Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Segment 58: Punta Arenas, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina (April 3-9, 2012)

From Punta Arenas the road to Ushuaia starts with a crossing of the Straits of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans... this crossing will drop us on the island of Tierra del Fuego...

(photo: Greg Altman)

the ferry trip lasts about 2.5 hours (photo: Cat Magill).  The Straits of Magellan is completely under the control of Chile.

(photo: Cat Magill)

landed on Tierra del Fuego, this is the port at Porvenir.  Tierra del Fuego is an island shaped roughly like a triangle, with the western two-thirds belonging to Chile and the southeastern part to Argentina.

(photo: Cat Magill)
looking down on Porvenir

on the route out of Porvenir (photo: Cat Magill)

Coscoroba Swans

shanty fishing village (photo: Cat Magill)

...paralleling the coast...

great dirt riding (photo: Cat Magill)

local dwelling, seemingly abandoned

riding straight towards Bahia Inutil (photo: Cat Magill)

these were introduced to Tierra del Fuego in the late 1800's  (photo: Cat Magill)

mostly flat terrain, and foreboding weather

... we hunkered down in this booth for the night, hiding from a cruel whipping wind and low temps...
astonishing skies at sunset

continuing east towards Onaisin

more proof of the nasty winds here

we had a six-cyclist wind-refuge pile-up at this crossroads near Onaisin.  Two Germans, heading east like us; and two Poles on a tandem, miserably heading west into a monster headwind.  A headwind so bad, that they were effectively stuck here for many hours.

from Onaisin, we went to look for King Penguins which reputedly have a small colony here on Bahia Inutil.  This is the only King Penguin colony found north of Antarctica, so we are eager to find them.

our search starts here, where we walked a few km on the beach without a sign of anything really

we stumbled into this dead penguin (not King but Magellan); not sure if this is a good sign or a bad one

fresh penguin tracks!

a mythical moment.  We found the colony, huddled and active here, and backed by a huge full rainbow.

King Penguins (photo: Cat Magill)

... this was really too good to be true...
(photo: Cat Magill)

... this is a small colony, apparently numbering around 40-50 adults, of which we saw 18...

the reserve is on private property, a property which charges over $25 to see the penguins, to the dismay of everyone who passes by here.  Not today, chumps; no one is around so we have a free pass.

at dusk we knocked on a door at a large mostly-abandoned estancia at Onaisin, and were welcomed into a mostly-defunct sheep farm.  We slept here in the empty dormitory for the farmhands, who last shore the sheep in September.

heading east towards San Sebastian

flamingos on Tierra Del Fuego

Chilean estancia

lots of sprawling pampa here in Chilean Tierra del Fuego

crossing the border once again into Argentina, we found ourselves getting ever closer to Ushuaia; from here 294 more km (if you can trust the sign, which you can't, in either Chile OR Argentina)

looking east towards the Atlantic now

double-decker sheep truck!  (photo: Cat Magill)

watch for guanacos crossing

Estancia la Sara, on the way to Rio Grande (photo: Cat Magill)

back on pavement now, all the way to Ushuaia (photo: Cat Magill).  Fighting a tough crosswind.

between San Sebastian and Rio Grande, we hit this widened patch of Highway 3, which was used by the Argentine air force to launch planes in its (failed) invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.

...sunset colors with a near full moon...

We pulled into Rio Grande at dark...
... this statue commemorates the history of Rio Grande as a sheepraising community.  In recent times, however, it is a sprawling city built on petroleum and natural gas extraction.

the nearly full moon above the Atlantic at Rio Grande

crossing the Rio Grande

a glance back at Rio Grande; this is flat, treeless, windy country

Jeff drinking beer and mate with two farmhands from the northeastern Argentine province of Missiones (they are 4000km from home), Rogelio and Nego.  Rogelio, who is drunk on beer and wine, insists on speaking to us in Brazilian Portuguese.  Nego is so drunk you can't make head or tails out of what comes out of his mouth.  These guys, known as peones in estancia culture, have welcomed us into this estancia for the night (Estancia Viamonte).  (photo: Cat Magill)

we slept in the cook's house, but she was away as this is Semana Santa/ Easter weekend (photo: Cat Magill)

... a glimpse into Tierra del Fuego history... kitchen implements above... (photos: Cat Magill)
...and here the enormous stove, which runs on natural gas which runs at full blast 24/7/365... such a contrast to Chilean Patagonia, where the people still live on woodstoves and pay very high costs of living. 

