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Sunday, 29 May 2016

PART 7: SOUTH AMERICA (I CRY FOR U ARGENTINAAAA)

ARGENTINA (5 FEB - 9TH MARCH 2016)


My last day in Santiago, Chile was a hard one. It wasn't hard due to riding, but to leave the kind family of Dato Rameez and his wife. They had treated me like their very own family. I would never ever forget their kindness to me. Anyhow, the journey must go on. 



I left Malaysia House with tears flowing down my cheek, all the way until I reached Paso De Los Libertadores, a mountain pass with 30 very tight switchbacks. I need to focus while ascending the hairpin bends, so I must stop the tears. It was a bit scary to see the ravine down below from the corner of my eyes, but once in a while, I did enjoyed the beauty of Mount Aconcagua which can be seen from the pass. 





I had to pay tolls 4 times though from Santiago to the border which was located at the peak of the pass. My ride was interrupted twice due to landslides. The border was a toll-plaza-kinda building where both countries had their booths side by side. It took me about 1hr to settle everything as there was a long line today. The funny thing was I was not given a permisso from the Argentinian side, even after I had asked for it. I was worried if I had missed something, until I met another overlander and he told me he didnt get any permisso copy too.



Then I rode via route 7. Argentina was sooooo beautiful. Blue lakes, beautiful gorges, but the highway was not as nice as in Chile. Its quite windy at certain stretches too. After riding 385kms in 8.30hrs from Santiago, I reached Mendoza. I found a hostal and later went to the cambio to change some money. There were about 70 people lining up at the money changer, from inside to the outside. I had to cue for 1 hour to get some money changed...sigh... 





I exit Mendoza via Ruta 40 which was the longest route in Argentina and one of the longest in the world. It stretched from the Bolivian border in the north to Rio Gallegos in the south, running parallel to the Andes mountains. The southern part of the route, a largely unpaved road through sparsely populated territory, had became a well-known adventure ride journey. My ride on the epic Ruta 40 started from Mendoza all the way down to El Calafate. It was indeed a tough journey. Especially when doing it all alone on a small bike. I had to face great challenges such as very cold weather, unbelievable strong wind, rain, storm, and offroad (thick and loose gravels which rattled my teeth and bones, and soft sands too). I passed towns such as Malargue, Chos Malal, San Martin de Los Andes, San Carlos de Bariloche, Esquel, Perito Moreno, Gobernador Gregores, and El Calafate. The total distance for my route in Ruta 40 were 3400kms which took about 10 days. Everyday, I had to start early in the morning as the wind will start to blow fiercely after 9.30am and get even more stronger by midday. I was told that the reason behind this was the wind came from the Pacific Ocean and when it reached the Andes mountains, it crashed. When the road surface heated up by the sunlight, the pressure increased and this resulted in crazy wind around this area. 








Carrying extra gas was essential here as distance between towns were huge and there were always cases of gas stations ran out of gas. There were many occasions that I had to cue and wait for at least 30mins whenever I need to refuel. Even though the ride on Ruta 40 was hard, the view was so breathtaking. Green pampas, beautiful gorges, green Rio Grande river, canyon, blue Lago Nueva on the way to Chos Malal. Some pics here to enjoy...










The famous 'Seven Lakes' via Villa La Angostura and all the way to San Carlos de Bariloche. 









The pine trees and some desert like views to Esquel.










While at El Calafate, I managed to visit Perito Moreno Glaciers. This glacier was number 4 for me after Franz Josef (NZ), Khumbu Glacier (Mt Everest) and Bear Glacier (Canada-Alaska). The entrance fee was AP260, and the tour AP600. I took a tour as I'm having fever at that time and I didnt feel like riding 160kms (return) to this place. A decision which I'm so glad to take when seeing the wind condition that even the bus I rode on was shaking!!! This glacier was indeed the most beautiful and the biggest glacier that I had seen. I was sooo stunned at its beauty that I cant figure out the most suitable word to describe it. The glacier changed colours according to the amount of sunlight it received. When I was there, it was raining and shining on and off. Every now and then I heard loud 'thunder' sounds of the glacier cracking and fell into the lake. It was really awesome.





I exited El Calafate and made my way to Rio Gallegos and after that I head south via Ruta 3. My first real big problem started here when I was denied exit by the Argentinian officers due to failure to show them my bike permisso copy, which I didnt get any when crossing into Argentina to Mendoza the other day. The officer accused me for taking GD into the country illegally and he threatened to confiscate my bike. I tried to explain my situation and fortunately he referred me to his chief, but I need to go to another customs building about 1km away. I met the lady and again had to explain to her. She told me to wait while she checked her computer. Later she told me that theres no information about my bike in the custom's system. She said that this was against the law and she will take my bike away. I was panicking but I controlled my charm and cool. I knew very well how in this situation, I'm at her MERCY and she could make matters worse for me. I told her there must be some mistakes, as I knew the procedures to bring my bike into a country, and I had registered at the customs. I'm not new to this, and this border is the 17th for GDR. After listening to my rationals, she couldnt decide and told me to wait while she brought the matter to the HQ. She made some calls and emails. I had no choice but to wait. I waited from mins to hours and started to get very restless. Whenever I asked her, she told me to wait. I couldnt bothered her too much or else she will be pissed off. But I'm in a hurry and had wasted too much time here. So my last solution was to beg her and of course I had to act and shed some tears to get her sympathy. Thank god it worked. Finally, after wasting 3.30hrs, she let me passed without a fine. 

