A bumper edition as my southerly ramblings finally draw to a close. Tierra del Fuego, land of fire, ‘end of the world’ and a fittingly wild place for the final scene of this odyssey to play out. Or so I thought.
As seems to often be the case, the final leg was one of those ‘tale of two halves’ affairs. Leaving mainland Patagonia and rolling onto Tierra del Fuego’s Isla Grande (that’s ‘Large Island’ for those not versed in the subtleties of the spanish language) things got off to a somewhat anticlimactic start. Heavy fog/rain, surprise head wind and endless pampa made for a less than triumphant first few days of riding. Occasional glimpses of the ocean served to remind us where we actually were and provided short bursts of motivation, but for the large part, these were just cold, dreary days on the bike set to a soundtrack of Steve Jobs’ biography (for a second time).
Tierra del Fuego, and the final chapter of the trip, will instead be remembered for the subsequent few days into Ushuaia; the crossing of paths with a fellow ‘dirt road adventurer’ and bikepacking along the coast to the finish line. From bull testicals served up by a one eyed fisherman in his tumbledown shack, to glorious singletrack set against the backdrop of the Beagle Channel and snowy peaks, to starry nights camped by the beach, the last stretch felt like the culmination of everything I love about this wild lifestyle. This post therefore, mostly focuses on this latter part…
Thanks once again to Sam for letting me use his camera, which, in all honesty, isn’t that bad.
Tierra del Fuego; The Dull Part
“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” – Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Far from triumphant fist pumps and self-congratulatory back patting, things were looking pretty miserable for a while… That said, it wasn’t completely without its charms:
Within the already small bike traveller community, there’s a motley bunch who shun the standard routes and take it upon themselves to scour maps and satellite imagery for the next dirt road adventure. A strange little clique connected in cyberspace by the blogosphere, each feeding off the adventures of the others; gpx files passed around, route tid bits handed down, water sources, killer campspots, a juxtaposition of ‘adventure geekery’. Fellow brit Nathan (Mr Velofreedom) has been a key player in this little band of route pioneers during his 5 year epic down the Americas and, having been tailing him for some time, we finally made the catch in Tierra del Fuego. Much like a weird online date, we already knew a bizarre amount about each other, which meant small talk could be skipped, moving straight into a steady stream of sarcasm fuelled banter and dubious Yorkshire accents.
Bikepacking to Ushuaia
After a day or so riding as trio we parted ways with Nathan, with plans to reunite at the “end”, and headed off to explore an intriguing little trail along the Beagle Channel (something his heavier load would’ve made a nightmare). Originally conceived as a bikepacking side trip from Ushuaia by Cass and Skyler last year, this looked to be the perfect grande finale to round off the Americas. Adventuring to the very end and arriving to Ushuaia not by road, but by beach…
It was nothing short of epic. Having now reached the far south of Tierra del Fuego, snow capped mountains dominated the views in every direction, with the lapping waves of the Beagle and occasional fisherman’s hut, providing a unique maritime slant to proceedings. Even the sun made an appearance and, putting aside a somewhat hellish bushwhack/hike a bike session, this was as fitting a climax to the whole ‘Ride South’ endeavour as I could have hoped for. The icing on an already very tasty cake.
The route kicked off from the small fishing community of Puerto Almanza. A tiny, ‘back and beyond’ stronghold of burly men, barking dogs and ‘scrapheap challenge’ style accommodation…
Fin del Mundo, Fin del Viaje:
They said it would never happen, they said I’d die of boredom, bears or bandits;
Prudhoe Bay 05.08.2013 to Ushuaia 16.05.2015 (….and not the way Google Maps would take you)
A big thanks to all those, of which there are literally hundreds, who’ve helped me out along the way. Muchas gracias a todo por su ayuda. 99% of humans are nice people, we live on a seriously cool planet and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to explore this great swathe of it. Thanks for following along, it’s been fun to share. ‘The Ride South’ may be over, but the Americas adventure isn’t done just yet, more on that soon…
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain