Motorcycle Trip To Patagonia, April 2023 – Day 3
Day 3 – 500kms
Not being able to sleep through the Rio Colorado thunderstorm, which I was thoroughly enjoying by the way, I slid off my bunk to find there was no power. Fortunately I had scrounged steaming hot water for my thermos flask before retiring and I was able to make a coffee. So, mug in hand, I shambled over to hotel reception using my phone as a torch, to find the owner’s wife wandering around in the dark with a candle in her hand. Later, her husband joined us and informed me that due to a wiring fault, only the hotel goes down during a storm and since it was three-phase, some parts of the hotel were still functioning, including the coffee makers, fortunately. By this time, the storm was raging just like the above picture (not my photo by the way) and by seven am, other guests trickled in searching for coffee. Our host meanwhile, was rigging up a tangle of electrical wires from a junction box outside to a plug socket behind reception, so I decided to stay well clear, just in case.
The owner of the Honda Gold Wing pictured above quite sensibly parked his bike in the open garage – now, why didn’t I think of that? Oh and when I asked him what his average cruising speed was, he nonchalantly replied ‘Oh, about 150kmh.’ Anyway, back to the plot, where we began to contemplate a non-existent plan B because, although we had rain gear, it would have been madness to venture out in a thunderstorm, so we loaded up the bikes in what little shelter was available, hoping for a break in the weather. By nine o’clock we spotted clear blue sky to the south west and on checking Rain Alarm we could see the storm moving north east, which was our cue to get moving since we were already ninety minutes late. I should point out that while chatting with the other guests over breakfast, some of whom were travelling to Rio Gallegos 1700km to the south, we were advised to fill up at every opportunity because petrol stations would now be far and few between.
So, fully kitted out in rain gear and resembling a couple of bomb disposal experts, we ventured out into the light rain, filled the tanks and headed west, then south towards General Conesa with ample stocks of bananas, chocolate chip biscuits, alfajores and hot and cold water.
The hot water was for Eduardo’s mate (pronounced mah-tey) kit by the way, which is a green, caffeine-rich herb placed into a gourd, infused with hot water and sucked through a silver pipe called a bombilla. It all sounds a bit elaborate, but most Argentines wouldn’t leave the house without their mate kit. It’s certainly healthier than coffee and every time I drink it, it gives a very pleasant buzz.
No sooner had we left Rio Colorado, we were back in the vast wilderness where the vegetation became even more stunted, with no trees at all and only the Patagonian wind for company.
Talking of which, we had been warned about the wind, which can be ferocious and being a sailor myself, I had read about the Roaring Forties, being between 40 and 50 degrees south, which is roughly where we were riding. As luck would have it, we were blessed with light winds from the north and north west, making our ride considerably easier. As for the riding itself, my bike was holding up much better than I was with hardly any vibration from the handlebars and the suspension and stability were rock solid, which is how I would describe my rear end. I needed to stop at least every hour to stretch my legs and loosen up, but at least that gave me a chance to snap a few photos and chat with Eduardo. On the other hand, the closer we got to Puerto Madryn, the ride became more comfortable, so there were definitely some mind games going on in my frazzled mind. As for the riding itself, we were averaging around 110kmh (68mph) with a following wind, on arrow-straight, perfect roads, with the right hand permanently squeezed on the accelerator grip. At least we could move our feet and left hands and visors were closed at all times, not only for the rushing air, but also any objects or insects that may have been in our paths. It’s also very noisy, but after a while I hardly noticed and spent much of the time keeping an eye on the distance counter, even though actual road signs on these deserted roads were very far and few between.
General Conesa, San Antonio Oeste and Sierra Grande appeared like desert oasis where we could stop for a stretch, café con leche, medialunas (croissants) and of course the plat du jour, bananas.
When we finally spotted the sign for Puerto Madryn being only 44kms, it was time to open the throttle and get there before sunset. For me, the moment I most enjoyed was seeing the South Atlantic to our left as we glided down the hill to Madryn. It’s not the most beautiful sight in the world because a massive aluminium smelting plant (Aluar) greeted us first, but once past that, we continued along the coast road (costanera) and stopped to take our bearings. No sooner had we done that, a biker named José pulled up on a lovely Kawasaki 454 LTD, complete with leather bomber jacket, shades and cowboy boots and asked us if we needed any help which was a very kind and most welcome surprise.
We didn’t really need much help, but since he was such a helpful fellow, we asked if he could guide us to the hostel, Atalaya Tierra De Mis Sueños (The Watchtower In The Land Of My Dreams), which actually sounds much posher than it really was. With that, we set off in convoy with José pointing out landmarks along the coastal road and bid our farewells on arrival at the well-hidden hostel on the street with two names – Domecq Garcia Norte or Kenneth Woodley – it was a toss-up. It gets even more confusing when you find a house number with another number beneath it that says ‘Used to be number xxxx.’ but I digress.
There’s quite a big difference in price between a hotel and a hostel which is why I chose hostels whenever I could, often being a quarter of the price, but they are basic. On the other hand, hostels usually offer a kitchen/dining room equipped with a fridge/freezer, microwave, cutlery and other useful bits of kit. However, the rooms are very basic, as ours were, but frankly, it’s a place to lay your head and keep your kit safe.
By seven-thirty we needed sustenance, so after a couple of cans of Quilmes Stout in the enormous kitchen/diner, we walked a few blocks to the Madryn seafront, found a remarkably British looking pub and ordered lomito (thinly sliced grilled beef) in huge bread rolls with lashings of chips and fried eggs.
Well, it didn’t take us long to polish that lot off, so after a stroll along the seafront promenade to take in the sea air and watch the waves break on the pebbles, we made our way back to the hostel, satisfied that we’d made it to Madryn without incident or breakdowns. The Welsh slate had survived the trip and we were looking forward to finally meeting the ladies of La Asociación Cultural Galesa de Puerto Madryn the following afternoon, so I fell asleep wondering what they would make of it all.