(January 6 written by Dave)
Today’s blog starts with last night – we managed to catch up with Sarah and Andy (from the UK). They are taking the “long-cut” to Ushuaia and we probably will not get to see them again on this trip. It was nice riding with them and fun recounting trip highlights such as the Villa O’Higgins hike-a-bike, “wind events”, the Atacama Desert and the like. Safe travels guys.
Our hostel was nice and quiet overnight. We both slept quite well. There was a funny sign in the ladies bathroom that we just have to share. Until our fancy apart-hotel in Rio Grande and our hostel last night, every single toilet since we entered Mexico in October 2017 has come with instructions telling us not to put toilet paper in the toilet, but to rather deposit in the bin next to the toilet.
In Rio Grande, there was no sign and no bin so Nancy asked the cleaning lady who was working on our floor. She said “put it in the toilet”. This didn’t seem right but we asked. Our hostel took it one step further and printed these new and somewhat unsettling instructions on permanent a sign. I guess Tierra del Fuego is just trying to help us get ready for our return to the USA and Australia. We’ll adjust, no doubt, it’s just a little odd having worked so hard over the last 14 months to remember not put paper in the toilet. Suddenly it’s all ok again…
We went back the Tolhuin bakery last night for desert and some treats for today’s ride. They have a well done but sad monument to the Argentina submarine called “San Juan”. You may remember the San Juan from February 2018 when it went missing on a routine voyage from Ushuaia. This captured world headlines for a time but the headlines faded before the sub was found. They only just recently found the sub (on the ocean floor) – hopefully bringing some level of closure for the families of the sailors.
Two other cyclists arrived at the bakery at about 7PM last night. They were on their first day of a trip starting in Ushuaia. They looked pretty tired but like us, chose not to stay in the bakery room as it was pretty full. They ended up in our hostel but we never did get to hear where they were ultimately heading on their trip. Their bikes looked all nice and shiny parked next to ours in the hostel garage. We don’t envy them riding north/west, into the Tierra del Fuego winds but wish them a safe trip. And we liked their clean bikes.
Today we decided to ride about half the remaining distance to Ushuaia. It was cool and windy in the morning, and too bad for us, the wind was coming out of the west. We had cross winds for about 5k, then we turned to the west and pretty much had wind on the nose the rest of the day. We rode along Lago Fagnano for most of the day and it was a bit of a slog. On our profile it looked to be flattish but it ended up been pretty lumpy. It could have just been the wind as little uphills feel a lot steeper in a headwind. We didn’t stop much other than once for morning tea at a construction site. The wind was doing its best to lower the fun factor. At least we had some nice lake views and even some decent distant mountain views to distract us.
We ran into one other cyclist today, Leon from Belgium. He was heading north and mostly smiles today with the winds in his favour. He is on a Quito to Ushuaia trip but it sounded like he’d been working on the trip in little bits for a good number of years. He said that there was no way that he would ride the Carretera Austral as it was too difficult. He was quite impressed when Nancy first told him that we’d ridden here from Alaska, and then confirmed that we’d also ridden the CA.
We are not “rock stars” but the reactions we get these days when we tell our story sort of make us feel that way. I remember back in Canada when a guy that we encountered told us that our panniers were too clean for us to be legitimate Alaska to Argentina cyclists. Well, I’m happy to report that we have nothing that is clean any longer. Don’t get me wrong, I was a little envious of the clean bikes we saw in the hostel today – ours are filthy but at least we look “legitimate” now.
Today we planned on staying at some abandoned cabanas on the shore of Lago Escondido but had conflicting reports on how to get there. Mapsme suggested that we ride to the top of a pass, then back down to the lake. Google maps suggested riding along the lakeshore and not climb the pass. We stopped at the Google cut-off and went back and forth on what to do – a campground 20k further was another option. We opted for the Google route to the cabanas as standing near the lakeshore, you could see that the pass was a stiff climb.
The cabanas are odd. There are about 10 of them, along with a fairly substantial hotel. Everything is in pretty good condition other than a lot of the windows being broken. Nancy read that there was a dispute between the government and the owners over something and either the owner walked away or was prohibited from operating the resort. It has been in this state for a while and is well documented in bike journals and on iOverlander.
At least 4 of the cabanas are in use today – we think by locals who’ve figured out that you can stay here for free and it’s an OK vacation spot. The biggest issue in the cabanas is the wind and lack of covering on the windows. We picked an empty cabana that had glass in some windows and plywood over the rest. We got everything inside and set the tent up – mostly for warmth. It’s pretty stormy this afternoon and we are hoping that the wind doesn’t damage any of our glass or plywood. Either way we’ll stay dry as the most of the cabana roofs look to be in good condition. Though the wind is blowing hard enough to shake the cabin occasionally so we are hoping that looks are not deceiving and the cabin lasts through the night – or that the wind dies down anyway. At least we’ll have an exciting evening for our last night out on the trip!
And as if to prove how dangerous staying in an abandoned cabana isn’t, the couple picnicking in the cabana next to ours got a fire going, cooked up some sausage and steaks, and then proceeded to invite us over to be the first ones served. Your mind kind races at places like this, who knows what sort of folks frequent them. Well as usually is the case, today it was us, along with Eloísa and Martin, a very nice young couple from Tolhuin. They were out for a Sunday BBQ and openly shared their meal with us. Thanks guys – it was really nice meeting you – thanks for sharing your food and answering all of our random questions about Argentina.
So tomorrow is our last day riding – we’re excited. We have to ride 4k back to the highway, then there is a pretty good pass to get over. This is the last pass of the trip. Everything we do now is the last something. We can see the pass from the deck of our cabana and it looks pretty steep. They always look steep, however, sitting in a lounge chair on the deck while drinking a cold beer. (Ok, I made up the lounge chair, deck and beer part of that sentence. We are huddled in the tent in our sleeping bag, trying to stay warm. I can always dream.)
We have about 60k to ride to reach the “end of the road” sign in Ushuaia. The sign is fairly iconic in bicycle journals. People have been taking pictures in front of it for many years, now it’s finally our turn. It’s a surreal feeling, to have ridden to here from Alaska – blows our minds if we think about it for too long. One day at a time, repeat, repeat, repeat….