Punta Arenas-Porvenir-King Penguins-Cameron-Pampa Guanaco.
Only the last stretch of my Patagonian journey remains… It seems hard to believe, but I’ve actually dreamt of making this traveler’s pilgrimage to Tierra del Fuego – the archipelago that lies off the southernmost tip of the South American continent – for over twenty years.
With this thought in mind, I try and remind myself with every passing moment where I am, and reflect on the long and unexpected path that it has taken to reach this point…
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.
It’s a two hour ferry ride across the Straight of Magellan from the relative metropolis of Punta Arenas to the petite village of Porvenir, on Tierra del Fuego.
First impressions? Flat and windy. Yet alluring nonetheless.
Founded in a gold rush in the 19th Century, I’m drawn to Porvenir’s weathered buildings, and can only imagine the potted history that lies within.
Inevitably, their bike portrait potential appeals too.
My first night on Tierra del Fuego is spent camping in the grounds of the local hospital, with Jas and Theresé, a French/Swedish couple, and Stefan and Magali, from Switzerland. Both couples end their longs journey in Ushuaia.
The mean streets of Porvenir.
Home to even the odd Mercedes.
Sturdier than they look: houses built with purpose.
And a splash of elegance too.
Force of habit. Even on a still day, the sign for Supermercado Paulina suggests windy times lie ahead.
Patchwork abodes on the coast road out of town. A shack…
… with a view.
And off street parking.
Soon, clouds are ousted from the sky and the sun shines in all its glory.
On a day like this, Tierra del Fuego seems bereft of any meterological menace I might have expected.
As long as you’re graced with tailwind, of course. Luckily, I’m propelled along this bolt straight road for 40km, at almost the same speed per hour. I’m glad I’m not cycling the other way… it could well be soul crushing.
Perfect shelter for lunch. We all cram inside.
Of course, we’re not the first, as can be seen in the bicycle graffiti that adorns its walls, complete with tips for the road ahead. It’s so serene within, that some cyclists heading north even choose to sleep here. At 6’1″, diagonally I just fit inside this Tardis.
A roadside encounter. I eyeball him. He eyeballs me. Peace out, Guanaco.
An abandoned estancia. As I stop to take this photograph, a driver in an old pickup truck pulls over onto the gravel verge. He winds down the window and over the icy wind, tells me a little about his upbringing, and his grandparents emigrating from Germany. I feel like I’m in a scene from Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.
Later, I settle on lodgings of a more compact nature. I’m glad to have room to rotate and even prepare my dinner, shielded from the howling winds. For sure, they would have flattened my Tartptent.
So very beautiful.
King Penguins stand up to a metre tall.
Sit still long enough, and they’ll shuffle over to investigate…
… between preens.
Here come the heavies.
Are you ou looking at me? No, actually I’m looking slightly to one side.
On their own little island, milling around, perhaps gossiping.
Day 2 doesn’t begin in such an inviting fashion. A heavy mist in the air, and sludge on the road.
Still, I can’t complain about the tailwind. This dog runs alongside me; I try and shoo him towards his estancia, but secretly I’d like to fit him in my pannier.
We lope along together for several kilometres.
Plenty of sleeping potential in these parts too. Bikeshacking, as Kurt would put it.
I catch up with Skyler and Panthea, whose beachside tyre tracks I followed en route to Punta Arenas. Skyler, incidentally, is riding a Surly ECR. More on that later…
We converge with the Swiss/French/Swedish brigade. It’s a little early to stop, but the lodging in Russfin is just too tempting to pass by. 7 bicycle tourists…
… make themselves comfortable for the night in the perfect abandoned house.
A room each.
Jas gives his space a spring clean.
A Frenchman and a chef by trade, tasty smells soon pervade the old house.
The crew. Panthea, Stefan, Magali, Skyler, Theresé and Jas.
And the friendly local gaucho.
He’s preparing a lasso from cow hide, as you do.
Like this one.
Day 3 and the rain sets in. Perhaps it’s in keeping with where we are; this really is beginning to feel like the end of the earth.
The road wends on.
And on, across the pampa.
Alone, but not lonely…
Ah, this would be Tierra del Fuego. A dirt road and a heavy sky.
We ride on, spattered in a film of crud.
I can almost feel my poor chain and bearings grinding down to a crunchy pulp.
The Rohloff is in its element, even if the BB7s are gritting their teeth.
We hunker down at the Chilean customs office for the night, drying off sodden gear around a wood fire. The following morning, just a swollen river lies between us and the final push to Ushuaia, in Argentina. Not surprisingly, this small border crossing closes in just a few days. Winter is coming…