January 18, 2015
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
Even travellers need inspiration and motivation from time to time. It can come in a range of forms from a chat with a stranger, to marvelling at nature, to grand designs. Travelling as two (or two and half with our little friend) we often draw on each other for strength during frustrating situations and when we feel weary from simply long days of riding. The Pack Track had been on the road for nearly 11 months by this stage and found inspiration in the form of a young couple living in Puerto Madryn.
Puerto Madryn is situated on the east coast of Argentina in the state of Chubut. We were taking Ruta 3 from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn and the two words that came to mind for this route are flat and windy. The landscape was bland, characterised by a sandy-dirt with little prickly-looking shrubs. Riding at 100km/hr, no faster because of the strong winds, we would look to the horizon for a sign of something different but even 5km from Puerto Madryn the landscape was unchanged with no sign of civilisation. Entering Puerto Madryn was a pleasant surprise as we looked down to see a flourishing city with a 6 km long recreational and highly utilised beach.
A few days before arriving in Puerto Madryn, Stu had made contact with a registered member of Horizons Unlimited. Stu had been having problems with his front tyre, specifically his rim, since Venezuela. There was a tiny crack in the alloy rim that was leaking air. In Venezuela we got a welder to repair the crack. This worked well until we reached Paraguay and from here on in, we had to stop every 3 or 4 days to top up the air; the tyre was dropping from 40 P.S.I. to around 25 P.S.I..
Something had to be done before the situation could get worse. We had been trying all through Brazil to source steel spoked rims and this continued into Buenos Aires with no luck. We visited the BMW dealership there but all they could do was offer to have the crack repaired again. Oh okay then, let's give it another go. What a disaster! now the tyre was dropping from 40 P.S.I. to 16 P.S.I. in an hour, so once an hour we had to stop and top up the air.
Buying a rim for the 650GS in Argentina was proving impossible so we started looking online. There are plenty of rims for sale on eBay and other similar websites but we needed an address in Argentina to have the rim posted to. Stu hopped on to the Horizons Unlimited website to see if anyone in Puerto Madryn could provide an address for us to ship to. A young couple, Hernan and Noelia, very kindly responded to our plea for help. Following their response we had been in contact with an old friend, Hank of Motohank, to see if there were any other options available to us. He suggested converting the rim to an inner-tube system. This seemed perfect in theory so we let Hernan and Noelia know the change in plans. They met us when we arrived in town on Friday, 16 January, and took us to their home where we spent the next 3 nights.
First thing Saturday morning Hernan and Noelia took us and our sad tyre out to get fixed. The solution was so simple and priceless. A mechanic friend of Hernans drilled a hole in the rim for the valve and another friend put it all back together for us. It took about 2 hours in total with the shopping and we were done, ready to do some sightseeing.
We swapped the car for the bikes (3 up on Stu's) and headed off-road to explore to the northern and southern regions of the area. Hernan had a heating element that plugged in to his battery so we had hot water to drink the typical 'Mate' tea with local pastries. We took advantage of the long daylight hours and didn't get back to the house until 8pm. The best part of the day was the dinner. Noelia made pizza's from scratch and we sat outside under the stars until 1 am eating pizza, drinking wine and talking about the adventures ahead for all of us.
Although we couldn't believe it, Sunday was even better than Saturday. Back on the bikes, we headed to Peninsula Valdes. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a national park so Weeti had to stay home for the day. Entry for internationals was 180 pesos (currency in Argentina is the Peso and the current black market exchange rate is around 13:1). Once you get in the Peninsula you have access to various tourist stops. We visited the information centre, Sea Lion lookout (this was amazing) and went to Puerto Pirámides for lunch. After a big day out we headed home for another delicious home-made feast and only a little wine as we were leaving the following morning.
Our language barrier has so often stopped us from having any meaningful conversations with people we meet. Hernan and Noelia knew only a little English but with our laptops and phones on Google translate, we all made the effort to dig a little deeper in each other. Over the course of the three days in Puerto Madryn, Hernan and Noelia's enthusiasm to travel, their passion to live life to the maximum and their appreciation of the importance of human relationships reinvigorated us from where little things like the rim problem and the strong winds had been wearing us down.
Hernan and Noelia left home together at a very young age and moved to Puerto Madryn with nothing but a dream. With no support or help from anyone, they began building a business of their own. Eight years later they are successful and have achieved their goal. But, like us, over recent years they have realised that there is so much more to life than work; there is adventure! They are now planning their own trip around the globe and described our encounter as incredible and a sign that their adventure is waiting for them. We couldn't agree more; we needed them at that exact moment in time as much as they needed us. Sitting under the stars eating Noelia's amazing pizza and drinking red wine is a memory we will cherish forever and remind us of the incredible encounters you make while travelling.
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