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.”