Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most city in the world. It’s a claim that’s debated as there is a small village on an island further south but most people recognize this as the end of the world. The small city of 60,000 people sits along the shore of the Beagle Chanel and below the snowcapped Martial Mountains. With it’s close proximity to Antarctica it’s the launching point for cruises and expeditions.
Originally the area was home to the indigenous tribe of the Yaghan people. Eventually other settlers arrived a few at a time. But the city didn’t really get going until Argentina decided they’d make the place a penal colony in1894 to establish residents in the area to protect against Chile trying to claim the land. I can’t imagine how bad the conditions were back then for the prisoners who were brought down from Buenos Aires. Part of the road is bad now. 120 years ago it must have been a terribly long trip.
Throughout Argentina and especially here in Tierra del Fuego there are many signs and memorials about the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands). It seems the people are still very unhappy about England taking over their claimed territory. So much so that they don’t let any English flagged ship in the ports there. At the war memorials and other places where there are english translations they use the US flag to indicate it’s in english instead of the UK union jack which is the standard.
I was in Ushuaia but I still had to ride to the official end of the road 15 miles out of town in Tierra del Fuego National Park. The skies were clear in town but as soon as I got into the park it started raining hard and instantly I was chilled to the bone. The dirt road that wound through the forest became muddier. Don’t go down now, I kept thinking as I went around each muddy corner. The closer I got to the end of the road the harder the rain came down. I could see the end but decided to wait under a tree until it cleared up a bit. Five minutes later the rain slowed to a drizzle and the sun came out. Off I rode.
The road ends in a parking lot and there’s the famous sign marking the location. It reads “here ends National Highway 3”, which marks the end of the road in the Americas. I arrived here exactly 5 months after starting my trip from my home in California. 17,020 miles through 13 countries. I parked my bike by the sign and set up my tripod just as two busses full of tourists pulled up. I was overrun by people standing in front of the camera. I stepped aside and waited for the crowd to clear. I wondered why this sign was of any importance to them. Being here for me isn’t the culmination of my trip as I’ll continue for several more months traveling through Chile and Argentina, but it marks achievement of part of the dream I had years ago. I rode over 17,000 miles down highways, sandy roads, muddy roads, beautiful backcountry trails, over mountains, through rivers in 13 countries. I stood at that sign with the feeling of satisfaction and pride. As I waited for the crowds to clear I sat back and reminisced to all the times I was so nervous about continuing down a road or even to start the trip. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to those negative thoughts in my head. I’m so glad I still have many more months to keep the adventure going!
Later that night Canadian Ian and 3 other riders pulled up at the hostel. I heard their motos outside the window and went out to greet them. I hadn’t met the other three but everyone got hugs. It was a celebratory moment for all of us to be at the southern most city in the world. Phil and Jayne are a brother and sister from Canada who I had read about online, they’ve been traveling for 18 months on KLR’s. Then there was Joe, an Aussie who started his trip in Northern California about 1 year ago on a 2012 Triumph Bonneville. They came in from the cold and we cooked up a massive feast to celebrate. It was fun having a crew of moto friends to hang out with.
I spent 4 days in the city. Spending my time relaxing, hanging out at this great old coffee shop, going for a few rides around the area. The weather was really unpredictable. It’d be sunny one minute then it would start snowing. When I arrived there wasn’t much snow on the nearby mountains but by the time I was leaving the tops were mostly covered. The rain/snow made the back trails in the mountains very muddy. At one point I rode through a small illegally built shanty town and about 12 dogs came charging at me. These ones weren’t lazy like the others and kept chasing my bike. With the slick mud I couldn’t hit the throttle and go so I had to slowly ride by them constantly looking to see if any were going to try to bite my leg. When I reached a clearing it was a beautiful view. I wanted to ride further but there was a closed gate over the rest of the trail.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the weather, even on the “bad” days the mornings were always warm and sunny. I kept hearing a lot of people saying I was too late in the season to get down to Ushuaia. The weather can be bad at anytime. And I think I had great weather for the most part, except for that rainstorm at the end of the storm. But now I’ll remember that last 10 mile ride to the end of the road probably more than I would have. There wasn’t a whole lot to see between El Calafate and here but I’m happy I rode all the way down. Now to turn around and start heading north!