The End of the World, as We Know It!


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South America » Argentina » Tierra del Fuego » Ushuaia
January 9th 2006
Published: January 10th 2006
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We Made It!We Made It!We Made It!

The end of Ruta 3, end of the road, End of the World! The most photographed bit of real estate in Argentina
Leaving BA on New Year’s Eve in the morning, foregoing the fab fireworks, promises of endless love and mediocre sex…..driven by the need to get back on 2 wheels…get moving again.....we are all together again, the 3 musketeers plus one, and maybe Mar del Plata will be OK. ...

Just one small thing...I'm not sure what transpired or conspired but the last blog was of 2 parts, photos and non. Needless to say, I'm confused.


As it turned out MdP was interesting to say the most. Maybe someone else can make something out of it.

OK a cut-and paste from some previous entry...

PATAGONIA ET AL

So now we’re in the South…somewhere south of the bottom of Tassie and still a couple of thousand kms to go to get to the bottom of all this…they call it the end of the world..(?)
I’ve just gone and bought a polar fleece jacket…last week a polar fleece balaclava! You all know I don’t do cold! But this is going to be glacier country, then mountain country and ice and snow and all that..

So, we headed south, out of the big BA, 400 kms to Mar del Plata, I sometimes get it confused with Plata del Mar, a seafood dish, simple mistake, any idiot can make it!

Mar del Plata is a mega beach resort for the millions of Buenos Airians who can’t afford to go to punta del Este in Uraguay…..dodgey beaches. Person-made breakwaters, half the beach space is taken up with endless rows of canvas shelters with chairs and tables…didn’t get close enough to really check them out as it was persisting down when we got there…..found a hotel and wandered the streets…every second food place was shut and the others had long queues…well, it was New Years Eve…eventually midnight rolled around, as it always does, and hundreds of kids started letting off fireworks….many of them well before midnight, but that’s the way of kids…we strolled down to the beach and it was going off…real firework anarchy, every man and his dog had some bag of bang bang, whoosh, whirl, shoot ‘em up bits and pieces…it was on the roofs of the hotels, along the beach, by the casino, a constant, random explosion of crackers, rockets, those spurting coloured light bizzos….and , above it all, these floating bags of light…I’ve seen them in Asia, paper bags with a small candle creating enough lift to gently rise up and float across the sky…did anyone notice them?…sometimes one would flare up, catch fire and the light source would plummet into the crowd while the bag engulfed by flame would slowly fade away…

Down to the fabulous Peninsula Valdez, a protected area, I was expecting some mountainous terrain spreading out into the ocean but its flat…with a capital B…windy as all get down, featureless landscape …as it has been for the past few hundred kms…since crossing the Rio Negro and entering Patagonia proper…having heard so much about this place…

Well, Patagonia was all I had expected…...nothing!..Ha!….no, I can understand how some people find this type of isolated nothingness attractive, like the desert lovers, the absolute endless nothingness does have its attraction…I’m riding along….long straight road, the land stretches out to the horizon, a million miles away, shitty, scrubby thornbush and Spinifex on gravely soil as far as I can see, nothing over half a metre high, the wind is interminably interminable, riding on a 45 degree angle, buffeted and bowled over, the sky is a ever threatening layer of low cloud…so low its like riding thru’ a wafer…sky and land sandwiching me between..both extending as far as I can see…my little gap of life …riding, running like its going to squeeze me if I stop..
Along the side of the road the only colour in the whole drab landscape, a carpet of green with yellow flowers…a tractor, in the middle of nowhere slowly mows it all down!!

Back to the story....apologies for some duplication but I'm tired...

So, its 3000 or so kms to the bottom and we gotta go. (when you reach the bottom do you realise you’re on the top?)

Patagonia is everything I expected..ie..nothing!! lots of nothing, endless miles of nothing, the flat, featureless landscape goes on even beyond the horizon, for Australians who have been thru’ the centre or up the west coast its nothing new, but it is interminable….what makes it worse is the constant wind, you wouldn’t believe the wind, where does it come from? Where is it going? Whats the point of it always blowing like this?/ I wonder where in the world it starts or ends…I’m riding at a 45 degree angle it seems, but never constant, always buffeting, sometimes a blessed relief, when the road runs with the wind, like being in a vacuum, so strange, then back to sideways, and it changes from left side to right side, can’t work it out…… the big nightmare is passing trucks going the same way, as you pull alongside you get sucked in against the truck, fighting to keep the bike away from them, then, as you get clear, an enormous draft blows you off the road away from them, hairy stuff…now I back off considerably and just creep past, rocking and swaying, preparing for the cross draft at the front.

