I only keep up to date with a few websites. One of my favorites is Chris Guillebeau’s site “The Art of Non-Conformity” which continues to strike a cord with my life. It’s all about thinking outside the box, life design, entrepreneurship, and travel. The other day he posted a photo with a direct message that encompassed my journey:
Leaving El Calafate I decided to skip the famous Tores Del Paine national park and head straight for Tierra Del Fuego. First stop – Rio Gallegos, some 300 clicks away. I stopped only once during the whole ride at a small pueblo halfway in between. It was sunny, it was dry and the pavement was pristine but this was the hardest section of riding to date. WIND!!! A very flat topography gave no where to hide from the relentless wind. I leaned the bike over more than 30 degrees just to ride straight. For hours my muscles strained to keep the bike going straight. My entire body was tense to fight the wind. My neck took the worst of it trying to balance my giant helmet head. It was exhausting. Every hour or so I got so tired and frustrated that I screamed into my helmet. “Is that all you got!” and “AHHHHHHH!!!!” and “Bring it on!” The small bursts of adrenaline helped keep me focused.
It was early in the day when I reached Rio Gallegos so I decided to press on. Shortly after the city I saw my first signs for Ushuaia. I’m getting close!
I then crossed back into Chile (for the 3rd time now) and soon arrived at the Magellan Strait. Across this small channel is Tierra del Fuego!
One of the few buildings at the port is covered with travelers’ stickers.
Time to jump on the ferry and motor through the rough seas.
It’s official, I’m on the island of Tierra Del Fuego!!!
The relentless winds continued as I rode to Cerro Sombrero where I stayed the night in a hospedaje. These are my favorite accommodations. Families rent out rooms in their homes. It’s a cozy atmosphere and a delight to speak with the locals.
After Cerro Sombrero there’s about 120k of ripio. I came across some rough traffic on the way.
I felt like Moses parting the sea… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds9PAWTDHkY)
After the ripio ended it was time to enter back into Argentina. Yes, the island of Tierra del Fuego is owned half by Chile and half by Argentina. To enter the island you come from Argentina, then you ride through the Chilean side of the island, then you cross back into Argentina to hit up Ushuaia (it’s all reversed on the way back). Ridiculous… At the border I saw that my makeshift starter relay by-pass button was coming undone. So in the wind, rain, and freezing cold I gave into the weather and worked to rewire the system.
I kept on. The pavement was a nice change but as I furthered south, it got colder and the rain picked up. At the last town before Ushuaia I warmed up in a gas station for a few minutes and decided to push on in the late afternoon to make Ushuaia. Before I could arrive, I’d have to go through a mountain pass with tops covered in snow. Locals told me there would be no ice on the roads. It didn’t take long to lose all the warmth I gained at the gas station. I climbed up the mountains and twisted through the pass. The heated grips didn’t work and I was extending and compressing my legs over and over to work the muscles and warm up my body. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning – so excited for the day to come. After more than 5 months and 20,000 miles I’m about to arrive at the southern most city in the world! I was signing out loud with
craziness excitement “It’s the final count down, do do do dooooo…” and “It’s a long way to the bottom top if you wanna rock-n-roll!” Finally, shivering, drenched, and exhausted I arrived in Ushuaia. A fitting scenario for arriving at the Fin del Mundo (end of the world). I was so jumbled that I missed the famous sign welcoming visitors to Ushuaia. I stopped on my way out of town instead.
I made it!!!!!
Kick back and relax!
And a special end of the world dance! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-cqvXMnWn0)
I found a hostel, took a nice loooooooong hot shower and then got some dinner and a bottle of Argentinean wine to celebrate. WOOOOO HOOOOO! And then I passed out at 10 pm, ha.
The next day I relaxed, did some organizing, and walked around the city. The landscape is beautiful – “The land of fire” – a spectacular end to the horrendous Pampa.
Old ship in the port.
This is an active port with lots of shipping going on too.
All afternoon I checked with every hostel and travel agency as well as the Antarctic Expedition Center for a “last minute” deal for a boat to Antarctica. Normal prices are $5,000 – $25,000 USD but at the end of the season they can be as low as $3,000 USD (still crazy expensive). Unfortunately, it looks like the last boat of the season left 2 days ago. I just missed it! Oh well… Next time 🙂
The weather report for the next day showed sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon. Perfect I thought, so I took a boat ride through the Beagle Channel to view cormorants, sea lions, and penguins. Unfortunately, it was overcast all day (terrible light for photos). And go figure, the afternoon had beautiful blue skies!
Sea Lion Island.
Sea lion island video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aucLny5c6hE
Penguin movie – watch them waddle! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q20ypwqZDtM
My Italian friends on the boat. Franco invited me to Italy to check out his collection of 15 motorcycles. Thanks for the lunch too! Next stop… Italy.
Beautiful mountain scenery at the bottom of the world.
In town I picked up some new stickers for the Micatech top box. Ruta 40! Ushuaia!
I have decided to try and sell the bike down here in South America. Before leaving Ushuaia I made a SE VENDE (For Sale) sign for the front windshield.
Then I left town, passing through the mountains and back onto the windy pampa of Tierra Del Fuego island. It was a long day riding through the strong wind. After crossing back into Chile (4th time now) it was a 140 kilometers on ripio to the port town of Porvenir. The next day it was a 2.5 hour ferry ride to the largest city in southern Patagonia, Punta Arenas. However, the ferry didn’t leave until 5 pm so I had a chance to hangout at the “dock” for a bit.
Strapped down for the ride.
Although I’ve already made to the southern most city in the world, the adventure continues. Stay Tuned!