[Jeff] Getting out of Azul was an easy affair. We use an App called Navmii on our iPhones which saves us carrying an additional device. Navmii makes use of the iPhones inbuilt GPS, so we don't need an internet connection all the time for navigation.
We head for Bahia Blanca 337km away. We're on Ruta 3 which is part of the Pan-American highway. The road so far consists of long, dead straight sections and a more or less featureless landscape. It makes for tiresome riding. As we will find out soon, this is to continue for another couple of thousand kilometres.
Arriving in Bahia Blanca we look for a hotel. We decide to stay a few nights as I'm still not over my flu. I've developed a cough that sounds like a chainsaw starting. We get good parking at the back of the hotel and it seems to be a popular stop with fellow riders. Over the next couple of days we see half a dozen BMW GS's in the car park sporting Dakar rally stickers, the Dakar finished a couple of days ago. We spend our first day totally relaxing, immersed in Jackie Chan and Van Damme movies on T.V. in Spanish. The next day we take a wander around, get some medicine for my cough, do a little bike maintenance and rearrange our packing slightly.
We have figured out that in Argentina (at least everywhere we have been since Buenos Aires), that businesses close after lunch and reopen again around 6:00pm. Restaurants sometimes say they will be open at 7, but that means they will start the grills at 7 but won't serve before 8. This presents a slight challenge for us because we are trying to get up and on the road early. There are usually one or two cafes or bars open mid afternoon, but you have to walk around a while to find them.
The next morning we manage an early start (we are getting our act together), heading for Viedma 280km down the road. It's quite a nice town, situated on a broad river. We check into a hotel - we're not considering camping yet, it's far too hot to be comfortable in a tent being in the mid 30's every day. The bikes are safe in a garage at the back of the hotel. We take a walk down the river and find a nice bar, so we stop for a beer before dinner.
This is the start of Patagonia, we can expect open plains and high winds for a while now - Yay!
Managing to get away at a reasonable time the next morning we head for Las Grutas, 190Km away. We miss the fuel stop just outside of Viedma and there isn't another until 11Km before Las Grutas. I'm keeping a nervous eye on the level in my tank, I've managed anywhere between 530km and 720km from the big safari tank before running out, depending on the type of riding.
We are at 600km when we pull into the station, but still have plenty left. We tend to sit on 80 - 90km/h which is where the DR's like to be for best running and economy. It pays to fill up where ever you can here, there are big distances between fuel stops.
Las Grutas is a seaside town. You need a dual sport bike just to ride the streets here, they throw a bit of everything at you - gravel, mud, sand and water crossings - and this is in the town, not outside.
We take a small apartment for the night. it's energy sapping hot and humid. We pull into the driveway at first, but then have to take the bikes around the back. I wheel Sally's bike backwards down the driveway onto the street which is gravelly and rutted. The bike suddenly tips towards me and I don't have the energy to catch it. I drop the bike on top of myself, but manage to soften the blow by propping my knee under it. Sally lends a hand up right the bike, but I'm spent. We struggle round the back to park them. It's a quick change out of the bike gear and stand in the cold shower to bring the temperature down. Then we find the swimming pool and plunge straight in.
Afterwards we take a wander up the road and cross to the beach, the whole town is here. The beach is a lively affair, they have a DJ and dance floor. It's mid afternoon and we are again caught out by nowhere serving food - even the street vendors are closed. We go to a small supermarket and stock up for dinner and breakfast. The prices here are close to what we would pay in Australia, including fuel.
Next morning, we point ourselves down another straight featureless road 264km to Puerto Madryn. It's very windy today on the road. Again coming into Puerto Madryn, the roads consist of gravel, sand and water. Almost embarrassingly, my bike gives a wobble in some deep gravel in the middle of town and I nearly lose it. We take a hotel on the beach for a few nights. It's perfect here for windsurfing and kite surfing, situated on a bay with the Patagonian winds. It's fantastic to watch the speed they get up to. This is also a popular spot for Whale watching when the season is right (September / October).
We parked the bikes right outside the entrance of the hotel, on their centre stands beside each other. Sally goes outside this morning to find her bike now parked behind mine (???). Asking reception it seems like it blew over last night (it takes one heck of a wind to blow a bike off the centre stand). A couple of hotel workers lifted it up. No real damage, looks like the left pannier frame is slightly bent, the same as mine is after my stack in the sand back in Australia. The bike cover has a couple of minor tears. Sally has been for a test ride and all seems fine.
Sally is up early for a run this morning.
The bikes are running well so far, I've managed to improve my tuning just by a small increase to the idle. Although they are heavily loaded, the balance seems good, you can't feel the load much at low speed. They have plenty of oomph for over taking, although I had mine up to 120Km/h and it had an interesting weaving motion, anyway as mentioned we like to sit at 80 - 90.
I want to do a little more rearranging of the packing today, we're finding out what we typically access all the time and what stuff we don't need but has to be unstrapped all the time.
I also learnt a useful new phrase 'Esta dama pagará todo' - this lady will pay for everything. Until Sally finds out the counter-phrase.