Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Some Rather Blustery Daze

D'you know, I thought we'd had it bad in the wind heading south. Not a patch on what we had to deal with the day we left Ushuaia. Even Rich thought it was a struggle, which means it must have been, but for me, it was very nearly the single most unpleasant day on the bike yet. At least in the snow and the sand it was just frustrating and slow, and my own incompetence was largely (if not totally) to blame. Thursday, though was all down to Mother Nature, and I rather think someone must have walked across her clean floor, or maybe put one too many coffee mugs down on her nice table without a coaster, because she was not a happy lady!
We left in a bit of a shower, requiring the interruption of our departure for the donning of water-proofs (always a pain in the arse), but the rain quickly cleared - like by the time we got through the mountain pass it had stayed behind in Ushuaia - so we had to stop again and remove the unnecessary outer wear. It then started to get windy. And when I say windy, I'm talking headwinds that prevented us going faster than 60kmh with fully open throttles, side winds that had the bikes on what felt like 45º angles, and gusts that had us weaving across the fortunately empty roads pretty much from kerb to kerb in a futile effort to hold a straight line and stay out of the roadside gravel. Frightening was not the word, but it will have to do.
Rich's advice of "hate to say it mate, but think 'playing a piano' with your grips" fell on terrified and deaf ears, as I was not going to release my beartrap grip for anyone, regardless of how tired and pumped out my forearms and shoulders were getting. Talk about full upperbody work out for pretty much a full day. Shocking!
On the up side, we did make it to the border and into Chile again with no problems, and set out along the road to Porvenir and the ferry to Punta Arenas, fully intending to stop by the road and camp again, as we had done on the way in. We eventually found a nicely sheltered corner, out of the still howling gales, pitched camp and cooked up some more pasta. Not a bad night, and up for a reasonable start to get us to the ferry for 1pm check in.
By now you know how much I enjoy riding in the rain, not to mention the wind, and on gravel, so imagine my poorly disguised delight at being presented with all three in large quantities for most of the morning. Trying to keep out of the deeper gravel while being blinded by rain and gusted by hurricanes was so much fun, and I just had to pull over at one point and share my joy and enthusiasm with Rich. Poor bugger, I think he has learned that every now and again I just need to vent at the forces of nature or the road, or both in this case, and he just stays in his helmet and lets it pass. Anyhow, the rain stopped, the wind died off a little tiny bit, and we got to Porvenir by 11am, reached the port and were told by a ferry worker that the 2pm boat wouldn't be sailing, and we'd need to check back at 5pm in case it was going to go at 6. The reason? Why, that'd be the wind again. Blowing at 125knots (you do the maths, I have no idea, but it sounds a bit choppy to me) in the straits of Magellan. Fair call, and Rich was relieved, what with being a rather reluctant sailor at the best of times.
Fortunately we had earlier found a café at which to fill our bellies, and although it was now clsoed, we did manage to seek refuge in the Croat Club of Porvenir for an hour or two, recover over a couple of cheeky ales, and kill some time. When they turfed us out, we bumped into a couple of Irish cylclists we'd seen at the border crossing. The wind had been too much for them altogether, and they had paid some bloke US$100 to take them and their bikes to Porvenir. He'd now broken down with a leaky fuel pipe, so we (and by we, I mean Rich. I think its no secret that my mechanical skills are rudimnentary at best) helped sort that, and then made it to the ferry for the 6pm crossing. All well and good, bikes on board, sort of tied down, and good to go.
Two hours later. Docking at Punta Arenas. My bike was again on its side, again due, albeit indirectly, to the vandals in Florianopolis. The stand had finally given out a second time, thanks to fatigued metal and rolling seas, and so for presumably a substantial part of the crossing it had lain on its side while waves crashed over the bow and doused it with sea water. Well, I ask you, would you want to start if it was you? Exactly. And with the stand bent back into place but nearly fully snapped through, it was with a small amount of delicacy that I balanced my bike against a trailor in the carpark and wailed my anguish at the new moon.
The Irish stepped up, and with 4 of us on the job, we totally failed to push start the bike round the car park about 5 times. A selection of the Chilean armies finest stood by watching and not helping at all. I´d like to think a group of similar British squaddies might have stepped up, or at least laughed at us, but nothing from this lot. So plan B: drain carburetor, remove and check spark plug. Nothing. Battery now tired too. All getting a bit much for yours truely, and then the cavelry arrive, in the form of 3 dock workers about to go home. They had jumper leads (didnt work, but at least kept hope alive) and one of them rushed the spark plug off to heat it up and rushed it back so I could return it to its slot, and with that little effort, we had lift off!
It got me to the hostel, and the next morning I felt confident, but I got nothing from the bike. Just a lot of turn over and no spark (sounds a bit like my dating record actually). And of course, now it was not only Saturday, but also a religious holiday weekend, so nothing was going to happen. And the battery was once again drained from my efforts to start the engine. We had agreed that Rich and I would make our own way up Ruta 40 as I would be so painfully slow, and we'd touch base on the way via email and rendez-vous in hostels on the way, so I had to manage on my own. I did this by sulking for a day (actually I was waiting for a bloke to turn up that the hostel person had organised. Didnt show. Not surprised). On Sunday, I tried to drain things again, and in the process noticed the local Fireys up the street cleaning their trucks. "Hello", I thought. "Funny". So over I went, pressed some flesh, plugged into their battery charger, and things started to look up. Went back at 11pm for the now fully chartged battery and, as it turned out, a few glasses of Chateau Cardboard vino tinto. Next morning, with battery now reconnected and raring to go, the old war horse fired up first time, and I was off. Sort of.
I made it about 190km, just into a remote-ish sort of area and a rainy part of the day, and the engine sarted to cough and shudder and die on me. Pulled over. Tried to restart, no luck. Waited, swore, and tried again. Success! For about 3km, then it did it again. Same process, but with more swearing, and I was off again. It seemed to go better if I kept the revs high, so I was tootling along in 3rd gear, 6000rpm, 60kph, trying to keep the bike alive. Something about that combo was agreeable to the suddenly temperamental machine, and I limped into Puerto Natales and scored a hostel. Luckily it was the hostel furthest from the motorbike repair shop I was able to find, thus allowing me a calming walk back in the rain once bike had been delivered to the workshop, so that was good. So now, at 2020 in the pip emma, I am about to enjoy the long rainy walk back, hopefully via some food, to collect my freshly cleaned carburetor and the rest of the bike, pay a no doubt heinous bill, and be ready for the next leg to El Calefate in the morning. Might leave early for this one, to allow for....incidences.
Well that will do for now, consider yourselves lucky you were safely at home and not here in the flesh to see all this unfold. It was not a pretty sight.
Off you pop, then, to feed the plants, change the dog or water the children, whatever it is you crazy cats get up to when I´m not there, and I´ll be in touch anon. Caio, my lovelies.

1 comment:

ed said...

Keep the main sail tight and trim, and just let the spinnaker do the business. Full speed ahead, Capt'n Mishap... Good luck and keep going!!