Feature image is yes, another boring long empty road in Patagonia just leading nowhere for hundreds of miles. But for me, it’s strategic to remember the weeks of riding through this magnificent countryside with wild lamas, sheep, cows, and horses littered throughout. Not to say that Patagonia is also no huge mountains, glaciers, snow-capped peaks and winding hills — it is all that too, but today is the last riding day so why not — there have been tons of places and images along this adventure, but this is a post about the last day.
Riding Day: Ushuaia, Patagonia, Argentina — Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile (650 km) — 12 hours. — Border Crossing and Last Riding Day.
The engine started for its last time on this almost 17,000 km South American journey on the ferry across the Magallanes Stright and the same trusty engine was shut down at the Dream Hotel underground garage in Punta Arenas, Chile. It was a long, fun and definitely hard working day — befitting the long list of lessons learned on this adventure. No time for pictures today which is a bummer, but all for good reasons. The image below is a self-portrait of me freezing on my bike through the mirror waiting for the ferry.
Yesterday morning I had a thought to skip the final destination today from Ushuaia to Rio Grande, the very cold 67,000 person and ultimate sleepy town in the Terra del Fuego [Land of Fire], Province, Argentina, just a 250 km ride, backtracking the treck a few days back. The reason for the short ride was to break up the ultimate final destination of Punta Arenas which would be a long ride for the team in one day of over 650 km. From Punta Arenas, my bike will be shipped back to its final destination of Miami.
I didn’t care, I just wanted to end up in a decent hotel and a long fun last day — I’m ready, and if that meant riding all day, crossing the border from Argentina to Chile, taking the ferry and crossing the Magallanes Straight, then taking the last run to Punta Arenas — fuck it — I love that kind of day. Now I needed a victim to do it with me since any of those legs could have been an issue and troublesome had they gone wrong — riding along would be too dangerous.
I learned a thing or two in my business career — target those only with opportunity — don’t waste your energy on someone who will not buy your product or service so… I did not bother with Martin and Katrin, Bert or Bernd. None of those people have the propensity to do something outside the box as it relates to this trip. I keyed on Manfred and Kanit — yes, I was locked on. At breakfast, I started my attack and hit upon Manfred for an hour or more. He waffled so of course, my number one target was going to be Kanit. He did not care about money or time or risks and of all, he is the most fun… Both turned me down — but Kanit left a crack open and he wanted to see the weather, the situation in the morning, blah, blah, blah. I thought really the idea was dead but I still loved it. I could not take sleeping again in the dirty, cold and grey village with nothing there to do, and worse, get there at noon — our shortest ride since January 4th. No, I needed to bypass that but I really thought the idea was dead.
The next morning I really had just packed my bike with the small crack of a chance that I would sleep over in Punta Arenas but did not believe it was going to be. The group broke up into two; Martin and Katrin, Bert, Bernt, Manfred, the chase truck with Dominico driving and Marc on his bike were going to ride on some out of the way stupid possible scenic tour before heading to Rio Grande. Kanit and I decided to go directly for the two-hour ride to Rio Grande and chill there while waiting basically the entire day and do nothing. During our ride, I could sense that Kanit was booting the cruise speed a bit and that made no sense since we would be there by 11:15 am if we were going 150 km/hr the entire ride — I think he was reconsidering my proposal.
We stopped at a famous bakery which is packed 24 hours a day just outside of Ushuaia for a planned coffee to kill time. Kanit told me then that he wanted to do the entire trip today. I was super happy… Something fun and different and a bit adventuresome. Good, we had another 600 km and would get to Puerto Arenas by 8:00 pm if we took our time. Done and locked in — we were off.
Kanit is a funny and interesting guy — very logical as you might expect for a young airline pilot flying an A320, smart but hard to nail exactly his thoughts — although he is always thoughtful and has a good heart, however, words spoken do not always translate into his actions — and that’s fine. If he says we should go slow and enjoy the ride — he means let’s boot it and go cruise at 150km per hour and so we did. I love that much better since as I have said a million times, we can’t do it almost anywhere in the world — have wide open and long roads, in this case very recently paved and never any deterrent like a police to check on speed limits or bust you. Never, ever are their cops on the roads in South America. So cruising at 150km/hr and sometimes up to 180 km/hr and jacking it to 200 km plus is just bonafide fun for me — and we did. We gassed up in Rio Grande and hauled our bikes off to the next obstacle, the Argentinian and then Chile borders which are separated by about 20 km on gravel roads.
The first giant obstacle of the day was the hard wind. From the time we left the bakery which was protected by huge snow capped mountains and we hit the flat lowlands of the Patagonian countryside, the winds were the strongest we had dealt with the entire trip. I was fighting winds by angling my bike hard and it’s not just constant huge winds — they stop for a second and then hit you like a sledge-hammer a second later — unpredictable and invisible and most tiring and at times frightening. I honestly thought as we moved away from the ocean, the winds would let up — that was not to be true all day.
