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January 25th, 2012 | Argentina

Chatting With the “Troops” and a VERY Big Day at the Office….!!

After eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, I was ready to ride again… By 6.00 am I had the Big Fella loaded and parked outside the front door of the hotel… I had to wait for the kitchen staff to get their day started, so that I could at least have a few cups of coffee before I set off…

Early morning and shadows on the road as we head out of Comodoro Rivadavia...

I sat the bike for a few minutes, mentally preparing my self for the long ride I had planned… I ticked all the major towns off in my head, reminding myself where I planned to refuel, and hoped I would not find the “no gasolina” signs up…!!

“Ok Guys… You ready for a big one…??” I said to my traveling companions… I reached forward and began tapping the days destination onto GiGi’s screen…

“BAIA BLANCO…!!” they cried in unison, once the co-ordinates had flashed through GiGi’s electronics and just as quickly been relayed to the Big Fella…

“That’s almost 1 200 km away…!! Why the big hurry…!!”

“I have things to do, people to meet, and plans to make…!! And that’s all you need to know for now…!! Let’s get moving…!!”

We cruised through the waking streets and then along the sea wall that led out of town… Trawlers were easing out of the harbour and a large cargo ship was waiting to enter as we began the climb up to the plateau above town… Down in the valleys where the series of low hills protected us from the wind, the riding was good; hardly any traffic, a smooth surface and a few decent “twisty’s” to get us into a good riding rhythm…

The conveyor belt of Ruta 3 stretches out ahead of us... Another one of those "endless days" lay ahead... I would have rather been on the jet-plane that tore through the sky above us...!!

I had to ease off the throttle at this point to ensure we made it to Trelew without running hout of fuel... Bahia was still a good ten hours away by GiGi's reckoning...!!

Once we crested the edge of the plateau, the wind was there waiting for us… It was not nearly as strong as I had expected, and I decided to take advantage of the situation by picking up the pace…

We zoomed up Ruta 3, at a steady 130 km/h, while I began mentally calculating how long I could afford to ride this fast without running out of fuel…

I pulled over to drink some water and take a short break… After three hours straight riding and precious little to see over the past 300 odd kilometres… The wind was no longer much of a factor… Either that, or I had just become used to riding at an odd angle…!!

We managed to sneak into Trelew just as the range indicator on my console read “0″, and a few warning growls emanated from the Big Fella…

Just before Trelew, we had crossed over the Rio Chibut, after which the province we were riding through is named…

I took my time sipping on two cups of coffee and nibbling on my usual road fare of Snickers and whatever candy I could find at the service station… A number of folk stopped nearby to take photos of the bike and wish me well on my journey…

I was strangely enough in no hurry to get back on the road, despite still being just shy of 800 km way from where I hoped to find a bed for the night… I had decided not to let the huge distance I would be riding stress me out too much…

I knew that sundown would be at around 9.30 pm, and that I still had over ten hours of daylight left… I was determined to stay in as relaxed a frame of mind as possible, because I knew that I had yet another long ride ahead of me the following day… I was not going to let anything faze me today…!!

Earlier, I had passed the roadside marker that indicated the end of Ruta 3 lay 1 500 km ahead… Instead of groaning out aloud as I might have done, I had actually pulled over to take another short break and a photo…

I was just about halfway between Fin del Mundo and Buenos Aires, and steadily extricating myself from the grips of the Patagonia Wind...

When I stepped out behind the Big Fella, I was alarmed at how “low-slung” he looked from the back…

“Dragging your arse a bit aren’t you…!!” I commented…

“No thanks to you and Ruta 40…!!” came the gruff reply, amid a series of quiet giggles from GiGi…!!

Taking a breather in Trelew... With almost 16 hours of daylight her in Argentina, I could afford to...!!

I checked the shock to see if it had begun to leak any oil yet, and was relieved to find that it had not…

“Not long now, and you’ll have both rear shocks repaired and ready to take us all the way home…!!”

“What about some new shoes…?? How soon do I get those…??”

“New Shoes…?? You kidding me…?? You got a new pair fitted in Melbourne less than ten weeks ago…!!”

“Yeah, but since then, you might have noticed that we have covered over 17 000 km, and some of those on the worst roads we have been on since we left home…!!”, came the quick reply…

I ran my hand over the rear tyre, saw that I still had a few millimetres of tread in the middle, and also noticed tiny cracks in the rubber that I had never seen before…

“If we don’t have any wet weather, I am figuring that these will last us until we get to Brazil…” I said firmly, ending that particular conversation for the time being…

I had hoped to get fuel at Sierra Grande, but found I was out of luck when I got there...!!

Fifty kilometres north of Trelew, I passed the turnoff to Puerto Madryn… This town is the southern jump-off point to visiting the Peninsula Valdes, where not only can you see colonies of penguins, fur seal and sea lions, but at the right time of year, Southern Right Whales, who come here to give birth to their young…

The entire peninsula is a World Heritage Site, and attracts nature lovers from all over the world…

This is also the place where most of those Nat Geo film clips of Killer Whales beaching themselves to snack on seals and young sea lions, are shot… By the end of December, most of the whales have given birth in the quiet waters of the Gulfs of Nuevo and San Jose; mated again, and then left for the plankton rich waters of the Antarctic Ocean…

I had missed the whales by a few weeks, but considering that there are almost 500 km of gravel roads on the peninsula, I would probably not have made the trip anyway, unless I was in a group of riders desperate to see the spectacle…!!

