After getting a feel for the bikes, we chained them to a pole outside the hostel where we stayed, and neither of us got much sleep thinking about what lay ahead of us. We left early, and attempted to find our way out of the city. After getting lost a few times, we eventually found a road we felt comfortable riding on, that was headed in the general southwest direction. After a long day of riding, we ended up in a small town of Bolivar to get gas and realized this was probably as far as we should go for the day. We spent the night in a small hospedaje ran by a grouchy old man. We ate salami and cheese sandwiches with bananas and peanuts for dinner, what we would eat for the next 3 weeks breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every meal. A special treat were the so-called Mantecol butter bars. They are sort of like a Kit Kat, but with tons and tons of BUTTER. They are the richest candy bar you have ever tried and although pretty tasty, they make you want to take a nap if you eat too much.
The next day we rode another 10 hours and arrived in the port city of Bahia Blanca. By this time, we were feeling comfortable on the bikes, had a good idea of how far we could go on a tank of gas (about 150 km for the Granny Red and maybe 200 km for the younger, more energetic Black Stallion). Each tank held 6 liters of gas and it worked out that we had to stop to fill up every couple of hours. Luckily, a gas station attendant gave us a spare plastic jug to carry as a reserve. Grandma Red ran out a couple of times and we were glad to have that spare. We arrived in Bahia Blanca exhausted and ended up staying in the town's only hostel for the night. The next day, we wanted to check out the city and get some more rest before continuing West, so we met up with an awesome CouchSurfer named Lisandro and spent the afternoon checking out the beach park, talking with him about his travels, and relaxing in the warm coastal air.
Lisandro escorted us early the next morning to the ruta Where we continued our journey. We had the longest day of riding ahead of us, almost 600 km across the desert to Neuquen. We rode for 150 km stretches across La Pampa where there was literally nothing but flat, long, dusty road. We dodged dust devils and sometimes swerved back and forth just to break up the monotony.
Finally, we came to Neuquen and met up with another CouchSurfer, Chana, who escorted us back to her house. That night, all we wanted to do was sleep, but there was a meeting at a bar of local CouchSurfers and she really wanted us to go. So we went, and to describe the experience, we met a Boy Scout, a weird couple who never spoke all night, a guitar player that looked just like Ben Stiller, and a pirate who served us drinks. At 3 AM, Adam literally fell asleep in the blaring music and we taxied back to Chana's house. We shared a small twin bed in the apartment, but still somehow got a couple hours of sleep.
We spent the next day recovering in Chana's apartment, stocked up on salami and cheese sandwiches, and hanging out with a new CouchSurfer who had arrived. We left the next morning determined to make it to our destination, Bariloche. It was about 500 km away, so we knew it was possible to make it in one day. After leaving the dessert, we started to see some hills and snow-capped volcanoes off in the distance. Eventually we were in those hills and some of the most beautiful scenery either of us could imagine. Aqua clear lakes, rolling hills, and cold, cold temperatures. Neither of us brought a coat or any appropriate winter riding gear, so arriving in the city of Bariloche wasn't too far off from the scene in Dumb and Dumber when they roll into Aspen on the mini-bike.
After finding a hostel, we celebrated with some beer, met some crazy characters, and settled into enjoying the amazing lake view of Bariloche. Happy to leave the bikes for a couple of days, we climbed a couple of hills including Cerro Companario which National Geographic says is one of the Top 10 views in the world, visited the chocolate factory, a local brewery, and eventually got back on the bikes for a day trip to the Black Glacier. After freezing our butts off getting to the park, we realized it was about a 90km dirt/rock road back to see the ice. Luckily, a gal let us into a warm, empty hotel at the entrance to the park and gave us some coffee by the fire to warm up. Amazing hospitality.
After 90 bumpy and dusty kilometers, we made it to the glacier and hiked around a bit. It got dark early so we couldn't stay long and on the way out, Adam took a small spill on a big rock. Those little scooter wheels were not made for off-roading. Luckily, he was fine, but the bike was a little scratched up, which would slightly upset the rental car guys upon our return...