Anyway, we crossed the borders without incident — and that was huge. It was about 1 or 2 pm and we were coasting now. Another gravel road for about 30 or 40 km’s and this time, I loved it knowing it was the last time for a long time I would be on these pesky stones that want to take you down — so I chose to pick up the pace. The next leg would take us to the ferry and we should be there around 4 pm if we hauled it. Before then, we needed to gas up since we were about 450 km away and our bikes had enough fuel for about 400 km — and absolutely no gas stations in between. Its really hard to express how desolate this part of the world is in Terra del Fuego, Patagonia, and its counterpart in Chile — just long roads leading nowhere, surrounded by wild lamas, some sheep, and a few cows mixed in. No homes, virtually no farms, just a few cars using this fabulous new two-lane road and that’s it — all packaged within rolling fields which are mostly desert-like but do have straw grass and in the sun are absolutely stunning because it never stops.
Anyway, Just one gas station to find — and that’s in a super sleepy town of maybe a hundred people. We stopped to gas up at the station of two very old pumps which was as closed for lunch for 3 hours according to an aged sign posted on the glass. Two other Romanian riders just sitting in the very cold broken and dirty steps at the station waiting as well prior to our arrival. They seemed so ill-prepared for travel and were riding real old bikes that seemed to be on their last legs. We talked about riding and their experiences while waiting — not knowing really if the station would re-open and if not, we were fucked — none of us could make it to our destination without gas. Anyway, 20 minutes later, the owner came, just 10 minutes late according to his schedule and we gassed us up — good, we passed that obstacle — a big one.
From there we hit it to burn some speed and rode to the ferry and then across the Magallanes Straight. The ferry takes about 30 minutes to cross and is pretty well a non-stop activity of loading one side cargo, sailing the channel and then unloading, loading new cargo and repeat 20 times a day — a very uncomplicated schedule. We took the same ferry to go across the opposite direction to get to Ushuaia a few days back so it was familiar. Ok, so we finally got to the ferry and the cars and dozens of trucks were lined up — Kanit and I gave fist pumps — we made it! Or so we thought…
Seems that the super high winds had shut down the ferries service for the past 3 hours and after settling into a hut with food service overlooking the straight and talking to a couple of Brazilians who were on their BMW R1200’s as well, they told us that they had been sitting for hours prior and there are no plans to re-open the ferry service for another few hours — so we settled in. The waves were — just guessing at 6 feet or higher and the gusts were strong so a ship carrying people and cargo of cars, trucks, and motorcycles would be dangerous — forget about how the ferry would dock on the cross-winds and huge current — so it didn’t and we waited.
We waited for almost 3 hours inside the hut and finally, we could see the ferry starting service again from the other side — we all jumped on our bikes and waited. By then it was about 7 or 7:30 pm and real cold — like low 40’s or high 30’s with super gusting cold winds. All good — we hopped on the ferry. I was pretty proud of just the accomplishment of getting on the ferry because when I started back in Columbia, I could not have done this task alone — I’ve learned tons and over 16,000 km’s — I have been in all types of situations and now another, riding onto a moving boat that has a very small entry ramp and maneuvering up into the cargo area. The 30-minute ride went fast and the bikes were cradling sideways with each wave hitting its side — and you could feel it — but it was fun and both Kanit and I knew we had now passed another hurdle.
Off we went on our last leg and ultimately another 175 km ride now in the dark to Punta Arenas. The Brazilian guys in the hut warned us of night riding along this route because of the wild animals crossing the roads and the number of cars and people damaged because of that — great, that’s all I needed, another thing to think and worry about. Not enough that the wind wants to kill me or it’s now dark. So we hauled ass and rode at 15o km like a couple of punks not listening to good solid reason. Its too much fun riding at times over 100 mph on a motorcycle — but my eyes were working overtime scanning the sides of the roads for possible trouble or animals — and it was getting dark.
Finally made it at around 9:30 pm into the big city of Punta Arenas and it was nice to be there. We got to the Dream hotel, rode down into the underground parking lot, locked the bike for the last time — gave it a hug — just kidding — but definitely felt a sense of accomplishment — today was over and the long adventure was a day or two away from ending.
At 10:30 pm, I agreed to meet up with Kanit up in the sky lounge at the hotel for a drink. Kanit is a bonafide alcoholic, but I have seen him loaded out of total control only twice on this trip however he regularly drinks up to 3 bottles of wine each night along with beers. Tonight was going to be a bottle of vodka — orange flavored. I got a can of tomato juice and used his vodka and made myself an orange flavored Bloody Mary — highly not recommended. We got some really bad sushi since we never ate lunch or dinner and discussed the day with great pride.
Kanit said that today was our hardest and he was right. We had stoppable obstacles which each could have made it difficult; first is the wind which was infamous Patagonian and our hardest since riding — at times were very scary and got the heart pumping. Second, was the border crossing and when dealing with that — although we have crossed probably a dozen times on this trip, still it is only a nonsense thing that can cause an issue. Third, the gravel roads which were not too bad, but anytime you’re on gravel, you give up on the grip and increase risks. Fourth, getting the fuel we needed — without that desolate stop at the tiny station and had the owner not showed up, we did not have enough fuel to get to our destination — and nothing in the middle could have helped us. Then fifth came to the ferry and had the high winds curtailed all transport, we were left in a place with no hotels or nothing to do but sleep on our bikes and last was the nighttime riding which we always try to avoid with drunk drivers and issues that do not occur at daytime.
So it all worked and we had a great day — a really great last riding day. Goodbye South American Adventure and on to the next…