When I first arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina I was pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the area. In my mind I was picturing a flat prairie and a small coastal village. Instead I found a beautiful city surrounded by some amazing mountains. The National Park Tierra del Fuego was also great. I was sad to leave Ushuaia so soon after my arrival, but since it was March it was that time of the year when the weather changes very quickly. It started to get cold and rainy. From the information that I had, the second week of March was the latest time to be traveling in this area on a bike. The night before my departure the area got heavy rain. In the morning, as I readied for departure, I was told by the staff at the hostel to be extra careful in the shady areas along the road. Those areas tend to become icy first. At the time of my departure the temperature was in the mid 30s. As I rode down the road I was sure to pay extra attention to the road.
I rode through some beautiful country with snow capped mountains and great scenic views for the first 100 miles. I as soon approached the coast I started to encounter strong cold wind. Along the coastal road the strong winds became even stronger as they blew off the sea. From time to time I would get a severe wind gust that would blow the GS into the opposite lane.
I reached the Argentina/Chile border, and by now exiting and entering between these two countries had become routine. In Chile the paved road became gravel or rippia as it is called locally. For 100 miles I struggled to maintain control of the GS in the very high winds. Riding on gravel roads is like riding on top of marbles. I had to allow the GS to glide on top of the gravel stones. When a strong gust of wind would hit the GS, it would start to drift off the road. I experienced two very close calls when the front of the GS would push out causing the GS to dip severally. I was lucky to be able to place my foot down preventing a fall. I was sure that before the day was over I would have a fall. Glad I was wrong.
I was finally off the gravel road and very glad to be back on a paved road. I had a short ride to the port where I needed to catch a ferry to cross the Straights of Magellan. As I waited to load I could see the waves slamming against the side of the ferry and the Lorries were rocking pretty severely from side to side. With all the rocking and rolling of the ferry I knew that it was going to be a challenge for me on the GS. When it was my turn to board I had to time the boarding just right otherwise the ferry would tilt, causing the ramp to be too high for the GS. My timing was good but no one came over to help me secure the GS to the deck. On all other ferry boardings, ferry staff would come over and help secure the GS. With no assistance I realized that I was not able to get off the GS due to all the rocking and rolling of the ferry. Before long the ferry was making its way across the Straights and I was stuck on the GS trying hard to balance it. As the ferry traveled on the rough seas it acted like a roller coaster. It would climb up a wave and then drop, causing a wall of water to splash on everything on board – cars, trucks, lorries, bikes, and of course, me. This rocking and rolling and splashing of water continued for 30 minutes but it seemed like 20 days. It was a long period of time. All I could think of was ending up under the lorry next to me. How I managed to stay upright I do not know. Glad it was only a 30 minute ferry ride.
Finally, I make it back on solid ground. I thought to myself, only 100 miles to the next border crossing. When I managed to arrive at the border the winds were extremely strong. I was struggling to keep the GS upright. I had to find a spot next to a high wall so that I could park the GS and climb off. The customs staff told me that the winds average 60 miles per hour in this area. Because Patagonia is flat, there is nothing to break the wind so you get very strong winds all of the time. I was almost afraid to get back on the GS, but I did. I managed to ride to Rio Gallagos. When I arrived I was very tired and my hands were in pain from having a very tight grip on the handlebars. My dinner was interrupted by the winds from hell. I had parked the GS between two cars in a gap that was about four feet wide. My thinking was that the cars would shield the GS from the strong winds. I selected a table that allowed me to keep an eye on the GS in the parking lot. I could see that it was rocking and from time to time it seemed that it was going to tip over. Before I could finish my dinner I decided to find a hotel with high walls to protect the GS from the winds.
The Ferry Patagonia crossing the Straights of Magellan