Part 4 - Penguins and Break-Down Mail (Península Valdés - Esquel)
We decide to do a little road testing on the Valdés Peninsula. Oh, and we get the full Monty. Underneath the wheels there is deep, treacherous gravel. To all sides there are killer winds that whip across in all directions, and just to make life really interesting, there’s evil dust that obscures the gravel track. After this ride through hell we take a short break in Punta Norte. This is an amazing place; a reserve created primarily to protect walruses, it’s also an important mating area for sea lions with a colony of some 3000 adults and around 1350 pups in the breeding season. We’re lucky enough to see some of the newborns - cute!But two wheeled reality is back all too. Regardless of the wind and dust, Paul’s primary chain needs adjusting. Just a little bit later black smoke starts to splurge from his tailpipe. The low-revved gravel-digging we’re doing on this terrain is fouling the plugs. So we stop, dig into the emergency kit and fit new plugs. VRRROOOOM, the bike’s seventy-four cubic inches can breathe freely again, and we make it back to Puerto Pirámides where we do a “major’ service on the bikes. Tomorrow there’s going to be a lot of miles. By noon of the following day we blaze through Trelev, from there to Ruta 25, due west. We crack on, eating up 180 kilometres across the steppe which is big, wide open, hot and utterly desolate. After a short fuel stop in Las Plumas we keep going to the Valle de los Martires, which is an eye opener for all of us.
The Valley of the Martyrs is a cross between Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon; it’s crammed with completely wacky formations, buttes, needles - the perfect setting for a bike movie. Another change is that, after that endless barren steppe, all along the Rio Chubut there’s lush vegetation. And it gets even better. We watch the sun set in Los Altares with a cold beer in our hands. Monumental. The only things that keep getting smaller are the towns. The straights are not only getting straighter, they’re getting longer. From Paso de los Indios to Tecka, a one horse town with one gas station, it’s 200 kilometres of arrow-straight, unveering road.At last we hit the mother of all gravel roads, the infamous Ruta 40. We lay the first rubber on this legendary road and even the big twins’ rumble gets a touch more solemn. Along the Rio Tecka we roll to Esquel for some much needed laundry, e-mail, and bike servicing. Tommy has found someone who knows someone who knows a guy that can weld his saddle. Complete with reinforced mountings. (Don’t forget Tommy’s been riding a hardtail with a seat with no springs - he’s very pleased to see a man who can mend it!!) While the welding is going on in a shack, Ricky from Bariloche brings the long awaited spare parts for Tommy’s rear brake, and Paul and Tommy have it fixed within one hour. To celebrate the day we divide a couple of cows into steaks, and drink the bar dry.