A little aside, (boom boom)….vehicles coming the other way are usually the worry, and always different, some smallish trucks seem to have the hugest blasts of air while the giant tour buses, like 5 metres high, square fronted, go past and wouldn’t blow out a match!…I’m wondering, does a full fuel tanker have more draft than an empty one??

But the traffic is pretty light, a truck or car to pass every half hour,…..coming the other way about the same, so there’s lots of time to just sit and ponder (while battling the wind also) I’ve given the little helmet speakers one last chance…and they come thru’…this would be unbearably boring without some distraction…grooving along to Bruce, Bob, Gotan, Gatemouth, Van et al….

Sometimes up to 150 or so but then the wind can sweep you right off the blacktop so 120 to 130 is the order of the day. How the guys on the smaller bikes cope is hard to imagine if this 450 kilo package can be swept metres across the road so easily.
At some town along the way I went for a walk down to the beach, and I could barely stay upright!, ..I was getting blown off my feet!!…..you read about it in stories, but this was actually happening, I couldn´t walk against it...unbelievable!!...and so..everything is horizontal, trees, road signs, houses even lean into it…it is that intense, and constant, you’ve got no idea.

I can remember when I was quite young, I loved the wind, I can feel the memory so strongly,, standing on the beach or on a hill somewhere just letting it blast against me, I could never understand how my parents would hustle me inside, how they disliked it…now I can!…this is so draining, both on the bike and off.

There is something about the broad flat landscape though, you get an appreciation of the sky, lots of low threatening cloud this morning, hanging so low over the landscape its like riding thru’ a wafer, I could almost hold my hand up and run it thru’ the clouds, they are that low, the flat barren landscape peters out to the horizon, flat grey cloud cover also to the extremes, I’m being sandwiched between cloud and land, nothing on the landscape more than 3 inches high, a wire and stick fence struggles along beside the road, who is it keeping in? or out??..I see a sheep evry10 kms or so, probably the optimum agistment around here.

Then a guanaco, unreal....the local fauna, then a small family group of them, casually and gracefully jumping the fence, really pretty, reddy brown, sort of furry, I’m tipping they come from the same berth on the ark as llamas and alpacas, long neck species…fantastic...the lower evloved sheep wander around them, they can only wonder!

I'm wondering, in a Darwinesque sense how come some animal evolves with a 6 foot high neck when theres nothing over 6 inches high for 50 million miles?

In the distance I see cars approaching from a million miles away…at first they look like bikes and I get excited, but eventually they turn into cars and slip past, but the colours!, its such a stark contrast to the drabness of the landscape the colours of the cars are almost blinding, blues, yellows, reds, even white…dazzling my eyes…

The only other colours are occasional patches of wildflowers on the road shoulders. Its surreal to ride along and watch them dancing and swirling in the wind,, nothing else in the scene is moving, the rest of the land is covered in low, stable saltbush, thorn bush, stubble and these carpets of yellow and white are spastically gyrating and twisting right beside me.

At other times the sky has fluffy little clouds, great thunderheads in the distance.....hoping against hope, the road turns towards them, then away again, luckily we only get the odd misting and no serious wet...there´s nothing like an endless drab, flat landscape to encourage sky-watching!

Three long days, and restive nights, in forgotten hotels. At the end of these days its only important to re-charge the ipod, have a beer, feed, shower, feed, red wine, smoke, and then crash!!!......
Maybe the Peninsula Verdes deserves a mention, about half way down, I’m sure someone will write memorable things about it and everyone was taking memorable photos of everything…a bit of dirt riding to get us used to the idea, 150 kms or so, mostly good but they’d had the grader out and he’d swept up great windrows of loose shit, piles of marbles to navigate, the light was fading, the weather was closing in, the grip was getting tighter, in the middle of nowhere, bike slewing and sliding, powering thru’ great piles of gravel…trust the bike…be the bike…
the peninsula is a natural wilderness, eco safety house, we stop for a day there, out to the sea lions, penguins, birds, whales, well lots of pictures of whales and bloody great bones everywhere!, I was hanging out to see the orcas ride up the beach and grab the baby sea lions, this is where they filmed it, that famous footage,, you’ve all seen it…hey, I really feel for the baby sea lions, crikey, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but for a photo op! Jeez….…..the consolation for the real nature lovers is that they run several diving group thingos here…and they all go out in black, totally seal-looking wet-suits…one lives in hope!

