Riding across Tierra del Fuego


After a cup of hot chocolate at a restaurant near the ferry dock on the north side of TDF we ride south toward Cerro Sombrero where we plan to fuel up and then choose one of the several gravel roads that will take us to the Chile/Argentina border at San Sebastian. When we pull in we see some other bikes heading north.

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As we ride out of town to the west and then turn south we get slammed by a strong and gusty crosswind.  It’s been windy and gusty all day but this is strong enough to make me feel like I’m not able to control the bike very well.  We are headed to a long stretch of gravel and will be buffeted by this gusty crosswind the whole way, so we stop at a windbreak and discuss it.  I’m nervous and Brian concedes to go back to town and wait it out a bit and see if the winds die down later in the day.

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So we have a few beverages and a hot and hearty lunch at a local café and spend 4 hours waiting on the wind….and finally sometime after 7pm it dies down enough to get moving again.  We ride for a little over two hours, til well after the sun has set and turn at the junction near Onaisin and go a bit further before finally finding a small knoll with a farm access road we ride out on.  The rise provides just enough cover for our tent and bikes and we settle in for the night.

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Early the next morning we ride toward San Sebastian, the border crossing to Argentina. It’s a beautiful still morning on this wide open grassland.  Reminds me of home.

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First the Chile office…

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There’s lot of bikes on TDF, and we run into a couple of tours at the border offices.  There’s a few miles between the Chile and Argentina offices, and somewhere in the middle we cross into Argentina.

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I turn and look back at the Chile sign and across the small bit of “no man’s land” between.

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Then on to the Argentina office.

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All in all it’s a fairly fast crossing.  We stop for a breakfast of hot chocolate/café con leche and empanadas and then ride on toward Rio Grande. Just east of the Argentinian San Sebastian we can see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in a long time.

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The further we ride south after Rio Grande, the more trees we see and the hillier the land becomes.

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The hills give way to mountains and we even start to see a bit of snow.  There is a mix of evergreens and other kinds of trees, and along the stretch before Tolhuin we see lots of hanging moss all over the trees, including the stark grey skeletons of trees broken and killed by the strong Patagonia winds.

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The road traces the southern edge of Lago Fagnano for several miles and then turns southwest and into the mountains.

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It’s strange watching my odometer tick down the miles to Ushuaia, less than 100 to go….then less than 50….less than 30.  All these months of travel, more than 20, and more than 36,000 miles.  And now I’m so close to what has been the answer to the most common question I have been asked in the past year and a half.  “Where are you going?” To which I always reply “Ushuaia”.  I might cry.  And in fact, in my helmet today, a few times I have to work hard to hold back the tears.  But later when I actually get to the gates of town…I no longer feel like crying.

Every minute and every mile brings me closer to the turning point for me, literally and figuratively, where I will start to ride north instead of south, and start to make my way home.

Not far to go now…

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1 comment

  1. You have embarked on a journey that only a few of us will ever have the joy of knowing. And know that your tales and insights have given the rest of us , perhaps one day, to pursue our own passions and goals. I cant thank you enough for sharing your stories day to day. They truly are an inspiration!

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