Tuesday, 13 January 2009

deeper south into patagonia - fragile x families & new friends - a radio interview - the road to the ends of the earth

Buenos Aires is quiet now. the dakar racers and all the excited koas that the rally brings has gone south. dust trails sucked out of the city into the unknown. the first south american rally. i follow it out. a day later and at a very slower pace. Puerto Madryn is my destination. The famous seaside resort sits on the atlantic coast of patagonia. Cristina, lives there. She contacted me a long time ago, when i was in the early stages of getting my head around the trip. She has 2 children affected by fragile x syndrome. Maggie who has helped me along the way, with ideas and explanation sheets in spanish, back in london is Cristinas niece. Easy getting out of buenos aires. hit the main drag in the centre and fly down that south. half hour and im in the fields. Along Ruta 3. The road is a 100km straight, much like the roads in the north of the country. the wind gets fierce. when the road finaly turns , it turns to the west. a head wind strains the riding down to 4000revs and no more. much like riding at altitude, i cant throttle out anymore speed. concentration is hard here. the horizon doesnt move it stays far off. the fields stay the same. dry vegitation. the sky stays huge and blue. i turn south again, the wind turns to a cross wind. leaning into it becomes the normal riding position, at least a 10 degree drop towards the road surface. until the wind suddenly drops every once in while, dropping the bike to a further angle. all is ok , when you get used to it. 2 nights and a 5 hour tyre change in bahia blanca, to get to puerto madryn. crossing the rio negro i am told is the start of patagonia. patagonia, the land of the people with big feet. Dan is there. we left him to ride his own roads at christmas. its great to see the comical geezer again. he knocks up the best steaks and salads you can imagine. evenings in the hostel gardens, beef sitting over a flame, being watched and tossed by dan , are a perfect end to heavy days wind wrestling riding. I finaly contact Cristina here. i am a month late. originaly i planned to here early december. riding these continents is almost as unpredictable as sailing the seas. Cristina comes to my hostel with Barbara her daughter, who is affected with fragile x syndrome. As soon as we all meet i am filled with warmth and big smiles. we sit there for 2 hours laughing and chatting. my spanish has almost improved , by learning a new word at least once a week. cristinas english i see improve as we speak. barbara picks up the english words very quickly also. I am made so welcome, it couldnt be better.

the next day cristina introduces me to Andres, her son and jose a friend who also has 2 children affected by fragile x syndrome. above in the photo from left to right : cristina, andres, barbara, jose and me. I was taken around the town, to all the best spots. never a dull moment. we are all laughing and joking all day long. the plan is to get a radio interview. cristina has a friend involved in radio. Barbara and andres are brilliant with this stranger from england. Its hard to recognise the FXS affects. I see now that my Sian at home, is so much more affected by this syndrome. My new firends show no signs of autism spectrum disorder that sian does. The more i get to know these lot the more i am warmed. they are all very close and understanding of each other.

Andres is a golf fanatic and judging by all his trophies, a top player.

jose has 2 children also affected by fragile x syndrome. Ignacio who is 15 years old and sabrina who is 25. jose is full of fun. he has me in stiches for the time we meet. he loves his 2 wheels also, dashing and darting about puerto madryn on this nippy machine.

The last nights meal. i much on those perfect argentine steaks. vino tinto and dolce leche. again i dont have to put my hands in my pockets. i miss my new mates.

Irene (in blue) is Cristinas friend. she speaks perfect english. she teaches english and sometimes is a guide down south in patagonia. A radio interview is arranged by Irene. she has a weekly show on this east coast station. the audiance reaches north to Buenos Aires and who knows how far south. Im nervous, as i havent done anything like this since the TV in Trujillo, Peru. Its fine though. the bloke interviewer is full of energy, which rubs off on us all and he quickly understands whats going on with the syndrome. Irene, translates fast and furious, not missing a trick. 15 minutes into the interview, the phone calls start coming in , along with emails. all from listeners interested in FXS. We bring cristina into the interview, to answer the callers questions. A lady caler asks where she can get her kids blood tested for the syndrome. cristina mentions, that Buenos Aires is the only place in argentina that this can be done. The whole thing lasts half hour. a real success. im chuffed, we all are. thank you mr interviewer, irene, for her perfect ability and of course cristina who, deepened the whole expereince. Cristina is travelling to santiago, chile, in weeks to come , because 2 researchers from the USA are talking a conference , regarding recent finds, in medicine, that perhaps will help with altereing affects of the syndrome. apparently adding protein to needy fragile chromosome. fingers crossed !!

This is a bay near puerto madryn, that i was lucky enough to be taken to by cristina and her family. Jose being a photographer took some incredible pics of these huge sea beasts. sea lions in english. lobos in castellano. they made a right racket.

the bull. in crontrol of all things seals

Along the atlantic coast, deeper into patagonia is a penguin colony. these little blokes didnt care about humans, romping through their manor.

man looks at penguin. penguin looks at man. Dan and his new found friend.

these red shrines can be seen all over argentina. it a good luck shrine dedicated to gauchito gil. n argentine hero from the 19th century. give him gifts and you might be lucky.

travelling to the west side of argentina. near the chilean frontier. head south down ruta 40. a road that drift down for 5000kms. top to bottom of argentina. i head south on it at 125kms north of perito moreno. its a famous road amongst overlanders. notorious for its harsh winds and dirt.

staright away, 10kms in, the road splits. no signs. just the sun to give a direction. dan and mike discussing which fork to take. as it happens we take the left fork. the right one.

endless straights, along compact gravel, loose rocks and deep ruts left by trucks using the same lines. the sun goes down leaving this vast expanse, light up like fire.

when the gravel heads west in a falling sun, nothing can be seen. the glare is painful. slow down and push your luck. it works. no one falls.

guanaco. they just blend into their surroundings, dashing out at high speed into the road.

met these 6 or 7 argentines. all cycling a large part of the ruta 40 south.

aproaching the end of that days section of ruta 40, we found this german bloke, leo wandering around infront of an ambulance asking what country he was in. he has wrecked his africa twin 750 honda. he couldnt remember what happened. looks like he was fast across a deep dune of gravel which twitched him into a frenzy. the bike must have sumersalted a few 10s of metres, judging by the wreck.the ambulance left him there with us. we got a tow truck to pick his wreck up and we got him to hospital in la calafatte. dan road with the ambualance all the way. 200kms away. he is ok, just a bit in shock and scatter brained for now.

approaching the bizzare and wonderful mount fitzroy in el chalten, patagonia. the wind was double strong along this stretch. seeing the range come up over the horizon is spectacular. fitz roy is named after the captain of the beagle, the ship Mr darwin sailed the local seas down here in, discovering stuff.

fitz roy, the tallest peak. just like a scene from a dark fantasy.

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