Tierra del Fuego

18 03 2008

The land of Fire
aka Tierra del Viento – the land of wind. Bit of a naming mistake, way back when. I didn’t see one fire.

ferry-in-punta-arenas.jpgWe finally left Punt Arenas, like penguins after the feeding season. Actually, nothing like the penguins, we didn’t waddle and were scared off by a 9am ferry ride. So we ended up staying an extra day to get the 15:30 ferry. A much wiser idea when it’s cold out in the morning 🙂 And it meant we could extend our feeding season by one day. I don’t think they will run out of salmon.

statue-in-porvenir.jpgWe had planned on a huge day of 10km to get to the ferry and stay in Porvenir. But when we arrived the light was so nice and the weather calm, so we just couldn’t stop in the town – we had to take advantage of this magical light and get a little way into the island. We took the slightly longer coast road for the views, and it was pretty good, in a flat and boring kind of way. Tierra del Fuego has a remarkable lack of really anything at all. Maybe a few sheep. But, like the ocean can be nice to look at, the scenery here isn’t so bad. It’s just that there is so much of it. On no account am I riding back to Buenos Aires – I think that would do your head in.

what-wind.jpgSo we camped wild for two days, with hardly any wind. Where was this famous Patagonian wind? Perhaps it had taken a year sabbatical and gone to Europe? I was fully expecting being blown to pieces every single day, based on others reports and the shape of the trees. These trees must take some pretty severe battering over the years; they have no branches on the windward side, and grow horizontal above a few meters. But there wasn’t so much wind while we were there. I think cyclists have a remarkable ability to take credit for powerful legs when they have a tail wind (wow, aren’t we riding fast today) and go into hysterics when the wind is from the front (but it’s always a headwind, honestly, we haven’t had a tail wind for <insert improbable time span here> days/weeks/months). Or it just wasn’t all that windy while we were heading east across Tierra del Fuego. Yes, east is with the prevailing wind, and despite the above comment, we did manage to cop a slight headwind on our crossing. Pity we didn’t get the tearing tail wind we’d been assured of.

But we did manage to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic in slightly over a day. Quite an impressive feat pretty much anywhere else on the continent. I saw the Atlantic for the first time in years, and the first time from the west. It looks the same.

flat.jpgflat2.jpgAnd with the crossing of the island came Argentina! Back once again. The passport is starting to fill up with stamps from crossing between Chile and Argentina. The asphalt began literally at the border control, and we had a pretty easy run into Rio Grande (notice I didn’t mention the landscape on that quick jump of 90km? Now that I have, it was remarkably different from the day before – instead of the ocean on the right and boring pampa on the left, it was ocean on the left and boring pampa with gas and oil pumps on the right. A considerable change you will agree). The city has a grand name, but that’s where all grandness ceases. But the hostel was nice (El Argentino), and I found Jörg and Rahel’s names in the register and the comment book. Strange to see their names two weeks ahead of me, instead of us travelling together. Actually, we seemed to be following them, we managed to stumble into the same place they stayed in Tolhuin also.

12k.jpgIt was a long day into Tolhuin, but reasonably fast since we had some tail wind. Really, where is this killer wind? Also, aside the road was a four-wheel motorbike track, all the way, and it continued most of the way to Ushuaia. Motorbikes and four-wheel bikes are pretty popular here.

The center of Tolhuin is, for sure, the bakery. This bakery made it into the travel guide. And the whole town and most of Rio Grande seemed to be there. So, of course we had to sample, err, gorge on the offerings. We actually considered going further (a crazy idea), but were unable to move far after eating many empanadas, facturas, and even some bread. tolhuin.jpgJust can’t get enough bakery after a day on the bike. Some things don’t change. After looking around at several overpriced hostels and cabins in the town of Tolhuin, we were, reluctantly, forced to seek out the campground. It was pretty cold, and threatening to rain. But it turns out we chose well, we were able to “camp” in a hut, complete with fireplace – really it was a cabin without beds. Warm and dry, and it did rain overnight. Heavily. Lucky.

We tossed up the idea of staying another day, but we were all keen to hit Ushuaia. The rain stopped by the time we had risen, but the wind had not realised it was cycling time, and time for the wind to sleep. So we coped a day of head wind. It was pretty strong, but nothing like the wind further north (blowing us from the road). Perhaps we were lucky. We were still able to make the distance we wanted, it just took a bit longer.

So we rode around the lake and into the final valley. One last crossing of the Andes (the pass was a monstorous 420m!). Up, around and down, into Ushuaia! Yippee! Took the end of the road photo. Got cold, and found a place to sleep. Actually the last one was the hardest. Ushuaia is clearly a tourist oriented town – with prices to match. We celebrated with an all you can eat feast.ushuaia.jpg

So now I’m here. Errr. Now what?

Well, to start with I could kill 2-3 days sitting in a bus to get to Buenos Aires, or I could catch a plane. So plane it is. Time to look around Buenos Aires. Perhaps without the bike. Actually, I think I’ll try to sell it. Anyone out there want a bike that’s done a mere 12,000km?


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8 responses

19 03 2008
travelliz

Congratulations! I´ve met quite a few people riding South America during my travels the past two years and I´m always impressed. I just found your blog, so I´m sure I´ll be poking around in the days to come. Here´s to a speedy recovery!

19 03 2008
Steve

Hey! Based on your photo on your blog (South American Adventure) – this must be the same Liz and Ben I met in The Way Inn in Huaraz, way back in July last year! Small world. Maybe there is a photo of Pete and me hanging off the new climbing wall of the Lodge somewhere around there?

20 03 2008
KCR

Steve, you always like bakery. Doesn’t matter if you have just ridden for a day, or walked for 5 minutes to get there. Be honest now. How many loaves of bread did you put away??? Kev’s not interested in the bike. He reckons it might be a bit clapped out.

20 03 2008
Steve

No loaves as such… but they have these delicious little bites. Pastries with jam and maybe chocolate drizzled over them. Ohhhhhhh. And reasonably priced 😉

A bit clapped out? No… the current chain has only gone 8000km!

20 03 2008
Steve

Chocolate fondue… Salmon straight from the penguins…. chocolate drizzled pastries…. Here’s us thinking you’ve been doing it tough!!! Although, I just had a look at your stats… and I suppose they’re “pretty good”. Equivalent of everest 16 times… 12k km’s… Yeah, not a bad effort at all. Congrats on finishing mate.

21 03 2008
travelliz

I thought you looked familiar…!

23 03 2008
kev

just a mere 8000 kms just like new then, I’ll tell my friends about it see if their interested. Hi steve guess what I heard some crazy nutter over the other side of the world is trying to sell his bike and I’ve heard it has only done a few 1000 km great buy, you should look into it.

23 03 2008
Steve

I can see you’re not really interested in buying a piece of cycling greatness. Remember, this bike has crossed a continent. The bearings have been carefully broken in, everything has been field tested under punishing conditions. The frame is all white, with tastefully applied custom strips of raw aluminium peeking through. The shocks now have a lockout feature – developed somewhere around 10000km.
Trust me, it is a great buy 🙂

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