Mar 14

Day 98 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia!

by in Field Reports

The room was nice, but checkout is at 10, so we can’t lay about much even though we’ve got a short day ahead of us. It’s odd though. In Central America the checkout times were as late as 1PM. In Peru they were either late, or early. After Peru it’s always been 10 AM. On the one hand that’s not bad because it means we can’t dally. On the other hand we don’t generally get out before 10 when there’s a breakfast included, and especially not when there’s internet.

There was no mention of breakfast, and no real place to eat it besides a few small tables near the front desk which seemed to be for coffee, but when I go down to check the email (net doesn’t work in the room) to find the address of the hotel Joe and Vern recommended I discover that not only is there a Breadfast there’s fruit! A fruit and breadfast! I run up to tell Dachary who’s lingering in the hot water shower. “A Fruit and Breadfast?!”, she says, and hurries to finish.

There’s fruit, and yogurt, and cereal, and the tastiest croissants with sweet stuff brushed on that we’ve had the whole trip. But time is running out and Dachary’s starting to stress about getting out on time. I try and convince her that there’s no need to stress; they won’t mind if we’re a smidge late. But, it’s no use.

We take off the covers and load up. Retracing our steps out of town to the bypass because it sounds better than dealing with all the red lights and unknown directions, but then Dachary sees a sign, and we pull a U turn and go through town on a not particularly red light infested road. Soon we’re back on Routa 3.

The sky is overcast, and Dachary’s convinced it’s going to rain on us. Not long and we see evidence of rain in the direction we’re headed, so we throw the rain cover on my tank bag, which I’d left off so that I could use the little camera while riding.

There’s cold damp wind blowing in from the Atlantic. And soon it’s mixing with cold wet rain from the sky. We’re wondering where the “mountain” is because we’re mostly just seeing flat, or almost flat, terrain, but soon it becomes apparent as tall mountains appear from behind the clouds.

We stop for gas whenever we see it. Even if we’ve only driven 70 or 100 kilometers. It’s not that we’re afraid of running out. We’re afraid that we’ll get to where we *need* to fill up and the damn gas stations will have run out. First order of business when we arrive in Ushuaia is NOT to go to the park OR the hotel. It’s to get gas, just in case there isn’t any when we try to leave.

We pass about six adventure bicyclists heading north in ones and twos and as we’re making our way up the “mountain” The Brits catch up with us. It’s wet, and the road gets very twisty, with occasional bouts of small fallen rocks, or thin streams of water a foot wide running across the middle of a corner, with the occasional strong gust of wind thrown in for good measure. I just take it easy. No need to rush.

But the mood is weird. For me I’m excited, but not bouncingly. Mostly, I’m happy that my electric jacket is keeping me warm, and providing a layer between me and the rain liner so that I don’t feel damp. I wonder what I’d do if the bike broke down between here and Ushuaia. We’ve only another 50 k until town. I decide I don’t want to ponder that. Breaking down in the middle of the trip is one thing. Breaking down so close to the goal would be torture. I can’t really talk to Dachary because, in an odd twist, I can’t hear her during the rain. Usually, the headsets fuck up in the rain such that she can’t hear me. It’s the damn noise cancellation.

Before the rain though Dachary had been rather quiet… but not in an enjoying the silence kind of way… I asked her how she was doing mentally, and she said she felt like crying for some reason, and seemed as confused about it as I was.

Soon after coming down the mountain the rain ends and we get to Ushuaia where we forget Joe’s note about avoiding the dirt switchback until it’s too late and have to ride it anyway, fill up the bikes, watch the Brits go by, and gear up for the trip to the famous sign.

Now, it should be noted at this point that we’ve skipped lunch earlier because when we passed the place half-way here that was recommended by another ride report we decided to just go for it instead of stopping. I’m not sure what Dachary’s reasoning was, but mine was that we’d eaten not two hours before and when it’s cold and unhappy riding we both tend to linger, avoiding getting back on the bikes.

