The weather is perfect as we depart our rustic but comfortable accommodations at Estancia Cueva De Las Manos near Baja Caracoles and continue south along iconic Ruta (route) 40, the main north-south highway in Argentine Patagonia. Eric had warned that Ruta 40 separates the men from the boys with its long, droll stretches of gravel stretching to the horizon and unrelenting cross-winds jetting down from the Andes. We could have hopped onto the Route 66 of Argentina just south of Bariloche, our first night’s stop; instead, the RIDE Adventures route kept to the more scenic Chilean side of the Andes as long as possible. But the Chilean roads have petered out in the crazy geography of that country, and Ruta 40 is our only way south.
There’s little traffic and most of that is construction related. We zig and zag through several detours along the way as Ruta 40’s surface changes from gravel to fresh pavement and back again. On long gravel stretches, I’m enjoy the Rox Risers that allow me a natural standing position for comfortable riding and excellent bike control. Without them, I’d be working twice as hard to control the bike while seated, or hunching over the bars while on the pegs. My back would have been toast days ago. And the farther we ride, the more comforting the Kaoko cruise control becomes on the pavement, giving my arm and throttle hand some much needed rest. Now I’m experimenting with it on straight gravel stretches as well.
Lunch is at Estancia La Angostura, four kilometers down a side road. As we assemble at the turnoff to count heads, someone notices that Nic’s bike is leaking something. I check – oil! A quick exam shows the oil sight glass has a BB–sized hole in it. We lean the bike against a tractor tire half buried in the sand and discuss alternatives. The best sealant at hand is silicone RTV, so on it goes after the oil is cleaned up; and off we go to an amazing lunch of fresh salad (we find the secret greenhouse after eating) and lamb Milanese. Horses graze outside and flamingos feed in the shallow waters of a pond. It’s beautiful here today, but factor in 60 mph winds for days on end and the pastoral bliss could wear off faster than the blowing sand peels away your skin.
Back at the main road, the patch hasn’t set up enough to ride, but someone dredges up epoxy from the bowels of their kit and we use it to hold a coin against the glass. The patch cures quickly and looks secure. Twenty kilometers down the road we check – still holding. El Calafate, here we come!
Continue reading: dispatch from Day 8