I stopped again in Sierra Grande, 200 kms north of Trelew and about halfway through the day’s ride… The only fuel station there was clogged with cars waiting for the petrol tankers to arrive… Some of them had been sitting there for over three hours…!!

I parked in the shade of a large tree across the road and watched as the queue got longer as more and more cars came either from the north or the south to refuel…

The next big town was San Antonio, which was 130 km away… I knew that I could make it there if I did not push too hard, so sat back and drank more water and ate a packet of crackers for lunch…

Join the queue for fuel...!! There were 57 cars ahead of me in San Antonio... With nothing better to do, I had counted them...!!

At San Antonio, the petrol situation was even worse…!! There are two service stations on the edge of town, and the queues stretching away from both of them were hundreds of metres long… I ran out of fuel while waiting in line…!! I had switched the bike off, and when the long line of cars started moving forward, the Big Fella refused to start…!!

I poured barely a cupful of petrol from my one fuel bottle into the tank, went to the guy waiting behind me to explain that my bike and I were going to wait in the shade up ahead, and would cut back into the queue later, and then rode forward and parked under the roof of the service station, out of the blazing hot sun…

It took over an hour for the car I had been in front of to appear at the only two working pumps… In the meantime, I had availed myself of the chocolates and sodas on offer in the little supermarket, and met and chatted to a few other bikers who were heading south and wanted to know where fuel and accommodation could be found…

They were all either Brazilians or Argentinians, and most were accompanied by families and friends in motor vehicles…I teased them about having “back-up” and they offered the excuse that their wives and girlfriends would not let them travel alone…!! I had noticed that Argentine men have an eye for the many beautiful women that abound in this part of the world…

We made a dash up Ruta 251 saving time and a further 50 km, which would have seen us riding over 1 200 km for the day...!!

After refueling, I checked times and distances to Bahia Bianco… We could save about 50 km by avoiding the windier coastal road that went east to Viedma and then north to Bahia Blanco, by going directly north from San Antonio to Rio Colorado, then heading east again towards the coast and our final destination…

I chose this route which left us a 400 km run, and would see us arrive at roughly 8.15 pm…

This section of road was almost deserted, and I gave the Big Fella his head, knowing that I had enough fuel on board to get us to Bahia Blanco… After taking it easy for the previous nine hours, I was now eager to get the ride over and done with…

It took just under two hours to ride the 230 km to the town of Rio Colorado, crossing the huge Rio Negro river at Conesa, and the Rio Colorado itself… It had just gone 6.00pm when we pulled over to take a break…

At the speeds we had been riding, I knew that we would not make it all the way to our destination without having to use my spare fuel, so I took the opportunity to put four litres into the tank while I rested…

I checked my mileage for the day and saw that we had covered 905 km so far, and still had 175 km to go… That was when the first wave of fatigue rolled over me…

At 7.15 pm we still had 100 km to go and an ETA of 20.15 ... That did not take into consideration the time it would take to find a decent hotel...

I remembered almost falling asleep at the same stage of the long rides I had made in Australia in the months before, and was determined that it should not happen again  now…

There was too much traffic on this the main route leading to and from Bahia Blanco… Long lines of trucks needed to be passed, daredevil drivers coming the opposite way needed to be avoided…

I took off my jacket and soaked my head under a nearby tap, then bought a bottle of Gatorade and a slab of chocolate, and wolfed them down…

I made the final run to Bahia Blanco in a bit of a daze… Heavy traffic slowed us down, and on more than one occasion I had to ride into the emergency lane to avoid oncoming cars that were overtaking long lines of trucks…

By the time I reached the outskirts of the city, I was knackered… Luckily much of  the peak hour traffic had dissipated by then, and I was able to cruise the streets looking for a place to stay…

I tried a few places listed on the GPS but all of them were either too expensive, or had no internet connections in their rooms…

I was sitting at a set of traffic lights when a guy on a F 650 pulled up next to me and asked where I was going… I told him I was looking for a small and inexpensive hotel, and he instructed me to follow him…

It was past 9.00 pm when I finally arrived at the Victoria Hotel, thanks to a fellow biker who guided me there...

A few minutes later we pulled up in front of the Victoria Hotel, whose rates and facilities suited me perfectly… I never did get the guy who had led me there’s name, but did give him a card that he could contact me with…

There was ample and safe parking directly across the road from the hotel and after getting my gear untied and stacked in reception, I parked the bike inside gated parking area…

When I walked back into the hotel, the young guy on duty greeted my by saying, “Hoe gaan dit…!!”

“Are you kidding me…??” I asked, laughing…

“I saw the flag on your windscreen… I grew up in South Africa…!! My father worked as a pipe-fitter in Mossel Bay for many years…!!”, he went on, indicating the much older man sitting in a chair off to his right…

That almost knocked me off my feet, because I had an idea what was coming next…

“My father was in charge of construction on the Mossgas Project,” I told him, “Perhaps your father knew him back then…??”

