January 26, 2015
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
After our 3 nights camping in Gaiman, we were up early and ready for a big ride to Comodoro Rivadavia. We had a contact in Comodoro, through our friend Pablo from Buenos Aires, and had advised them that we would be arriving that day. We decided to take a short cut from Gaiman to Ruta 3, the national highway down the east coast of Argentina. This shortcut was about 60km long and probably saved us the same distance again. Unfortunately the road was slow going, it had been a long time since wehad been on gravel and this section was throwing us in the deep end. The road had little traffic and therefore little maintenance to match, but we were able to travel comfortably at 60-70km/hr for the most part. So a little over an hour later we were relieved to find paved road again.
The famous Patagonian winds had started by this section of Ruta 3 although they would get worse as we headed south. We had full tanks as we left Gaiman, confident we'd make it to Comodoro without the need to stop. We did however need to stop for lunch and to get out of the weather. The towns are not so frequent heading south with distances around 300-400km between each, just enough luckily for a 'normal' motorbike fuel tank. We stopped in the small town of Garayalde about half way between Gaiman and Comodoro. Garayalde had a couple of service stations but otherwise not much to offer. There was very little shelter anywhere in the town as the winds tore through, we zipped Weeti up in her Pillion Pooch while we took refuge in the service station shop and had yet another service station meal (crackers and jam)!!
The road into Comodoro involved descending from the plateau, on top of which the majority of eastern Argentina is situated, to the sea. At the sea level the winds are almost non existent for the majority of the time and when the sun comes out it makes for beautiful days. We were meeting Lucas and Flor who, with their family, would look after us for the next few days. Lucas met us at the beach in Rada Tilly (an adjoined city to Comodoro), he informed us that this was the first summers day they had experienced this year so everyone was at the beach.
Lucas and Flor were staying in their family studio, a large hall with a bedroom up stairs built by Lucas' father for family events. Its a very cool place with musical instruments, amps and microphones and on this day Lucas was having friends over for a 'jam'. Nothing beats real live music with friends. Stuart even got involved by shaking a tambourine in time, well sort of, to the rest of the music. Someone had to be an audience and cheer so Janell sat back and enjoyed the sounds while sipping her glass of red wine.
The next day we got to know each other better and shared in our adventures. Lucas and Flor had set off just over three years ago with the plan of driving their 1989 Cadillac limousine from Ushuaia to Alaska in one year. Subsequently they extended their trip, wrote a couple of books, did some modelling and worked as required to allow them to keep travelling for years.
Just imagine travelling the America's in a limousine! How do you even come up with an idea like that? Well before travelling they ran a limousine hire and chauffeur company, the initial plan was to sell the limousine and purchase a camper van. However, the limousine was actually geared up for off-road tyres and it wasn't long before they figured out that with some internal alternations, they could convert it into a great camper; double bed, kitchenette, curtains. Their adventure is called America Sin Limites and you can read all about their travels here.
While in Buenos Aires we'd arranged to have replacement tyres for both bikes to be sent to Comodoro using an address provided by Lucas. Our first full day in Comodoro we spent at the beach, it was a Thursday and it seemed the tyres would arrive on the Friday according to online tracking. On Saturday morning Lucas and Flor drove us to the shipping office to check if the tyres had arrived. Luckily they were waiting for us and we were able to take them straight away.
Being a Saturday, we were unlikely to find a place to fit the tyres. Janell's rear tyre was the only one that really needed to be replaced as both of Stu's still had plenty of tread so the decision was made to carry Stu's until it was time. Lucas suggested a better alternative, Flor's Father was visiting from the west of Argentina, and since we'd be returning from Ushuaia via that route, he said that he could ask for the tyres to be waiting for us there. In fact Lucas and Flor had planned to visit her Fathers during this time anyway, so would probably be there when we arrived. This made so much sense to us, so we graciously accepted the offer.
We still however had the issue of fitting Janell's tyre. With 12 flat tyres already repaired on this trip, we felt more than comfortable doing it ourselves. So we pulled out our tyre irons and got to work. With the help of Lucas and his brother Diego, the job was completed in less than an hour, and we could sit back and enjoy the rest of our stay. That afternoon we went to a beach just south of Rada Tilly to take a boat out for a test run with Diego, unfortunately there was a problem with the boat and it was back out of the water before we arrived, but that didn't stop us all going for a swim and enjoying some 'mate' (a herbal tea enjoyed all over Argentina) while watching quad bikes race up the dunes.
Sunday already! We were guests at the usual Sunday family barbecue done Argentina style. The whole extended family was in attendance, Lucas's father took us for a tour of the grounds, showing us the children's playground he had made and explained his vision for the property, a place where his family and friends would be welcome to come and relax. This retreat was very well located just outside the city and only a short ride to the beaches and shopping. We were made feel extremely welcome by our new friends and told to return anytime.
As much as we wanted to stay, we had to keep moving. So the next day we were up early and on the road. Unfortunately someone didn't want us to leave just yet. Stuart was riding in front as we departed the property and a few kilometres down the road Stu had a fall. The road was a mixture of gravel and sand. Roadworks were underway in one section and a road watering truck was wetting the road surface. This water on top of gravel brings any oil present to the surface and makes for a very slippery mud. With our tyres inflated for paved roads, the tread quickly caked up and Stuart slid out even before Janell hit the wet section. As Stu went down, his left pannier dug into the gravel and acted like an anchor but with the momentum of the bike, the pannier simply broke away leaving a twisted bent pannier in the middle of the road.
What to do now? Lucas had said that if we ever needed help to give him a call, I'm not sure he expected it so early. We made a temporary repair and continued to the Walmart supermarket as we had intended, from there we knew we had internet and so called Lucas and told him what had happened. Lucas and his brother Diego were over to us straight away to see what could be done. Diego took charge and said he could easily fix it. We could only watch as Diego worked his magic back in his workshop and returned the pannier to near new condition, bashing the pannier into shape and fabricating new brackets to hold it in place. With only a couple of hours delay we were again ready to go. We said our goodbyes once again and thanked Diego for all his help before taking off for our next destination. Thousands of kilometres later and the pannier is still holding strong.
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