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Published: January 24th 2010
To get to Tierra del Fuego we have to circle round the bottom of Chile via Puerto Natales (lots of black necked swans and cormorants) and up to the ferry at Punta Delgada, the narrowest point between Tierra del Fuego and the mainland. As usual we were going to go off-route and nip into Punta Arenas but suddenly the bike went wobbly and all the warning lights started flashing like a little disco - we had a puncture in the rear tyre, still that's over 20,000 miles and the first puncture. Luckily we are near the back (as usual - having already gone off-route and completed a circuit of Puerto Natales) so its not long before Jeff turns up in the van and fixes the puncture with 5 minutes.
Its all the typical meseta landscape i.e. flat and barren with the odd clump of spiky grass. At the tiny petrol station at Laguna Blanca I must look cold as the owner suddenly comes out and presents me with a bright red fleecy buff then wanders off. Now we are following the southern coast but Tierra del Fuego is just too far away to see it yet. We pass the enigmatic
Difunta Correra shrine
this was the most impressive pile of bottles we saw at a shrine
Estancia San Gregorio - a cluster of old buildings; a church, a workshop, a store. Now a ghost town its all that remains of the Menendez estancia which had 2 million sheep on 3500 square km of grazing land. To add to the ghost town feel there are the rusted skeletons of 2 iron ships down on the beach - the remains of the Menendez fleet.
We arrive at Punta Delgada, last as usual, to find all the other bikes waiting for us so we can cross on the ferry to Tierra Del Fuego as a team - it is quite a momentous occasion, we have ridden from the top of the mainland to the bottom of the mainland. The wildlife has obviously heard we are celebrating as for the entire 20 minute journey a pod of Commerson's dolphins are frolicking round the boat and riding the bow wave.
On Tierra del Fuego the tiny oil town of Cerro Sombero is our overnight stop - seems sort of appropriate as we started off in an oil town. All across Tierra del Fuego we pass small pipelines and nodding donkeys, again a reminder of our starting point 18 weeks
Momument to the Wind
it was just there in the middle of nowhere. If you are going to build a monument to something in Patagonia then wind seems very appropriate.
ago. Its still barren scenery but there is more tufty grass around and lots more guanacos loitering at the side of the road. We are still on gravel roads but its amazing how steady everyone is taking it, we are so close and we all want to get to the end of the road. We have one more border crossing back into Argentina - overland you can only get to Argentine Tierra del Fuego by going through Chile. As we go further south trees start to appear and there are patches of Fuegan Forests, full of small gnarled trees, the foliage all blown over to one side at amazing angles.
We re-group just outside Ushuaia and stay in a scenic spot at the end of Lago Fagnano - a blue lake with snowy mountains in the background, how appropriate given the number of times we have seen this scene in the last few months. Next morning we ride as a group, in formation, the last 80 miles through the snowy mountains that line the Beagle Channel, through Ushuaia cheered on by the road workers, out to Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego cheered on by coach loads of Italian tourists
and finally to Lapataia Bay where a big sign announces that this is the end of the most southerly road in the world.
After 13 countries, 19 border crossings and 20,898 miles we have arrived - the first part of our expedition is complete.
But its not over, its just the start of the next part of the journey; to continue south to Antarctica but that's a bit tricky on a bike, so first we have to head north to Buenos Aires (2000 miles) to send the bike back on her way home before swapping to a little Russian ice-breaker to continue south.
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