It’s with sadness that I’m dedicating this post to Steve Worland; friend, doyen of singletrack, and journalistic inspiration.
Primera Parte can be found here.
So… finally… here I am in Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the Americas; at 54°48′S, it’s closer to the South Pole than to Argentina’s northern border with Bolivia.
This is the end of the road for most Panamerican riders – purists may point out that Chile’s Puerto Williams is a touch further south, but it’s an expensive boat ride away with just a scratch of road to ride on. In any case, Ushuaia’s a name that’s been rattling around my head since the start of the trip. And although I had no official fixed destination, (secretly) Ushuaia was the place I always hoped to reach.
Thankfully, even after seeing it printed on my map for so long, and chewing it over for so many months in my mind, getting here hasn’t proved to be an anticlimax at all. These last few days on the island of Tierra del Fuego have been wonderful. A little on the damp side, perhaps, but I wouldn’t exchange them for anything: sticky mud, frigid river crossings, soaking rain, blustery winds and all. Finishing up with a like-minded cycling band of brothers (and sisters) has helped galvanize this energy of arrival even more. The memory of reaching the outskirts of Ushuaia, hugging and high-fiving, will remain vivid in my mind and stir my heart for years to come. I’m sure more riders will be trickling in this afternoon and over the next couple of days, extending the celebrations yet further.
And if I find myself slipping into complacency, I need only to step out of the hostel, hunch my shoulders and feel the biting cold of the Antarctic wind, or look up at the rugged backdrop of peaks that cradle the town, to remind myself of exactly where I am. For while the name of this industrial port city definitely evokes more romance than its appearance, Ushuaia certainly boasts a prime location and an undeniable sense of place, hemmed in as it is between the Beagle Channel and the snow covered Martial Mountains. Teetering on the edge of winter serves only to add to this mood; both time, and the road, have finally run out.
Already there are over a dozen bicycles parked in the yard; personalised, battle-scarred chariots that have carried their owners through plains and desert, through jungle, mountains and more. A handful of others flew the coop just yesterday, migrating to warmer climes along with the rest of the wildlife here. Most cyclists are headed home, scouring town in search of bike boxes to sadly dismember faithful steeds, for flights to Europe and North America.
Luckily for me, I still have riding to do. Once I’ve navigated a course through the Patagonian logistics of getting back to Puerto Montt – boat, bus or plane, or a combination of the three – I’ll be cycling up to Cuzco once more, placing the last piece of this American jigsaw in place. Somewhere up north, the altiplano lies head…
If you would like to keep up with where I am between blog entries, I try and keep my While Out Riding Facebook page regularly updated – along with posting extra photos and gear ponderings. You can find it here.
You can read an old interview with Steve here, published in Singletrack in 2003. It was Steve that got me into ‘weird’ wheelsizes and ‘strange’ handlebars. And as the zen master of singletrack in our local Bristolian trails, I delighted in chasing him round the woods, learning a little each time we rode, as I bounced around inelegantly in his dust…
My favourite quote:
“The next big development surge in bike use will have to be political: any rational person realises that car culture is shutting out human culture.”
So, I’m going to be asking for some route notes again… that off pavement looks pretty good.
Congrats on getting to the end. Now you just have a bit more middle to do.
Pretty good? It was bliss! And, you’ll be pleased to hear it doesn’t have any locked gates (-; (though in all honesty, it’s relatively short distance wise)
In terms of navigation, just look out for the sign to Laguna Kosovo, maybe 25-30kms out of Tolhuin. Great camping potential down there, though a bit early in the day. A few sloppy sections where shoes need to be removed. We noticed the road marked on a map in La Union bakery. Only spotted it after, but there’s also dirt road up to the pass – looked steep and loose, but very rideable.
Although I know you’re always up for a challenge, I’m not sure I’d recommend the first beachy bit out of Rio Grande though – not nearly as hardpack at the one to Punta Arenas. Very nice to get away from the main road, but could be slow going. Myles did it a day or two before us on his fully laden bike; he cussed his way through for 5 hours.
That jellyfish photo makes it hard to resist, though….
If you do go that way, hop the gate at the police intersection on the paved Tolhuin/Rio Grande Road (they don’t mind). Follow farming dirt road towards coast (one fence to hop), past good supermarket at intersection. Follow the coast round, through various little barrios. It eventually connects with a dirt road, that can be muddy as there’d been a lot of rain; at which point we cut across the pampa towards the beach. Down in the seaweedy bit seemed to be the best surface for riding. We followed that round for a while, until we cut back up again as Panthea found the riding a little awkward, given the soft sand. Nice, very rideable trails further up – you’ll see the main road in the distance, and can work your way towards it. Probably cuts 25km off the pavement.
Lots of jellyfish!
Wow! Quite an accomplishment, and a gorgeous photo essay.
Altiplano calling .. 😉
Congratulations! Ushuaia, the mecca of cyclists has been conquered :).
A fascinating journey Cass, superbly documented. Look forward to seeing many more of your adventures. Keep them pedals turning !
Thanks for sharing your adventures with us Cass.
Congrats on reaching the end, buddy. Now on to finish this adventure.
I owe you an email… soon.
Thanks for the comments. Still have a few more adventures in the pipeline…
Congrats, sir; lovely post. Those 510s do take a bit of coaxing to dry, eh.
Cheers Logan. To be fair, the Aescents haven’t been too bad in the drying department (compared to the Freeriders), but no match for multiple river crossings and rainfall. Soggy prunefeet…
They are durable, that’s for sure. I scrubbed mine with a toothbrush a few days ago (to get out the funk).
Thanks for all the inspiration Cass. I think you will need another planet to explore soon.
I’m just in Bahia de Los Angeles in Baja, Mexico. I managed to get down that palm canyon. Bliss for fat biking, amazing. I had to packraft some coast and desalinate seawater to get back. I was in the wilderness for 2 weeks. Unfortunately I only have my iPhone so can’t post photos for a few weeks but I’m writing up the trip report. I need to be more vigilant at writing up reports afterwards, even just posting photos. I have 10 days till my friends come down, I’m sure I’ll use it well.
Still hoping to build up that symmetrical 135 mm fatbike in June, maybe if it turns out I’ll build you one too lol
Mark – sounds like an INCREDIBLE tour! Look forward to the trip report.
A truly inspiring journey…reading this makes it hard to wait until our own dirt roads and mountain trails comes out of the snow. Thanks for every post so far…and welcome to the rest!