It was one on one with the wind today. Argentina’s grand Ruta 3 runs along the Atlantic coast more than 2,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and the Fin del Mundo (end of the world). Today the legendary Patagonian wind whipping from the West across the pampas continued to hammer me with punches, smacks and surprise kicks. The infinite sky spread above and around me. At times I wanted to reach up and pinch it — just to make sure it was real and alive. Cumulus clouds painted on the blue sky would have made for a perfect riding day were it not for the low, looming ominous black stretches of orb hanging on the horizon nearly 360 degrees around me. But it looked like luck was on my side. As I made the northward turn near Rio Gallegos, Doc and I were pointed in the direction of perhaps the only blue sky for miles. The road flirted with the black clouds as it sinuously moved toward Esperanza. But the wind would hit me with a left, then a right and even a couple kidney punches. Yet the road seemed on my side and pointed away from the moisture laden clouds threatening my dry ride to the ice.
I pulled over to breathe perhaps some of the cleanest air on earth. Then my face-shield seemingly started sweating. No. Trickles of precipitation. I looked up as this huge mass of black cloud ambled toward me. I mounted my steed and took it head on. It poured. And poured. Pools of water accumulated in the folds of my tank panniers until the wind blew it onto my legs. Feverishly I tried to maintain visibility using the squeegee on the index finger of my Held glove (I wouldn’t use any others). But water continuously beaded on my face-shield. I looked East and then to the North – toward the roads that I luckily avoided today. Muted fog hung below the clouds – the tell tale sign of rain – I was soaked, but happy.
I rode through the storm for about an hour and a half until riding down the grade toward Lago Argentina and El Calafate. The largest lake in Argentina, Lago Argentina stretches from the glacier studded Andes to the Andean steppe. Depending on the light and point of view this pristine mass of water glistens turquoise to midnight blue. The constant westerly winds cause the water to move and create interesting textures and geometric shapes on its surface. I stared blankly. Amazed.
Riding into the small but bustling village where streets are teeming with tourist agencies, restaurants, outdoor outfitters and souvenir shops I spotted the windblown couple I had seen on the road. Riding a 250cc Chinese-made street bike loaded with blankets, bed rolls and a tent, I imagined what the cold and rain must have put these folks through. But like me, they were adventurers. We nodded as motorcyclists always acknowledge each other. After-all, we’re all club members – doesn’t matter what you ride.
Compared to other places I’ve traveled, nothing seems over done or over touristy here, The main drag is only a few blocks and a few blocks on either side and it feels you’re in a residential neighborhood. Moving just west of town and I’m riding along the lake. El Calafate and its proximity to the Andes, glaciers and iceberg studded lakes draw people from all over the world. Perhaps the grandaddy is the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the largest accessible ice masses on the planet.
Arriving late in the afternoon and more storm clouds hovering over the Andes, I decide to make a move to the glacier tomorrow. Because it’s summer and the wildly popular but small El Calafate, it takes me more than an hour to find a hotel — practically everything was booked. But thanks to Sebastian and Hosteria Los Nires, just a few blocks from the center, I had a small room and a secure place to park Doc.