Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Money Shot

Okay, I now confess that my real motivation for riding all the way to Ushuaia was to take this obligatory photo in front of the Tierra del Fuego sign. Every bicyclist or motorcyclist who rides down to Tierra del Fuego gets this same shot, and if you read their blogs on the web you will see it many times over. So I took the road to the end of Ruta 3, to where it literally meets the sea, shooed away the hordes of photo snapping tourists, and asked a French guy to take my picture.











So there it is.

Now I ride north back to Buenos Aires, to ship the bike home on a cargo ship and fly home, back to the world, back to a new administration, a new family, a new house and a new state. And so, the adventure continues, in another way.

Thanks to everyone who read or looked at this blog, whether once or many times. I hope you found it interesting and worthwhile. The trip was a momentous experience for me, and I hope that whatever sort of adventure in life speaks to you, whether it involves travel or not, you find a way to follow that voice. You will be rewarded many times over.

Our love is all of God´s money - Wilco

Ride Safe.

Jesse

Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego






You drive past the city of Ushuaia, and you come to the local national park called the Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego. Nice park ... you can walk up to the beagle canal, ride to the end of Route 3 (if you see the map in the picture, you will see how the road ends at the water). I did a short hike there and tried to avoid being run over by all the tour buses on the way back. Place was as busy as Grand Central Station.

Wind




This is what the wind does to trees down here.

My New Friends




Supposedly, it was Magellen who came up with the name Tierra del Fuego. It means land of fire, and the story is that when Magellen sailed past while searching for a trade route to China, he spotted hundreds of fires smoldering on the island. Apparently, the local people had fire, but not the knowledge of how to actually start them. So the fires they had they kept stoked indefinitely. Since it is a rather cold place and they weren´t really into clothing.


There are very few decendants of the original inhabitants left on Tierra del Fuego. But I made friends with these three in the pictures, and we went fishing for seafood down between the cruise ships in the harbor. I stayed with them for a week and feasted on whales, penguins, crabs and mussels. I brought a lighter, so they were very happy to have me.

Penguins




















Saw some penguins while down in Ushuaia. A bus takes you to a little estancia way outside of town, on the water. A Zodiac boat then takes you to a penguin colony on a nearby island. It is quite amazing to see them .. you walk amongst them while they stare curiously at you, as if you were just another penguin. They have absolutely no fear of humans. I think the spice of their lives takes place in the water, because all they do on land seems to be stand around, neck, and sometimes bicker. When I was there they were nesting with their chicks, who were as big as the adults were. You could tell them apart by their molting feathers. Two months old, and putting on the weight before venturing into the cold water.

Final Push to Tierra del Fuego


























So left Torres del Paine early in the morning for the final push to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Tierra del Fuego, the lunar landing of the trip, the southern-most city in the world, the end of the earth. It was so close I could taste it.

A two day´s ride from Torres del Paine, Chile. The first day I rode east for many hours through more viscious winds and light rain, and at around 7pm, made it to the ferry that crosses from the mainland to the island of Tierra del Fuego. On the other side, still on the Chilean side of the island (it is shared by Chile and Argentina) an hour later I sat staring at the gravel road ahead of me, and contemplating the darkening sky and ever increasing rain. I decided to crash for the night in a roadside hotel in a small petroleum town. Cerro Sombrero. Cool name. Expensive hotel. You can charge what you want when there is no competition. The town had a statute of men working on a petroleum oil platform in the main square.

Next morning rode south through miles and miles of sheep stations and pasture land, crossed into Argentina, and rode for many more miles and miles of sheep stations and pasture land. Towards the late afternoon the mountains began to rise into the air, and the woods and lakes suddenly appeared, and I was almost there.

After a couple of hours riding through the mountains, the sea appeared once again and I rolled into Ushuaia. You might expect that Ushuaia would be a remote wind swept barren outpost of a city, the southern equivalent of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, but it is not. It has light manufacturing, pleasant homes, cruise ships docked down at the piers, and hordes of tourists strolling the main drag. There are boutiques, cafes, bars, restaurants, even a casino.

I was hard to believe I had actually arrived. The place itself was rather inconsequential, it was the idea of the place that was important. The end of the road. After parking the bike at a hostel, the first thing I did was find a pub to have a celebratory pint and glass of whiskey.

A fine way to end a good ride.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Torres Del Paine





































Torres del Paine. Beautiful place, Chile's most visited national park. There are loads of circuits to hike (most famous being what is called the "W"). They have refugios where you can sleep and eat while doing the circuits, but they are quite expensive and require advance reservations. So just showed up and camped out next to one, and spent a couple of days doing day hikes from home base. So I did a chunk of the "W", but not the entire thing. I found the hikes themselves more interesting and diverse, ecologically speaking, than the hikes in El Chalten, but the vistas at El Chalten were a bit more impressive.