Con Bicicleta

Andesmar Express finally got sick of my bike cluttering up the office in Rio Gallegos, and got it shipped to Trelew. Their website wasn’t offering anything new, but I thought I’d go to the office, and see if anything was happening. Not only did they have a bike, they had two. Small pink ones. Hmmm, might as well join the line, see if anything new has happened. As per usual, the line was not moving. I’m not really sure what some people do when sending/receiving a package, but for some reason it can be an incredibly complicated procedure to send a small box.

Anyway, I was in luck – someone coming back on duty recognised me, and pulled me out of line. “Is this your bike?” They already knew me, so didn’t even need to check ID, just got me out of there, very happy to have the bike back in my possession. I still have two weeks to kill in Argentina, and I only wanted to get up to Puerto Madryn, 65km away, but the main thing is that I am now in control of my destiny, I’m not waiting on anyone else.

Straight out of town the next morning, on a road that was far busier than I expected. Unpaved shoulder for the first half, with a very high number of trucks and buses. Not the most fun, but the wind was strong behind me, so the dullness of the scenery didn’t get me down. God knows what the Welsh thought when they first came here. From a low hill, you could see the cities of Trelew and Rawson, with a whole lot of nothing around them. I’m happy to ride this leg, but I couldn’t keep on going north. Think I’d go mad.

Puerto Madryn is a bit nicer than Trelew, situated next to a wide bay, with a fairly decent beach. Not super hot, but pleasantly warm, getting a little hot if you stay too long in the sunshine. There’s wildlife in the area, and diving possibilities. The town is more of a touristy place, with restaurants/shops aimed more at tourists. So I think I’ll stop here for a few days, before heading up to Buenos Aires.

Of course, extra tourists brings less welcome things – e.g. the West Africans coming around restaurants, with briefcases of crap to sell. Luckily not the full-on fake handbag scene, but eventually it will get that way. It’s an organised industry selling that in Europe, didn’t expect to see them here. And of course more tourists means tourists doing stupid things – like the mother I saw putting food on top of her 4 year old’s head, and encouraging the pigeons to eat directly from her, so she can take a photo. Would you let your child be covered in rats? No, I didn’t think so.

Check out this photo, taken from my lunch table. This dog is almost the size of Samson. Maybe that’s what we should do next time he’s filthy and we don’t want to put him in the car. Clearly the dog/owner have a fairly trusting relationship. This was only around town, presumably they don’t go too fast, or stop too suddenly.

More photos here

Bored in Trelew

5 days later, and I’m still here in Trelew, waiting for my bike to turn up. I got all excited yesterday, because their website showed it arriving in Comodoro Rivadavia, only 400km south of here. It then showed it being shipped out 20 minutes later, so I thought it might turn up yesterday evening. I went to the supermarket, did my food shopping for a days ride, started packing up stuff, and headed over to the bus terminal at 20:30. Should have plenty of time for it to arrive.

It’s a small office, so you’d think a bike would be obvious, but still, when I had over my claim ticket, the guy still makes a show of looking through the randomly piled up cardboard boxes. NB it clearly says on my form that it’s an unboxed bicycle, so it’s not like he has to check all the numbers. He even asks around “Hey, have we had a bike turn up recently?” But no, no bike to be seen. Tomorrow maybe. Early, I enquire? No, sometime in the afternoon.

So what went wrong? It was supposed to be in transit, and I’d allowed plenty of time for it to cover the last 400km. I went back and checked the Andesmar website, only to find that after shipping out of Comodoro Rivadavia, it was then listed as shipping out of Rio Gallegos (i.e. the start point) two hours later. How the hell was it supposed to have gone back to the start point, and covered the 800km in only two hours? It’s all very strange. Makes me wonder if perhaps they were going to ship it out, and processed it as such, but then couldn’t/wouldn’t put it on the bus. So perhaps, just perhaps, it did actually ship out the second time, and when I go to the bus station later today, I can pick it up. Well, I can dream.

