On the road again ...

Summer came to Ushuaia one day, then promptly left for warmer climes the next!  It was delightful: bright sunshine, the sparkling, rushing river; the river banks covered with happy families out picnicking and enjoying the warm sunshine; the braver souls swimming and splashing in the cold water; the ever-present teenagers flaunting their developing bodies to those of the opposite gender.  I sprawled on my blanket under the trees in the shade beside my tent, stripped off to shorts and singlet in the warmth, taking photos of the tree canopy and ground cover, out of boredom, mainly. What else could I do?

At last, after almost 4 weeks, the parts arrived from the UK for the bike.  I rushed off to the mechanic, MotoPablo, only to find that Pablo had gone away for a holiday - for 2 weeks! So it was necessary to use a mechanic with whom I was unfamiliar.  He eventually put the parts in, after a comedy of errors, so to speak.  Firstly, he couldn't get the engine cover off.  Then he couldn't get the impeller shaft released from the engine cover.  So he drove me back to Rio Pipo to collect my laptop, as the workshop manual is on it.  OK, so he gets the impeller shaft off, and the new shaft and seals fitted.  Then he can't get the engine cover back on!  And he didn't have the correct tools to get the footpeg off to give him more room to manoeuvre the cover, so, back to Rio Pipo again to get my tool kit from the tent.  I hadn't thought to take them with me, of course, expecting a mechanic to have all the necessary tools.  But this was possibly (probably?) the first BMW he'd worked on, after all.

Finally, after 4.5 hours, I get to ride back to the campground - well, almost back.  200 metres before the gate, the temperature light comes on.  So I switch off and roll across the main road into the park driveway, wait a few minutes, fire it up again and get back to my campsite.  I was not happy, to say the least. And the gear shift lever was positioned too high, meaning I had to lift my whole foot to change gears.

So I went back to town the next day, stopping every 350 metres or so when the temp light came on, then taking off again, until I got to the workshop.  Bugger! It was all closed up like a clam, so I rode disconsolately back to camp.  Onto the internet, and begin searching the Chain Gang (F650.com) site.  From amongst the myraid threads of information, I gleaned that there could possibly be air in the hoses, although the mechanic had done a fair amount of squeezing to release air, although he hadn't "bled" the lines.  So I thought I'd have a bash at fixing it myself, by bleeding the lines.  But I couldn't get the bleed nipple undone, so enlisted the muscle of some of the owners.  Then I bled it, refilled the radiator, and let it run for a while.  WooHoo!  No temp light came on.

Back to town I went for a test run, and to get the shift lever repositioned.  But the mechanic's workshop was still closed.  I decided to extend the test ride a little bit further into the centre of town, where the slow traffic would test the cooling system more fully, then to the supermarket to do some shopping, and things were looking good, with the temp light not coming on at all. Heading back to Rio Pipo past the workshop, I noticed it was now open, although the mechanic was not there, just the apprentice.  But he was able to reposition the shift lever, and I showed him my handwritten piece, in Spanish, [isn't Google translator wonderful!!] about the procedure to bleed the lines, getting across the message that I'd had to do that myself, as the bike had been overheating.

Things were looking up at last, and I planned to leave the next day, Tuesday, which meant I had to go out to the "end of the road", in the Parc Nacional and to the monument at Lapatia that night to take the oligatory photo at the end of the world, unless I wanted to pay $30 pesos ($10US) to enter the parc during the day.  So off I go on the dirt, and it's misting rain, heavier at times, but at least it kept the dust down somewhat.  The weather became colder and colder, bitterly cold actually, although I'd sensibly worn my lekky vest, so was warm and snuggly.  Got to the monument, and was immediately smothered, in affection, by a trio of Brazilian bikers (altho travelling by car ) who couldn't believe I'd ridden down from the US.  We "chatted" for quite some time in a mixture of English, Spanish and Portugese, taking myriads of photos. Then a Swiss couple (Ebo and Jacklin) arrived on their R80GS so more photos were clicked.

It was bitter, riding back to camp in the rain, and the warmth of the refuge was wonderful, when I went in to check my email.  Our "barometer" mountain was totally white next morning, as were all the other lower mountains surrounding the town.  I also heard that it had been snowing in Ushuaia township over Monday and Tuesday nights. It rained, and it rained, all night on Monday, and all day and night on Tuesday, so that put the kybosh on packing and leaving that day.

Packing up on Wednesday:  I had to pack for the first time in ages, and was a bit sluggish doing this, finishing everything about 4pm. Of course, I'd had to put all the panels back on the bike, firstly rechecking the radiator coolant and oil levels, and refit the tool container, and things didn't always want to cooperate with me. But it was finally done.  Sad farewells were exchanged with the park owners, my surrogate "family" of the previous 6 weeks, who had "adopted" me, and I rolled away, heading for town to do a few things before I refuelled and headed north.

I'd decided to ride only to Rio Grande, about 220km before stopping for the night.  It was cold, and I stupidly didn't put my lekky vest  and warm gloves on, just kept pottering along, glad to be back on the road. It was interesting to realise just how out of ride-hardening condition my body had become since I'd arrived in Ushuaia almost 2 months before.  It'll come back gradually, I'm sure, as I spend more days in the saddle.

I pulled into Hostel Argentino, the biker hangout/hostel, in Rio Grande, checked my email and retired to my room. Unfortunately, sleep eluded me, as my body was aching and I had gradually developed a very bad chest cold.  This had been building over recent days, as my you-beaut sleeping pad had decided to start slowly deflating on me just after I arrived in Ushuaia, so I'd generally had to pump it up a couple times every night, as the ground was very cold. I believe it was the cold seeping through the deflated pad which brought on my ill-health.  Feeling very poorly this morning, I pulled a "sickie", tipped some pills down my throat, and slept all day.

I'm planning on leaving in the morning, facing the border crossings from Argentina to Chile and back into Argentina, and the obligatory 150km of ripio (gravel) through the Chilean dogleg, then meandering north along Ruta 3, the coastal highway, to Buenos Aires.

Ahhhh, it's good to be back on the road, again!