And did Darwin ponder the evolutionary superiority of the orca over the sea lion?…the orcas train their young on how to catch the baby sea lions…but do the sea lions ever tell their pups “”be careful in the water” I don’t think so.

Now we are getting further south, I check the internet and see we are way past Tassie, this is getting seriously south, I bought a polar fleece last night and I’m wearing the fleece from the golf trip a few years ago, the only cold weather gear I brought. And I’ve got the grip heaters on, full even, I stopped the other night and had 2nd degree burn blisters on my palms from having the grip heaters on high for a bit too long!!

Eventually, the ultimate day…the ridiculousness of this border thing is unbelievable…to get to the bottomest part, which is Argentina, you have to go thru’ a little bit of Chile, so it’s the whole border crossing deal, twice!, and it will be again on the way out…can’t work out why Argentina doesn’t just buy a 20 metre wide strip thru’this bit of Chile.

For the riders; the road has been abso first class asphalto, alltho’, we had a stretch of unmade thru’’ the Chile bit but it wasn’t too bad, and the last part thru’ to Ushuaia had 30 or so kms of ball bearings on clay, luckily the weather has been favouring the bikes as some of these tracks would be lethal with water.
Unmade road is beautifully called *rippio* and potholes are *oyos* (eyes) hahaha

After the ferry and the 2 border crossings we were getting excited, nearly there, one of the most significant points of this trip, Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, doorway to the Antarctic, End of the world! Whoo hoo…

Thoughts of stopping at Rio Grande, about 200 kms shy of Ushuaia faded instantly, only 4pm and its daylight here til 10pm, onwards, halfway stop for coffee, the locals tell us its only 30 kms of dirt!.yippee…onwards, this dirt was dusty!..blinding..where’’s the wind when you want it?... trying to pass trucks, big sheets of dust, invisibility, oncoming vehicles, shit and derision, running on nervous energy, anticipation, battling fatigue, can’t hardly see, eyes full of grit, clouds rolling in, but now its mountains!..unbelievable, after 2800 kms of flatness, huge mountains, forests of pines, snow patches on the mountains, sleet, then rain, beautiful brand new, smooth, slippery bitumen, sweeping curves, occasional rain, colder, wetter, but surprisingly, often riding thru rain but the road is dry, or is it that I can’t see right…

stop for a photo op with a fab view of the mountains…then the last few kms…..bit of an anti-climax, small sign on entry to Ushuaia, should have a massive “you’ve made it’ sign!…lovely view of the harbour and the town…hard to believe we are actually here!

Today its out to the actual end of the road, end of ruta 3, end of the world even…disappointingly there seems to be a lot more land extending on past here but no road, only walking tracks for the truly deranged….and don’t worry, there are several walkers, bicyclists and other madpeople on this road.

Today I slipped into the local for a coffee and ran into an old mate from way way back!..couldn’t believe it!, we fell over each other, he’s running a cruise ship with trips to the Antarctic…far fcuking out, told me to swing by at 2.30 for a beer…went down and checked out the boat, big Russian 200 foot cruiser, v shmicko..Dave tried to get me on board, I was ready to do it, but a bit short notice…He’s going to try and swing something for the next trip in about 16 days…I’ll try and get thru’ to Bariloche or Santiago, stash the bike and fly back for a 10 day cruise..whoo fcuking hoo….I’ve been contemplating a quickie to Antarctica as it’s the done thing when you’’re so close as here and then this falls in my lap…trying to swing it for Grant and Sandy also, so we’ll all be waiting on the word!
Now to try for some photos……might have to dump-to-stick and go to the internet café where its quicker, this is the local hotel WiFi, cool view but slow as all get down…more soon….

No, photos taking way too long, gotta re-size them or something.

And just got the news of Andy Caldicott crashing and dying in the Dakar, puts a real downer on everything!..what a bummer.


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