So what to do in this town? Not a whole lot really, mainly just wander around a bit, sit in a park somewhere, read a bit, people watch. The town is relatively pleasant in the centre, for an Argentinian town – doesn’t say much, Argentinian towns are generally pretty crap, not just my opinion either. I can’t really work this country out. I go out for lunch today to a food hall kind of place, which should be pretty cheap. But it costs me US$10. OK, so that’s developed country prices. But when I look around, it often reminds me of the Middle East. Half-finished buildings everywhere, concrete block construction, with my favourite being the completed ground floor, with half-assed blocks and reinforcing steel sitting on top, for when they get around to doing the next floor. A few paved streets in the centre, but as soon as you get a bit further out it turns to gravel, with various bits of rubble strewn about for good measure. A reasonable number of people walk and ride bikes in this town, but the council seems to actively hate pedestrians. Footpaths are a joke, heights all over the place, random step changes between properties, footpaths randomly ending. There are pedestrian crossings, but cars just plow through pedestrians. Public spaces have obviously had recent work done to them, but it’s never completed, just abandoned.

OK, so it’s like the Middle East, or parts of Asia – but how do you correlate that with the high prices? Why do they pay developed country prices, for developing country conditions? Must be a legacy of their past – massive corruption, incompetent government, has been going on for centuries, is still going on. That in combination with a bit of a laissez-faire attitude. I’ve been reading “Myths of Argentine History” and it has some fairly interesting things to say about what was going on up to, and around the time of independence. Unfortunately the translation introduces many errors and typos, and the book can be quite difficult to follow, so I’ve probably missed a bit. Must seek out some more material to explain why things are the way they are here.

People watching is more interesting. Like watching the overloaded van going down the road. The rear is completely full, and the rear door is tied down – but the rope breaks, and stuff starts spilling out on the road, as the van drives off, driver unaware for 100m or so. The construction crew nearby wander over, pick up some of the stuff, and hold on to it, until the van finally comes back to collect it.

Sitting by another park, I watch a late middle-aged couple out doing some exercise. Due to the afore-mentioned crap footpaths, the only place to walk a reasonable distance without tripping over is the path around the smallish park. It’s only perhaps 500m, so as I sit there, they pass by several times, accompanied by their arthritic Alsatian. I can fully appreciate going out for a walk in the morning, but I don’t think I could handle doing 20 laps of a small, not very nice, park. I’d get dizzy.

Watching TV in a foreign language is one of my pleasures in life. It’s lots of fun trying to work out what’s actually going on. I understood what was happening with the flooding in Buenos Aires. But I couldn’t work out what the follow-up story was today – people were out banging their pots and pans. Portenos have often used this tactic in the past, to express displeasure at the government, but I’m not quite sure who this was directed at today – were they blaming the local council for not sorting out stormwater systems, or was it actually a weather dance, the reverse of the normal rain dance? Doesn’t seem to be much about it on English language news websites unfortunately.

Anyway, I’ll try and the bus station later tonight, if that doesn’t get anywhere, I’ll give it two more days, then go back down to Rio Gallegos by bus, and take my bike myself.

Sin Bicicleta

I have been forcibly separated from my bicycle. According to the website of AndesmarExpress, it’s still in Rio Gallegos, 15 hours bus ride south of here. It was supposed to arrive a day after me, but now it will be Monday (two days away) at the earliest. So I’m stuck in Trelew for the next couple of days at least. Oh well, at least it’s warm and sunny, and the town is reasonably pleasant.

In Ushuaia, I got up at 4:00am on Thursday morning, loaded up and rolled down to the bus station nice and early, clutching four large pieces of cardboard. The bus crew weren’t too impressed by the sight of the bike, but luckily the bus was less than half full, and once I slipped them a few pesos they cheered up and gave me the rear luggage section for the bike. Easy, no boxing required.

