Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

On our last couple of days in Ushuaia the weather turned cold and rainy with some sleet and snow in the mountains. We shopped in town and bought some souvenirs and ate at a very good seafood restaurant, Tia Elvira. Tom had the king crab which was cooked in a delicious sauce and I had the baked hake which was recommended by our waitress and which was also very good. Dan and Brian, the two Americans who we left at the national park have returned. Brian is flying home from Ushuaia but Dan has taken a three week job at an organic farm in El Bolson, which is north-west of here. We offer a ride to Punta Arena which he gratefully accepted. His plan is to hitch-hike from Punta Arenas to Rio Gallegos and from there take a bus to El Bolson. However after studying the map, we decide his best bet is to try and get a ride from the border at San Sebastian to Rio Gallegos instead of detouring to Punta Arenas. We again spent the night at the border in San Sebastian before crossing into Chile. We made a beef soup for dinner with fresh French rolls and after eating, dismantled the table and made up the middle bed for Dan. The next morning before crossing the border, I made oatmeal for breakfast for everyone and Tom cooked up some chicken breasts that we had left over as we can’t cross the border with uncooked meats. We gave some to Dan, which he gratefully accepted and would be consumed for his lunch. The border crossing itself was easy and the inspection was nowhere near as thorough as when we entered Chile before but we still had to hand over two onions and some jalapeƱo peppers which we had not used. We were concerned about leaving Dan by himself and hung out for a while with him. He is confident that he can get a ride and we all know this is the best place to try. One, most of the traffic crossing into Chile goes to Rio Gallegos with only a few, like us, going to Porvenir for the ferry. Second and most important, he can wait in the building instead of outside in the cold. And it is cold! The wind is constant and so strong that I felt windswept just walking Winston and the motorhome rocked steadily with the gusts. We were not on the road 15 minutes and Dan passed us in a truck. He waved and gave us the thumbs-up sign. So now we know that went well and he will be in Rio Gallegos by nightfall. From San Sebastian it is 150 kilometers (100 mile) to Porvenir where we will catch the ferry to Punta Arenas. The road is rough gravel and our speed only averaged about 25 miles an hour. We arrived in Porvenir around 6pm with another flat tire. The gravel roads are brutal on rubber. We found a gomeria (tire repair shop) and put on the spare but one of our goals in Punta Arenas is to purchase new ones. We had tried in Ushuaia and had been told that we could get our size and load bearing requirements there. The ferry is at 7am in the morning so we park at the port and settle in for the night. By the next morning there are plenty of trucks, a few small motorhomes and cars waiting in line. There is also plenty of foot traffic and we surmise that many people go to the mainland either to work or for shopping as there is little to be had in Provenir. The crossing is on a stretch of glacial waters called Canal Ancho and in the distance we can see small islands, other fiords and mountain glaciers. It was a beautiful 2 and a half hour boat ride. Punta Arenas is much larger than we had thought and we are pleased. We feel sure that we can find tires and have the motorhome serviced. Tom is concerned about the transmission and he wants the brakes and radiator checked also. We will probably stay in town for a few days before heading to Puerto Natales and Torres Del Paine.

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