I never wrote my final blog about Ushuaia. I never made an “I’m home!” post, or even explained to everyone that tried to text me that my cell phone number is no longer mine. The truth is that I didn’t really want to declare my trip finished, because that’s just sad. Well, the new year is here, and I’m ready to give you an update on the end of the Chile trip and the status of the next one. I am very, very happy to say that after two months of hiding in Eugene doing odd jobs and applying to regular ones, I will be continuing my travels starting 20 days from now in Southeast Asia! Even more exciting is who will be accompanying me for this journey. My partner-in-crime Sophie Howard is in the process of acquiring a set of wheels while finishing up at her Princeton in Asia teaching post in Thailand. But more on that in a bit, because here’s some pictures from the end of the world.
I am, for better or worse, done with this trip. But not done, because my odometer says 2950km, so agonizingly close to 3000km, and with plenty of excess energy to finish it off sometime this week. I want to go to the end of Ruta 3, which is basically the end of a string of roads that starts in Alaska.
Tierra del Fuego is not for camping. It is flat, windy, freezing cold and devoid of protected areas. There are no trees, save for a few that have been mistakenly transplanted and are in the process of getting uprooted by the aforementioned wind. My host one night told me that it is impossible to generate wind power down here because the largest of windmills just aren’t strong enough to withstand the onslaught. I have made it to Rio Grande Argentina, on the Atlantic coast of South America, after pushing myself to my physical limits for one last time yesterday and limping here on sore knees today. I’m in the final stretch, with only about 230km left to Ushuaia.
Short update today, before I take off for the last leg of my trip. After 250km in two days riding mostly with the wind, I was delayed in Punta Arenas by ferry schedules and weather. The ferry company that crosses the Magellan Strait to Tierra del Fuego doesn’t operate unless the seas are in good condition, and didn’t run on Monday, so I spent a few days enjoying Punta Arenas. This was the biggest city I’d been in in two months, and the activity of a “big” city was sort of overwhelming. Finally having made the crossing this morning, I’m now in Porvenir, the capital of Tierra del Fuego.
The fact is that although it’s not particularly interesting to look at, Tierra del Fuego is one of those goals that I’ve been waiting to make it to for awhile. I grew up reading books by Brian Jacques. He wrote the childrens’ series Redwall, but also a lesser-known series called Castaways of The Flying Dutchman. In the first book of this series, the main character and his dog are washed up on the shores of Tierra del Fuego after a failed rounding of Cape Horn. This land and its cool name stuck in my head, and I immediately looked on a map to see where it was. I distinctly remember for that for months, whenever I looked at a map (which was a lot. I liked maps.) I would look for “Tierra del Fuego” to see if it was labeled on it.
So I’m finally here. And for personal reasons, that’s pretty cool.
This blog post brought to you in three parts, as it’s apparently been almost two weeks since I updated. These were composed on three separate occasions in my tent. I figure this is the best way to try to show you how my trip to Torres del Paine went. It’s hard to really do a “Torres del Paine” blog post when you’re on bike, because the approach, trek, and exit are all 3-4 day experiences in themselves.
Quick post today. I wasn’t going to head to El Calafate originally, but I was drawn to the mountains across Lago Argentino, and needed a reprieve from the sudden change in direction of the wind. So, to make this post somewhat useful, I’m going to give a short update and then throw up some resources that might be of interest to future travelers along this route.
Out of Tres Lagos, I understood that there would be one pretty bad day, going almost directly west to Lago Viedma. And it was. 70km, about 2/3 of it mostly of it straight into a headwind to what most cyclists refer to as “The Pink Hotel.” The Pink Hotel is an abandoned restaurant where many travelers stay on their Ruta 40 journey. On one wall is a “cyclist register,” and on the other a “motorcyclist register.” Fun to look through past occupants, and a must stop if you see it along your journey.
I’m have made it safely to Tres Lagos, a colorful town in the middle of nowhere in Argentinian Patagonia. I survived the border crossing at Mayer, and about 350km out of the 388km of Argentinian road that I could have traveled so far. Bear with me, because this is going to be a bear of a post. Let’s start with me searching for information about the entry.
From the municipal office in Villa O’Higgins at the end of the Carretera Austral, I was directed to find a guy who operates a tourist lodge in Villa O’Higgins, who could tell me more about the crossing. After finding the guy, here’s how our conversation basically went:
“Hi! My name is Bryan, and I’m traveling down the Carretera Austral on my bike. I heard that you could tell me more about the pass into Argentina at the Entrada Mayer.”
“The Mayer pass?”
(with confusion) “…Why?”
Not a good start. After explaining that it was my only way into Argentina in this season, he said he understood, and that although possible, the pass would be very difficult with a loaded bike. The only saving grace, he said, was that the Carrera River (one of the larger rivers I would need to cross) may be low enough that I could just cross it on foot rather than searching for the tiny bridge (basically a sheep bridge) further upstream. He said that he couldn’t really guide me further, and that I should go talk to the border and talk to the police officers there to get more detailed information about which path (this whole “right path” thing sounds hilarious to me in retrospect…) to take. I thanked him, and went on my way.