Video Link to the tour

Here is a link to Roger’s video summary of the Patagonia Tour w/ Aerostich:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnX8mUYLeko

Captures the tour pretty well!

2010 Patagonia Tour Group

 

 

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History Repeats… The Tug of Adventure

I have to admit that I that I debated about getting too personal or philosophical in this entry/blog.  One option was/is to remain clinical and objective in the writing, writing about the scenery, history motorcycles and participants.  The other is to blather on about the significance of the trip, the quest for adventure, “man’s” search for meaning and the like.  To some degree is it seems inappropriate to visit a place like southern Chile and Argentina without some comment on the spiritual impact – or at least awareness of proximity to a sacred place (if not the center of one).  So, in the interest of completeness, I choose to blather on in this post…  For those of you following it with an interest in experiencing the “man and machine against nature” flavor, it might be best to skip this entry and wait for the photos and technical discussion yet to come.  One nice thing about writing is that you can always write and not publish…

As I read through the bios of each of the participants, I became more and more curious about the source of the motivation or attraction that drew each of the riders to this ride and subsequent adventure.  For some of us, it seems that the pursuit of adventure and exploration of new places is woven into our fiber.  For those of us in this category, the place and its spirit is the experience. For others, it seemed that the motorcycle ride itself and its technical challenge was the experience.  For these folks, there was no contemplation of the meaning or spirit.  The excitement of the physical ride, the machine, the skill to get from one place to another as quickly as possible was the primary consideration; the completion of the immediate challenge, and then the focus moved the next step and so on… To these guys, the magic was in the challenge of the ride and overcoming the terrain, winds, road conditions and exhaustion to accomplish a goal and complete the trip without mishap.  After spending 12-14 days with my fellow riders, it appears to me that most fell into this latter category.  Maybe we all had elements of both in our heads, just different proportions…

I am wondering if we all have this yearning for adventure to some extent, but are limited by fear of failure or doing something that is not acceptable, risky or does not fit into the model that we have defined for ourselves.   Why is that most of us are drawn into a story about climbing mountains, living in the wilderness, or even living a quiet life connected to nature and the land?  Are the motorcycles used on this trip the common thread or is it the desire to reach out for something a little bigger, more impactful?

My other thought is that those of us doing this trip are very odd birds…  Are a minority of folks who enjoy finding and pushing limits?  Those who love to say why not?  A group of misfits who is called regularly by some driving force to couple excitement, skill, physical stamina and mental challenge into one episode and in a place that is truly stunning.  Without any one of these ingredients, the experience is lacking and even deflating.  Whether we are doing this to experience the thrill, overcome physical challenges, or just experience new places, life is just way too short to ignore the call.

In preparing for this trip and discussing my motivations with family members, I came across a realization (eye-opening for me), I was walking very similar or parallel footsteps that my father took over 60 years ago chasing  this yearning for adventure.  My father was apparently motivated to leave college life and head to Argentina  by Tschiffley’s book Southern Cross to Pole Star –  60 years later I was pushed to the same direction by the Long Way Round series.  This is not to say that my spending 2 weeks on a motorcycle and sleeping in cushy hotels arranged by a tour service, in anyway matches my father’s 4-month undertaking on horseback with the Argentinian gauchos, but there are similar threads.  I truly believe that the spirit and yearning has the same source, although I can’t begin to identify or explain it.  I wonder what he would think of speeding down the roads of Argentina and Chile on a BMW 1200 GS…

Unlike my Dad, I arrived at this place a little later in life and may have been able to balance and reconcile the dichotomy of family life while still answering the call to explore. As my Mom says, many in the family seem to have itchy feet.  The challenge is to scratch the itch while maintaining some semblance of a normal life.  Without a doubt, my ability to satisfy this desire to explore is enabled by a spouse who is enormously tolerant of the crazy whims and insatiable appetite for new experiences.   I believe that long ago she has given up on understanding the motivation and has just learned to live with the unsettled patterns of my life.

With this trip behind me, I am not sure what will be next.  Without a doubt, fate will concoct something before long and lay it at my feet…  I learned long ago that there is little choice but to heed the voices that call – sooner or later a response is required – better on terms that you can define.

