Day 125: Punta Arenas to Bush Camp, 120k and a ferry
We left the hotel around 7:30 am to head to the ferry terminal. The wind was strong already and our fingers were crossed that it remained eastwardly. Rain showered down while we waited to load the ferry yet the sun was still shining and produced a rainbow for good luck today! The ferry was a massive one that can hold 70 cars plus people. I was confident that we would not rock around in waves like we did in the boat to see the penguins. Once on the ferry we walked into the lounge area for the passengers, it was pretty crowded so we sat wherever but it was still cozy seating. The ride was about 2 hours long, and the winds were tossing the boat around. I did not think a boat that big could toss around. The captain eventually changed course a little and it was smooth sailing after that.
We docked at a small village, Pourviner. We have now entered the island Tierra del Fuego. It is the largest island in the archipelagos in the most southern region of South America. We really are on the last stretch of riding! The wind was behind us and the sun was shining! We turned onto a small gravel road once past the town and continued on for the rest of the day. The gravel was actually conducive for riding, more like packed dirt with a few pebbles. After 20k we rode next to the ocean bluffs for the next 80k. It was pretty seeing the deep blue and turquoise colors, and with a tail wind it was easier to enjoy it! We were easily riding 30 kph on gravel. So of course the day flew by! The terrain was mostly flat prairie lands. Lots of sheep and more guanacos.
We camped in the grass outside a farmers house. We were tucked next to a hill which provided a good wind break. I am looking forward to only 3 more nights of camping.
Day 126: Bush Camp to Rio Grande, 123k
Light winds and partly sunny was what we woke up to, it wasn’t even that cold! We returned to the highway and enjoyed fast concrete road for 25k. Once we approached San Sebastian, the border town, it went back to gravel. The Chilean border office was busy and it took a while to have our passports stamped. Then Bruce wanted to exchange all our Chilean pesos to Argentinian and that took at least 30 minutes. Finally, with our wad of money, we were back on the road through “No Man’s Land” towards the Argentinian border, 12k away. We started to have views of the Atlantic Ocean on our left. I can’t believe we have traversed a continent and gone from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean within two days! The Argentinian border was much less busy and we were through it in 5 minutes. The road was back to pavement and we had a tailwind with a slight side wind. We trudged through the flat prairie landscape with trucks whizzing by pulling you in different directions. It was a tedious ride, and at times difficult with head winds. But overall it was still a beautiful day and we had mostly tailwind.
When we approached Rio Grande, at 115k, it was a modern town that was pretty busy. It took some navigating through busy traffic to get to our camp. Our camp was at a horse riding school on the outskirts of town. A group of kids were running around before their riding lessons and dogs were barking constantly, this was going to be a long afternoon.
The owners of the camp allowed up to sit in their restaurant seating area next to a wood burning stove. It was toasty warm, a nice change to the dropping temperature and constant wind outside. The staff of the horse camp were very nice and accommodating. The owner even shared his yerba mate with us! Mate is a traditional green tea drink from a hollowed out goard through a metal straw. Everyone drinks it and I’m glad I finally was able to enjoy it the traditional way.
I can’t believe this will be our last night camping and this was the last night for our staff Chef to prepare dinner. Tomorrow, Bruce and I have reserved a Cabana and the camp is preparing dinner. Fingers crossed that the weather and wind remain in our favor for the last two days.
Day 127: Rio Grande to Lake Fagnano, 117k
A grey and windy morning. Everyone was worried about the weather conditions ahead; cold, headwind, and rain. We managed to have a crosswind out of town then had headwind for a several kilometers towards the ocean. Surprisingly, the sun was peaking out and the wind was light. It made the day much more bearable. I could not get comfortable on my bike saddle, I need to do some serious research on bike saddles when I get home! I resigned to putting earbuds in my ears and played karaoke the rest of the day to pass the time. Around 30k we started to see some trees and more rolling hills. The further awe rode the more trees and hills we saw. It became a beautiful day with sun and lovely landscapes. At 80k we started a serious of climbs, only up to 100k but the wind was changing to a side wind and there were ominous clouds on the horizon. The road turned a corner and we gained a tail wind again, although we had a light shower for about 15 minutes, nothing to really be bothersome. I still can not believe our luck with weather! The clouds broke up and blue skies formed above. I couldn’t stop taking pictures, although most did not capture the beauty. Once we entered the town of Tolhuin, Bruce and I and another rider went off the highway into the town to a famous bakery, La Union Panaderia. It was a massive building with a large factory with a serving area. Apparently this place it epic. It was packed with people at 1pm on a Wednesday and the seating area was surrounded with pictures of the owner with famous Argentinians. The donuts were delicious and we filled a box of chocolates for later. Our directions for the day dictated that we had about 10k to go, but Bruce looked at the map and noticed we could take side roads to camp. This gravel road was only 2 kilometers from camp and downhill, so obviously the better option! Camp was at an eclectic camp ground with a restaurant, bar, and tee pees to set up your tent. We opted for a cabana next door with another rider couple. After we arrived the wind picked up significantly and it rained intermittently for the rest of the afternoon. We enjoyed a roaring fire and lounged on the couches while sipping cold beer for our last afternoon of the tour.
