Punta Arenas, CH to Rio Grande, AR - 153 Miles
Today would be the coldest I have ever been when riding a motorbike.. like seriously cold.. maybe even a bit dangerous.
The day started off well. Sunny but with the usual high winds that are common in Southern Patagonia this time of the year. I made it to the port about 45 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to leave at 0900 and then waited in a long line to purchase my ticket. The crossing from Punta Arenas to Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego takes about 2.5 hours and costs $20 for a motorbike. At the port, I ran into another biker who I had met a few days ago back in Perito Moreno. Pete is from Australia and riding his KTM 990 around South America for a few months before shipping it back home.
The Straight of Magellan has notoriously rough waters.. today was no different. Even on a huge ferry capable of carrying dozens of vehicles, we still rocked around a bit.
The weather had changed for the worse and the closer we got to the island of Tierra del Fuego, the worse it got. By the time we disembarked it was raining, windy and around 35F / 1C. Pete and I rode off into the foul weather which would stick with us for the next 2 hours along remote dirt roads.
These next 2 hours ended up being some of the coldest conditions I’ve ever been subjected to. The temperatures weren’t the biggest problem.. it was that after only 15-10 minutes of riding, I was completely soaking wet. Near freezing temps + soaking wet + wind + riding a motorbike = damn near hypothermic. Seriously, the only thing that kept me going was having a heated electric jacket cranked to 100%. My feet and hands were so cold that they had started to get stiff. Just another day in the life of adventure riding?
After a few hours we came to the Chile/Argentina border where there’s a tiny little town. We stopped for an hour to sip coffee, have some hot soup and change my soaking we socks. My waterproof boots aren’t so waterproof after a few years of use. The border crossing was very quick. Within a few minutes we were back in Argentina and on our way South.
We stopped in the medium sized town of Rio Grande for gas and since it was 1700, I decided to stay for the night. Pete is on a bit shorter time schedule, so he wanted to ride the extra 250km to Ushuaia today. I was still soaking wet, so that didn’t sound very appealing..
I had read on Horizons Unlimited about a fellow Argentine biker who opens his home/B&B to riders who are on their way to Ushuaia. This is how I met Willie who turned out to be an awesome host and all around great guy. He invited me into his home and put me up for the night, free of charge.
A free place to stay would have been more than enough to make me happy, but things got better. Willie phoned up some family/friends and invited them over for dinner. We fired up the Parrilla grill (which is kind of like a BBQ grill but better) and threw on a selection of things to cook up. It turned out to be an extraordinary night filled with authentic Argentine foods, never ending wine and some fantastic people. Definitely one of my top 5 experiences so far for this trip.