December 13, 2010 – Last long ride

Thought I would throw in another entry before departing for our trip north towards Punta Arenas.  We got a bit of a surprise this morning as it was about 32 degrees out and snowing outside the hotel.  This is not a big deal except that we need to go over at least on mountain pass that will probably be snow covered.  Should be an interesting ride…  Might have some photos to post, but no internet tonight.  Might be a few days until they get up.

I really wasn’t sure if there was enough activity for another blog entry, but the ride today warranted one. Today was the most challenging day yet.  We started off in Ushuaia with a cold drizzle in the morning that quickly turned to snow.  The temperature was hovering about freezing and we all were a little concerned about the conditions in the pass that was about 2500 feet higher than our starting point.  Sure enough, within about 10 km from the start we ran into roads with a coating of snow.  By the time we got to the pass, the road had about an inch of snow on it and it was coming down fast.  We crept along about 30-40 kph and made it over the pass with no mishaps.

Our relief from making it through the snowy conditions was short lived when the hazardous conditions caused by the snow were replaced with hazards from the wind.  It seemed to come up gradually, but before we knew it, the wind was howling like we had never experienced on the trip.  By the time that we got out of the mountains of Ushuaia, it was nearly impossible to keep the motorcycle upright.  When riding with a direct crosswind, everyone was leaning 20-30 degrees into the wind to try to stay in control.  In fact, when we stopped to regroup, I went to get off my bike and the wind literally blew me over – my 1st fall of the trip.  Then a few minutes later Ivan’s 500 lb bike, parked on its side stand blew about 3 ‘ then fell over.  It was nearly impossible to even stand up.

We passed a couple from Italy at the border crossing who I believe were in route from Ushuaia to Santiago – 2 on one bike.   About 20 miles from the crossing

Italian Couple – day after crash

Mark and Ivan came over a small rise and found the couple sprawled in the middle of the road with their bike on its side.  The configuration of the terrain was such that a funnel was created in the dip in the road that caused extremely high winds. Both were pretty shaken up and when Mark and Ivan stopped to help, they and their bikes were immediately blown over. I came upon the scene next followed by Terry and Mike.  We all stopped before the dip in the road, protected by a small bank on one side.  When we stepped into the open area, we were all immediately knocked over by the wind.  Long story short, Alejandro (following in the truck) drove the truck slowly on the up-wind side and allowed each motorcycle to be shielded by the wind to cross the section.  The couple was ok and we ran into them later when they had some mechanical problems with their bike (probably caused by the accident).

Later in the day when we finally reached Cerro Sombrero, we learned that this was the worst wind that the area had experienced in sometime.  The ferry to the mainland has been shut down for 3 days due to the high winds.  We heard estimates of 75-80 mph winds; I think the winds in the pass that caused the couple’s accident may have been higher…  Quite a day…

Tomorrow we head back to Punta Arenas after getting the ferry.  We all have our fingers crossed that the ferry is running as there is no other way back to catch our flights home.

December 12, 2010 – Sunday

Today has been a really easy one –  a rest day.  We rode about 20 km to nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park, took some pictures and generally goofed off for a few hours and road back.  Because it is Sunday here, most of the shops do not open until about 4pm so there is not much to do except hang-out, nap and organize gear (blog of course…).  I have to admit, the task of adding pictures and some sense of what we are doing has been a challenge, especially with the slow internet connections around.  There just never seems to be enough time to really think about the format and content, just sort of dump it to the site and let all of you decipher it.  With enough practice, it gets a lot easier though.

We are heading down town for dinner tonight, then we pack-up for a relatively long day back towards Punta Arenas for a departure the following day.  Tomorrow, we cross the border again once, then another border crossing and need to deal with the ferry again to get back on the mainland the following day.

I did finally shoot some video with the helmet cam, but not sure that there is enough room on the site or if the internet connection is fast enough to upload it.  Might add a short clip if time allows.  Need to figure out how to crunch it down into a manageable size.

This might be close to the last entry as we will be staying in a place tomorrow that does not have internet available.  The next day we will be back at Punta Arenas and preping for departure which will not allow much time.

I realized that I had not made any comment on the quality of the tour, accommodations and the organization of the tour in general – especially for those who might be considering a similar outing.  I can not recommended the company Aerostich Tours in general and our guide, Rodger Pattison specifically any more highly.  Rodger navigated through the regulatory quagmire associated with the numerous borders and did an exceptional job of keeping us safe, while giving us enough room to have some fun.  I have to admit that initially,  I thought we were a bit out of control, careening down these dirt roads faster than I thought possible.  However now that I better understand the techniques and have had a chance to push the envelope a little,  I realize that this is the only way to learn.  Thanks Rodger and Aerostich Tours for an experience of a lifetime!

