Bahia Lapataia, Tierra del Fuego- the road ends here

On the morning of April 25th I packed up my bike one last time, said goodbye to my wonderful hosts, and set off for my final stop… Bahia Lapataia.

The drive to the bay is only about 30 from the city of Ushuaia.  I took my time and tried to soak it all in.  Again, the fall colors were beautiful.

Ha… I didn’t really give this video much thought.  I basically just arrived, parked the bike, sat my helmet on the ground with the camera on top and started recording.

Ruta 3 ends at this sign.  From there it is a three-minute walk down a small footpath to the water’s edge.

I spent about 30 or 40 minutes hooting and hollering, walking around, and snapping photos.  I couldn’t stay long, though.  It was already almost noon and I was planning to make it back to Punta Arenas before midnight in order to sell the bike there in the morning.

I made it back to Ushuaia a little after noon, filled up on gas, and waited in line at the post office for almost an hour just to mail out a few post cards.  By the time I finally left town it was almost 2pm and it had started to snow.

The ride back to Punta Arenas was long.  After completing the border crossing, the sun set which left me in complete darkness as I took 2-3 hours to navigate the dirt track in a steady mix of rain and sleet.  I reached the Strait of Magellan just in time to catch the 9:30pm ferry to the mainland.  I must have looked pretty weary because the ship’s crew told me not to worry about paying the crossing fee… which was good because I didn’t have the cash anyway.

Once on the other side, the rain stopped and the pavement started.  I was feeling good.  I had reached my goal in the morning, and after a long battle of a day, it looked like I was going to make it to Punta Arenas with the bike in good enough shape to sell to my potential buyer.

And then I ran out of gas.

I had tried to keep a close eye on the tank.  I knew it would be close, but I thought the ol’ burro could squeeze out the last few miles.  After more than 12 hours on the bike… and about 30 kms outside of Punta Arenas, the bike died and I coasted to the shoulder.  I left my lights on and waited for a car to pass.  About five minutes had passed when I saw some lights off in the distance, the were coming my way.  I positioned myself in the glow of my headlight and waved down the vehicle as it passed.

It was a taxi.  The driver told me that there was a police station just 5 kms up the road.  He had a tow cable in his trunk and after he had attached one end to his car, I held the other end in my hand as he sat off slowly down the road.  I don’t know if he got impatient or just forgot I was being towed behind, but at one point I looked down and we were doing almost 25 mph!  The bike became extremely unstable, and after nearly loosing control several times, I let go and coasted the remaining distance to the station.

The officer on duty informed me that they didn’t have any spare gas on hand but said I could keep my bike in the garage and come to retrieve it in the morning.  The taxi driver offered to give me a lift into town.  I took them both up on their respective offers, and around 1am I finally arrived at my host’s house in Punta Arenas.  Lalo was still up, he had started to worry and was relieved to see me.  After chatting for a bit, I went straight to bed.  While it wasn’t the most glorious finish… I had made it!

Now… to sell the bike.

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Ushuaia, Argentina- the city at the bottom of the world

I had arrived… at last!  My final destination, Ushuaia, Argentina.  El fin del mundo… the end of the world!

What was it like?… better than I had imagined.  For starters, my hosts were incredible!  I mean really super awesome!  I don’t know if I just had luck while using CouchSurfing, but every single experience I had was fantastic, and this one was no different.  I stayed with Sofia and Vale and spent the weekend hanging out with them and their two friends, Cesar and Lucho.  They were a sweet bunch and we had a blast together.

The city and its surroundings are beautiful.  Set on the Beagle Canal with a view of Navarino Island, Ushuaia is surrounded on the remaining three sides by beautiful peaks that, while I was there, were covered in snow.  I was tempted to try a climb on the very beautiful Mt. Olivia but lack of a climbing partner meant that I will have to save it for round two.

My hosts’ apartment and the respective city view…

I was really blessed to have good weather during my stay which was rare for the time of year.  Sofia kept raving about how lucky I was.  She said it had been raining without a break for the past month.

Sofia had the day off and generously took me on a little city tour…

…and even snapped a few touristy photos for me.


The harbor held a mix of freight barges, military vessels, and tourist boats.  While there where none in port at the time of my visit, Sofia said that even the largest cruise ships (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, etc.) make stopovers in Ushuaia where passengers can take smaller cruises to Antarctica to see the “march of the penguins.”  If I had arrived two months earlier with $4,000 cash to spare, I might have considered it.  I guess I will have to rely on Morgan Freeman and National Geographic…

While this is veering far off track, YouTube recommended this funny French commercial after watching the film trailer for March of the Penguins…

And now back to Ushuaia and the city tour.

I like this shot a lot…


Later, we met up with Lucho and took a drive in his car up the mountainside overlooking the city.  The colors of the leaves lit the whole place on fire.

A distant view of the permanent Martial glacier:

(1) Sofia, what’s going on here?  (2) Me tasting the glacier run-off

Check out those colors!

