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Published: November 29th 2009
Antarctica or Bust? I guess calling it "busted" at Ushuaia - for now. Or rather broke.
Financially broke, yes, but I'd rather imagine this as though late last night a great wave washed down a dreamy river, down from the mountains to the north, down to the coast and broke there against the lapping waves at Lapataia. At the end of the road and of the world as I, for the time being, will know it.
I've stood on many cliffs along the way; in the high Altiplano of Bolivia; at the citadel of Machu Picchu; up on Vulcan Cayambe in Ecuador; at the Grand Canyon and the grander Barranca del Cobre, to name the more lofty few. But none had the same gravity as this here, leaning over the railing, a short 2 meters over the Beagle Channel. "But, there's more world down there!" my heart aches at me. It tempts me to do something stupid, just like that sneaky thought that you always try not to think when you stand over a precipice; "I wonder, what if..." And haven't I proved, sometimes you can survive oblivion? No, no, certainly not ...but hell, it feels that way.
This far south, the sunset lasts for hours and it isn't dark until ten thirty
And so it's really
a turning point. The point at which I try to keep going and try to make it to Antarctica - to some real-er end of the line - or turn back and head homeward. Oh, you say, but there will be new precipices, new fates to tempt. Of course you're right, and some wonderful ones await me in the near future (Torres del Paine, Fitz Roy, El Bolson...). And maybe some of them won't be of the physical sort. Where the catastrophes and crashes threatened are more of the heart and the mind than the body. There are many real
new frontiers that open to new regions and new victories i have not yet attempted, not even conceived. Places I can't even get on a KLR650...
And if I find those places, when
I get there, maybe then I'll get it. Right? Maybe then I'll understand.... So for now I'll have to keep running.
Because, clearly I've been running all the while. The question is whether its TOO or FROM. So many times it's clearly been the latter. Initially it was from responsibility or what people call reality, but then I was always just
I thought I was going to rendezvous with the devil at the end of the road. Good thing it wasn't 1.2 k further - I got to the sign at Lapataia at km 66,664.8...
running from so many temptations to stay, renounce my mission, get comfortable and get to know somewhere. But the mission, the goal is what I was always running to
. And now I'm here. Well, the end of here. The "Antarctica or bust" was only ever just a reason to ride a motorbike around Latin America. That and my money was always on "bust" so even just making it to Argentina - let alone Ushuaia - was an effing treat.
And anyway, I've made some connections, and I'm pretty confident that I can make it down there next season.
I'd been imagining my arrival for some time, expecting that I'd be just overcome with joy, and strutting the town as a celebrated hero and feeling like a made man. I have received a good deal of praise, I suppose. But a solitary, personal victory such as this is a strange. feeling. I've been wandering around town here with tears in the corners of my eyes. They're tears of joy, of course, and the only outward marker of what's going on within. They well up every time I see some marker: a sign for "Municipalidad de Ushuaia"; the ships in
but what you don't know is that the hat Ii'm wearing was given to me by a Columbian rider who's always dreamed of riding down to Ushuaia. I took the hat saying I'd send it back after it made it to the "fin del mundo".
the harbour or the towering peaks blanketed with snow that enclose the town. I furrow my brow, squint a little bit to hide them, and think: "this can't really be the end? But I haven't figured it all out yet..." But more than thankless thoughts such as these, my time here has been characterized more by an alternating current of joy and melancholy. The joy is a celebration of finally getting this damn monkey off my back and proving to myself whatever it was I set out to prove. But it seems just as the weight was lifted from my aching shoulders, a big chunk of my center, something I'd grown very accustomed to was removed as well. It's like finally graduating University. You're god damn glad it's over, you stuck it to the man but you're still kinda sad. Well, that was my experience anyway.
So let me get to the title. John Fogerty wrote a song called Someday Never Comes to tell his son, contrary to what his own father told him, the day when you get it, when you know and understand it all, never comes. I realize now that the son of a bitch was
Another photographic must
I suppose the sign speaks for itself, but the photo doesn't capture how damn cold it was. You get a bit of the effect of the sleet though...
right. Of course I'm only twenty-four, but I have figured one thing out. It's a sort of formula. Call it the Law of Diminishing Knowledge and Understanding. The more you learn, the more you know you don't know; the more answers you find, the more questions arise. Just like the traveler's dilemma: The more places you go, the more places you know you haven't been. If you don't believe me, go ask the weather man. Or better yet, an anthropologist.
But I'm not complaining. I guess this is a valuable lesson to have learned, and not at all a negative thing. Well, other than the fact that this is why stupid people think their smart, it's not. Because it's why no one has any excuse to be bored because there's always more to see - everywhere. And it means there's always more world out there. That growth and discovery are endless.
So, exactly 7 months to the day from when I set out from Vancouver, all cold, wet and proud, I got back on the bike and headed north; back up from the end of the road. That's the good thing about the end of a road, all
you have to do is turn around and you're back at the start.
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