Thursday, February 7, 2013

Do you like Perito Moreno?...

...And long walks in the rain?
Thankfully, we didn't have much rain to walk in. But we did have some nothingness once we made it back to Highway 40.

On the way to el Calafate

Our main purpose of going to el Calafate, like most people, was to see the Perito Moreno glacier. This glacier is one of three Patagonian glaciers that are growing and advancing, is 3 miles wide, and about 250 feet tall. The glacier has major ruptures every 4-5 years and has smaller breaks and cracks several times every day, which are very audible.

Perito Moreno glacier

Us at the Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier

After sitting around for several hours watching the glacier and drinking wine, it was time to find some free camping. There was a great campground called La Huala within the National Park, but on a different road than the glacier. There were no bathrooms, but the site was well organized with a beautiful view and lots of drunk Argentines in RVs.

Glacier National Park
(on the way to camp)

View from our campsite in Glacier National Park
(view from the campsite)

View from our campsite in Glacier National Park

McDaniel's in el Calafate - a close substitute for McDonald's?
(I'm sure this place has never heard of McDonald's.  Or maybe they have the "Big Mic".)

We left the next morning without finding a need to spend much time in el Calafate other than to get gas and some food. People were very interested in the bike there, and she was probably in more photos than anywhere else we have been. Leaving el Calafate we definitely felt the strong Patagonian winds that everyone talks about, even stronger than what we felt south of San Rafael.  Up to this point, we have been extremely lucky with the weather with no rain and almost no wind. We still haven't seen the worst of it, but have now had a couple days of hard, cold wind getting down to Punta Arenas.

Mike with a creepy guy on the way to Puerto Natales.
(Mike made a creepy friend along the way, as usual)

Can you spot the fox?
(If you look really hard in this picture, you should see a fox. There were actually two of them beside the road, but I was too slow to get a good shot.)

We arrived in Puerto Natales cold, tired and in need of a shower. We found a good but expensive hostel in The Singing Lamb Backpackers , paying $20 each for a dorm room.

Kitty loved sleeping on the bike at the hostel in Puerto Natales.
(The hostel cat loved sleeping on the motorcycle.)

After a night in Puerto Natales, we headed to Punta Arenas on another cold, windy, boring ride. We hoped to buy lots of motorcycle and outdoor stuff at the free trade zone, but were a bit disappointed with the Zona Franca in general.

Zona Franca, Punta Arenas

It seemed just like a bad outlet mall in the Midwest. Although Mike was able to get some cheap oil for an oil change, we didn't buy anything else there. Perhaps the best thing in the Zona Franca was the good exchange rate for Argentine Pesos, at over 7 pesos to 1 US dollar, it is the best you are going to get in southern Patagonia.  You can find the cambios in the big mall near the Sanchez y Sanchez.

Asking around for tires took us to RecaSur in Zona Franca, which had some moto parts, but more for offroad bikes.  They directed us to Alejandro Lagos, who Mike had seen mentioned on the HUBB and ADVrider, as the guy to go to for anything moto related and who also rents BMWs.  It seems that he took over the MotoAventura shop from a guy named Gonzalo who was highly recommended.  Maybe Gonzalo is still around town (in fact, Gonzalo's shop, MotoEscar, still has a sign up at Carrerra 666, but we never saw the shop opened...), but this Alejandro guy was not our favorite.  While he did have tires in stock, he was very expensive.  Additionally, he was a bit condescending and wanted to charge a hefty fee (~US$45) to change the tires himself.  Given that, deciding not to have him change the tires was easy, then it was easy to decide to give him as little money as possible when he wouldn't let me change my own oil - with oil and filter purchased from him - without paying him extra, claiming the expense of having someone take the used oil away.  Throughout Latin America (hell, even in the states), shops have let us drop the old oil without any problem, including the shop we found in Santiago and RecaSur here in Pta Arenas, and the workshop at our hostel, and almost anywhere else.  At most of those shops, we haven't bought a thing, sometimes we just buy a filter (~US$5), and other times the oil too.  To be asked to pay to leave old oil was too much.  On top of that, Alejandro strongly insisted that the wrong model HiFlo oil filter was the correct one for the TA, even though Mike told him the correct code for the same brand (okay, okay, maybe the one he was trying to sell could have worked, but it still isn't the right one).  But I'll stop ranting now.  We bought (an expensive at ~US$110) MT-60 front tire from Alejandro anyways, and took it to the gas station to change it (to use their free compressor).

The good moto shop experience we had was at Pablo Paredes Motos Honda shop.  They had an MT-90 rear tire in stock for ~US$140 (much less than any of Alejandro's offerings), let me work in their shop, brought over tools, grease, tire lube, anything I needed, usually before I asked.  They even told us to stop sweeping up after we finished working, that they were going to sweep the whole shop and not to worry about it.  The guys in the shop were that helpful, and the woman running the parts side was maybe even more so.  She knew what she had on hand, offered to order anything else necessary, and was genuinely interested in making sure we were all set.  We even ended up stopping back in there on the way north to pick up a chain.  Granted, this chain was expensive as it was Honda OEM, but I don't have any problem giving money to such wonderful people (and in full disclosure, I did ask around for cheaper alternatives, but no other O-ring chains available).  They were fantastic.  Highly recommended!

Pablo Paredes Motos
Magallanes 330
Punta Arenas
Fono/fax:  (56-61) 224239
Cel:  (09) 92267148
GPS:  S 53 deg 09.370 min / W 70 deg 54.033 min

The 4 days or so we hung out in Punta Arenas was more than sufficient. Of course, in our usual way, we managed to include a Sunday in there, when nothing can get done. So we got to know the downtown streets a bit.

downtown Punta Arenas

boxing gloves, Punta Arenas

And, we also finally got caught up on the blog after being about a month behind.  We'll see where our next installment takes us, but there aren't too many points further south...

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