Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Patagonian winds

Leaving Puerto Natales for Punta Arenas i was in two minds whether to fill up the fuel tank. I had 250km on the trip meter and it was going to be around another 250, should be fine really as I have 650- 700 km range with the safari tank. I decided to play it safe and top up though just in case.

Half an hour into the ride I was clad that I had a fill tank of gas, not because I was worried about running low on fuel but because the big load of 36 litres was heavy and the winds were so bad I was worried about taking off! In fact it felt like I was operating a light aircraft rather than a motorbike as I continually made adjustments due to "wind speed" in order to keep the bike pointed down the middle of the road. The wind was nailing us from the side and was the worst yet requiring some insane lean angles just to maintain a straight direction of travel. On coming traffic must have been concerned about changes in gravitational forces as we approached at an uncanny lean angle.

Out in the treeless landscape we found some shelter from the wind in a tiny bus stop and had some lunch. Someone had kindly left us some beers which we enjoyed later that evening! Our direction of travel changed and the raging storm that was battering us was transformed into a surreal peacefulness as we drifted along the countryside with the surrounding air at over 100km hr. it's an unusual feeling of weightlessness on a motorbike without the force of the air moving past and our muscles enjoyed the rest from the wrestling match with mother nature.

As we neared Punta Arenas things got real interesting, scary really. The wind had reached new velocities. Our focus normally directed at avoiding pot holes, corrugations, deep ridges of loose gravel and rim denting rocks was now on anything that intensified or disrupted the nasty side wind. Bridges, causeways, road side barriers and oncoming traffic etc all had us bracing for a violent jolt that if not ready for would have you on the wrong side of the road. A particularly bad section of road had a concrete separating wall about a meter high and uniformly down the centre of the road where some road works was being carried out. The wind was hitting this short wall and eddying over it so the bike felt like it was travelling down a standing wave of air and the turbulence had the bike and us shaking violently.

It was with relief that we made it into town without any mishaps. The next day we heard that the wind speed had been recorded at 137km which is even a tad high for these parts!

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