Around the world by bike
(291km - 8days)
24 November - Cape Town, South Africa - Ushuaia, Argentina
I was up at 5h00, ready for my early morning flight to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires, a 9-hour 20 minute flight, and then a further 3-hour 30 minute flight to my final destination. All went well except that I had to pay for my overweight baggage on the final leg. I easily found a taxi at Ushuaia airport to take me, bike and bags into the town and to Hostel Haush where I stayed for the next 3 nights. Al last I had arrived on the Isla Grande de Tierra Del Fuego; an island shared with Chile and cut off from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan.
Ushuaia is picture pretty but also freezing cold. There is however, more than enough outdoor stores to stock up with much needed warm clothes. It stayed light till rather late, so it was hard to go to sleep with it being so light outside. By 23h00 (24 hours since I woke up) I was finally in bed and slept like a log.
25 November - Ushuaia
With its snowy mountain backdrop, Ushuaia reminded me a bit of Alaska. With brightly painted corrugated iron homes, it’s quite a picturesque town. Situated on the Beagle Channel and at the foot of the Andes Mountain Range, Ushuaia is commonly known as the most southern city in the world – although, with a population of about 64 000 it’s not that much of a city. The Southern location also means that it’s rather cold year round with a high of only 9 degrees in the warmest months. Heating systems are on all year long (including in the summer). So off to the shops I went and spent a fortune on a pair of very nice Merrell hiking shoes. I only had a pair of sandals, which was not going to do the thing here. I also found some gas for my stove at an equally high price.
I wandered around the many shops stocking up on all I my needs for the days ahead. I also found a rather nice bike shop, Ushuaia Extremo, who put my bike together again.
26 November - Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego National Park - 50km
I dressed in my warmest clothes (including my brand new shoes) and set off into the National Park. The Park gate was only about 12km from the centre of town and an easy cycle along a dirt road. Although freezing cold the scenery was quite spectacular. The end of the road in the park is also the end of Ruta 3 and known as “The-end-of-the-world”. It may be the end of the road, but it was the beginning of the road for me. I took a short hike around the park and then headed back to town. I could not believe my eyes as I saw fine snowflakes fall from the sky. They unfortunately melted immediately and now I cannot even say I cycled in snow!
After much deliberation I finally bought myself a pair of rain pants as well as a beanie for the cold weather ahead.
27 November - Ushuaia – Tolhuim - 109km
I was excited to get on the road and see what was in store for me. The road headed uphill out of Ushuaia and over the mountains, past numerous ski resorts, some even with chair lifts. Not a bad road, a bit narrow but sealed. Motorists were friendly and always gave me a wide berth and a little warning hoot. After about 50km I reached the top of Paso Garibaldi, with a view over Lago Escondido and Lago Fagnano. The mountains also provided some shelter from the wind, as I sped downhill past Lago Escondido and on to Tolhuim, situated on the shores of Lake Fagnano. It was a bit of a strange town and hard to find accommodation or shops, maybe there just weren’t any. Eventually I found a good enough spot to lay my head down for the night.
28 November - Tolhuim – Rio Grande - 113km
I awoke to loose corrugated iron roof sheets banging in the wind. I knew instantly that it was going to be a long hard day into the wind. I left Tolhuim with dust swirling in the dirt roads and headed north in the direction of Rio Grande, straight into the infamous Patagonian wind. It was freezing cold and rain pelted down, driven by the near gale force wind. I was wearing almost all I had but still felt the cold.
As if that was not enough, my rear gear-cable broke but I battled on, working with the 3 gears I had left. It did not make all that much difference, as I was only going at an average of 10 km/h, if I was lucky. As the day wore on the wind grew even stronger, slowing my pace to a mere 5km and hour. Still I battled on, past vast windswept and barren-looking estancias (farms). About 20km from Rio Grande a friendly Argentinean offered me a lift. I could smell victory over the day and declined, but could kick myself as soon as he left. My goals became shorter and shorter, 4 x 5km sounded a lot more doable than 20km! Every 5km I stopped and had some sweets or biscuits, took a sip of water and then headed off into the howling wind again. The barbeque is a way of life and I notice people stopping just about anywhere (out of the wind) along the road to light a fire and throw some meat on the coals.
I was dead tired by the time I arrived in Rio Grande, found a room and went to bed. I was rather pleased with myself for surviving such a harsh day on the road.
29/30 November - Rio Grande
I slept and slept, and eventually woke to the smell of coffee and toast! A nice breakfast was included in the room price (in Argentina a typical breakfast is normally coffee and croissants or some other pastries). At least the weather cleared but the relentless wind did not abate, I don’t think it ever does. Irrespective of what one has read or heard about the wind, nothing can quite prepare you for what is in store. If it was not that Ernest and I had battled at 5 kph for days into the wind along the Red Sea Coast in Egypt, I would not have believed this possible!
I was pleased for a rest day as my backside and my knees were sore and I could feel a bout of laryngitis coming on (it must be from breathing all that icy cold air). First things first, off to find a bike shop to have the gear cables replaced. The friendly chap at the bike shop also advised me to get off road tyres for the dirt road ahead. He could only get the tyres the following day so I left the bike at the shop and did not complain about waiting another day for the tyres as the wind was blowing at 85 - 100km per hour.
1 December - Rio Grande - 19km
I was up early and ready to go. Unfortunately the wind won the day, after battling for 10km out of town I eventually gave up and turned around. It’s not just that it was hard, it was just too dangerous - I was being blown across the road like a rag, totally out of control!! Back in town I found Hostel Argentino (bit cheaper than where I’d stayed before) and found 3 more cyclists heading in the same direction as me. All of them were also waiting and hoping that the wind would drop by the next day. I didn’t have much hope of that, but I didn’t have much choice other than to wait and see what happened. We had some good red wine and swapped war stories until bedtime.