Our late departure from Rio Gallegos was a complicated one. First, I had to find a police station, explain to them that my wallet had slipped out of my pocket on the bike and then get a letter to say that I had lost my drivers, a huge mission to accomplish first thing in the morning before a long ride. One good thing about this was that this move was that it completely removed me from the seat of responsibility when it comes to paying for things. Megan is now the money-lady, leaving me to be the ‘talent’ and general clown.
And we were off, with a howling ±100km/hr cross-wind to keep us awake, we blasted through Argentinian Patagonia at an acute angle, destined for Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia, the end of the Earth or ‘Fin Del Mundo’. We passed our first border crossing without a hitch, we declared some apples, had to eat them, and successfully smuggled through a very expensive piece of salami/chorizo, which we sneakily got past a sniffer dog and briefly into Chile. Getting to Tierra del Fuego involves a ferry over the Magellan Strait, as it is not part of the mainland. The first ferry we came across was a short one, but being our first, we were overcome with excitement to finally ride our bikes onto a boat, however sad that might sound. Everyone knows its not a real motorcycle adventure until you’ve ridden onto a boat right?
As we left the ferry, the weather started to turn, the sky darkened, and the heavens slowly opened, before we knew it we were riding dark, windy, whooping mud roads at 4 degrees Celcius in the wet. I was having an absolute ball, and Meg was on the verge of tears, they say opposites attract. Just to be clear, for any non-bikers that may be reading, 4 degrees on a bike is not 4 degrees standing still, wind chill with rain will turn you into a block of ice, its cold, its miserable, your helmet fogs up, and your hands stop working. Being overcome with school-boy levels of excitement, I was blasting along the dirt roads grinning from ear-to-ear, the cold didn’t stand a chance. Meg on the other hand was struggling, she was very worried about the mud and due to her being lady-person she was freezing as usual. Meg has been known to put on a down jacket when one cloud rolls in front of the sun on a summers day or occasionally as she walks through a shadow or opens the fridge. I can only imagine how cold she got under these conditions. The ride and the stress was made much worse by the trucks, big numbers of huge, long-haul trucks had to be overtaken the whole way to the border, and with night approaching fast, it was getting dangerous.
On reaching the 3rd border of the day, to cross out of Chile, we were tired, cold, and wet. The roads were bad and full of trucks so we decided to call it a night, much to my disappointment, but as the old saying goes: ‘night doubles traffic troubles’, and Meg wasn’t having any of it. We were lucky enough to be given hot chocolate on the house at the border crossing, as well as directed to a hostel, right at the border by a great, friendly guy called Roberto, who we have since become good friends with.
There is something special about arriving at a warm, comfortable place when you are cold, wet, gatvol and the weather is awful, its nearly worth the unpleasant ride just to feel the relief of sanctuary, and, oh man, it was good. The Hosteria La Frontera is clean, well-kept, warm, and friendly. Best of all, they have a kick-ass restaurant attached to it and don’t even care when you track mud through their shiny foyer. After showing and putting on some comfy, dry clothes we headed into the restaurant for a bite to eat, where we were immediately offered “menu?”. Being gringos, and displaying amazingly poor Spanish skills, we said “Si!, por favor!” and expected to get a menu, which is actually known as the “Carta”. What we had unknowingly ordered was “THE Menu”, the whole shebang, which, let me tell you, was awesome news for me. Starters, soup, drinks, mains, sides, and dessert, plus coffee, I went to bed a happy boy.
This morning, come hell or high water, we were going to go to Ushuaia. No more nonsense, and apart from a short hiccup at the border, where I nearly got arrested for quickly speeding back over the border and 1km into Chile to fetch a pair of goggles I had left behind, we were making great progress. Two months in and I had already crossed a border illegally… win! With great relief we watched the landscape change, and as the pampas got smaller in the rear view mirror and the snowy mountains rose up to meet us, our moods began to lift. With the mountains in the distance, we were confronted with the weirdest landscape, like something out of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Forests of spooky, dead trees lined the road. What looked like long, wispy, light green foliage, was actually ‘Old-Man’s Beard’ covering the trees, a sort of fungus/algae cross that will only grow in the most pure, clean air, it was magical.
Before we knew it we were right outside Ushuaia, in snowy mountains and green forests, with Cape Horn in the distance, we rode the windy road up and down through the mountains, all the time marveling at the changes in our surroundings, we were somewhere special, and finally, somewhere different.