Blockades, Borders and Bush Banos

[Sally] Uh oh - I'm starting to get a sore throat like Jeff had a few weeks ago. Last thing I need - I hate having colds. Oddly, like with Jeff, it feels better I eat.

We've got enough fuel to get us comfortably half way to Rio Gallegos, where we know there is a petrol station at Corpen Aike. There's a queue so we have lunch first. Some Brazilian bikers come and go, and come back again - they tell us there is another blockade just down the road and that it will open at 3pm. Again? Seriously? We decide to get ready and fill up with fuel, but by the time we finish lunch, chatting to the Brazilians and having photos with the Brazilians, the petrol station has run out of fuel. What? So that's why people were queueing? Lesson learned for today. We ride into town but they've run out of fuel too. Maybe if a petrol tanker is stuck in the blockade the fuel pumps might be replenished today, otherwise tomorrow. What? We don't have enough fuel to get us to Rio Gallegos. We make the call to stay the night and find some cheap hotel near the main road, RN3. As luck would have it it started raining and thundering as we got in :) and this same luck had the rain pouring in through our hotel window :) That together with a one-croissant-and-stale-toast brekkie is why it cost $50 a night and not $100... and this stylish chappy on the roadside.


Thankfully there's fuel the next day so we head out of town, and ride about 2 kms only to hit the blockade we tried to dodge yesterday, blocking the road at the start of a bridge across Rio Santa Cruz. Grrr - it's not fun anymore. Our navigator shows another road bridge 8kms to the west. We thought we'd give it try - nothing to lose, apart from pride if we have to come back. It's 8km down some dirt road, which turns out to be a bit of fun as there's a few deep and muddy puddles to weave around. We make it to the road and there was obviously a bridge there once as the supporting structure is still there but this is what it looks like today ....

As Jeff ponders the situation, I need el bano but we're out in the bush, and I can't bush pee in my riding pants (without getting them wet). Time to try out the Whiz Freedom device - where you can do it standing up ladies. Well, it is very odd ... standing up against a tree - it just isn't natural. It takes me a while to get the position right and to even brave an attempt. It takes a lot of concentration to relax and to just let it flow.

We ride back the way we came and we can see before we get to the road that the blockade has been opened. I take a moment to set my navigator, then we ride around to the blockade. By the time we get there, they've closed it again. Noooooo, you've got to be kidding. 

Jeff has a bit of a grump at me for spending several minutes getting my navigator set. I'm not having a grumpy Jeff, and I'm blumin' well not going to wait another 2 hours - I don't like queuing at the best of times. Pole position, every time for me! I ride up to the front of the blockade and a group of men block my way. I do my best with charades and the odd sprinkling of Spanish to say we've already waited 2 hours but tried to ride down the dirt track to find a way round and came back .... Por Favour, let us through. One guy confirmed he had seen us ride off and back again and they let us through - Jeff aswell - although I should have let him fight his own battles for being grumpy. Just when we think we're on our way with the wind in our hair, there's another blockade on the other side of the bridge. Now I'm getting annoyed, and they had jolly well better look out, I'm not in the mood - my throat's getting worse and I just want to get to the next town and rest up. Again, I try charades, some big swooping arm gestures and a bit of very broken Spanish. Amazingly, they let us through, an we're finally on our way.

For the passed 2000kms there have been no road signs mentioning the wind - at all - even though its been windy all the way. All of a sudden there's one road sign of a tree nearly on its side. Gulp. And yes it is windy - it's pretty constant but manageable with the odd spooky gust to keep us on our toes.

We're 5kms out of Rio Gallegos and I can't wait to find a place to relax and nurse my sore throat. Yeah sure, that's not happening just yet - get through another blockade first missus. Again we ride to the front of the queue (I love motorbikes), but I can't talk us out of this one and we have to wait an hour for it to open.

Rio Gallegos has a very different feel to all the preceding towns we've visited and obviously has a lot more money for infrastructure and town development. Apparently the government established it as the Santa Cruz province capital to have more of a presence this far south in Patagonia.

Thankfully there are no blockades when we leave Rio Gallegos, for which we are grateful, as today we have our first overland border crossing into Chile and we expect it to take about 2-3 hours.

We are pleasantly surprised that the whole process of exiting Argentina and entering Chile, with our bikes, is quite painless, very organised and only takes us an hour.

The wind is getting stronger the further south we ride, which makes it very tiring and quite scary sometimes when it gets quite gusty. I'm glad when we get to Punta Arenas where we'll stop for 2 nights before catching a ferry over to Tierra Del Fuego - where we can start the final leg to Ushuaia.