9.2.2008 Rio Grande

We have now been on the island of Tierra del Fuego exactly a month. Most of that time being spent in a state of motionlessness. If you know what I mean…

The Russian goes down

From Punta Arenas (our last update), we took a ferry across to Porvenir and then drove south along the coast. A beautiful stretch of road with loads of Guanacos jumping fences and great views onto the straits of Magellan. We spent the night next to lake called Lago Blanco which had a free camping site, a fisherman's hut and lots of silence. Idyllic except for the constant rain.
The next day we drove to a small, exciting border crossing which isn't on most maps and doesn't get much traffic. It requires a river crossing so is usually restricted to 4x4’s, but hey we’ve got 2x2 and 3x3! The current was rather strong so my bike we pushed across with one person on the throttle and the other making sure it didn't fall over or get pushed by the current. The sidecar I was supposed to push too but Axel gunned it through the river and it made it over without me. Alls well (we thought).
That night we slept at Hostel Argentina in Rio Grande with the intention of heading for Ushuaia the next day. We made it forty kilometres out of Rio Grande when Axel noticed a major oil leak that had coated the left back wheel. Axel took of the wheel and the rack to get to the leak which was from the differential gearbox (the sidecar wheel is driven). He drained the oil and plops, out came some balls from the bearing with the oil and the oil itself was all glittery with iron filings. Yikes not good!!! Axel then took my bike to ride the 40 km back to organise a truck for the sidecar back to Rio Grande. 5 hours later it arrives from Ushuaia and the poor russian gets winched up and trucked to R.G. After much deliberation we decided to order the parts from our DNEPR mechanic Paul Niederrost and try to put the differential gearbox back together ourselves. A very complicated job with only about 150 bits and bobs to line up. Hmmmm

Ushuaia 2 up

For those who are not familiar with the lingo, '2 up' is motorbike terminology for 2 people on one bike. This was how we planned to get to Ushuaia while we waited for the parts to arrive from Switzerland. Easier said than done...going from our coffin sized box to two shoebox sized panniers (maybe I exaggerate slightly) was a struggle. However we managed and with our now overweight Perla Negra we set off for Ushuaia.

Hiking with the Schubis in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego

We joined forces with the Schuber family to do some day hikes in the national park just up the road from Ushuaia. Our base camp Rio Pipo was a grassy spot next to a river in a velvety green valley walled in by impressive peaks. Every evening a herd of horses would cross the river heading for pasture further upstream and a pair of Kingfishers would dive for fish in the river while we sat by our campfire.
The next day we climbed up one of those impressive peaks to get an amazing view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Canal. Down the smaller, lesser known Murray Canal we could even glimpse the Cape of Horns, where land finally ends and only the 800km Drake passage separates you from the Antartic.

Beachcombing for Hostel Argentino

Our next hike followed the coastline of Bahia Ensenada on the Beagle Canal. We crossed pebbled beaches, grassy coves and windswept lenga forests. Crossing the beaches was always a rather time-consuming process as Renee, Max and Emil were collecting broken glass that had been polished by the waves and sand. Renee had already made two mobiles for Graciella at Hostel Argentino (as you do when you have 2 weeks waiting for Axel to fix HIS bike) and this was project number three.

Passage to Cape Town?

We heard it on the grapevine that the Barque Europa, a 3 masted tall ship, might need crew for its Ushuaia-Antartica-South Africa cruise. So while we were in Ushuaia we went round to check out the possibility of getting a job on board, an opportunity nobody in their right mind would pass up on. No definite yes as of yet but what we did get to do was spend a day on the Europa getting an idea of the duties and responsibilities of the crew. Such as making up the beds in the cabins, helping the engineer or....working 27m above the deck in the rigging!!! Check out www.barkeuropa.com 

Aiport and other goodbyes

Our neighbours from FL just so happened to be travelling in Patagonia at the same time we were in Ushuaia. Theoretically we should have been long gone but because of the bike problems our paths crossed in Ushuaia. Only problem was how to get hold of them? Andrea’s phone was back in FL and Toni thought we were pesky customers from work bothering him on his holidays. They spent an evening trawling the bars after getting our sms but we only managed to get together at the airport 2 hours before they flew back to BsAs. A short but happy reunion.
It was a sunny, windless day when we bade farewell to Ushuaia. The package of spare parts had arrived and we had a 250km ride to Rio Grande. We left at 11am but only arrived around 9pm taking 10 hours for what should have been a 3 to 4 hour ride. After Tolhuin (about midway) the wind picked up dramatically and we were pushed off the road into the gravel twice and then the bike was even blown over. At that point we decided to take cover in the ditch and wait out the worst of it. At 7pm it didn’t seem to be getting any better so off we set off on a hair-raising and strenuous 50km.
So now we are back in Rio Grande with Graciella and Axel has been spending the last four days putting the differential gearbox back together. Things are looking good. A test drive and then we should be off in a northerly direction. Yippee!