Ushuaia to Punta Arenas
After my few days in Ushuaia and more snow expected I packed up the bike and for the first time in a long time, I’m heading north. Jayne, Phil, and Ian were ready to get out of Ushuaia as well so the four of us hit the road together.
Under cloudy skies we rode the winding mountain roads until the mountains were behind us and all that was ahead was the flat rolling landscape that makes up so much of Tierra del Fuego.
By sunset we rolled into Rio Grande where an Argentinian family that Phil and Jayne had met invited all of us to stay at their home and have dinner with them. Ricardo and Fabiana love to travel on motorcycles as well and we shared stories over a delicious dinner of roasted chicken, french fries, and of course, wine. You will never have to worry about not getting enough food when staying with Argentinians. You will have to worry if you’ll be able to walk away from the table afterwards.
In the morning we took our time having breakfast before getting on the road again. As usual, the winds in Rio Grande were strong. Much stronger when I came through 5 days earlier though. The ride north to Punta Arenas should be fun in this wind.
The ride leaving Tierra del Fuego was one I’ll never forget. As soon as we were on the road heading north the wind was pushing our bikes all over our lane. I was riding in the back of the group and could see where the wind gusts were by watching Phil, Jayne, and Ian’s bikes lean over at 30 and 40 degree angles. The wind seemed to change directions every few kilometers. We were only a few kilometers from the Chile border outpost when ahead of us a dark storm cloud was moving our way. A minute later a wall of hail was hitting us head on, it wasn’t falling down but blowing horizontally. I stopped to put my rain pants on, trying to take cover behind my bike. By the time I got my gear on the storm had passed. The winds dried me off in a matter of a minute. The border crossing was fast and we continued on the dirt road back towards the Straight of Magellan. The wind was really giving it to us the whole way to the ferry.
At the Straight of Magellan we had to wait almost an hour for the ferry. I laid down behind a fence to take shelter from the wind and relax. As the ferry approached I could see the waves crashing against it. This ferry ride wouldn’t be smooth sailing. We boarded the ferry and they asked us to stay with our motos. Occasionally we’d get a light mist of spray from the waves. I went to the restroom for a minute and when I returned Jayne and the others were dripping wet. A massive wave had come over the ferry and soaked them. I laughed at my lucky timing.
My luck wouldn’t last the whole ride though.
Once back on land we were about half way to Punta Arenas. The trip had taken us longer than we thought and we were starting to lose daylight. With the sun going down and the strong winds, it was a cold ride. There weren’t any places to stop along the way and warm up.
I needed fuel so we pulled into a small station. The hours listed said they were open for another hour but the man said he couldn’t sell us any.
I checked my map and there weren’t any other gas stations until Punta Arenas, that would be too late. Phil and the others were starting to run low as well. We slowed down to hopefully get better fuel efficiency. My reserve light came on about 60 miles earlier than it usually does. The crosswinds and head winds sucked up our fuel. As the sky was losing all it’s color my bike sputtered to a stop. On the side of the road in the middle of no-man’s land I was glad to be riding with Phil and Ian. Phil had 5 liters and I had a spare 1 liter of fuel as well. We split the gas between the three of us (Jayne didn’t see us stop).
By the time we were back on the road it was dark. Did I mention cold? We still had 30 or so miles to go. I wasn’t sure I’d make it with only 2 liters so we continued to ride slow. The darker it got the colder it became. Soon my visor had water drops on it. Except it wasn’t raining. It was starting to snow. We pressed on. My visor became useless as it’s tinted so I had to ride with it up. The cold wind and snow hitting my face. We had to be close. I hoped we were close because my low fuel light was on again. We started passing what looked like the outskirts of a town. But no gas station was in sight. Eventually we saw our saving grace, a fuel station with a cafe. We got gas and found Jayne in the cafe holding a large cup of hot chocolate. It only took us 5 hours longer than we planned. With the wind, delayed ferry, the hail, the running out of fuel, and the snow, you can see why I’ll never forget that ride. But what happened once after we filled up is what I’ll really remember from my trip to Punta Arenas. I’l tell you the story in the next post.