The older man got up and came towards us… “Mossgas…??” he said… “I work at Mossgas…!! I live near Groot Brak…”

He looked my passport, studying the name carefully…

“Yes, ….Borrageiro… I remember him, your father… A short Portuguese man… A difficult man, always chasing… Many times angry…!!”

“Yes, that would be the one…!!” I laughed…

We stood chatting about their lives in South Africa, and the reasons why they had left to return to Argentina… For the umpteenth time I had crossed paths with people whom I had either known from the past, or knew someone in my family…!!

They were astounded that I had ridden all the way from Comodoro Rivadavia in one day, and that on a motorcycle… Correctly assuming that I was hungry, they ordered a pizza for me and had it delivered to my room half an hour later, along with two litres of Coke…!!

After 1 175 km and 14 hours in the saddle, I was so tired that I barely had the energy to eat… I had ridden just on 2 600 km in the past three days… My back and shoulders were aching, and my left elbow throbbed constantly….

One more ride to Buenos Aires...!! Then methinks I might take a little break on a Caribbean Island....!! Any suggestions...??

But I was happy in the knowledge that I had “broken the back” of the long ride to Buenos Aires and was “only” 700 km from handing in my broken shock absorbers, and then making plans to join Patricia for a hard earned break…

I fell asleep to the sounds of music coming from the room next door… I never heard much past the first tune…

©GBWT 2012

9 comments to Chatting With the “Troops” and a VERY Big Day at the Office….!!

  • Khalid

    Hi Ronnie,
    Why do you want your busted shock absorbers to be serviced ?. Since they are worn you break all records ! (Ha Ha!)
    Take care.

    Khalid.

  • Trevor Reeve

    GB!!! I’m going to Barbados, in the sunny caribbean sea! Remember that song? What a life, with your Honey waiting for you on the beach!!! My little fella is coming along nicely, I’ll send you an update in the coming weeks. Rock on my Bru! When you’re finished up north are you going to visit Centurion? I’d love to meet you in the flesh! Fond Regards T.

  • Mark Behr

    Will be good to get some bounce back in your ride :-) Are they worth servicing or should they be totally replaced?

  • Kenny

    I have started reading from the beginning again.No wonder my turnover has taken a dive… Damn but it’s awesome.I still cannot believe what you have achieved. And to top it all you found a fantastic partner. If things got any better you would think you were 18 at Plumb Crazy on a Friday night…
    Enjoy mate you deserve it all.
    I intend doing the Himalayan bike ride in India. Is it worth it, as many in Jozi say I am mad AGAIN…
    Hope the Big Fella gets over the flu and stops coughing and spluttering.
    Perhaps with the shock repaired he will feel better.
    Cheers
    Kenny

  • Ha Kenny…!!
    Plumb Crazy on a Friday night…!! What memories that brought back…!! Although one or two of them ended at John Vorster Square for “interviews”…!!
    Thanks for the kind words… It has been a helluva ride already, huh…!!
    Once you are out of the cities in India, things are a lot easier, but no less dangerous on the roads…!! You need to have your radar well tuned, or you WILL end up filling in medical aid forms…!! The scenery is spectacular though, and if you can, cross into Nepal… Just as good there, and you get a visa at the border, so no hassles…!!
    If you have the time and the means, do it my friend…!! You will never regret it…!!
    Cheers,
    R.

  • Johan Maree

    Hi Ronnie
    I have followed your trip from the start – it is a highlight of every evening! I have exactly the same bike as the Big Fella – so I call mine Bielie (sort of same as Big Fella in Afrikaans). Purely by chance I happened to do the same route as you from from Cape Town to Windhoek and then Pretoria via Kang two weeks after you. Thanks to you I will always smile at the turnoff to “Schlip” (remember that?)- although after the ripio I dont imagine it is of any relevance anymore! Listen mate, what a trip, and what a story, and thanks for sharing it in such a way that it feels a bit like being there as well. Good luck with the last leg, enjoy – and looking forward to reading with you…
    Cheers
    Johan
    Centurion

  • Hey Johan…!! Thanks for the comment…!! My trip started a few kilometres from Centurion, so I will likely buzz through there when it all ends in November…!! And yeah, I remember “Schlip…!! Hope to catch up with you then…!! Take care…!! R.

  • Hi Ronnie :) Incredible, life changing journey! So well written, and so well photographed! Glad you have met such an awesome lady to share your life with too. Lose some luggage and take her with you!

    I am doing the 740 mile Northern Canoe trail in July and August this year, unsupported, should take me 50 days, from New York (Old Forge) to Maine. Next year we ride to Morrocco :) Old faithful XT 500 with a 32 litre tank ;) Would like to send you a photo of my tool kit! How do I do that? :)

  • Hi Allan… It’s been a long time since I swung by East London…!! I remember the band that played at the surf-ski club we visited on the evening I stayed over at Jock’s place… Hope to hook up with you again on my return… Good luck with the canoe trip… Keep me posted…!! R.

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