It’s not that great a distance to Rio Gallegos, but it involves going via Chile, and a 20 minute ferry across the Straits of Magellan. Border crossings are much simpler with the bike. You’re often the only one there. But on the bus, it takes longer. Especially the “Paso Integracion Austral”, the second crossing back into Argentina. Heaps of cars, trucks and buses. For once, they had combined the Chilean and Argentinian border posts, rather than the usual long gap between them. This saves time, but the building designers are surprisingly clueless, making this take longer than needed – for a start the Chilean customs are on the Argentine side of the building – so you go past Argentine customs, check out of Chile, come back and do Argentine customs, then walk out. Daft. Obviously doesn’t work properly coming the other direction either.

Plenty of people getting frustrated too. I saw something that reminded me that age does not always bring wisdom. A grey-bearded Englishman, looking like the sort that would smoke a pipe, was shaking his fist at the customs officer. Rule number 1 of border crossings: “Under no circumstances should you ever, ever allow yourself to show anger. Remain calm at all times.” You are at their mercy, do not do anything to piss them off.

Reaching Rio Gallegos after 11.5 hours of travelling, it was cold and drizzly, so I decided to get a bus north that night, rather than staying a night. First bus company wouldn’t take the bike, so I didn’t tell the second ticket seller. Waited 3 hours, then the bus turned up at 19:45 (for a 20:00 departure), with a big crowd of people around it. This is not looking good. Crew looked at the bike, said nope, we can’t take that, then turned away. Shit. What do I do? Throw away the US$65 ticket, and hope for something better tomorrow morning? Have to move fast.

Race back into the terminal, there’s a desk that does cargo shipments to other bus terminals around the country. Can you send this to Trelew? Sure, will arrive a day after you do. OK, fine, take it, will cost US$20. Enter my passport details, quick, quick. Take my money, ah no change, no-one ever has change in Argentina. Go get some from another shop, done, no boxing required. Run back out to the bus, jump on, we’re off.

Hang on, someone’s sitting in my seat. Both of us have tickets with seat number 47 marked on them. Odd. Talk to the attendant, he seems to say “your ticket is for the other coach.” It’s the right time, the right company, and this bus is going to Trelew (I had checked with several people), but somehow it’s not right. Don’t worry about it he tells me, sit down, it will be OK.

I’m still a bit nervous as we leave town. There’s not many roads around here, so I try and see if he gets on the right road. All seems OK, and luckily there are enough spare seats for me in the cama section. I’d paid an extra 10% for cama, where the seats recline further, and it’s a smaller section with fewer people and no kids. Good for those very long journeys, easier to sleep, without costing too much extra.

On the way out of town, we’re stopped at the police checkpoint. Normally they just wave you through, or maybe take the passenger manifest, but this time they get on board, and check people’s ID against the list. I’m worried about this, because I’m not on that manifest, and someone, either the bus company or me, could get in trouble. But they turn out to only be shaking down the locals, as the police do here. They carefully compare everyone else’s ID to the list, but with me they just look at my passport, and hand it back. No check of the manifest.

So I go to sleep, safe in the knowledge that the bus must be going in the right direction for at least another 700km. Things work out well, and it ends up going all the way to Trelew, a Welsh colony, where we arrive 15 hours later.

Hopefully on Monday the bike will have arrived, and I’ll be able to leave this town, to head to Puerto Madryn. In the meantime, it’s a nice enough place. I’m staying in a very old hotel, which could do with some updating, but it’s nice enough, in a faded 1920’s glamour kind of way. It’s another former Welsh colony, but I will be steering well clear of any dodgy Irish bars this time…

Sun at last

Apparently Ushuaia has two warm sunny days per year, and I’ve been lucky enough to be here for them. It’s not exactly hot, but it is warm and pleasant enough.

Yesterday the weather was superb when I woke up, so I decided to take a boat trip down the Beagle Channel, to Estancia Harberton. Along the way we saw penguins, sea lions, lots of bird life, etc. All with fabulous clear views of the mountain ranges on the Argentinian and Chilean sides of the channel.

Coming back via bus, we went up Garibaldi Pass, which just isn’t so interesting when you’ve driven in a bus. But it was a nice day out, and then on the way back we got to pat huskies. A bit expensive all up, but a good day playing tourist.

