Tierra del Fuego

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I had never thought, that this trip will get me to South America when I was at the check-in at the airport in Auckland, I had not really realized it either. As a child I was often starring fascinated on Tierra del Fuego on a map imagining how it would look like down there. And soon I would be there. Crazy feeling.

I didn’t just cross the Pacific but also the date line, so was the date and time of the landing before the start. In Buenos Aires I had a 12 hour stopover, where I even had to change the airport from the international one to the domestic one. Luckily it worked out easily despite my bulky heavy luggage. After another 4 hour flight I finally reached the ‘the end of the world’ in Ushuiaia, what’s the world’s most southern city.

I was glad, that my couchsurfing hosts picked me up at the airport, as I was tired as hell and it was really cold. Later that day it was even snowing. I had actually never expected this cold weather, when I planned this trip, as it’s summer time here now. Soledad and Samuel, my hosts, didn’t speak a lot of English. So I had to try my little Spanish straight away, but the communication worked out somehow. Probably I learned more Spanish in those first days than during the last weeks through internet and audio lessons.

I needed a while to get rid of the jetlag and to get used to the new environment. My host’s house was perfect for that though. I already learned a lot about Argentinian culture and habit, so I have to get used to the late dinner, what didn’t start here before 11pm. Again I experienced just great hospitality and that despite the language barrier.

Before I left Ushuaia I went to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where’s the most southern point you can reach on a road. I had planned to some hiking, but the weather was just awful. Rainy, sometimes even a bit off snow and cold. I hoped it would get warmer quickly as I get further north.

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After three days it was time to say good bye to my fabulous guest family. Ushuaia is surrounded by mountain, southern parts of the Andes. So on the first day I had to climb a bit before I reached the endless flat Pampa. On the mountains was still snow, but luckily I just got a lot of rain. I loved to have long days again, as the sun set at 10 und it was bright till 11. Before I arrived in Rio Grande I finally encountered the famous Patagonian wind for the first time. Within five minutes the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the wind started blowing, of course against my direction. Fortunately I found a Warmshowers host in Rio Grande, where I could rest for two days.

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The rest I definitely needed, as after Rio Grande I had some of the hardest days ever on my bike. The wind didn’t stopped or changed direction and with just 10 km/h I made it somehow to the border in San Sebastian in one day. It was really nasty riding, the wind was coming a bit from the side and some gust pushed me a few times into the loose gravel next to the road. Every time a truck passed me I stopped, as they produced a massive wind gust. Luckily I haven’t had to camp in the wind. On the border I asked for a place to camp, but just got shown the waiting room. It was perfect, there was a heater and a bench had the perfect size for my mattress.

The border crossing was easy. Just the Chileans are a bit strict with fresh vegetables and animal products. First I thought nobody would control it anyway and I didn’t declare the carrots I was carrying. But then I saw how they looked through all the bags of a motorbike, what changed my mind, as I wanted to avoid some trouble. Too bad for the carrots though, who just landed in a bin.

The wind was still blowing and after the border there was no sealed road anymore, just a gravel one. That slowed me down  as well and I could hardly cycle faster than 7 km/h. After a while I was wondering if I’m even able to make to Porvenir before I run out of all my food. The mountains were far away and I was surrounded just by the endless Pampa, what didn’t make it easier, as I never had the feeling to make progress. There wasn’t much traffic at all, but every time a car passed I was covered in a dust cloud. Sometimes I saw some Guanacos, the wild form of Lamas.

At night I still managed to ride nearly 60 km and was lucky enough to find an empty hut, so I had not to camp in the wind again. Apparently I haven’t been the first desperate cyclist there. There were quite a few signatures on the wall.

The next day I got up at 5, as I heard that the wind is usually a bit weaker early in the morning. Indeed, there was no wind at all. I was relieved, it meant I would reach Porvenir at least before the ferry on the next day and before I run out of food. Cycling was so much easier without this nasty wind and I started to enjoy it again, as it wasn’t a constant fight anymore.

Surprisingly I even made on the same day to the ferry terminal, where I asked if I can camp next to a café. It was luckily not a problem at all and I got even invited to cook my dinner inside. From there I took the ferry over the Magellan Strait to Punta Arenas, what is finally on America’s mainland. Tierra del Fuego I’ll probably always connect to some really tough riding days. Maybe even toughest I have had so far.

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