After surviving the immense winds of Patagonia, and then running out of petrol only 20 miles away from the service station, (probably because of the added wind force on our fuel economy), we made sure we filled up at the next station. And then the next only 20miles later, then the next and then the next…. You never know when you’re going to need it! We had taken Routa 3 pretty much from Buenos Aires down through Rio Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz Provinces – this would lead us all the way to Ushuaia.
The southernmost major landmass of Tierra del Fuego is neatly divided by a very straight line between Argentina and Chile, and both are landlocked. To get to Chilean Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego you need to go through Argentine territory, and to get to the Argentine tip you need to pass through Chile. Seems confusing without looking at a map, but all it means is lots of time spent at border control.
Our first border crossing into Chile was smooth and fairly uneventful, thankfully. Only 55km from the border is the Magallanes Straight, dividing Tierra del Fuego from the mainland and caused many a ship wreck in the age of exploration.
Our ferry crossing was taken on one seemingly calm evening, but turned out the waters are anything but calm. Chris had to check on the bikes several times to make sure they hadn’t toppled over onto a new expensive 4×4 next to us, coming back completely soaked to the skin. To calm the nerve we ate a hotdog each, drank some hot chocolate and watched the dolphins playing in the torrent below – a lot can happen in 20 minutes.
Safely on the other side we checked into a hostel to keep out of the cold, and experienced the first of the inflated cost of everything in Chile. The second was the petrol the next morning at almost double the cost of what we had been paying in Argentina. So we headed quickly to the next border, back into Argentina via hills, pastures and sheep, all of which could have been taken directly from the Yorkshire Dales, opening up into lakes and mountains like the Lake District.
After another little fall on the gravel by Chloe, (again!), we reached the border into Argentina at San Sebastian. Another quick and surprisingly easy crossing over, plus the gaining of a new friend, Miguel, also on a motorbike heading for Ushuaia, we considered it a pretty successful day.
23rd November – Arrived in Ushuaia, the most southerly town in the world at latitude 54°S. Save a couple of farms and the small settlement of Port William on the Chilean Island Navarino across the water, (accessible only by boat), the road South ends at Lapataia, approximately 10miles west of Ushuaia town centre.
We had been told of the big motorcycle meet in Ushuaia by Diego, our English-speaking Columbian friend we had met in Comodoro with the ‘Choikes’ gang. He was working his way down to Ushuaia and reckoned it would be a good meet to be a part of. Our new friend Miguel had also updated us with information – the Latitude 54 Sur event, ‘Motoencuentro Internacional del Fin del Mundo’ – registration on Friday morning – we would be there!
Before the motorbiking action started however, we did see some of the cultural sights. The old penitentiary prison-turned-museum was visited, models of the European exploration ships scrutinised and displays about the Malvinas/Falklands conflict successfully avoided.
While wandering through the museum in a daze of mass-learning, we almost fell over Pierre and Marie-Jo, our French friends from the Grande Amburgo ship. A rendez-vous was arranged for dinner that evening, which was added to when we bumped into a lone Miguel on the way to the restaurant.
Culture done, motorbike meet begins! Friday morning registered 10.30am sharp, numbers 08 and 09 out of a total of 250. Miguel no. 07, by chance. The morning was taken up by studying our map of the continent with Miguel and getting to know more new friends, all of whom contributed places that ‘we must go’ on our way back up North towards Bolivia.
Early afternoon, time for lunch – ate far too much eat-all-you-can pizza which Miguel insisted was the best in town, (even though it was his first time in Ushuaia?!). Quick turn-around then back to the redundant hanger at the old naval base where Latitude 54 Sur had based it’s HQ. We had missed the lecture on accident safety given by the Bomberos (fire brigade) because we were too busy eating pizza, but were in time for more socialising, meeting lots of new great people, and more food and drink consumption until the early hours…. Urgh. Plans for the next day confirmed, we staggered to bed wishing we could have a lie in.
Next morning, we were at HQ at 9.45am prompt. We had forgotten that in Argentina, no-one is in a rush to do anything, whether pre-planned or not. The 10.30am departure, in convoy, to the Tierra del Fuego National Park turned into a 11.45am departure after everyone had gathered, chatted, looked at bikes again, drunk mate and helped our poor Columbian friend Diego try and fix his engine after he had been brought to the meet with his scooter, (Vespa), on the back of a pick-up.
After a fly-by by the naval air force, we were all set and ready to go – all 250 of us including the newly fixed Diego headed out through the town towards the National Park.
At the south-western end of the national park is Lapataia, where the road stops at the ‘Fin del Mundo’, (End of The World). Photos taken, picnic eaten, we then headed back along the bay to Puerto Guarani and the most southerly Post office in the World.
[Note – all this ‘End of World’ talk obviously excludes the many active bases on Antarctica – we are talking non-ice, human inhabited landmass.]
After a few more stops in the National Park to view picturesque lagoons with craggy mountain backdrops, we headed back to HQ for more socialising and de-briefing.
De-briefing done, we rallied once again for a mass photo-shoot and parade through the town, guided by the Policia, at crawling speed. Taking an hour to travel only 6 miles, we were hailed by the locals as champions as they gathered on the streets to watch us pass.
We gradually came to rest in the centre of town, parking up along the main street in front of the Tourist Office where a band was playing and the rest of the town gathered to cheer us in. Music and people, (including our German friends Ulli & Ulri!), flooded around the mass of bikes and Chloe gave her second radio interview of the trip into a Dictaphone – Spanish not much improved.
Once again, retreating back to the hotel for another quick turn-around, we headed back to HQ for another dose of Latin American socialising, helped along by pen & paper to draw as a way of translation, plus our talented friend Miguel who was able to translate in Spanish, somehow in a way that we could understand, even though he didn’t speak an ounce of English – amazing!
The drinking began and the smell of food wafted through the barracks. The classic Argentine Asado was on the menu for the night, washed down with Fernet & Coca Cola – another Argentine speciality – and great company. The night ended with a one-man-band playing amazing guitar and singing mainly British covers, in Spanish, including Lady in Red and Wonderful Tonight!
Another late night, full of food and drink and joviality we crashed into bed, this time knowing we could have a little lie-in before breakfast finished at 10am. Result!
So, Ushuaia – the End of the World, a town surrounded by mountains and water with the feel of a French Alpine ski resorts. Friendly, welcoming, picturesque and a great place for a party!
28th November – leave Ushuaia after one cultural day, three ‘biker’ days, and one recovery day. Next stop the Chilean border crossing at San Sebastian again, then heading west to Punta Arenas.
Ciao for now!
Newly repaired clutch lever bent again – Chloe 1 v 0 Chris
Jokes told in Spanish – Chloe 1 v 2 Chris
Fresh crabs eaten – Chloe 1 v 0 Chris
Petrol spilt over everything in pannier, inc both inflatable pillows – Chloe 0 v 1 Chris
Motorbikes with horns seen – Chloe 1 v 1 Chris