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January 24th, 2012 | Argentina

To Comodoro Rivadavia…

All the people I had spoken to about Ruta 3, had but one thing to say:

“It is flat, windy and boring…!! Towns and fuel stops are far apart, and when you reach them, there is no guarantee that you will find fuel anyway…!!”

Armed with this knowledge, I set out from Rio Gallegos, planning to put in another long day to reach Comodoro Rivadavia, almost 800 km to the north…

An hour north of Rio Gallegos, I stopped to take a break and some photos... The Rio Coyle flanks Ruta 3 here...

As I rode out of town, I saw a road-sign that advised that we were a mere 2 645 km from Buenos Aires…

When your destination is that far away, and you have no plans of taking a break in between, this sort of info is the last thing you want to see early in the morning…!!

The number hangs around in your head, constantly reminding you of the task that lays ahead…

Ruta 3 led due west for about 30 km before turning north and running through countryside that was was as flat as a pancake for miles around… I tried to make the most of the early morning start, hoping that the wind would stay the hell away until we had covered a few hundred kilometres at least…

Having instructed me to take the third exit at a roundabout 546 km away, GiGi prompty went to sleep...!! For the next six hours, it was just me and the Big Fella...!!

Usually, the early mornings brought light winds and pleasant conditions to ride in…

Except for today of course…!!

It was not as cold as it had been the day before, but the wind was pumping…!! I hunkered down, leaned the bike into the wind which was coming off the Atlantic this time, and prepared myself for another tiring day…

An hour later, I stopped to take some photos of a flock of Flamingos that were wading about in the shallows of the Rio Coyle…

I had just crossed the long bridge that spans the river, having had a nasty wobble when a huge gust of wind that torn over us, almost jerking the handlebars from my grip…

The river runs through a narrow defile, and I should have been aware that the wind-speed would be even higher through this section, but the sight of the flamingos had taken my mind off matters at hand…!!

As it turned out, the moment I got off the bike, the birds lifted their heads, and then took off before I could take a decent photo…!!

There was very little traffic on the road, and most of it was comprised of large eighteen wheeler trucks, carrying goods south the Ushuaia and Punta Arenas… The buffeting we took when they passed us heading in the opposite direction, was something fierce…!!

A bit of relief from the very flat country we had been riding through... For a while I was able to take an interest in my surroundings...

The scenery changed a little after that… A series of low hills forced the highway to dip and turn, following the lower slopes and ducking through a long series of valleys… Flocks of wind-blown sheep stood grazing resignedly, pondering the lean pickings of the dry plains around them…

I came across a few carcasses on the roadside, two foxes and later, some rabbits… They did not look as though they had been hit by passing vehicles, but rather as if they were sound asleep…!! Hardly a hair out of place… I think the bloody wind had just blown them to death…!!

About 240 km north of Rio Gallegos, I crossed the wide Rio Santa Cruz, and stopped in the little town of Comandante Piedra Buena to consider my refueling options… Even though I had eight litres of spare fuel, I thought it might be prudent to refuel here… At the first service station there was no petrol available, only diesel…!! I was told to try the larger petrol station a few kilometres outside town…

The cool blue waters of the Rio Santa Cruz, on whose banks the town of Comandante Piedra Buena is situated. On consulting my map later, I discovered that this river originates in Lago Argentina where I had visited the massive Perito Moreno Glacier...!! It emptied into the Atlantic Ocean 30 km to the east of town...

When I got there, the fuel tankers had only just arrived, and there was a long line of cars already waiting to fill up… I woke GiGi from her beauty sleep and inquired where the next fuel station was…

“Puerto San Julian… 126 km away…” she advised with what sounded like a yawn…

That was at the very far end of the Big Fella’s range, but I decided to take a chance rather than hang about in the sun for an hour waiting to refuel… I set the cruise control a little lower, to 105 km/h, and continued heading north…

There is nowhere to hide from the wind out here...!!

By the time I reached the turnoff to Puerto San Julian, we were on fumes… There was a police control point at the turnoff, and I asked the guy who waved me down where the nearest fuel stop was…

“There is no fuel in San Julian, Senhor… Maybe if you wait two hours, the trucks will come…!!” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders…

This was hardly the news I had been hoping for… I pulled over and began untying my fuel containers… I poured four litres into the tank and then asked where I was likely to find fuel further up Ruta 3…

“Yesterday there was fuel at Tres Cerros, but today….” Another shrug of the shoulders…

“How far to Tres Cerros…??” I asked…

“Ciento cuarenta kilometros, Senhor…”

“Huh…?? How much is that in English…??” Anything past the number ten in Spanish was still a mystery to me…!! In fact, there were a few numbers between one and ten that still managed to evade my comprehension as well…!!

He used the index finger of his right hand to write “1..4..0..” on the palm of his left hand…

“Mierde…!!” I exclaimed, “Are you sure…??”

He was…!! Very sure in fact, because he lived there…!!  And I was in trouble…!!

At this point, we had already been on the road for almost eight hours... Long rides are the norm in Patagonia, where endless highways run through endless vistas of wind and sun blasted prairie...