If anyone has specific questions and or would like copies of any pictures, please feel free to e-mail me at tsdanforth@earthlink.net.

 

December 11, 2010 – Tierra del Fuego

Today was a relatively easy one – about 130 miles on paved roads with a 30 km detour to visit with the penguins.  We left Rio Grande at about 8:30am and traveled south on Rt 3 for about 120 km.  When we diverted to see the penguins, we ran into our first muddy road – an interesting ride for many of us novices… Slipped and slided for a few kilometers until things dried up a little.

When we arrived at the penguin sanctuary, we prepared for a short boat ride to the protected island where the penguins are currently nesting.  Only small groups are allowed on the island at a time in order to avoid disturbing the Magellanic penguins there.  In addition to the Magellanic penguins, there is also a small colony of

Gentoo Penguins Nesting

Gentoo penguins (the ones with orange beaks). The appear to be a bit bigger and nest above ground rather than in burrows as the Magellanics.

As for the riding, maybe the most spectacular scenery of the trip.  My limited writing prowess and even photographs can’t begin to provide the sense of space and vastness that you feel when here.  I am convinced that riding a motorcycle adds to this feeling of openness and further humbles us.  We have ridden through coniferous forests (or at least I think that is what it is), past beaver ponds, snow covered mountain passes and the expansive plains that you have all seen in the photos.     Horses, cattle and guanacos roam about the road freely and probably create the only real hazard to riding other than loosing control on one of the gravel surfaces.

Tomorrow is an easy day with a short trip to the local provincial park for some hiking and photos.  The afternoon will likely be spent shopping or browsing around.  Winding down and heading back soon…

December 10, 2010 to Tierre del Feugo

Border Crossing

Today was a long travel day as we left the hotel at about 8:30am and didn’t get into our hotel in Rio Grande until about 6pm.  However, it was not tough travel, just long due to the two border crossings that our rout required.  We left Argentina and crossed into Chile after about 100 km then had to get on a ferry to cross the Straits of Magellan onto Tierre del Feugo.  After another 100 km or so, we crossed the border again into  Argentina the 80 km on to the

Ferry

hotel.  Each crossing takes about 30-60 minutes per side (1-2 hrs total) plus a ferry ride of about 1 1/2 hrs to accomplish.

As for the riding, you certainly couldn’t fall asleep, but the gravel/dirt was hard packed, not nearly as loose as gravel from previous days.  Although I am becoming much more comfortable traveling on these roads at speed, the hard packed gravel is relatively forgiving, the more so if you run between 100-120 kph.  I am beginning to understand the need to stay relaxed and let the bike wander a bit as it hits the frequent potholes, ruts and loose spots.  The photo at the eft gives some idea what we are traveling on when off the tarmac.  Today, the wind was down dramatically, because of the weather or our location, I can’t be sure.  It sure makes riding much more fun and the noise level from the wind roaring in your helmet as you ride has dropped considerably.  The area is remote and desolate and the weather is constantly changing.  You can never be sure if it is going to be sunny, windy or rain and hail will appear…

As we were sitting around the dinner table, we all commented on the speed that the trip is passing.  Seems like we just got started, and we are nearing the point of heading back up to Punta Arenas to prep for the flight home.  Tomorrow we head

Contemplating the Weather

to Ushuaia for two days, then spend 2 days traveling north for our departure.  We re reaching the stage of the trip where we are all missing our families very much, but also hate to end the adventure.  The old bodies are getting worn though, soon time to head back to our cushy life in the US…

December 9, 2010

Only limited time to make an entry today.

We spent a long day both on and off road.  Very high winds, although they are becoming manageable.  This was the longest day of the entire trip – guessing about 300 miles with about 1/2 off road.  Cold weather with a couple of hail storms, high wins and rain.  No accidents or issues.  Just ride, ride, ride.  We are in Rio Gallegos tonight, a 4-star hotel.  Probably an early start tomorrow as we need to cross the border 2x to get to our destination.

More in a few days w/ pics…