Before leaving you with some photos, I’d just like to point out one of the ways in which language can change over time. I’ve been reading a lot of classic works recently, as I can download them to my iPod Touch for free. Recently I read “The Last of the Mohicans”, which contained this passage:

“…permitted glimpses of her dazzling complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue eyes, to be caught, as she artlessly suffered the morning air to blow aside the green veil which descended low from her beaver.”

Obviously the meaning of beaver has changed somewhat…

Photos here

End of the Road

I was enjoying staying in my nice hotel in Punta Arenas, but I had to move eventually. I turned up nice and early for the ferry to Porvenir, as I hadn’t reserved a ticket. I was one of the first ones there, but by the time I boarded just after 8:00, quite a few others were arriving. No extra charge for the bike.

Mine was the first bike to go on, and I was one of the first ones in the cabin. So I was a little surprised when I got off to find 7 other bikes there. I thought there might be one or two, but not that many. There’s only a couple of ways onto Tierra del Fuego, and the ferry didn’t run the previous day, so perhaps I should have expected it.

In a turnaround to the normal order of things, it’s the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego that is boring grasslands, and the Argentinian part that has mountains, lakes, forests. The first part, crossing from Porvenir heading towards San Sebastian, had very strong tailwinds, and I was making good time, over gravel roads. Almost nowhere to shelter out there though, just a handful of trees. I found a small hut on the side of the road, and sheltered in there. There was a table, a stove, and a set of bunk beds, unfortunately missing mattresses. This gave me good shelter from the wind, and somewhere to cook dinner. Many other cyclists have stopped here too, judging by the graffiti on the walls.

The iron bars weren’t going to be very comfortable to sleep on, so I set up the tent next to the hut, getting at least partial shelter from the winds that howled all night. Plus some passing motorist had thoughtfully deposited a turd in the hut, so it wasn’t the best place to sleep. It’s often the way here – any time you find shelter in this exposed land, it turns out that motorists use it to take a crap. Luckily the tampon left lying on the floor was still in its wrapper.

Crossed the border early the next morning, and back onto the pavement. It’s strange having to cross borders here in this small island. If you look at the map, it just doesn’t make sense. When I leave Ushuaia, Argentina, going to Rio Gallegos, Argentina, I will need to cross into Chile, adding hours to the trip time. But as soon as you cross the border, you understand why Argentina won’t give it up – there’s oil here.

Rio Grande next, a surprisingly large town, with two Carrefour and two La Anonima supermarkets. All on the same street of course, not far from each other. Like Asians, Latinos have a different view of competition to that normally seen in the West. I stayed at Club Nautico, where I slept on the floor of the dojo. Was easier and warmer than putting up the tent. Plus of course the wind hadn’t stopped, so I would get a better sleep indoors. My MacPac Minaret tent is very strong in the wind, and has been in some extreme conditions, but it still flaps about a bit, making sleep difficult.

On the way to Tolhuin, the boring grassland finally gives way to short trees and hills, and then forests and mountains. This also means you get some relief from the relentless westerlies. You need it, because the road turns south, then west. At Tolhuin, there is a superb bakery, offering everything a hungry cyclist could need. If you want to, you can even stay there for free, because the owner likes cyclists. Not surprisingly, there were 8 other cyclists there when I arrived. I felt like camping though, so went to Camping Hain by the lake, where the wind shelters have evolved into complete coverings for your tent. Nice place.

Sunshine and no wind made such a change. I could just sit in the forest and relax, something I haven’t been able to do for some time. I was in no rush to get to Ushuaia, so camped 30km from the city, by a river, enjoying the sunshine.

Didn’t last, so the ride into Ushuaia, on a particularly crappy road near the city, wasn’t much fun. I stopped for supplies, then headed to Lapataia, the end of Ruta 3. I had bought a bottle of bubbly for celebrations, but it was cold and windy, with a squall coming in, so I retreated to the campsite. I felt I deserved a decent campsite, so paid, rather than taking the free option. It was cold, and I wanted a hot shower…so after checking in the woman tells me the shower is broken, they’re useless and they can’t be arsed fixing it, and maybe it will be working tomorrow night at 9pm. Cow. Paid 50 pesos to get into the park, then 18 for the campsite, and now there’s not even a hot shower?