Cat and a farmhand from Chubut (photo: Cat Magill)

Jeff drinking mate (photo: Cat Magill)

Nego prepared us a lunch of oven-roasted potatoes and vegetables as it rained outside (photo: Cat Magill)

the comedor where we slept at Estancia Viamonte

riding in the rain, we encountered a long stream of auto traffic (boo!) heading the other direction (north); moments later we found out why...

...Semana Santa in Argentine Tierra del Fuego is the scene of a very popular dirtbike race from Ushuaia to Rio Grande...

(photo: Cat Magill)

this forest, which we encountered between Rio Grande and Tolhuin, marks the first trees (not planted) that we have seen since near Puerto Natales some 700km previous

the empanada-making station at Panaderia La Union in Tolhuin (photo: Cat Magill)

leaving Tolhuin, only 102km to go

...Heading west now, alongside Lago Fagnano...
(photo: Cat Magill)

snowcapped Andes peaks above beaver ponds

enjoying mostly clear weather
(photo: Cat Magill)

what could be better than to end your trip on a road that leads away like this?

about 50km east of Ushuaia, we spent the night with the friendly crew of the Defensa Civil, a post which exists to provide emergency help along this stretch of Highway 3.

now on the final day cycling!  beautiful scenery and low traffic

the western end of Lago Fagnano (photo: Cat Magill)

...hard as it is to believe, we make our final real climb of the trip here, up to Paso Garibaldi...
... altitude: 500m, approx.

... brilliant fall colors of Southern beech forests (photo: Cat Magill)...
... backed by stunning peaks

about 15km from Ushuaia we passed this spectacular range (photo: Cat Magill)

... a fitting finale: on the last curve before the descent into Ushuaia, we pass a series of roadside patron saint shrines, the largest of which belongs to Gauchito Gil...
this place was covered with figurines of Gil

arrived at the entrance to Ushuaia, mid-afternoon, 9 April, 2012.  For Cat, this marks the completion of a 5000km-plus ride from Salta to Ushuaia.  For Jeff, this caps a 1000-day-plus, 17 country, 40000km-plus journey started on 2 July, 2009.  A very satisfying moment, and relieving... time to rest from the elements, and the road. 

this painting seen entering Ushuaia recalls the history of Ushuaia as a prisoners' colony (photo: Cat Magill)

we slept our first night in Ushuaia in one of these carnival booths just a few blocks from the center of town (photo: Cat Magill)


Cardamone said...

Jeff- this is just amazing! Your old pal- Cardamone

Sarah said...

I am sorry we had to miss out on this section, and of course very envious about teh penguins - as you know, our penguin hunt was rather less of a success! Good luck with your next adventure. It was fun and memorable sharing a few days with you. Please stay in touch, who knows, our paths may cross again. Sarah

Anonymous said...

Margee and I made it to Massachusetts, finally found a computer. Thank you so much for hosting us. my email is skyjeffery@gmail.com

You got me thinking about a bike ride through Baja, maybe this winter.


Bartek said...

Remember prepairing Jason's bike back in bike store on Maui. Great trip guys!! Chasing your blog was a wonderful feeling visiting some of the places you've visited.
Congratulations for accomplishing this tour!

Bartek (PL)

Bianca Pascuchelli said...

What I loved about Patagonia is the nice animals that lived there, all of them prepared to live in a dessert. For instance, when I was in the Province of Chubut, I saw many guanacoes and choiques. Two very interesting animals that can live without water for almost two weeks! I got Argentina apartments there, so I stayed a whole month and learnt a lot about these animals. They have a special organ that they use to carry water without "drinking" it!