Rewind to the planning stages of our trip and we were often asked, ‘which bit are you most looking forward to?’ For Tom the answer was easy. It was Patagonia. The scale of the region, the geography and the remoteness of it all was so inviting to Tom and it was his idea of the perfect adventure. For Lorna, the cold, the wind and the lack of beautiful beaches left this place lower down on her list.
The region itself is gigantic and we would be exploring it by travelling mainly over the notorious Ruta 40 in the West of the country. For overlanders, this road is up there with the Dalton Highway in Alaska and was an exciting prospect for us.
We entered country number sixteen through Pucon in Chile where we had spent two nights relaxing and staring at the magnificent volcano that resides overlooking the town. Over the border into Argentina our plan was to spend New Years Eve in San Carlos De Bariloche- the gateway to Patagonia and the Argentinian Lake District. The border had been busy but still fairly relaxed compared to our previous crossings. Argentina’s first treat for us was a forest of monkey puzzle trees- something neither of us had seen before. The roads were mainly ripio (rough gravel that has corrugations formed from traffic) which would be a sign of things to come. At the start of our trip over 23,000miles ago, these conditions would have concerned us but now we appear relaxed as be bump and slide over the loose gravel.
Lorna’s Mum, Jan and brother Peter had kindly paid for a hostel on the lake in this beautiful town for us as a Christmas present. The Greenhouse hostel cooked us an authentic Argentinian BBQ that we both devoured and we welcomed in a New Year with new friends from all over the world.
As we left on our Southerly route the weather began to become increasingly colder and the wind became increasingly stronger. Menacing rain clouds formed over our heads and for the first time since Canada, Lorna was plugged into the bike so that she could benefit from her heated gloves and body warmer. The scenery reminded Tom of Scotland and the weather did too!
We pushed South largely enjoying the experience of it all from the comfort of the bike. (It was too windy to get off without risking dropping it!) Arriving in El Calafate it was time for us to have a couple of days standing still. Something that neither of us are very good at. We took in the magnificent Porito Moreno glacier for an afternoon. Tom could actually still be there now, watching the ice crack and fall into the water below was mesmerising. However, in keeping with our time so far in Patagonia it was too cold and too wet to hang around so after our second night in El Calafate it was time to leave.
For the first time on our trip the distance between petrol stations was becoming a potential issue. When we did find fuel, it was not uncommon to have to queue for over an hour to the pumps. Most stations had a small cafe attached in which we would seek refuge for an hour before heading back out. The temperature dropped to 4 degrees and the wind grew stronger and stronger as it blew from the cold West Pacific coast- At this point Lorna had all available clothing on including some of Tom’s, who would be leaning the bike at nearly 45degrees into the wind yet we would be riding in a straight line- a strange feeling indeed! The rough roads were taking their toll on Terry too as bolts were vibrated loose and the suspension began to show signs of ill health. We pushed on and whilst it was colder and wetter than we were used to, the scale of the place left us in awe.
We crossed back into Chile to visit Torres Del Paine, one of the most famous Patagonian vistas, and to meet up with (yes you guessed it) Brett! Brett had flown down to the area with his girlfriend Karolina to enjoy a few weeks off his motorbike and hiking the area. We camped with them both for a couple of nights in the wilderness and as always had a great time. After a night in Punta Arenas and a visit to the most southernly point on the American continent we said our goodbyes yet again but with a plan for one final get together on our way North back in Argentina. Life at nearly the very tip of the Southern hemisphere appeared to be be a harder existence than we were used to back in Europe. The wind was relentless, the cars all drove with studded tyres in preparation for the end of the very short summer. We were in the best weather window to visit apparently but we were rarely without out woolly hats and gloves. After the perfect camp fire had kept us warm all evening we woke to find a thick layer of ice on the tent. Tom was loving it whilst Lorna was day dreaming of warmer climes.
Tom visited a garage and purchased a second hand tyre that we were sure to need at some point on the way to Buenos Aires before we headed for the ferry to Tierra Del Fuego and the journey to the bottom of the world.