Reaching Ushuaia and running out of land to explore south could have been so many things. What it actually turned out to be was typical, ordinary and completely ‘normal’. Ushuaia: not the end of the world, my world or anything remotely as dramatic. Ushuaia: just another city in a long line of rest stops, the end of a not especially inspiring route and the cracking of a new door of opportunity. I cannot deny a fleeting pulse of emotion as I rolled into town, but nothing remotely as powerful as the intense feelings that routinely rush me on my roads of choice. Having emerged from the emotional crisis that haunted the ride through Chilean Tierra del Fuego I’d already tamed the end-of-an-era demons and processed much of the uncertainty that feeds them. This little psychological wobble drained away most of the emotional detritus that accompanies moments like this and allowed me the clarity to ride towards Ushuaia the only way I know, with passion, for fun and completely free.
The gods of cranks and sprockets work in mysterious ways and on this occasion threw some salvation my way in the form of Mr. Paul ‘The Ride South’ Griffiths and Mr. Sam ‘Steeling Away’ Hochheimer. They arrived in my life for real in San Sabastian, the first stop in Argentine Tierra del Fuego. As I stretched out in a popular (and extremely warm) cyclists salvation at the Argentine border post they stumbled in out of the darkness and two virtual friendships became real. As members of the same dirt road touring tribe/clique, bonded together through the blogosphere and with mutual (real) friends, we’ve been very aware of each others lives the past year or so. It takes a lot to gain my respect and a hell of a lot more again to impress me, Sam and Paul have won bucket loads of both. Some of the stuff these guys have been doing recently is truly next level. They are aware of the opportunities currently available to cyclists in the Americas and to their credit they have reached out and grabbed them with both hands. Aside from Nick Gault (who is still trundling around somewhere in Colombia), I see Sam and Paul as the last of my generation of pan-american dirt riders. It’s going to be interesting to see what routes the next generation is going to come up with… no pressure guys (no pressure Nick)!
Once I’d managed to pull myself back from the brink of breakdown and sorted my head out, riding towards Ushuaia evolved into a time of peace and an appreciation of new opportunities. Sam and Paul were a massive help in inspiring the positivity back into my ride, they shifted my focus towards an exciting future. I still ride a touring bike, I ride a touring load, I know my limits and I know how to have maximum fun with my set-up. Sam and Pauls appearance reminded me of one of the big promises of my future, the chance to find a different level of the same fun on a more appropriate bicycle with more extreme limits. This hope and the feeling that I’ve taken this ride as far as I wanted makes me excited for the future rather than wistful for the past. I have evolved beyond my ride, the bike I trust has become both a literal and figurative anchor, holding my cycling dreams back. The lightweight ‘Steeling South’ crew are already living that dream; they got to bike-pack into Ushuaia along the coast, I got to pump my way in on a slight variation of the standard highway route. No guesses who won on this occasion… I don’t like being a route loser.
The ‘Steeling South’ crew had different route ideas to me so unfortunately we only got to ride together for a day or so. Paul’s take on their fun little bike-pack along the coast into Ushuaia can be found here and Sam’s here. Despite taking a long hard look at that route I decided it really was for bike-packers and wouldn’t work with my load, so I took some variations on one of the standard routes south. Here is that story…
So that’s that then, I rode my bicycle from the top of Alaska to the bottom of the Americas. It was my life for five years and involved many unexpected twists and turns. And what have I learnt? I learnt that there are no individual trips, there are no one-off rides, they’re all just chapters in one big journey. That journey is life and it is us who control it, our choices alone dictate what our story will be. My journey got interesting when I decided to fight for ownership of my own life, I made the choice to live and resolution to stop
giving a fuck caring about what is expected and accepted by society. These are the best decisions I’ll probably ever make, they won me my freedom.
5 days, 343 km (213 miles), 2,835 m (9,300 ft.) of climbing
As I mentioned above I originally intended to ride a series of dirt roads from San Sabastian down to Rio Grande but was thwarted by the weather. To check out that route see the route map available here.
I had intended to throw four dirt road detours into my ride from Tolhuin to Ushuaia but only managed to ride three after rain made the third one unrideable. I mapped all those detours on my original route plan which is available here. For the detour I missed take the right turn signed Laguna Kosovo about 25 km out of Tolhuin.
Many choose to gun it down the highway from Tolhuin to Ushuaia in one day. That sounds like a miserable idea so I’d recommend a night in the fishermans cabin at the abandoned Hosteria Petrel. This is by Lago Escondido on the dirt road route up Paso Garibaldi. To reach it turn right off of Ruta 3 just after a Police building (at about kilometer marker 3002) and ride 4 km. The first of the eight cabins after the abandoned hotel building is the best but some of the others would be fine to camp in too. The lake water is crystal clear, I drank it without any problems.
If you ride a really light load I’d recommend investigating the coastal route into Ushuaia via the Pto. Harberton road that Paul and Sam took.