Rode the 20km back to Ushuaia the following day, this time getting snowed on. In the middle of summer. I have no idea how these people live here. Found a hostel, and soaked for a while in hot hot water. I’m sure the staff were grateful I washed and changed into clean clothes – I hadn’t changed my riding shirt for 6 days, and some nights I never took it off, because it was too cold.

It’s a bit much of a rich tourist town this one, too many shops selling overpriced crap. Sure, lots of places have English speaking staff, but you pay for it. At least I can get some English books, which I’ll need for the next phase of the trip.

I’m going to get a series of buses north, stopping off at various points along the way, to break up the journey. My first leg will be to Rio Gallegos, then perhaps to Comodoro Rivadavia. Went to one bus company, they said no, you can’t bring a bike. Try these guys instead. Went there, they said yes, but you need to put it in a box. Crap. Bike boxes are very scarce here, too many cyclists riding in and flying/busing out. Plus if I box the bike, it’s a pain to get to the bus station. So my current plan is to ride down to the bus station at 4am (departure 5am), and take a few large pieces of cardboard and a big roll of tape. Then I’ll have a chat to the driver, see if it really needs to be boxed, if it does, I’ll strap some cardboard around it, tape it up, and hope for the best.

Photos here.

Chung Wah

When I was a child, there was a Chinese takeaway shop just up the road from us. It was a real hole-in-the-wall type of place, a high counter opening to the street, where you placed your order. Run by Cantonese people, it sold both European and Chinese takeaway food. The Chinese food was probably that version that seems to get sold to Westerners, but not within China, but that’s by the by.

On a Friday night, we would frequently cook some steak on the BBQ, and get some chips to go with it. All well and good, but I could never understand the quality of the chips that Chung Wah produced. By all appearances, this was a very successful business, and operated there for many years. But the chips were horrible nasty greasy things, soggy and disgusting. I am aware of certain guidelines on how to produce quality potato chips, involving things like temperatures, oil, time, etc., and I’m pretty sure that Chung Wah didn’t follow any of them. But people kept going back. After some time I managed to convince the family to frequent Adriatic Fisheries instead, which produced decent chips. I should also note that Chung Wah has now been replaced by “Great Wall Takeaways,” which produces a similar line, but in a nicer shop, and they do know how to make good quality chips. A special tip: When ordering chips there, use “Jackson” as the pick-up name for an extra large serving.

Now the reason I bring this up is because by and large, the potato chips (or French fries, or papas fritas) are appalling. Even Chung Wah would be embarrassed by some of them. Chilean food is pretty poor generally – even some Argentinians were complaining to me about it the other day – and chips are fairly prevalent. But they seem to have no idea what decent chips look like. Until here. I’m not sure what it is, probably something to do with the far more mixed heritage of Punta Arenas, but I have either eaten or seen, at at least 6 different establishments, potato chips worthy of the name. True, they aren’t “Mr Chips chips, mister,” but they are pretty good. If only I could get them to consistently bring me the Aussie Gravy when I do order chips, I would be sorted. My Spanish is sufficient for most restaurant/bar situations though, so it’s no big deal.

The ferry from here to Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego, doesn’t run on Mondays. So I have had four days off here, not doing a huge amount. Had a broken bolt on the bike, found a bike shop, the helpful owner took me up the road to a engineering shop. No problems, we can sort that. So I pick up the bike an hour later, and as I’m putting the rack back together, I snap another bolt. So I’m back at the machine shop in half an hour, with a wry grin the engineer takes the bike from me again. This time it was a bit trickier, the blowtorch was required, as there was Loc-Tite on the bolt, making it almost impossible to remove without heat. Going to have to get some touch-up paint on that. But it’s now sorted, and hopefully that will be the last broken bolt for this trip.

