[31/10/15 – 1/11/15] After arriving in Ushuaia the day before it was time to reach the symbolic end of my journey. The Tierra del Fuego National Park sign at the very end of Ruta 3. This is only 20 kilometres from Ushuaia. It really was a symbolic day, because apart from rest days and running enrrands, it was also the shortest day’s ride of only 40km. I blogged a postcard on the day.
The following day I took a Penguin Tour, where you can actually walk up near the penguins, This was a really great experience, my visit was a little too early to see the baby penguins. The day was freezing; the tour guide told us that expected high was -5C with winds of up to 70kph. So while the penguins were cool, I was freezing.
[2/11/15] Time to leave Ushuaia and again it is freezing, the snow overnight had stopped so I thought I would chance it.
I had decided to try for Rio Gallegos, it was easy enough on the ride down in bright sunshine with high winds. The only new thing I had to contend with on this day’s ride was the rain, sleet and snow. This is the second time I have ridden in snow on this trip. The bike said it was -2C and I got to see my ice warning light again.
Even with my heated vest plugged in and wearing everything I own it was still too cold. With the wind chill from the bike it was -8C and even colder because it was blowing a gale. After 30 minutes of riding in snow my helmet had frozen shut and was fogging up – despite my anti-flog visor.
About this time I started to climb into the mountains again, You could see the snow sticking to the road and I could feel the rear wheel slipping on the ice. I decided to slow down because in this weather it will be a while if you need to be rescued. I knew I had to go on, but 40kph was a much more appropriate speed. I am glad I did slow because I had two front wheel slides, both where scary but short, on the second one I came very close to falling off, however I remained upright.
Needless to say that morning’s ride is not something I wanted to repeat.
After returning to the coast on the east side of the island, the weather improved slightly, just small snow squals and no rain, so that was a positive. The winds were still pounding in from the west. I could not believe just how forceful they were. You really felt like you had to ride the bike on an angle just to straight and when the winds stopped (which was rare fortunately) you were then in a turn and started heading into the oncoming traffic.
After crossing back into Chile I headed for the ferry off the island. I joined the car queue and decided once the ferry was there I would scoot up the front – there is always room for a bike. It was about 2pm when I had arrived. I was cold and hungry, there was a hot dog vendor so I ate some really dodgy hot dogs. After about an hour of sitting in the unrelenting wind, I moved the bike behind a truck cab to get some shelter. Speaking to the driver of the truck I was sheltering behind, I worked out he had been there 3 days in the queue! If the wind is too high they cannot load and unload the ferry. That is as much conversation as my Spanish would allow. We did the usual where are you from, how far have you ridden, etc… this is a conversation I have had at least 100 times now and am getting quite good at it.
The ferry was expected to start running again at 6pm. So after a 4 hour wait and with no letup in the wind, there was no sign of the ferry. I waited another 2 hours til 8pm, and with still no change in the wind I decided it was time to find a hotel – I still had about 1.5 hours of light left. I rode back the 40km to the nearest town and found a hotel. It was expensive, but it was warm and had a restaurant – they were the only place in town and charged like it – I got hit double with a dodgy exchange rate, because the only cash I had was Argentine.
[3/11/15] With the ferry not starting til 8:30am and knowing the size of the queue was massive I decided I would be on the first ferry off the island no matter what. On a motorcycle you get shoved in the corner even if you queue, so when I arrived I started the moto queue. To my (and everyone’s) delight about 9:45am the ferry did turn up. The winds had died down enough to allow loading of the ferry and I was off the island! On the ferry I ran into the truck driver I spoke to the previous day. He had spent another night in the queue but made it onto the ferry. He was keen to get home and see his family.
Just north of the ferry was my last border crossing, I am heading into Argentina for the final time! This border is very efficient with Chile and Argentina cooperating and making it easy for the overland traveller.
I returned along the same road I used to head south – Ruta 3. The Argentine steppe was just as baron as on the way down. This made for some boring riding. I ended the day in Puerto san Julian where they have a monument to the Falklands war – known as “Gesta de Malvinas” in Argentina (Deed of the Malvinas).