Back in Ushuaia Dachary’s hungry, wet, and, having forgotten to put plastic bags on her feet, now sporting squishy socks in two portable puddles. Until you’ve ridden for hours with two portable puddles on your feet you have no idea how demoralizing it can be. But, we both agree it’s best to take advantage of the near-sunlight while it’s here because who knows what the weather will be like tomorrow.

When we get to the park the road has turned to dirt (both of us had forgotten this detail) and Dachary’s all “where’s the sign?” And I’m all “soon”. And then we reach the gate, and Dachary’s all “There’s a gate!” and I’m all “So?” I’m not sure why the gate concerned her, but yes, there’s an entrance fee of 65 pesos for us foreigners but it’s good for camping the night there too if you want. I’m pretty sure I remember something about the sign being past the gate.

I pull over to put my gloves back on and Dachary informs me that the primary puck on the left pannier is no longer holding and it’s only still attached by virtue of my “backup” puck. Well… yay for the backup. I unlock it, open it back up, and attempt to not burn myself on the muffler while getting the errant puck reattached. I’m happy to report a lack of burns.

We drive in until there’s an intersection and I have to consult the map to figure out where to go. We continue straight and straight, and straight through one of the most gorgeous national parks I’ve ever seen. It’s fairly small but it makes every moment count.

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5529559092[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5529559092Parque National Tierra Del Fuego[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5529566510[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5529566510Dachary in Parque National Tierra Del Fuego[/url]

We’re in awe of it, commenting back and forth over the headsets; wondering why none of the ride reports we’ve read have mentioned how amazingly beautiful this place is. It’s this wonderful gift at the goalpost of this huge journey. We both wished we had camping gear that could handle sub-freezing temperatures, but we don’t and according to the weather it’s gonna be that cold. When Joe and Vern left town two days ago it was 37 F so definitely below 32 that night. Anywhere below 40 and we’re not happy to be outside in our sleeping bags.

And then, at the end of the road, is the sign.

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5526891967[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5526891967El Fin de Monde[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527469688[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527469688El Fin de Monde[/url]

And we are both happy, relieved…. I’m not sure. We commented last night that we thought it might be somewhat anticlimactic. That there’s really no good reason to go to Ushuaia beyond the fact that it was where the land runs out. But, it is beautiful. And there’s something of a sense of accomplishment, but it’s a tempered one, because, while you’ve reached the goal, you’re really not done. Anyone heading south to Ushuaia almost always has to turn back around and drive another three thousand kilometers to Buenos Aires to get home. It would be much better if there was a gaggle of other adventure bikers there… or even the Brits. What happened to the Brits?

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527509048[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527509048At the end of the world[/url]

For Dachary the event is tempered more by her cold and wet pants and squishy boots. So, rather than ask her to walk anywhere in her portable puddles, we turn around and head back to town and ponder all the other bikers who have made this same pilgrimage to Ushuaia, and how there are very few other points on the globe that draw adventure riders like Ushuaia does. There’s Ushuaia, Prudhoe Bay, the Cape of Good Hope where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and… we can’t think of anything else. Sure there are lots of famous places we tend to visit on our journeys but few that define them like these…

=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5526952001[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5526952001She’s got squishy boots[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527046983[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527046983Dachary in the park[/url]

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=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527638362[/url]
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/corporaterunaways/5527638362The Park at the end of the world[/url]

In town we fail at finding the hotel that Joe and Vern recommended. Mostly, due to the street we need being one way in the wrong direction. We find an excellent hostel called Hostel Torre Al Sur which is at S54 48.482 W68 19.136 in the middle of Gdor. Felix Paz st. It’s actually quite easy to find and, seems to me to be exactly what you hope for with a hostel, except for the fact that it’s on a hill with lots of steps to the front door. It’s 60 pesos ($15 US) per person per night, which is freaking incredible around here, has internet, a tiny driveway, and good smell, but… Yesterday Dachary made it clear she’d really like a day off. I think there’d been mumblings about it for a couple days prior, and you should never deny your partner a day off after so long, plus she really seemed like she needed it. And, as we’ve mentioned before, one of Dachary’s requirements for a place we stop to chill is a private bathroom, which is the only thing that Hostel Torre Al Sur can’t provide.

