Motorcycle Trip To Patagonia, April 2023 – Day 2
Day 2 – 440km
After sleeping for nearly ten hours, which for me is a new record, I took advantage of the electric kettle (a rarity in Argentine hostelries) and made a coffee using my coffee pack – a Tupperware container with sachets of sugar, powdered milk, and Nescafe Gold, complete with spoon and mug, which I had brought along for exactly that purpose. I’m usually a very early riser and get a bit grouchy if I have to wait for the hotel to crank up the coffee.
After loading up the bikes with our gear we filled up at the nearby YPF station and pointed ourselves towards the next destination, Rio Colorado in the state of Rio Negro.
When travelling through Argentina we are frequently reminded about how far (or close to) we are from the Falkland Islands, referred to here as Las Malvinas and the further south one goes, those messages become more frequent. It’s a deep-seated and very emotional sentiment for most Argentines and whilst I may not agree with the overtly nationalistic and populist propaganda, I respect the right to express a point of view. Most of the other sings say ‘Las Malvinas son Argentinas.’ Fair enough.
Before setting off on this leg of the trip we made sure we packed plenty of food and water, not to mention carrying out essential bike checks, because we had just crossed from fertile farming country into wilderness conditions with nothing to see but an endless expanse of scrub, dusty farm tracks and a road that disappeared over the horizon. I was struck by the transformation from the verdant fertility we had just passed through, as if an invisible hand had drawn a line across the country and declared ‘You are now in the wilderness.’
When motorcycling long distances, especially in out of the way places, those what-ifs start to creep in – what if I have a puncture? What if my chain comes off? What if a massive hole appears in the road and I fall into it? Yes, things can go wrong, but I put those thoughts to one side and enjoy the ride without fixating on what could happen. Lord knows, it’s noisy enough anyway!
In fact, during the ride to Rio Colorado we stopped several times in the empty expanse, switched the engines off and simply listened to the silence, punctuated only by a balmy light breeze, distant birdsong and insects doing what they do. The crossover from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires couldn’t have been more marked and I felt privileged to breath the air and feel the road beneath me. After passing through Santa Rosa – which by the way is the name given to a notorious late-August thunderstorm, La tormenta de Santa Rosa – and then filling up with fuel, we were faced with a 277km stretch of road, straight as an arrow for the most part with a small kink to the left which would lead us the Homi Hotel in Rio Colorado.
Looking at the above map from the comfort of my den a few weeks before setting off, I rubbed my chin and mumbled ‘Those roads cannot be that straight, surely.’ But they are and with a very long stretch ahead of us, the horizon was never-ending, punctuated only by the odd undulation, very slight curves in the road and a massive expanse of scrubland surrounding us. Upon cresting the low hillocks I kept wondering if anything mildly interesting might manifest itself, but no, it was more of the same, yet never boring. The one aspect that did stand out was the strange smell which enveloped us for 200kms, which I can only describe as garlic-skunk, for it was pervasive, but I spotted neither a skunk or a garlic plant so it will probably remain a mystery to us.
On reaching Padre Buodo at lunchtime, which I couldn’t help but refer to as Father Boludo, the bikes were performing brilliantly, my rear end wasn’t and I estimated that we would arrive at Rio Colorado at around four-thirty. But I was wrong because although the run was as straight as an arrow, time flies very quickly, especially when you want to arrive before dark. Neither of us wanted to ride in what is referred to as the desert at night for numerous safety reasons and when we pulled into the hotel at six pm, dark thunderclouds began rolling in from the south west and I knew we had made it just in time. I should point out that there’s no mobile phone service on most of the desert roads, but I’ll go into more detail about that later on.
After checking in with the delightful and charming owners, it was clear that we were in for a stormy night, so we moved our bikes to the back of the hotel for as much shelter as we could find. I then found a corner shop where I stocked up with more bananas (it’s a meal in itself) and beer for the evening. Since the hotel didn’t serve dinner and was not graced with a bar, the owners encouraged us to to drink our beer in the lounge and to order a takeaway pizza, which I thought was incredibly civilised. Many other places would have charged us corkage or asked us to eat outside. But this is one of the many things I like about Argentina – its innate flexibility and willingness to oblige, especially in difficult circumstances.
After devouring the pizza, for we were famished, we turned in early because the following day would be the final leg to Puerto Madryn and even more desolate roads. As I switched off the lights I could hear the rain lashing against the windows, the wind picking up, thunder rumbling and I had that nice snug feeling that we and the bikes were tucked up nice and safe for the night.
That is, until four-thirty the next morning which is when the serious stuff arrived, waking me up with a bang…
Day 3 follows…