The Riding Reporters #3
It’s not hard to choose a route because there are very few roads and just as few overnight accommodation options. In Brazil there were countless hotels, hostels and B&B’s but in Uruguay you need to go in one of the sparse cities to find a place to sleep. The road surfaces are reasonable and there’s hardly any traffic. However, that changes immediately when we enter the capital, where almost half of the entire 3.5 million population of the country lives; a nation four times bigger than the Netherlands.
After three months of traveling, Lia’s time is up and I wave her goodbye at Montevideo airport to pick up Carli five hours later; my new travel partner for part two of this adventure. Carli and I stay in Montevideo for a while, so I could do a report about a special prison and we head towards Punta del Este and Punta del Diablo to see a little more of Uruguay.
Montevideo is the only big city, the rest of the country looks empty and deserted. Punta del Este is a luxury beach resort for the ‘jet set’ and after photographing our KTMs in the giant piece of ‘hand’ art, of which only the massive fingers protrude above the sand, we leave for Punta del Diablo; a much more rugged coastal town where a wonderfully laid-back atmosphere lingers. We are searching for more challenging roads for us and the KTMs and any offroad paths. We try our luck with a so-called ‘panoramic route’. Here we don’t encounter any traffic at all while we ride across hardened sand between woodland hills. We have seen enough of Uruguay and cross by ferry from Colonia del Sacramento to Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.
Overwhelming traffic jams is the first thing we notice. The GPS is ideal to find your way in a huge metropolis’ like this one. Nevertheless I also make grateful use of my normal maps every day. On our way to a hostel in a safe district, we pass one motorcycle shop after another. Including a big KTM store, which we obviously pay a visit. The most expensive motorcycles are being flaunted in the streets. Buenos Aires seems like a motorcycle Walhalla! The perfect place to get new tires.
For the first time in my life, I lose my voice after getting a taste of the vibrant nightlife of Buenos Aires. During the daytime we visit museums including the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and stroll through the historic center. After a few days, it is time to wear out the first layer of rubber of our new tires and discover more of this seventh largest country in the world!
We head south. Brightly illuminated orange clouds appear to be on fire when I look back in my mirrors. I can’t choose where to keep staring; ahead or behind me. It is all so mesmerizingly beautiful. Best to look at the road ahead!
It’s the first time since our departure in Montevideo, after also having left Buenos Aires that we are still on the road at sunset. We decided to take a detour while heading to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. This in hope to bypass heavy winds, which are capable of blowing us off the road with motorcycle and all. We utterly enjoy our reliable, orange machines through the Grand Canyon-like scenery of Ruta 25. With the coast behind us we cross to the western part of Argentina to further descend on the famous Ruta 40, and from there on pick up the last part of Ruta 3.
Regrettably the smoldering clouds and purple skies disappear into ink-black darkness. All that is left involves stark concentration on the middle line of the road, the only guide to the curves in the absence of lights or cat eyes. Fortunately, our headlights are effective and we can still maintain a speed of around 100km per hour. Suddenly, the bright beam of Carli’s headlight is very small in my mirror. How is that possible? Has she stopped? But why? I immediately turn around.
When I get close, I see her bike lying in the middle of the road, while she is standing to the side with a woman next to her. She fell off because of a punctured front tire. Fortunately she is not hurt. We get the motorcycle up and to the side of the road as quickly as possible. I get help from a bystander while a tour bus stops behind us. The driver calls an ambulance and the police and meanwhile we wait in his bus, which is pleasantly warm. We do not get long to warm up because the emergency services are there within five minutes. Carli is immediately checked and they put a neck collar on her. Which looks pretty serious but it is always better to be safe than sorry. They tell me that the fire brigade will pick up her motorcycle and drop it at the hospital, where I have to go to as well.
The hospital looks new and remarkably empty. When I get there, the doctor and Carli are looking at her X-rays. Carli feels fine and has not even got so much as a scratch on her. Still, they want her to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. For me there is also a bed in the room and we have our own bathroom.
The next morning we start on time. We have been making more than 480 kilometers a day to hopefully celebrate New Year’s Eve in Ushuaia, ‘the end of the world’. On the deserted vast plains in Patagonia where we occasionally have to dodge guanaco’s (large species of lamas), ostriches and armadillos, we encounter more traveling cyclists than motorcyclists. The last morning, however, rain is pouring.
We decide to defy the climate and armed with thermal clothing, fleece vests, all layers of our motorcycle suits and on top of that rain suits, we leave for the last 500 km, including two border crossings and a ferry crossing. Good clothing makes all the difference. We cross the border from Argentina to Chile to double back across 150 km later. That’s the only way to get to Ushuaia. From a Belgian couple traveling with a Namibian camper we learn that they encountered several motorcyclists who actually got blown off the road and could not continue their journey. We are very pleased with our well-considered detour.
Because gas stations are so sparse in Argentina, we need to make use of every opportunity to refuel and we use our jerry cans daily. At nine o’clock we have our evening meal of chips and coke on a staircase in one of the few kiosks that are still open. According to the GPS, we will arrive in Ushuaia at a quarter to twelve. It’s a tiring ride because in the dark you can’t see far ahead. In the meanwhile, time is ticking by ruthlessly. By twelve we see a sea of light in the darkness, the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia! We dismount our motorcycles exactly the same moment as the sound of sirens prelude the new year.
After a couple of days we head back up through Patagonia and ride via Perito Moreno, the famous glacier, on the stunning Carretera Austral in Chile, back to Valparaíso. After five months we ship our KTMs back to the Netherlands and our amazing journey has come to an end!
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Photos: The Riding Reporters