So, we continued our search for Joe and Vern’s hotel. Along the way we find the Hotel Americana which is right in line with what we’ve been told hotels cost around here (400 pesos / $100 US). But, the parking is meh (essentially a driveway), and I have a feeling that Joe and Vern’s place would be better, and it’s supposed to be right around here. So we go to look.

At this point Dachary is showing signs of having mentally crashed, but is willing to look more. So we do, and we don’t find it, and I’m concerned about her, so I say “fuck it” and we go back to the Hotel Americana with a stop off at one other hotel that has no rooms, but when we get there and step off the bikes Dachary notes that while it has a restaurant (pricey) it’s not open, and she needs food. Like literally needs, not wants. We violated the rule about feeding Dacharys at regular intervals. It’s like feeding Mogway after midnight… She’s said she won’t stop at a restaurant to eat because she doesn’t want to deal with sitting in her wet pants and portable puddles and she doesn’t want to stop at a hotel if there’s not food, and she isn’t up to wandering around looking for a hotel that meets the requirements.

After writing the full details of what followed we decided that, this once, it was better to leave out the emotional stuff and just give you the end results. It’s not that it was any worse than anything else we’ve detailed, it’s just that… today was Ushuaia. Today was the grand climax of the trip, and we don’t want it overshadowed by the unrelated fatigue induced breakdown that followed for Dachary.

The short short version is that the impossible situation shorted Dachary’s weary brain (i mean that literally… it needed fuel), and ultimately forced us to ride around town with her in a bad state. When we went to back out of another full hotel Dachary made a poor decision about how to extricate her bike and ended up dropping it on the sidewalk, next to a small tree. I’m not sure how exactly she managed it but her right hip, left shin, and something else on her right side that she’s having trouble identifying, and her right elbow and shoulder are all in a lot of pain even though she seemed to land standing. She got right back on, painfully, and was unwilling to stop and get off the bike until it was for the rest of the day even though she was wailing in agony over the headset while trying to ride. So I did the only thing I could, and took her back to the pricy hotel to get her off the bike and into a bed.

(end editing bits out)

At which point she is, of course, still needing food, so I go down to the guy and ask if we could maybe have a pizza delivered? “Is not possible” he says in English, in a tone that makes you know he really wishes it was. “Is not open until 8″… What the fuck is it with this country and none of the restaurants opening until 8pm?! does no-one eat here? “Is there anywhere I can get food?” I ask, and am told that there should be sandwiches a couple blocks away. Good. Sandwiches work.

Some more trials and tribulations of hotellery ensue but eventually I take off to find the mythical “open restaurant” and eventually, after passing three that were closed, actually find one… and it has pizza too. I don’t know why I have hope for pizza in this town but I do… maybe I’m just hoping for something good. I know I’m hoping for something simple that’ll make her happy. They don’t have pepperoni, which should have been a sign that this going to be another odd pizza, but I order the Four Cheese and wander back to the supermarket I passed to get her some Diet Coke for the evening.

The pizza turns out to be pretty decent I think. Dachary disagrees, but eats anyway because she’s hungry and needs food.

Our tag line for Argentina by the way? “Argentina: this tastes… odd” Everywhere we go there’s something odd about the food.

When 9PM comes along we’re feeling hungry again, as the last meal was really just a late lunch, so I go down to the restaurant, hoping to avoid wandering the town alone in the dark and drizzle looking for food but no… while the restaurant is open from 8-11 it’s not open *this* night because the person needs a night off every week and this is the night.

I return to Dachary with the bad news, and wander out into town where I find some relatively decent chicken at the place we got the pizza from.

Ultimately, it’s just not Dachary’s night. But, in spite of the stress and the pain, we’re happy with what we’ve accomplished today… or, what we’ve accomplished in the past 98 days I should say.

Dachary’s note: today should be about reaching Ushuaia. We’ve gotten to the end of our journey and reached our goal. And the bit around Ushuaia itself is surprisingly beautiful. There’s been so much empty, flat land that I was kind of expecting that from Ushuaia, too, but about 100km before you hit Ushuaia, you start encountering evergreen forests and an alpine landscape. There are hills, and lakes and beautiful mountains. I wish we were here when it wasn’t raining, because I expect the area is fantastically beautiful when you can really see it all.

