Drips, Blockades and Magellan

[Jeff] So, to provide all our lucky blog readers a different insight into Argentina that you might not otherwise get, I checked into the hospital in Caleta Olivia. Here's what happened.....

On our second night in Caleta Olivia, I suddenly started feeling....something. I thought it might be hunger (it's my default setting). After dinner and we were going to bed I suddenly thought 'I might sleep downstairs close to the bathroom', it was a good decision because about 2 minutes later I had to make a run for it. I won't describe any gory details, let's just say it was.....spectacular. 

This went on all night, I couldn't keep anything in, even a glass of water, so I knew a trip to hospital was in order because I had become immensely dehydrated.

Next day, off we went. Sally found a helpful girl who got me checked in and then there was a nurse, Maurice, who was a great guy and spoke English fairly well to help get the diagnosis done. I had a fever, was very dehydrated and still had the cough I've had since Buenos Aires. They put me on a drip and started injections of antibiotics. Soon the fever came down, but they moved me to another room to keep me in overnight.

It was a very long night, going through various stages, the fever came back, blinding headaches and hourly checkups and injections. I was on drips the whole time, going through seven or eight bags in total. At one point, the vein that the needle was in collapsed, so the nurses put a new one into the other arm. Towards the morning though, around 4am, I finally got a couple of hours sleep and woke up feeling much better. Sally returned at 8am and I was given a prescription of two different antibiotics and Ibuprofen. I even managed the 2km walk back to the apartment instead a catching a taxi, still clutching my bucket. 

We stayed on at Caleta Olivia for two more days, the first of which was for me to rest up and regain my strength. On the second day we gave the bikes a wash and fixed a couple of minor things we found, like a bolt missing from Sally's chain guard (note Sally found and fixed this). At the end of the last run I noticed the idle speed on mine had drifted up somehow, causing the bike to overrun. It's just a little disconcerting to ride it like that because it doesn't decelerate normally. I cleaned the air filter and adjusted the idle - good as new. I also noticed my oil level was slightly low - add getting oil to the list of things to do in the morning.

The next morning, we packed up and said goodbye to Sandra, the very friendly and helpful lady who owns the apartment. First job was to go to a 'Gasolinera' to fuel up and get some oil. There was one under the eye of the main feature in town, this guy......

In Argentina they still have attendants who fill your tank for you. I had a good chat to him in broken Spanish, but came unstuck when he wanted to know what the switch on my dash is, that controls my heated seat. I did my best with charades; however in the end I left him thinking that, for whatever reason I have a control that sets my pants on fire.  Another triumph for international relations.

Maté, and how it is used. You keep refilling the cup with water or as the protestors were using, lemonade.

Maté, and how it is used. You keep refilling the cup with water or as the protestors were using, lemonade.

We managed 6km out of Caleta Olivia, before coming on a huge line of traffic. I could tell that it had been there for a while because there were people having picnics and impromptu football matches. What do you do on a motorbike? Go around of course! So off we went on the gravel and rock shoulder, past kids, dogs and people sleeping under trucks. One thing to mention here, that is very different to Australia, is the attitude towards motorcycles. Not a single person showed the remotest sign of disapproval, including the police, it is fully expected for motorcyclists to do this sort of thing. Several folks even waved at us on the way through. We got to the front and found ourselves at the pointy end of a protest blockade. I asked if we could go through, but was refused. So we parked and waited.  The protestors were not in the slightest aggressive or threatening, several were interested in talking and really friendly. I'm not sure what it was about, something to do with 'land' but beyond that I was lost. After a while a bunch of them wandered over and shared their maté (mah-tay) with us. Maté is a herbal drink, very Argentinian. If you have read The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara was often drinking it.

Shortly after, three Brazilians showed up on motorcycles. One managed to negotiate that the five motorcycles could leave 10 minutes before the protest officially ended at 1pm.  We geared up and raced off, as we passed the queue of trucks and cars on the other side the people were clapping and waving mock grand prix flags towards us. We had spent an hour and a half there and it was great to be free - temporarily - as we would discover shortly this is a common occurrence.

We had a 350km run to the next overnight stop at Puerto San Julian. We crossed paths with the three Brazilians a couple more times at rest stops, but not at the first one we went to. We pulled in to a hopeful looking restaurant in the middle of nowhere (if you don't think the photo shows a 'hopeful' looking restaurant you start to get the picture of what this side of Patagonia is like). We went in, it looked deserted, but after a moment I realised that what looked like part of the furniture included a half naked guy sound asleep in a chair. We made some noise, said hello loudly, but this guy was 'in deep'. Eventually an older guy wandered out from the back and gave sleeping beauty a nudge. The man woke up as if it was the most painful thing he had ever had to do. Anyway, he wanted to go back to sleep so directed us to the roadhouse 10km away.

The rest of the run was uneventful apart from watching out for the wild guanacos at the side of the road. They seem much more sensible than kangaroos and tend to stay still or walk away from the fast moving metal things.  50km from Puerto San Julian Sally suddenly braked and pulled over. Her bike had started to splutter and cough. It's almost sure to be the fuel system, so I checked for air in the lines and found a fuel leak. All of the hose clamps had somehow become loose, not by much but enough for them to weep fuel. I tightened them up, the bike ran fine for a few minutes but then it happened again. I decided to ask Sally to slow down and limp to San Julian, so we could look at it in comfort, the bike ran ok at 70km/h.

A mere 2km from Puerto San Julian we came again upon a long line of traffic. Again we headed to the front and found ourselves at the pointy end of a protest blockade. Once more, these guys were not at all aggressive; however not as friendly as the last mob, probably because they were a bit better set up with a marquee, tables and playing cards. These guys also had drums (I'll try to insert a short video below). It was 6:30pm and they told us the protest would end at 8. 

First we pulled out the tools and took Sally's fuel system apart to clean. Like mine, I also pulled out and discarded the tiny filter that sits in the carburettor - we have fitted filters further upstream. Not sure if that's fixed it but we'll find out on the next run. 

We then settled down for a wait, watched the drumming for a while, talked to a French guy and a Finnish woman and had a nap. Sally tried to encourage the protestors into a boot camp session by doing push ups and sit ups.....but no one took her up. 

The view from our hotel window....ocean view....pah!

The view from our hotel window....ocean view....pah!

Suddenly a little before 8, the protest finished. We headed the remaining short distance into Puerto San Julian to a hotel. Turned out to be a really nice one on the harbour front. I checked us in while Sally stayed with the bikes. When I came back Sally asked if we had an ocean view, "much better than that" I said....here is the view from our window....yes ok I'm 8.

We liked the harbour front and our hotel so much that we decided to stay a day. While the main part of town doesn't have much going on, there is a fascinating history to the place. The bay was named by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in March 1520, when he stayed for the winter during his circumnavigation of the globe - the first ever to do so. Among much else, he found the straights bearing his name at Tierra Del Fuego and named the Pacific Ocean. Only one of five ships that left on the voyage made it back to Spain three years later, and there is a replica of it - Victoria - on the harbour. Magellan himself never made it back to Spain, he was killed by the inhabitants of the Philippines. 

Also on the harbour is a memorial to the servicemen and women from the area. Many fought and dies in the Falklands war as the Puerto San Julian airfield was used. A Dagger class fighter jet forms the memorial.


Tomorrow is off to Rio Gallegos - edging ever closer to Ushuaia.

Here's those protest drummers I promised earlier....