I hurriedly left and registered my bike on the Chilean side which took only 20mins. Then, I sped to the ferry terminal and crossed to Tierra del Fuego. Not long after that, I had to ride on offroad for 110kms. It was a bone rattling ride, but this time, I cant pampered GD anymore as the sun was going down. I had to go as fast as my offroad riding skill allowed me to. After that, I did the 2nd border crossing. The Chilean side first, then 12kms on no-mans-land, then the Argentina side. Luckily I got tail wind after that and I arrived Rio Grande after riding approx 400kms. I had to spend some time to find a room which suited my budget and only get to check in at 9.30pm. I was dead tired.




On 18th February, I reached Ushuaia, Fin Del Mundo...

158 days...
Approx 32000kms...
2 continents...
15 countries...
Countless sleepless nights due to worries...
Countless scary moments...
Countless good ppl I met on the road...
Countless wonderful memories...
All the crazy & wild wind along the way...
All the hunger, thirst, exhaustion, pain, heat, cold, frozen fingers & lips...
Not forgetting the tortured butt...
Without any top ppl as patron...
Without big fund to support my ride...
I am finally here...
The end of the road...
At the end of the world...
Only God knows what I had been thru...

1 world
1 small bike
1 solo rider
1 woman
1 huge dream

*IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING* 





Excuse my very emotional moment in the video :)


After the first big objective that was to reach the end of the world had been accomplished, my next target was to ride to Buenos Aires, some 3100kms away via Ruta 3 to prepare my bike for shipping to London. I rode the same 230kms way back to Rio Grande. The road was wet due to melting frost. The wind was strong...among the strongest I felt so far. I had to fight the head and side wind for the last 100kms. To make matters worse, the wind forecast said that the wind gusts is going to reach 101kmh for the next days. It was true. The wind was insane. The sound of the howling wind was like a ghost trying to swallow everything which it passed through. Its too dangerous for me to ride. If theres no more offroad to ride, I might still try to brave the wind. Unfortunately theres 110km of offroad awaiting. I was stranded in Rio Grande for 3 nights. However, I accepted my fate. Things happened for a reason... 

Finally, the wind lessened a bit and I hurriedly left the town. It was a brrrrrr ride, braving the chill since theres no sunshine but a thick cloud hovering above my head. It was so cold and all my fingers froze. But I still need to continue or else the wind will get stronger. The tip of my fingers were soo froze that it were sooo painful. Honestly I cried. That being said, most people thought its easy to ride a small bike which didnt have a heated grip for this kind of ride? I rode on the same 110kms gravels. Its tougher this time due to the wind and bcos there were fresh soil being put on the road under construction. I made it to Rio Gallegos after riding 400kms in 10 hours, with 2 border crossings. I was so tired.



The next days werent easy for me either. As at Ruta 40, the wind at the southern part of Ruta 3 was very strong too. I had pains on my upper limbs due to fighting the wind for many hours everyday for many many days. 

It rained very heavily when I reached Puerto San Julian. The road to my host's house got very muddy and slippery. It was really hard for me to control GD when the mud already coated the tires and as I'm nearing my host's house, I fell in the mud puddle. My host came running but it was difficult for us, two ladies to put the bike to stand. My host then asked her neighbour to help and we had to push GD to her house which was nearby. The wind was very strong and the rain continued pouring for the whole night. It was hard for me to sleep as I was very tensed. I had only a very little sleep and when I woke up in the morning, the rain had stopped but GD was lying on the ground. The wind might had pushed it down and the surrounding had turned into paddy fields. My heart sank. I cant believe I had to face this after being stranded in Rio Grande due to wind the other day. I prayed very hard for the sun to come out and for the earth to suck the water. The sun only came out at 12pm and miraculously the water drained very quickly. However, what remained after that was a very muddy based ground for about 400m. It was really tough to get out from the muddy part, but I was lucky not to drop the bike again. It took me half n hour to get out, and another half hour to clean the mud on GD. 




Then, I raced towards Comodoro Rivadavia. It was a very cold ride as it was raining on and off and the wind was still strong. I thought there wont be any more challenge after the mud, but I was wrong. I had to ride on offroad, ascend a pretty steep dirt hill and descended a slope with thick gravels for about 5kms to reach my host's house. Hadoiiiii :(




The next days were to reach Buenos Aires as soon as I can. I made a stop at Puerto Madryn, Viedma, Bahia Blanca and Azul via Ruta 3. As I went further up north, the wind lessened significantly and its not as chilly as the previous days. In Azul, I stayed at a cool place, La Posta, which was dedicated for bikers. Finally, on 2nd March 2016, I arrived Buenos Aires and rode straight to the Malaysian Embassy. The Ambassador, Dato Ashri Muda and all the staff gave me a very warm welcome. The medias were there too. Dato even invited me to stay at Malaysia House until the day I departed to London. I was soo touched by the nice hospitality. I met Datin Rohayahti at the residence and she treated me like her very own sister. I stayed 8 days at their place and they brought me sightseeing in Buenos Aires. I also managed to sort out my bike to be flown to London, using the service of Dakar Motos. I had to pay USD1850 for the fees. All the while, Dato helped me a lot by letting his staff to asist me. Till the final day, Dato and Datin send me to the airport. It was really hard to say goodbye to these nice people. May Allah pay back all their kindness. 









END OF MY RIDE IN THE AMERICAS.....

NASTIA

Band: NASTIA, Title: ANGGUR (taken from EP 'EKSPRESI')
HAK CIPTA ANITA YUSOF