The problems with finding a hotel and me ultimately getting hurt when the bike went down were stupid and I didn’t want to overshadow this day with a long, drawn-out account of them. We’re here. We made it to Ushuaia – the end of the road. The city is bigger than I’d expected down here at the bottom of the world. I’m looking forward to spending a day here, which is all we can really afford at this point – hotels and everything down here being so expensive, we’ve got to turn around and head north again as quick as possible – but I hope the rain will stop and my injuries will calm down enough to let us explore the city. I’m sure there’s plenty to offer for a few days of exploration, and I hope we get the chance before we have to turn around and head home.

12 Responses to “Day 98 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia!”

  1. From John Sawers:

    Awesome guys!

    I’ve been watching you go the whole way and I’m totally excited on your behalf. You totally kick ass. Wave at the Antarctic penguins for me.

    Posted on March 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm #
    • From Kay:

      Side note… no penguins in Ushuaia. I think you have to take a boat south to see them. There is a penguin breeding ground in the teeny bit of Chile just north of here but it’s all dirt to get to it and we’re going to skip it… HOWEVER there is another penguin breeding ground kind-of on our way north that we’d like to stop at but we’ve read that the penguins leave mid-march so we’re not sure if we’re too late or not.

      :(

      Mostly we’re hoping we can make it to the Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s not on the way, but it’s something Dachary’s definitely been looking forward to.

      Posted on March 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm #
      • From John Sawers:

        No, I meant wave st the penguins in Antarctica (way down in the dark-tica.)

        My facetiousness was not communicated :-)

        I actually didn’t expect there would be any on land there, but then I remembered they have them in South Africa, so it makes sense.

        The email did come through BTW.

        Posted on March 19, 2011 at 11:13 am #
  2. From Rebekah:

    Happy End of the World!

    Posted on March 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm #
  3. From Jean McCullough:

    You guys rock! I’ve been following your blog since the beginning– it’s a great break from my job at the community college– and I’m happy that you’ve made it to your destination. Think I’ll take a much shorter ride on my own F650 tomorrow and pretend I’m on a big adventure, too.

    Posted on March 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm #
  4. From Corey (Roxy's "mom"):

    Wow, you made it! Congratulations, guys!

    Posted on March 16, 2011 at 6:43 am #
  5. From Jake Brink:

    Well done guys! I came across your blog by chance about a month ago and followed it. Dachary, I know exacly what you had to deal with on the dirt roads. Last year a buddy and I rode from Johannesburg to Kenya to go and see the famous annual game migration. We agreed to stick to paved roads as much as possible due to time constraints. He’s a lot younger, stronger and a more experienced rider than me and on the way back we took a “short cut” in Tanzania. “Secondary paved road” is what the GPS and maps called it. After 70 kms it turned into the worst rough dirt road imaginable with overloaded trucks and buses coming from all directions. I was seriously out of my comfort zone for the next 650 kms!

    So, well done again! I wish you luck with your social re-integration.
    Come down to Africa. It’s a biker’s paradise.

    Posted on March 16, 2011 at 7:21 am #
  6. From tony:

    Congrats Kay and Dachary! A huge accomplishment. You two should be proud and yah, take a freakin day off!! :)

    And please have a drink at the bottom of the world for me.

    Posted on March 16, 2011 at 8:55 am #
  7. From Russ:

    Congrats to you guys in reaching your goal. Been following you since your first stop in my state, CT. Loved your write-ups and pics! Thanks for sharing your ride!!!

    Posted on March 16, 2011 at 8:57 am #
  8. From Joe:

    We’ll talk once back, pups are asking for ya both.

    Posted on March 16, 2011 at 10:18 am #
  9. From Daren Tucker:

    Congratulations! I didn’t want to see this adventure end! What a great story and it definitely helped me get through the winter.

    Daren

    Posted on March 16, 2011 at 11:53 am #
  10. From Brenda:

    A big Yahoooooo for you guys. Been following you all the way and Congratulations!

    Posted on March 17, 2011 at 4:46 am #

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