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January 13th, 2012 | Argentina

“Hanging” in El Calafate….

After our difficult time out on the road the previous day, my Argentinian friends were ready to hit the road again…

Breakfasts like this, I can work with....!!

El Calafate has a long and proud history, which tourists and Argentinians alike come to explore...

I thought they might want to have a rest day, but they were on a tight schedule… They had booked their tickets to fly from Ushuaia back to Buenos Aires on the 17th of January, and wanted to make sure their bikes were loaded onto a truck heading north, before they boarded their flight…

There was also a long list of things they planned to do once they reached Ushuaia…

Augustin went out and bought breakfast for us, which as usual, consisted of a large quantity of “sweet breads”… We sat around the kitchen table for the last time, reminiscing about the last few days we had spent together, and the long and hard rides we had shared…

We had formed a strong bond during those rides, and neither of us wanted to see it come to an end… They asked me to ride with them all the way to Ushuaia, and at one point I actually agreed, but minutes later, I changed my mind, much to their disappointment…

I had a number of reasons for doing this, the most pressing being that I wanted to write about the rides we had made down Ruta 40, and our experiences on the ripio… We had had no internet signal for three full days, and then had planned and executed a number of rides once we got to El Calafate, which did not leave me any time to work on my website…

I was also very aware of the fact that this was an adventure that they had dreamed and planned for a long time… One they had set out to do as a trio of good buddies… I had never been part of their plans, just as they had never been part of mine… I felt that I was somehow “intruding” on their dream…

I remember Pablo once leaning across the table to me and in his best Spanglish, saying,

“Ronnie….!! Before we start this, it was big adventure for us… Muy big…!! Then we meet Ronnie… Now, it is nothing…!!”

I knew he meant it as a joke, comparing what they were doing to what I had already achieved, but his comment struck home… This was one of the biggest things they might ever do with their lives, this was their very own “Che Guevera” ride, an experience which would set them apart from many of their friends back home… I would want them to be talking about their own experiences, rather than relating stories about the guy they had met, whose ride overshadowed their own…

Their dream was to reach Ushuaia and Fin del Mundo… I felt that it was appropriate that they complete their dream just as they had planned it… They deserved nothing less… I did not want to steal any part of their thunder…

I also did not want to follow the same route back as I would have down, and that was why I wanted to take the longer route via Punta Arenas in Chile…

We packed our bikes and then Augustin led me through the town to a hostel which Carolina had arranged for me… Before I left, there was much hugging and cheek kissing, something I had gotten used to here in South America…

We promised to meet up in Ushuaia in a few days time, and share a celebratory drink or ten, and then we parted…

Great place to stay if you're traveling on a limited budget...

I spent the next few days struggling to get my Sim card sorted out which turned out to be a complete waste of time… My laptop also began “acting the goat”, constantly hanging and then refusing to restart… After two years of shake, rattle and the occasional roll, I think it has decided to give up the ghost…!!

The Lago Argentino Hostal was a great place to stay… The owners were super friendly, the internet signal strong, and a constant string of interesting people came and went while I was there… Most of them were French speaking hikers and trekkers, with the odd German couple putting in an appearance…

I usually had the public area to myself for most of the day...

Sign placed on the door of the refrigerator... I would also be "throwing up" any food that had been left there for any length of time...!!

While my laptop was on the blink, I rode around town, seeing some of the sights and looking for fuel… The town had run dry again, and both service stations were waiting for their tankers to arrive, which they finally did at about 10 pm on the Friday night… A long queue immediately formed at the pumps, and stretched at least half a kilometre down the road…

I was not prepared to sit out in the cold and inch my way along until I could get fuel, and decided to try my luck early the following morning, which worked out just fine in the end…

I rode along the shores of Lagos Argentina, stopping often to watch the water fowl and other birds feeding in the shallows…

Flocks of Flamingos sifted through the silt in the shallows...

He always wanted to be one...!! Shameless self promotion, I say...!!

I chatted to a few bikers who I bumped into while I strolled or rode through town, trying to find out if any of them were riding north, and had come from Ushuaia…

Most of them were heading south, following the same route as my friends… They all wanted no more gravel road riding, and had chosen the road along the Atlantic Ocean to get them to Fin del Mundo…

I spoke to a German rider who had got as far as south as Puerto Natales, and then turned around and headed back north… He had battled high winds and finally decided that he wanted safer conditions to ride in, rather than risk himself and his bike…

I found it hard to believe that he had turned back just 700 km short of his goal…!! But then I discovered that he had rented the bike in Buenos Aires and his desire to reach Fin del Mundo was not half as strong as mine, or many of the other riders I had met…

Still, his warnings about the high winds stuck in my mind, and made me more than a little concerned at what I was letting myself in for…

When my computer did eventually boot up again, I checked the route I had planned again, wondering if the short cut across 90 km of gravel to bypass Esperanza, on my own, was a such good idea…!!

I decided to stick to my plan and concentrate more on riding confidently and well, than worrying about what might happen out on the road…

While I was packing and getting my gear ready to be taken out to the bike, the manager of the hostal came over to see me, carrying a huge piece of chocolate cake on a plate….

“Ronnie, Amigo…!! It is my birthday today, and I want you to share some cake with me and my family…!! Tomorrow morning you will leave us and we will not see each other again…!! Today you must join us to celebrate and so that we can wish you well on your journey…!!”

I stood watching his wife, their children and a few of their close friends enjoying the weak sunlight in their back garden… They asked me many questions about my trip, and by relating a few of the rides I had already made, I felt my confidence being boosted by their appreciation for how far I had come, and what I had achieved…

I went back to my room to resume my packing, with a large smile on my face…

I knew that I would deal with whatever the forces of nature were about to throw at me…

I had not come this far to be turned back…!!

©GBWT 2012

 

2 comments to “Hanging” in El Calafate….

  • Mark Behr

    Your decision to let the others go on was extremely kind – they will never know your true intention and that is what makes it such a noble gesture. Great stuff Gypsy Biker. Enjoy!!!

  • ken lockard

    We just finished our trip,Alaska to Ushuaia.5 years 7 trips on BMW 1200 Adventures,3 great friends.Finished January 15th.
    Trip of a lifetime!
    Ken

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