Motorcycle Explorer Issue 17 - Page 42

Forum Story: mick watts - argentina ruta40

Life was good, I was getting married in 2016 (all the planning was well underway), I had a comfortable lifestyle and a few toys in the garage but something was bothering me. I needed to travel, urgently, with the added challenge of some adventure riding. The decision was made, having paid the appropriate bribes to the wife (to be) and assurances that I would return for the wedding - the Trans American Highway from Buenos Aires south to Ushuaia and the all the way North to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska beckoned. I resigned the following Monday and started planning with a UK departure of 29 Feb 16……….what could possibly go wrong!!

Leaving Buenos Aires behind me I set off towards Ushuaia on a straight southerly course. In my naivety I hadn’t really realized how big Argentina was. The distances between locations and the length of the main arterial roads is significant, riding about 2200 miles on the same road, that’s about as far from Calais to Istanbul!!

The Ruta 3 leaves a lasting memory of the sideways riding and heavy going off-road sections, not forgetting the world famous Ruta 40 with its big gravel sections and challenging terrain – but also some amazing scenery and views. These testing surface conditions required significant concentration but luckily for me the time spent Enduro riding with mates stood me in good stead; although the GSA was somewhat different to my WFR 450!

The initial 5200 miles (approximately a 1000 of which was off road - a mixture of small/large gravel, some deep and some light, rutted ravines, sand, large potholes, local driving, wild animals and birds and of course navigation all mixed in) flew past with so many things to see and do, it would be impossible to cover them all in my allocated 6 month adventure. But as big as this mileage was I ended up in Santiago on roughly the same latitude as Buenos Aires where I started a month earlier…I still had a third of the distance left before I would leave Argentina for Bolivia.

Argentina has really surprised me with its contrasting landscapes, features and terrain not to mention the history. To the East along the Atlantic Ocean which a significant welsh flavour including that of Gaiman and its tea shop, flags and villagers still speaking the language and many tributes to their heritage. A diversion to Punta Tombo and South America’s largest penguin colony made a great change from the straight roads and strong winds!

The tradition of Mirror – Signal – Manoeuvre, works well in most areas, but when overtaking lorries in very strong head winds, sat astride the seat stitching at 45 degrees keeping the bike driving, I also needed to add Lama as further check. Not what you except in the middle of a road overtaking a double trailer Class 1 vehicle – certainly passed for the swerve test though!

Heading further south towards Tierra del Fuego with the much anticipated Magellan Straights all working their magic to come to the world’s most southerly navigable roads in Ushuaia. The ferry crossing over the strait was in itself interesting in fairly ‘choppy’ waters and not a lashing strap in sight. The GSA rolled with the sea punches although at times my heart was in my mouth when it lifted completely off its side stand – the ‘loadmaster’ had seen it all before and merely laughed at my concerns!?

Having been in the Army I am acutely aware of the significant (ultimate) sacrifices people have made for peace. But what I found quite thought provoking was the immense pride that Argentinians have for the Malvinas and rightly or wrongly still call the Falklands theirs – the constant road signs were testament to this. They too had lost loved ones and made sacrifices, but I have found them all to be welcoming, friendly and talkative with a genuine interest in British people. This was never more ably demonstrated when I was in Ushuaia and locals were protesting (against wages and costs of living), setting up makeshift homes in the middle of the main street.

I watched them cooking the obligatory lamb on an open fire and asked if I could take a picture. They came up to me smiled, we conversed in pigeon Spanish/English, and they offered me some food, drink and a seat around the fire.

Having a few rest days in Ushuaia the road now only had one compass point to meet – North. My route would finish back in Calgary having ridden to the top of Alaska and the Dalton Highway some 32,000 miles later – it was time to move on……