At 4pm the staff had set up a wine and cheese cocktail hour for the riders. They also arranged and awards ceremony for all the riders. Each rider was gifted with their tour jersey, a jar of peanut butter, a medal and their “award”. These are silly awards that compliment their personality on the tour. Bruce was given “The Snoozer” since he was usually one of the last ones up and bag packed in the morning. I was given “The Genius” award since high intellects often use swear words, basically the potty mouth award. I have no fucking idea why I reviewed this shitty award!
Actually the staff did a fantastic job awarding everyone with their individual little “quirks”. The evening was filled with lots of laughs and tears of happiness. We have spent the last five and half months together and we really have become family. I have spent more time with these guys than I have most relationships before Bruce!
After dinner, The sun was out and the wind died down, it turned into a beautiful evening. Bruce found an old penny-farthing on the camp grounds. Several of us took turns riding around the camp ground, it is much harder than you would think! Ironically, these were some of the first bikes made, and our current road bike styles were referred to as “safety bikes” and would never outlive the fad. The “fad” has lasted over a hundred years and outlived the penny-farthing. Overall it was a perfect ending to our last night on tour. I still can’t believe tomorrow is the last riding day!
Day 128: Lake Fagnano to Ushuaia, 101k, THE LAST DAY!
For the last day we woke up to sunshine and wind. It was very bittersweet morning, especially for us the have cycled since Cartagena. We gathered for group pictures along the lake before everyone set off for one more day. I was torn between savoring every minute and getting this day over with. We rode along side Lake Fagnano for the first 40k, it was beautifully tree lined and bright blue water. We had views of white capped mountains in the distance and the wind wasn’t too bad. Bruce and I rode together today, mostly because I wanted him to break the wind ahead of me! The road was more rolling than we have had recently, which I like better than flat.
Around 45k we began a climb up through a mountain pass, reaching about 400m over 10k It was a gradual climb with beautiful views looking over a lake and tree covered mountains. The lunch bus was parked at the top of the climb where were were greeted with fresh pastries from the bakery we visited yesterday. The wind picked up at the top and I shoved food in my mouth quickly so I wouldn’t get too cold. We enjoyed a long curvy descent into a beautiful valley, I tried to enjoy the surroundings but was more focused on my freezing hands. At the bottom we had a slow grade incline for the next 20k or so. We passed by ski resorts where the chair lifts ride over the highway. It made me excited to get back to Crested Butte for skiing! Traffic was becoming a little heavy and disrespectful so I knew we were getting close to town. After 84k we enjoyed a long descent, again beautiful. I was squealing with excitement that we were almost finished and getting a bit choked up that we have just cycled through an entire continent and this journey is complete.
Ushuaia is a port city, and the southernmost city in the world! El Fin del Mundo! Our hotel was on top of a big hill, go figure! When we arrived many riders were in front of the hotel packing up their bikes and cheered us on as we rolled in. The staff had beers and champagne ready and we were greeted with hugs and congratulations, Bruce and I sipped beverages while packing up our bikes and joked with everyone and cheered on others as they arrived.
That evening, we enjoyed one last meal together in the hotel restaurant. The staff had prepared a slide show of the entire tour and it was a perfect encapsulation of the last 168 days.
I am happy that we had a lot of “see you later” than absolute good byes. This group has become a family and I really do hope our paths cross again in the future.
What an amazing adventure.