Departing Puerto Natales at 8:00 AM, I arrived at San Sebastian, Argentina at 5:30 PM yesterday, December 19, 2008. A distance of 348 miles in nine hours. Not bad when you consider the roads and the ferry crossing. Actually, most of the ride was very good, except for the 87 miles of ripa (gravel) which was rough and at times loose. I am not skilled in riding off road and the 87 miles was pure hell for me! I sensed I was going down a dozen times but with divine help, I managed to keep the Goose on two wheels. the 87 miles took almost three hours--the most tense three hours I have endured in years. But by 6:30 PM I arrived in Rio Grande, the trout fishing capital of the world, and checked into a nice, if overpriced, hotel.
For those following behind me, I will outline my route. I departed Puerto Natales on Ruta 9, traveling southeast in the direction of Punto Arenas. 124 miles south of Puerto Natales you turn east on Ruta 255 which you travel on for about 70 miles when you turn south on Ruta 257. Within 20 miles, you reach the Estrecho De Magallanes (Magellen Staits) where you catch a small ferry across the Estrecho. The ride took 30 minutes and for some reason I was not charged a fee.
Until this point all roads have been good asphalt, barren countryside passing through expansive estancias. Almost prairie like in appearance, with hugh herds of sheep all along the way. At one point I actually met a herd of several hundred sheep coming up the road, along with six gauchos on horseback and a number of sheep dogs. What to do? Stop and wait! It is obvious who has the right of way.
After departing the ferry, the road is paved until just north of Cerro Sombrero. At that point Ruta 257 turns sharply to the east and becomes a ripa, or gravel road. It is packed in most places, with corrugated type surface. But often you encounter loose gravel that has a tendency to cause the wheels to take on a life of their own. It is a bit like riding or walking on a bed of marbles. Make sure you have fuel before getting on the gravel portion. I actually rode 270 miles yesterday without seeing any place to buy fuel.
You finally reach the border crossing between Chile and Argentina at San Sebastian and it is a nice and quick border crossing. Actually, the Chilean crossing is 14 KMs within Chile and the Argentinean crossing is 14 KMs distant. No problem, Both are clean, polite and efficient. And no charge at either!
The scenery is great along this ride. Beautiful huge herds of sheep and quite often you will see wild animals along the road. They are more curious about the motorcycle than the Goose was about them. I really wanted to take photographs, but I could not get off the bike on this barren gravel road, for fear the sidestand would collapse. Remember, there are no villages along this stretch and it is very remote. So, the only photographs are in my memories!
I am departing Rio Grande this morning at 9:30 AM headed for Ushuaia. Last night I met some Italian backpackers who told me that I would have a beautiful ride, over mountains, past alpine lakes but that it would be cold. I look forward to this and expect to reach my goal, Ushuaia Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, by 1:30 PM today, December 20.