Well it’s getting chilly down here in South America. While most of our friends and family back home are enjoying the warmer weather of spring, we are pretty much freezing our asses off in the fall months down south. Today was our record coldest temperature day for riding. The air temp was 34 F (1 C). We had a head wind of approx. 30 kmph (18 mph) and were riding at approx. 110 kmph (70 mph). Factoring all of this in, Dave, with his tendency for loving math, calculated the temperature to be -10 C (13 F) with wind chill. Our heated jackets are a god-send and so are the dry days leaving the tarmac ice-free.
After leaving Santiago, Chile on April 10 we crossed into Argentina. While doing so we passed by Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak at 6962 m (22,841 ft). Dave climbed this mountain in 2002. It’s cool how we’ve been able to see each other’s ‘highest peaks bagged’ on this part of the trip. (A few months ago we rode by Huascaran, Peru’s highest peak at 6768 m (22,204 ft), which I climbed in the late 90s.)
A few days later, we had the pleasure of staying with new friends in San Martin de Los Andes. We met Mario at a gas station and accepted his invite to stay in their house. His wife Carolina and Mario are lovely people who showed us a great time in their pretty town for 2 days and also fed us very well.
Riding through the Patagonia Region has been incredible. At times the winds are strong enough to feel like your helmet is going to be pulled off your head. You lean into it as though bracing against a door jam. But we both know the wind isn’t anywhere near as bad as it gets in this area and so are grateful and try not to complain too much. The scenery can steal your breath and provide a super distraction from the wind and cold. There are also many hundreds of miles in-between that are like driving through Saskatchewan. If not for the side roads into some of the world’s most beautiful places, like Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, it would be a boring 2000 km section.
One big highlight recently was a 20 km (13 m) loop we hiked to see Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, two incredible peaks in the Patagonia Region. Being here during the fall might be cold riding but it’s definitely the best time of year to be here for the colours. However, we did wake up to snow on our tent a few nights ago. By the time we’d gotten ready to ride much of it had melted off the highway leaving just wet roads but we had a slippery time getting out of the farmers field we were camped in. The lithium battery in my bike despises starting in the mornings (much like I do in these temperatures) so we are often jumping my bike from Dave’s bike.
Now, as we are nearing a major goal of our trip to reach Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly settlement, my bike is barely ridable. The chain and sprockets are worn down to nubs after 25,000 km (15,540 m) of riding and allows the chain to slip, which means a lot of clunking and hassle. There are no ‘stores’ to buy replacement parts here. A decision will need to be made whether Dave and I ride two-up on his bike for the remaining 570 km (354 m) south and then back north, retrieving my bike on the way back and popping it on a ferry we are hoping to take, or if we can find parts to band-aid it along until we can get it to a dealer. It makes me quite unhappy to think I’ve ridden this far on my own bike and may have to forfeit the very last bit without my bike but if it means Dave and I get to Ushuaia together, that’s the important part.
During our rides over the past few weeks along Ruta 40 and Carretera Austral we bounce back and forth over the Chilean and Argentinian borders in order to maximize scenery and stay out of extreme weather like snow storms. We’ve also enjoyed being able to wild camp wherever we want. This really saves the cash and has also brought us to some great places to wake up to.