After getting our nature fix, we drove back into town where we met up with Vale and her cute little niece for a long lunch in a cafe on the main strip.  The pie was unreal…

Ushuaia was originally developed as a penal colony for the country of Argentina.  Much like the prisons of Devil’s Island and Alcatraz, “El Presidio” in Tierra del Fuego was intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals.  It was far removed from society and its location made escape difficult to impossible.  The prison in Ushuaia was decommissioned in 1947 and was restored to serve as a museum in 1990.  I have always been fascinated by prisons and escape stories and signed up for a guided tour of the facility.  The tour was excellent, and I ended up sticking around for an hour or so reading the stories and captions on the various cell block exhibits until the museum closed for the night.


Posing with the infamous “Petiso Orejudo” (“Big-eared Midget”)… Cayetano Santos Godino

After the prison tour, I did a little souvenir shopping for the first time on the trip.  I still had to make the drive back to Punta Arenas so I couldn’t buy anything big or breakable.  I found a few things for friends, family, and supporters.  Basically, I bought the only non-penguin items I could find in the shops.  I hadn’t seen any penguins… didn’t want to be deceitful.

The next day was Easter Sunday.  In celebration we drove to a dog sledding training camp, Villa las Cotorras, outside of Ushuaia where we enjoyed a family style, all you can eat lamb roast… which was delicious!

Check out the ingredients in the Cafe del Mono… Monkey’s coffee which was served out of an old, black, fungus-corroded, iron kettle… mmm, mmm, good.


The roasting room…


Back in town, the tour continued with a stop for coffee and pastries at Ramos Generales, a museum-like, memorabilia-decorated, general store turned retro cafe.


The final stop for the night… Dublin Pub with the pandilla where I tried the locally brewed Beagle.

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Tierra del Fuego- the land of fire

The ferry landed in Porvenir around 11:00am.  I was loaded and locked and ready to rock.  I rolled off the boat and passed the swarm of passengers that were making their exit onto shore.  I had roughly 500 kms ahead of me, including a border crossing.  The map showed the route to be about half paved, but the dirt section was rumored to be in good condition.

I snapped a few pics and then set out hoping to arrive in Ushuaia by nightfall.


Driving away from the small port town, the well-groomed dirt road wove its way east along the Inutil Bay.  I enjoyed the meandering road which twisted around the rolling hills following the land’s end.  The area was rather barren.  There was almost no traffic and outside of the occasional small fishing boat drifting along close to shore, sheep where the only signs of life.  It was peaceful.  On the other side of the bay I could make out the ridge line of a snow-covered mountain range.  I was excited to be here.  At last… Tierra del Fuego!

I kept telling the bike, just a few more days, you can make it.  I wasn’t expecting something to go wrong, but this road was fairly removed and I’ve learned from experience that things usually tend to fall apart near the end of trips.

About 50 kms along, I came across a line of rally cars that were prepping for that day’s leg of a race.  I stopped and chatted with them for a while before getting back to my own rally race.


I was inspired by the rally cars and was zipping along, making good time but probably going too fast until I came across this sight:

I pulled up alongside another truck which was parked off to the left side of the road.  I asked the two guys standing off to the side if everything was alright.  The driver of the wreaked vehicle introduced himself.  He and his wife, who had been in the car, were shaken up but fine.  They had had the accident only 15 minutes prior… just driving too fast on the gravel road.

I slowed down.

I rolled up to the Chilean border control sometime in the early afternoon.  I was making good time and didn’t mind too much that there seemed to be a longer-than-usual line for immigration.  I got out the sandwich I had packed and enjoyed the break.  I had finished my lunch and was starting to get impatient with the slow-moving line when a large tour bus arrived and hoards of passengers got off and were ushered to the front of the line for preferential service.  So much for making good time… :/.  There was nothing I could do.  After waiting more than an hour my passport was stamped with “salida.”  I was free to cross back into Argentina for the fourth and final time on this trip.

Tierra del Fuego, which translates to English as “the land of fire,” derives its name from the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan who could see the beach fires built by the native Yaghan people from his ship.  While the distinct native groups on the island are all but extinct, the land has maintained its fire reputation in another way.  I arrived at the right time… the leaves had turned to a stunning combination of yellows, oranges and reds lighting up the surroundings… the true land of fire.

I caught a glimpse of this full rainbow which made for one of my favorite photos from the trip.

The skies and sunset views were spectacular.  I probably could have made it to Ushuaia by nightfall but I kept stopping to soak it all in.

I rode the last 15 minutes in the dark.  When I arrived in town, I was surprised by the size of the city at the bottom of the world.  There seemed to be several main streets lined with restaurants and shops and a sprawling residential area that worked its way up away from the water and towards the mountains.  I stopped at a small call center and called my hosts for the night.  They were at home and looking forward to meeting me.  I plugged their address into my GPS and away I went.

I hooted and hollered a few times as I rode around town and pulled up to my hosts’ house.

At last… Ushuaia!

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