El Calafate, Argentina to Ushuaia, Argentina
11 Nov 2014 to 14 Nov 2014
It’s not about the destination
It’s about the journey. Yet when we finally found that Ushuaia was merely days away, we had a hard time stopping to smell the roses. In all fairness, there were no roses to smell on that last segment of road, just more grass dried by relentless winds.
With a Zebra mostly pumped up, we left El Calafate that morning hoping to reach Rio Gallegos, a town we would hear about again in the future but more on that later. With our friend the Patagonian wind still trying to break our necks with its demoniac sideways gusts, we reached our destination for lunch. Saying that the town does not have much to offer in terms of touristic attraction would be a gross understatement. A gas station seemed as good as any place to have lunch and two vacuum sealed sandwiches later we agreed to push on, re-enter Chile and catch the Punta Delgada ferry into Tierra del Fuego. It all sounds very exciting but at the risk of breaking the spell, it just meant more paperwork to fill at a border and long minutes to freeze our bums battered by the sea spray while floating to Punta Espora, the offical entrance to Tierra del Fuego.
In a penultimate attempt to kill us, our GPS lead us to believe that we would find refuge in Cerro Sombrero, hell the place even has a movie theater! Does that story remind you something? The Mina Escondida perhaps? You’d be right. Cerro sombrero is another mining town, and while it is not a private compound most, if not all the hotels in town cater to the miners and are booked year round. With the night falling, the temperature dropping and the wind showing no mercy the Zebra and I both started to exhibit early signs of anxiety. A local flew to our rescue by suggesting we check at the restaurant “la negrita” back on the main road. There, we purchased a bowl of warm soup to break the ice and sheepishly inquired about accommodation. The owner, a larger than life mama who would have fitted right in in Jamaica, giggled for a minute before confirming that indeed she might have a room for us, only caveat, the stove is not working and the temperature inside is taking a walk on the negative side. Nothing that our sleeping bags can’t fix, at least we won’t be kitesurfing behind our tent in the middle of the night.
Back in the Andes
Mostly to our surprise we woke up fairly fresh and rested. I was pleased to find our bikes still standing and after a celebratory breakfast we jumped on the Wolfmobile and Zebramobile for what would be our last day riding Southbound. The first few hundred kilometers offered us more of the same, winds and pampa, but then something changed. The Andes, that we could sometimes see to our right far in the distance, where suddenly ahead of us. As we begun climbing towards the snow capped summits, the pampa gave way to odd dead trees caught in ponds of melted snow. For the first time in days we stopped to take pictures. Below us the laguna Fagnano reminded us of lake Tahoe and invited us to sit and reflect on our journey, on how incredibly lucky we were, on how fabulous it was to be able to share it all with the one you love. With teary eyes, we crested Cerro Castor for our final descent into Ushuaia.
To tell the truth, we had never seen photos of Ushuaia before we got there and consequently we did not know what to expect. Past the iconic wooden post bearing the town’s name, one is greeted by towers of containers parked in various lots. Trucks and fork lifts join in a well orchestrated ballet to swiftly load and unload them from large ships patiently waiting in the harbor below. In a good mood, our GPS lead us to an hostal, despite the “full” sign on the front door, the friendly owner managed to find us two beds. Our luggage stored and the dirt of the day washed away we walked to a fancy bar we had spotted earlier to indulge in civilized cocktails.
Bonding with mother nature in Lapataia bay
The Zebra and I allowed a gentle swell of melancholy wash over us, Ushuaia was our goal, our destination, now that we are there, what do we do? The Hostal owner reminded us that there is more to Ushuaia than the wooden sign bearing the town’s name and suggested we follow the road Tierra del Fuego national parc in Lapataia, the very end of Ruta 3, and take the time to enjoy nature and our achievement.
So we did, and loaded with provisions and a bottle of French Champagne we set camp for a few days in a hidden nook of that gorgeous park.
Heading North! What?
After a few days of bonding with ice pellets and inquiring Culpeo foxes it was time to get moving again. In 1 week the Navimag, a Corsican exile, would be waiting for us in Puerto Natales for a 4 day journey back to Puerto Montt. Punta Arenas and further north the fabulous Torres del Paine national park had treasures awaiting to be discovered. The ride was not over yet.