I poured the last four litres into the Big Fella’s tank, and then eyed the tank of the policeman’s own motorcycle in a speculative manner… He followed the direction of my gaze and then quickly shook his head and finger at me…

“No, no, Senhor… Too leetle also…!!”

“Mierde…!!”

I rode the next 140 km at an average speed of 90 km/h… Not much fun when there is nothing to hold your attention for more than a second or two…!! Mercifully, the wind dropped off a point or two, and that helped conserve the little fuel we had to work with…

I had always managed to reach the next fuel station with the extra fuel I carried with me, and had never had to stand on the roadside hoping that somebody would stop and assist me…

This was the closest I had ever come…!! The bike coughed and spluttered as I braked under the roof of the fuel station at Tres Cerros…!!

We had covered 490 km since leaving Rio Gallegos, and most of it in winds that made a mockery of attempts to ride conservatively… At times, if you did not pin the throttle wide open, the wind would have you riding at 50 km/h and less…!!

Luckily there was still fuel available, and after filling up I stood in the shade of a large tree and drank two bottles of water… The cold south was now far behind us, and the late afternoon sun beat down on my shoulders whenever I moved out of the shade…

The last 300 km to Comodoro Rivadavia was as boring as the morning’s ride had been, and confident that there would be fuel in this much bigger town, we tore up Ruta 3, trying to make up for the time we had lost riding so slowly to Tres Cerros…

I rode through this oil field and passed hundreds of "nodding donkeys" on the way to Rivsdavia... Hard to believe there are such fuel shortages in southern Argentina when they are pumping the stuff from the ground as if there was no tomorrow...!!

Half an hour outside our destination, Ruta 3 began a sinuous climb up onto a high plateau, and then dropped down among the sandstone cliffs bordering the Atlantic…

On a bluff high above the ocean, I stopped to take a short break... This was the first decent bit of scenery we had encountered all day...!!

Comodoro Rivadavia was a much bigger town that I had expected… It lay in the centre of the very large Gulf of San Jorge, and was protected from the winds blowing in from Patagonia, by the range to hills that lay behind it… A series of massive wind turbines had been built on the hills outside town, and no doubt supplied the town with a large portion of it’s electricity requirements…

It was founded in 1901, and named after Argentina’s shipping minister at the time… It has a very modern downtown area, with a number of expensive hotels lining the main boulevard… It even has a convention centre and a casino…!!

I was assured that this was a safe place to park the Big Fella, but had him covered up well before the sun went down...

The sizable harbour was home to a large fishing fleet, and of course, the oil fields nearby had also helped to make what was once a small seaside town, into the bustling little city it had become… Apparently, in 1907, while drilling for water, oil was discovered at a depth of less than 500 m undergound…!!

A pipeline pumps crude oil directly to Buenos Aires from just outside town… Building a small refinery here to alleviate the fuel shortages in Southern Argentina would have been a good idea I thought, but who knows what goes through the minds of the “powers that be”…!!

Neat and tidy room, but the bathroom facilities left a lot to be desired....!!

It took a while for me to find an affordable place to stay, and when I finally did, it was already early evening… I had been on the road for just on ten hours, and while I was still hotel-hunting, I felt filled with energy, but once I agreed to the price offered at the Hospedaje Cori Hue, and began offloading the bike, a wave of fatigue washed over me…

A desk, chairs, power supply, but no bloody internet...!!

My room did not have a bathroom, and the facilities on offer where rather scant… There were only two small bathrooms on the ground floor, and neither of the doors on them closed properly or could even be locked…

The shower head spurted water directly onto the basin and the toilet, and left the floor under an inch of water…!!

An old lady who opened the door while I was showering, received a full-frontal of me, and scuttled away in apparent terror, leaving the door swinging open behind her…!! I had to reach forward and close the door before other guests wandered by and took a gander at me…!!

Making progress... We were almost 1 500 km north of Ushuaia, with about another 2 000 km to go before we reached Buenos Aires...

I later saw the same old lady in the lobby, fingering the beads of her rosary and muttering prayers…

She did not greet me as I passed, but I thought I saw a small smile flicker across her face as her eyes swiveled to follow me out of the door…!!

The manager had assured me that they had Wifi when I arrived, and I was more than a little annoyed to discover that he had lied to me…!! I insisted on a discount for my room, which he reluctantly gave me when I made mention of the “tourist police”…

I walked a few blocks in the direction of the main shopping area and finally found an internet cafe where I could check my mail…

I received a short message from Javier of Dakar Motors in B.A., advising that he would be going away for the weekend with his his wife Sandra, and that if I wanted my shocks repaired, I would have to deliver them to him on Friday morning at the latest…!!

If this did not work for me, then I could deliver them on the following Monday…

By Monday I had planned to be sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, so it would have to be Friday morning or bust…!!

I checked my maps and tried to work out how far I could get in the next few days… I plotted a route directly to Dakar Motors and discovered that I was sitting a mere 2 050 km from Javier’s workshop…!!

I bought a pie and a bottle of water and then went to sit on the steps of the local cathedral nearby, to contemplate my options… I could make it in three rides or go for broke and try to to it in two… Either way, I had a few big rides ahead of me…!!

©GBWT 2012

 

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