Tomorrow I’ll head to Porvenir, weather permitting. A 2.5 hour ferry ride, then a couple of days of gravel road riding, then a few days of tarmac to get to Ushuaia. Almost the end…will have a look at the wind, and decide if Ushuaia will be the end of riding in South America, or if there might just be a bit more. The engineer was telling me about 200km/h winds just a bit further up the coast…

A few photos from around Punta Arenas, taken with the new camera

Indoors

In a real bed! With a TV! And central heating, no less (excellent for drying clothes). Sheer luxury I tell you, here in Punta Arenas.

Not bad, since I woke up that morning in a gravel pit, by the side of the road, only 3 degrees in the tent. Took a crap in view of northbound trucks (luckily not that many at that time of day). Then rode most of the day in crosswinds, apart from when it started hailing. Rain I can handle, since I was wearing all my rain gear as protection against the wind. But hail stinging a man in the face does wear you down.

Captain Stokes, the first captain of the Beagle killed himself not far from here, writing beforehand:

“In the south…a man’s soul dies within him.”

Now it didn’t all work out badly in the end, because he was replaced by Robert Fitzroy, who would choose a young Charles Darwin to accompany him on his next voyage. And I am certainly not in the same situation as Captain Stokes. But I tell you…if I had to spend years sailing around here, dealing with day after day after day of gales, sleet, hail, snow, rain, well…I could understand his choice of exit. This Thing of Darkness is an outstanding book about the Beagle, I highly recommend it.

I rode down from Puerto Natales in a couple of days, with the winds being more manageable in this direction. I met an American couple who had been on the road five days, and now had 35km (out of 245) left to go. Here’s some free advice for would-be bike tourists in Patagonia:

  1. Do some research into the wind! Do not ride north or west, unless you have an astonishingly good reason to.
  2. Get some decent wet weather gear. Yes cold is a problem, but rain is a constant too.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, take your girlfriend on her first bike tour to Patagonia. Take her to France, or South East Asia, or Switzerland. Nice, easy, non relationship-breaking. I have met several couples where she has given up on the bike, and gone onto the bus. If this is their first experience of bike touring, why would they come back?
  4. Get a decent bike, and test your gear out first. I’ve seen plenty of bikes broken by the ripio. Mine too, but so far only minor.

So since I’m staying in a nice place, and it’s a reasonable town, I’ve decided to stay a few days. Riding in Patagonia has taken a lot out of me (or maybe I didn’t put enough in?) and I need the rest. 3 days off would have been enough, but due to ferry timetables, I will have to take 4 days off. Plenty of shopping around here, and I needed to get a replacement camera. I could get a new GPS – same model as before, or a shiny new touchscreen one – but the prices are too high. Even at the duty free area, the prices for cameras were a little high. Annoyingly, they’re also refurbished ones, although you don’t find that out until later. Oh well. It’s still better than the one I had.

I’ve also been eyeing up a netbook, as there are so many for sale here. Around $400-$500USD for a reasonable little notebook computer, it’s very tempting. But given the weather, the roads, and my propensity to get stuff stolen, I think I’ll hold off on that. It can wait until the next trip, when the iPad has taken over the world.

A final note: Google is removing the FTP publishing feature I use for this site, to publish content to northlandboy.com/blog. They want to further assimilate me, and host the blog at blog.northlandboy.com. It’s something I could really have done without, especially since they’ve not given us much notice, and these things are always a pain to sort out on the road. So I’m going to have to look at my options, possibly move to WordPress. The timing is bad – if it was a month later, I could get it all sorted when I get home, but instead I may have to migrate, then shift again later. Argh. You get what you pay for. Anyways, there will be some changes over the next few weeks – if it all goes well, you shouldn’t notice too much difference, although RSS feeds will probably need updating. Will let you know.

Fool me once

I was going to write about the last few days, riding from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. I would have written about the scenery, from mountains to open altiplano, back to valleys, and down to sea level again for the first time in weeks. I would have mentioned the cold – some snow at 500m even – and of course the wind. I would have told you that I enjoyed the open spaces, although admittedly not so much when I was tacking into the wind.

