By Jenny (with photos and a video)
It is one month today since we locked up and departed our normal everyday lives. Looking at the map, we find it hard to believe how many kilometres we have covered already, 6,853 in total. The distance has been greater than we had originally anticipated we would do in the first month but there is only so much endless flat land of nothingness that you can gaze at, at a slow speed and often very little option for places to rest the weary bones for the night. A lot of Argentina to the North East along Ruta 12 and 14 and south along Ruta 3 is like that.
However there are the treats such as a campsite in the woods with the evening walk along the beach at Pohuenco and a couple of days later, the wonderful Valdes Peninsula.
The Valdes Peninsula is one huge nature reserve and you can cover a couple of hundred kilometres of gravel roads from the little town of Puerto Pirimides then sit on a cliff top and watch the elephant seals basking in the warm morning sun. The only concession they make to activity is to heave themselves a few feet towards the sea as the tide slowly goes out. No stress related illnesses going on down there.
Then there is the colony of Magallenic penguins, who take you by surprise.
Parking the bike, we are the only people there as we wander the 20 feet across to the cliff top to find that they are a foot in front of us. It is nesting time and many have burrows at the top of the cliff and are sitting on eggs. Amazingly they do not appear to be bothered by our intrusion. While we quietly watched, one decided to make a bid for freedom, ducking under the wire and waddling off across the grass in the direction of Bertie. Once there she waddled all round, ducked underneath and back again, completing her inspection, then waddling back to her original spot. (video here 43 seconds) http://youtu.be/ScpzaD70Tqw
We are getting used to folks, sometimes by the coach load wandering over to have a look at us/Bertie but this has to be our most interesting audience to date. What an absolute delight. Our little beach cabin was also a delight and it was a wrench to leave it, but we were looking forward to our next stop.
Gaiman is a small and pretty town which is famous for its Welsh ancestry and as we live very close to the border with Wales ourselves it was a must do for us. This was our shortest riding day which was good. Not so good was finding that yet another campsite wasn’t open, too early in the season say the tourist office. However they did manage to point us in the direction of a little site 7 km away with basic facilities, but finding Geri had beaten us to it was a nice welcome (our German friend with the Feurwehr truck from Puerto Piramides). Gaiman boasts several Welsh tea shops, which obviously had to be sampled and a lovely, small museum in the old railway station building. There you can see examples of the history of the original welsh settlers who came to the region 142 years ago to escape attempts by the British Government to restrict the use of their native language. Fabio, the current curator who showed us around, seemed pleased that the use of the welsh language in Wales is once again on the rise. On returning to our home for the night (for home read tent) we experienced our first ‘off’ as Bertie raised objection to a sudden puddle of gravel on the turn into the site and ejected us, throwing himself to the ground in a fit of pique, which resulted in our tankbag being ripped from its zipper. No problem, find a cobbler, was Geri’s suggestion. This is the point where we discovered that Argentina was so unlike UK. What are the chances of finding a cobbler, open on a Saturday morning in a sleepy little town on a holiday weekend. The answer is, great. Ask around, go for coffee and pastries then sit on his wall and wait for him to arrive. 10 minutes later for the princely sum of £1 repair completed and all done with a big grin. So we were all good to go.
By now we had both had enough of the east coast. Jim found the endless straight roads (and we are talking hundreds of kilometres), only broken up by the usual police checkpoints, quite hard going once the novelty had worn off. Bertie had almost forgotten how to take a corner and I had taken to talking to myself when the intercoms were switched off. So our plan of south, south, south took a diversion as we headed west west west to join the infamous Ruta 40 that parallels the Andes.
To begin with it was more of the same, flat land with endless sky as far as the eye could see, but in the distance we could see rising land, enticing us as the kilometres passed. Living amongst hills, it is where we are happiest but this was different, bare rocks rising above us, with many colours and a few bends, just to make sure Jim was awake. We had been warned that there were fewer fuel stops and that fuel often ran out so we made a rule not to pass a gas station. Fuel had also come down in price a few pesos a litre although again we were warned that it would become more expensive again near the bottom. So tank topped up we ploughed on. There is a point heading west on the M54 in the UK which we call ‘red rock pass’. The road rises and then cuts through an area of red rock. As you pass through it a wide vista of the Shropshire hills and Wales beyond them unfolds. It always makes us smile. There is a similar point on Ruta 25 where the same thing happens and you are treated to a wonderful vista with the first views of the Andean foothills, covered with snow beyond. Immediately the excitement rises. The promises of things to come as we reach our goal of Tecka and the junction with Ruta 40. Soon we will encounter the dreaded ‘Ripio’ roads.