(January 7, written by Dave and Nancy)
Fin del Mundo. Fin del Ruta. Fin our tired legs!
What a day. Sometimes, highly anticipated days fail to live up to the hype. Today, hype was exceeded!
The day started late last night when someone moved into the cabana next to ours around 11PM and proceeded to rummage around outside getting a fire started. They were more or less quiet but it is all a little unsettling when you are sleeping in a group of abandoned buildings. Your paranoid mind jumps straight to axe murderer, crackhead, escaped con, etc. We didn’t meet the new neighbours this morning but really, last night they were pretty quiet and considerate (Senior editor’s note – actually, I don’t think Dave would have even known they were there if I hadn’t woken him up. He went right back to sleep, snoring away while I stood on guard to defend our cabana. The neighbours probably thought we were inconsiderate and loud given the amount of snoring coming from inside!). And this morning in addition to their tent in the cabana front room, they put a coke bottle full of fresh picked wild flowers in their window. Sure, the average axe murderer picks fresh wild flowers and puts them in the front window. Happens all the time.
We were up early, not because we had a long day but more because we wanted to be able to ride slow and take everything in. We had mostly clear skies but boy was it cold. It was 4k back out of the cabanas to the highway and then 6k uphill to the top of the pass. On the climb my thermometer consistently read 1 degrees C – or about 34F – it was particularly cold in the shadows where the sun hadn’t yet come over the surrounding hills. Even climbing, we both had really cold hands.
The clear skies made for nice views of the lake from the cabana and out on the climb. They’ve built a very impressive mirador (viewpoint) at the top of the pass. While it was breezy up there, it was nice to stop for photos in the sun – and capture our last official summit sign. We ran into Marcus (the rider we met in Tolhuin) when we reached Ushuaia today. He came over the pass yesterday in snow and limited visibility so our decision to stay below the pass in the cabanas worked out to be a good one. The storm that tried blowing the window out of our cabana yesterday must have been even worse up on the pass.
It was super cold riding off the pass but the sun was high enough to be hitting the full road so at least we weren’t freezing. We were well and truly back in the mountains now. We’d read that the Andes officially end on Tierra del Fuego but after the last week of riding the northern steppe, we were starting to wonder if we’d somehow missed the ending.
From the pass there is a downhill, followed by a long gradual uphill valley, before the final descent down into Ushuaia. In the valley there a couple lodges and ski hills. We stopped at one of the ski hills for a warming coffee and morning tea. I don’t think that my thermometer ever got over 10C throughout the day, even sitting in the sun at the ski lodge. There were some clouds about by then, but we stayed dry all the way to town.
There are a couple Ushuaia signs, one on the edge of town and the famous ‘Fin del Mundo’ one down on the waterfront. We stopped for photos at both of them. The waterfront sign was pretty crowded but we waited 20 months for this photo so a few extra minutes waiting for a clear picture was no big deal to us. Hugs and high-fives all around – we made it.
20 months, 27,000k, 16,800 miles, 15 countries – woohoo!
We retired from the waterfront sign to a well known bakery called Ramos Generales. We’d heard that they happen to serve one of the local IPAs so we started our meal with the celebratory clinking of cold glasses. Normal food and coffees followed of course.
It was 1.2k from the waterfront to our AirB&B – almost all of it is uphill, and I mean uphill. It was a 1st gear grunt most of the way. With Nancy registering 22% on her bike computer, it might have been one of the steepest hills of the entire trip. It was hard but not that big of deal because like the photo at the sign, we’d been training the last 20 months for that climb – as they say, “easy peasy.”
It’s surreal being here. There is no more road, nowhere left to ride (well, okay, technically the road goes on for a little bit further but only to the National Park). We could turn around and ride back (Senior editor’s note – no we couldn’t) but honestly, we are both ready for a break from our break. On balance it was a great trip – we had heaps more highlights than we had lowlights. We met so many nice people. In fact, we met nice people just about every day of the trip. Lots of people have commented how amazing it is to ride that far but if anything, we are ordinary people, not athletes. You just have to be determined and not give up. When one person gets down, the other pulls them up. As they say “Teamwork makes the dream work” – no wait, that not what they say, that’s what I say! Oh well, it’s true.
We will post more summary thoughts, stats and thoughts of Ushuaia over the next few weeks. The trip doesn’t officially end until we fly back to the USA on Friday. And who knows, if TSA isn’t working by then, maybe the trip will last even a few days beyond that.
Thanks for reading – it does make a difference to know you are all out there. And finally, thanks to all of the cyclists we were lucky to ride with along the way – the sense of camaraderie that you get with other cyclists gave us such a boost and reminded us of why we were doing this trip after all:
– Mark and Chris, who started out with us in Fairbanks and eased the panic of setting off on the journey. We carried one of Mark’s freeze dried meals as our emergency meal for the entire trip.
– Andy and Anna, who provided some family fun through Oregon – there’s nothing like hanging out with your big brother and your supercool niece after a long bike ride.
– Pete, who we rode with in California and Nevada and with whom Dave regressed back to junior high age with all of the jokes that go along with it
– Jack, who we met on a bike path in Santa Clarita, CA in September 2017. We were a bit lost. Jack rode 50 miles out of his way to help us get and stay on course for the day. And who later turned into one of our most encouraging readers.
– Frederick, who we met just before Yosemite and ended up riding with for much of Baja California, and who kept us going with such a positive attitude (and a very funny story about Australian board shorts).
– Manja and Martin, who we met in La Paz Mexico and several times thereafter in South America and whose frequent WhatsApp chats and pictures made our days feel less lonely. We wished we could have spent more face-to-face time with them and are watching anxiously for them to finish in here in Ushuaia in a few weeks.
– Philipp and Tine, the cyclists from Germany that we met first in Ecuador and then again on our first stop in Peru and ended up riding with for all of Peru and into Bolivia. We had such a great time riding with them, sharing stories (and occasional much-appreciated pushes) to ease the pain of the climbs up the Peruvian Andes.
– Andi from Germany, who we rode with for a few weeks in Peru, part of the Phillip and Tine team. He went on to be a great advance scout for us in Chile.
– Sarah and Joe, who we met and rode with on the Carretera Austral. Two very brave cycle touring novices on slightly inappropriate bikes that managed to complete the CA – proving that attitude and determination is really all you need.
– Sarah and Andy, whom we first met in Carhuaz, Peru. We saw them a few more times before finally teaming up for the Villa O’Higgins hike-a-bike and then few more days in the south. Tackling the hike-a-bike with them will go down in LWOP annuals as one of the best “teamwork makes the dream work” moments of the entire trip.
We have likely forgotten to mention others that we ran into but this post is already too long so we’ll stop there. We’ll post an update before we leave Ushuaia but only after we get the hard work of culling all of our worn out gear and packing the bikes up done!