I would have mentioned the dead horses at my campsite – no, beating them didn’t help. Plenty of live wildlife though, guanacos, Darwin’s rheas, foxes, and oddly enough, sheep and cattle. I would have even posted pictures of some of them.

Long distances, isolated places, these would be mentioned. And then reaching Puerto Natales, where I found Baguales, a micro brewery that has now opened a bar that would not be out of place in Kingsland (or perhaps Leith, for my Scottish readers). They served me excellent beer, and the best hamburger I’ve seen so far in South America. And then holy of holies, I found peanut butter! One last jar at the supermarket, right at the top at the back of the shelf, where shorter customers couldn’t see it. It was from the United States, so luckily it had bold writing on the side, proclaiming: Warning: Contains peanuts. Well I should hope it does.

But…after returning to my campsite from dinner, I saw the front zip partly open. This was unusual, because I generally close the zips fully, as you don’t know what the weather will do. As I opened that zip, I saw the inner zip was not closed fully either. I pretty much knew what had happened as I opened the zip. Sure enough, my bag was open, looking rather empty. Empty camera case tossed aside, GPS missing, inner pocket opened, and one of my cash supplies gone, along with memory cards missing.

Sigh. We’ve been here before.

Could have been better, could have been worse. This time, the passport was stored somewhere else, and not touched. Technical issues in Calafate stopped me copying my photos to another drive. But I have been uploading photos along the way, general in full size, so they’re not all lost. There was quite a bit of cash, as I had been carrying extra amounts because I’ve got a few different currencies. The mobile phone wasn’t taken. The GPS hd track logs, waypoints, and full maps, which were very useful…but no more. I still have a copy of those maps, but nowhere to view them. Luckily it’s not too much further to go now, and the roads aren’t too complicated here, so I should be able to work it all out. The travel journal was left too, and no credit cards were lost (they’re distributed with my other money supplies. Strangely, my water and fuel bottles had also been taken.

Well I suppose everyone gets stuff stolen in South America. Just that it’s usually in the poorer, rougher countries, not the relatively developed Chile and Argentina.

Just after seeing what had happened, I met Max, an Australian riding down from Alaska to Ushaia. He’s staying at the same campsite, but I hadn’t seen him earlier in the day when I arrived. A pity I hadn’t, because he’d seen someone at my tent around 8:30, when I was out. They were sitting at the door of my tent, wearing a headlamp, and looking like they belonged. Not knowing whose tent it was, Max didn’t think it was out of the ordinary.

Interesting sidenote: On a hunch, we checked the rubbish bin out on the street – and there was my fuel and water bottles. Lucky, because getting a replacement fuel bottle isn’t easy, and would have rendered my stove useless. So the thief was probably trying to look like he went to the tent, grabbed the bottles (which were sitting in the vestibule), and strolled out, looking like he belonged. Which is part of what makes me think it was a tourist, not a local. The locals tell me that a local thief would have just taken the whole bag, and I would have lost a travel journal too. But then why did the stupid **** take a crappy 3yr old camera, and my memory cards, which would have been worth bugger all.

Anyway, Max speaks fluent Spanish, and was a tremendous help. We spoke to the staff of the campsite/hostel, and they got the manager in. We went over what happened, and went around the corner to the police station, to file a report. The carabineros are a solid, respected force, but there’s not much they can do. I’ve got a report for insurance purposes, but there’s not much else that will happen. They were hassling the campsite owner, saying he should have better security. But there’s not much more he could do – the site is fenced, there’s one way in and out, but if you look like you belong, you probably won’t be challenged, given the numbers of people passing through this town.

Oddly enough, after all that, I slept as soundly in my tent last night as I ever have. You just have to deal with these things. But maybe I should not have balked at the $31USD I was quoted for a dormitory room at a hostel in town…

I’ll head to Punta Arenas from here, which is one of the biggest towns in the region, at around 120,000 people. It has a duty free area, so I’ll try and pick up a new camera there. Will probably give the GPS a miss, since the prices won’t be cheap.