I arrived in Perito Moreno at night, and again was flabbergasted by the prices, but managed. In the morning I saw two bikers on the other side of the street and did a quick U turn to see who it was. One turned out to be Robert Vinet, who I had shared a room with (and his wife) in Antofagasta about a month before. He was on his way north from Ushuaia and couldn’t believe that I was still heading south. What can I say… you have to stop and smell the roses!
While in Perito Moreno I got an email from Thierry, the Swiss chap I had met in Osorno. He wrote me from Puerto Natales (Chile) that he had already left Ushuaia. He wanted to try to get a last minute cruise slot from Ushuaia to Antarctica, but nothing was available. He said that ships were either full, or he would have to wait around a week or two on a waiting list and then still not be certain of a space.
Now, my intention all along was to do the same: To try for a last minute slot on a cruise to Antarctica, so I was a little discouraged. Fortunately, I had gotten the card of a travel agent in
Ushuaia from some Aussies that I met in Puyuapi the week before. Her name is Alicia Petiet (Alicia@antarcticatravels.com) and they raved about how good she was. So after looking all over Perito Moreno to buy a cell phone chip and pre-paid card for my phone, I gave Alicia a call. I told her I needed a fast answer, because I either would go south on Route 40 to Calafate or east to Route 3 to make a fast bee-line to Ushuaia. Within 15 minutes Alicia called me back and had me booked on the Polar Star for a 12 day cruise starting on February 3. And she got me on exactly the kind of boat I wanted (100 passengers) at a very good rate (40% off full fare).
So... change of plans. I didn’t have time to visit Calafate and Parque Torre de Paines and still get to Ushuaia on time for my cruise… especially if something delayed me. Since I had just paid for the entire fare by credit card I didn’t really want to miss the boat. So it was a quick run across Argentina to Ruta 3 along the Atlantic coast, and down through Patagonia.
Now, I have to tell you that I had been warned about the ride through Patagonia: it is BORING! Literally thousands of miles of nothing but pampas (plains), broken up by occasional bursts of... nothing. And there is a constant wind of from 50 to 100 kph, usually from the side. I never got quite used to riding on a 45 degree angle to the right, but I figure I only wore down the right side of my tires. I’ll use the left side on the way back up. Photo, Pampas
The first night I camped in Jaramillo. Not much there, but there is a real lack of accommodations out here. The next day I went to Rio Gallegos.
On the way, while stopped in a gas station, I met Lobos, a Brazilian from Florianopolis. We decided to go to Rio Gallegos together and share a room (we were still appalled at the prices). It turns out he is also a business professor, so we had a lot in common. What we didn’t have in common was language: He spoke neither English nor Spanish and I don’t speak Portugese. However, between his Portugese and my Spanish we managed to communicate (in Portañol)
The window of our hotel room opened directly onto the parking area of the hotel, so we decided it was a lot shorter to use than going all the way around to the lobby to get to our bike gear. Either that, or Lobo was practicing for a new career as a cat burglar.
Lobo went on to Ushuaia the next day, while I stayed in Rio Gallegos to get some errands done. After all, I didn’t need to be in Ushuaia until Feb 2 so there was no hurry. Leaving Rio Gallegos I came to the same police checkpoint I had passed coming down. I thought that the road to Rio Gallegos had been at a T junction and I had to come back out the same way. When I told the cop I was on my way to Ushuaia he just looked at me kind of strange. Then told me I was going in the wrong direction. Oh well, sometimes detours are planned and sometimes they just happen. This one was a little 50 km jaunt back, and then I was on the way to Ushuaia.