Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Tierra Del Fuego
It is 14955 miles from Buchanan’s BP at 82nd and Dodge in Omaha to the Yakush Hostel in downtown Ushuaia Argentina at the tip of South America, plus a few air miles between Panama City and Bogotá. Ushuaia is the end of the road, in all respects. In theory one can get across the Beagle Channel to Puerto William Chile to go further south. That’s the theory. But there is no ferry to take vehicles.
We crossed from Punta Arenas Chile on the mainland by ferry to the island of Tierra del Fuego. It is a two hour trip across the Straights of Magellan at this point. The island is cut in half and shared by Chile and Argentina. So you can’t get to Argentina without going through Chile. We started out crossing the island at Porvenir Chile.
All of the roads on the Chilean side are what is termed “ripio”. This is not Iowa gravel. It is rocks embedded in packed soil with a cobble stone effect. In other places it is just packed dirt that turns to a mud rut. Still other places are piles of loose gravel on top of hard stone. I think they call it ripio for what it does to tires. It shaves the rubber right off. Anyway, we crossed over 120 miles of dirt and gravel to get to Argentina. The northern part of the island is identical to the Nebraska sand hills. The bottom 100 miles is forest and mountains. And it is cold. Both Chile and Argentina include their Antarctic territory in Tierra Del Fuego. It is also summer here, but you could fool me. It was 30 degrees F when we arrive in Ushuaia on Thursday the 27 of February. So I guess it makes sense to include this place with Antarctica when it is only 750 miles away.
We spent some time just enjoying the fact that we had made the journey. In some ways we were relieved, but a little depressed too. It is kind of like the last day of summer camp. But the national park at the end of the trail is worth it. On Friday We got the mandatory photos and headed for the Hostel. The next day we took a boat trip out into the Beagle Channel. Cold again, but worth it.
When we woke up on Sunday guess what? Yeah- it was cold. Real cold. In fact, it was spitting snow when we pulled out of Ushuaia and headed to the sunny north on March 1. Well it was the sunny north for about 10 minutes. The rest of the day it was cold!! I could have ridden across the sand hills in December and had the same experience, except for unforgettable mountains, and the Atlantic Ocean. Details, details.
Tonight as I write this blog we are at San Sebastian on the Chilean side of the island. There is a small Inn here. We are the only guests. Marty bought a bottle of wine and is sharing it with the owner and the cook as I write. The lights come on at 8 pm, because that is when they start the generator. Before that we sat around the wood stove and gas lights. The wind is howling just as it has for the last week. And it is hard to leave this cold place.
Tomorrow is another 100 plus miles of dirt in the unrelenting wind. It pushes motorcycles around on the road as it they were riding on ball bearings. From time to time we get stuck in a rut. We have learned that when one is in a rut, stay in the rut. When one tries to jump out of a rut in the wind, the result is a sliding twisting motorcycle. So the riding is the same as going down a single track trail, except trucks come barreling down on us on occasion.
Anyway – we made it to the end of the continent, the end of the island, and the end of the road. I am tired and cold, but not ready to come home. I will warm up on my way to Buenos Aires and give another report.
PS After I wrote this we broke down an hour North of San Sebastian on a desolate stretch of dirt. That post will follow when we get Marty’s bike repaired – someday.