a great exchange rate and fitted the chain in front of the shop. They were really helpful and it turned out as a happy coincidence that many travellers stop there for help. We got on really well and took some photos and by 7pm I had a brand new chain on.
At the hotel, they were great. There was no off road parking but at ten pm, they knocked on the door and asked me to put the bikes in their reception. How incredibly kind of them. To get the bikes in we had to move two desks and two chairs but they thought it was worth it and I was pleased the bikes were off the road.