Backtracking across Tierra del Fuego


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After two weeks in Ushuaia, and deciding Antarctica was out of our budget, we get ready to ride back toward the mainland.  The road into Ushuaia is a one-way deal, and to get back to the mainland we have to retrace our ride across Tierra del Fuego and take one of two ferries back to the continent.  We decide to ride to the west side of this enormous island to the village of Porvenir to catch a ferry to Punta Arenas, Chile.

It’s chilly almost every day in Ushuaia, and we’ve gotten spoiled snuggling into our hostel bunks with a heated floor, having a full kitchen, and having good friends and good conversation.  We watch snow cover the low peaks on the ridges that surround Ushuaia and even wonder if the roads will be slick as we ride out of town, but they are only wet as we leave.  Ruta 3 leads us east/northeast back to Tolhuin and then to Rio Grande where it turns northwest and we head for San Sebastian and the border. There’s a small hosteria on the Argentinian side with only 7 rooms, and since they are all taken, we decide to go ahead and cross the border and see what we can find in Chile.

The borders are busy with trucks and bikes, but the lines move quickly and we ride into Chile less than an hour after having arrived at the Argie side. We find a hosteria on the Chileno side with several empty and very cozy rooms and a cute café out front. We settle in for the night and go get some dinner at the café before diving into deep sleeps in our bunks.

This land reminds me of the windswept plains of the Midwestern United States.  Sheep graze near a small farm on a low hill behind the hosteria and chickens peck around the yard for something to eat.

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Early the next morning we hit the road again, riding straight west toward the western port of Porvenir.  There is a ferry at 2pm today that we want to catch.  Trucks kick up lots of dust and with a sprinkling of rain coming down I’m stuck with a smearing of mud across my visor most of the way.  To wipe it means microscopic scratches etch into the visor, so I have to suffer through and try to see the best I can. We stop for a break at the only wind shelter we can find, a small group of trees.

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I watch some guanaco grazing on the surrounding fields and then take off running when Brian walks too close to the fence.

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While the southern side of Tierra del Fuego is covered with mountains, the northern side is largely pampa or grassland.

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We can see the Strait of Magellan off in the distance as we reach the western shore.

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Having arrived at a “t” in the road we can choose from either a left turn or a right turn as both lead us to Porvenir.  The right goes past some old (and still active) gold mines while the left follows the coast.  So we go to the left.

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And I’m so glad we did, not just because of the view.  But a few miles up the coast we see a cute RV/truck headed our way and I instantly recognize it as the XP Camper and our friends, Sam and Erica, from Song of the Road.  Woohoo!  Nothing better than a chance meeting like this. It’s wonderful to steal a few chilly roadside chat minutes with them before they carry on toward Ushuaia and we continue on to Porvenir.

I stop for a photo of a fox that is too fast for my cold, fumbling hands, and instead settle for a picture of a local estancia (sheep farm).  You can tour some of the farms, and you can even stay at some.  Looks really interesting to me.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

And on we go…

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We stop in Porvenir to get some more Chileno pesos, since we are out…and then ride out the last 3-4 miles to the ferry port.

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The ferry is about 15 minutes away from loading when we get to the empty dock.  Just in time.

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The crew takes charge of securing the bikes (on center stands which we normally do not do) with chocks and straps.  It’s a rough crossing, so I’m glad I didn’t have to do it.

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At a small café by the docks, just before we loaded, Brian and I shared a piece of raspberry cheesecake and warmed up with hot chocolates. And I found a sheepskin for my bike seat.  Punta Arenas will be a place we catch up on chores, and maybe even make a new cozy seat.

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