The end of the road, literally.
In my last post, I mentioned that we had made it to a town in south central Argentina called Sarmiento. One thing I didn’t mention, however, was the wind. Riding into Sarmiento we ran into some of the strongest winds we had experienced since leaving the States. Both Omar and I thought this was just some sort of weather front that was moving through the area. We were wrong. We experienced strong winds the entire 1,053 miles from Sarmiento to Ushuaia. It was unrelenting wind all the way. The worst was when it was a gust blow perpendicular to the road. Every now and again one would hit and blow us sideways into the other lane. Fortunately, there was almost no traffic on the road, so we didn’t have to worry about being blown into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Like the wind, the landscape was pretty much unchanged all the way to Ushuaia. It looked like the high plains of the American West with no trees or other obstructions to block the wind.
Towns in that part of Argentina were also very rare. Most times we travelled 100 miles or more before we reached the next community. In between there was nothing but grassy plains and high winds. We did see quite a few guanacos and rheas, but there were no gas stations, no ranches, and no people.
Speaking of gas stations, we had to fill up every chance we got. We never knew when we would encounter a long stretch with no stations. If you run out of gas in this part of Argentina, you were bound to have a very long and frustrating day finding enough fuel to get going again.
In addition to the monotonous landscape, high winds and infrequent gas stations, we also had difficulty finding an ATM to get cash. For some reason the ATMs in the little towns we passed didn’t like Visa or Master Card. Fortunately, the gas stations took our credit cards.
After two days of intense riding, we finally made it to Rio Gallegos, our last stop before crossing the Straits of Magellan to the island of Tierra del Fuego. In Rio Gallegos we stayed at a really nice Airbnb we rented from Ricardo. While there, Ricardo happened to mention that it was always windy in southern Argentina, but we were lucky that the winds were not blowing as intensely as they normally do. Neither of us could believe what we heard. If these were light winds, we couldn’t imagine what really strong winds would be like.
Early the following morning we headed to Tierra del Fuego and our next stop in Rio Grande. To get there we needed to make two border crossings (Argentina to Chile and then back to Argentina), take the ferry across the Straits of Magellan, ride a 30-mile section of dirt road, and ride another 200 miles on pavement. Just another typical day as we travelled south.
The border crossings were easy and so were the arrangements for the ferry across the Straits. When we arrived at the ramp to the ferry, we got into line with the other vehicles and waited for the crew to show us where to park our bikes. When they were done, every available inch of the ferry was loaded with cars and trucks. Within 30 minutes we were on the other side on our way again to Rio Grande.
Our last day’s ride from Rio Grande to Ushuaia was a contrast to what we had experienced. An hour or so after we left Rio Grande the grasslands turned into forest, lakes, and mountains. Although I have never been there, the landscape looked to me like what I imagine Alaska might look like. The last miles were on a beautiful mountain road with awesome vistas around every turn. The one constant, however, was the wind. It only stopped blowing when we rounded the bend and rolled into Ushuaia.
Several weeks ago when were still in Peru, Ushuaia seemed like some distant possibility. As we rode into town, it felt very satisfying to have made it all this way with no significant problems or issues. And to have done it with my good friend Omar, and his new companion Suri, made the accomplishment even more meaningful.
Looking back it seemed like a lifetime ago when we left Portland in an intense rainstorm heading down Interstate 5 towards Sacramento, California. Since then we have passed through 11 countries and so many cities and towns I can hardly remember. Mostly it was the people we met along the way that left a lasting impression on us. Everywhere we travelled we were greeted with kindness and open arms. Our new friends in Latin America have reinforced the notion that there are some truly awesome people living south of the USA border.
We plan to spend a week relaxing in Ushuaia and then catch a cruise ship to Antarctica. After the cruise, we will pack up our gear and start heading north. The next major stop after Ushuaia will be Buenos Aires, where we will spend a week or more. While there I might even take a tango lesson or two.