El Calafate to Tierra del Fuego
I checked the forecast and heavy rains were moving into the area so I decided it was time for me to make the final charge to Ushuaia. I still had 550 miles before reaching the end of the world so I broke it up into a few days. Before I started I made a slight modification to my bike to help shield me from the wind, rain, hail, snow, or whatever else might come my way down here. To keep my hands shielded from Tierra del Fuego’s notoriously harsh weather I made bigger hand guards using a small waste bucket. I saw this idea from fellow rider Ryan from Canada. I bought a small plastic trashcan, cut it into two, then mounted each half over my existing hand guards. This should help keep the cold wind off my hands.
With my new mod finished I left El Calafate and rode to Rio Gallegos. The few short rain showers were the only thing that made this ride memorable. Most of the 4 hours are over the flat pampa. I made it to Rio Gallegos in the early afternoon. I probably had time to ride to Rio Grande but after a big lunch I just wanted to relax. The off and on rain followed me to Rio Gallegos so I just hung out at Hostel Elcira, a nice little hospedaje that Lonely Planet recommended. It felt like I was staying in someone’s grandmothers house. It was a hostel but definitely decorated by a grandma in the 1970’s. The family that ran it was really friendly.
In the morning I got an early start after breakfast and was treated with a beautiful morning ride. The land was mostly flat. Nothing new there. To get to Rio Grande I would have to exit Argentina, enter Chile, ride for two hours, then enter back into Argentina.
Ushuaia is on the island of Tierra del Fuego and the only method to reach the island is taking a ferry. I rode up as they were loading the boat and waited in line. After all the trucks and cars were loaded they waved me on. It was a short 30 minute ride across the Straights of Magellan.
I had read from other ride reports that they don’t charge motos on this ferry. Sure enough they didn’t charge me either. Since it’s Chile I was thinking it would probably be some ridiculous fee. Not only did I get a free ride over to Tierra del Fuego I got to see a rare type of dolphin called a Commerson’s dolphin. (Thanks to those who helped me with the name)
Taking the advice from a few other travelers I didn’t follow the route my GPS was telling me to go. I stopped at Cerro Sombrero to get fuel but the gas station was closed. I was 5 minutes late before they closed for 90 minutes. I figured I had enough to get me to San Sebastian so I pushed on instead of waiting. After Cerro Sombrero I took Highway 79 south and then 71 to get to San Sebastian. The road was mostly unpaved but in great condition. Almost no wind, a nice dirt road, blue skies; it was a great morning. I had one more border to cross before reaching Rio Grande.
After crossing into Argentina I stopped at the gas station in San Sebastian and filled up on the much cheaper gas. (Chile’s gas prices are significantly higher) While there I saw a familiar looking 1200GS pull up. I met AJ back in Nicaragua, crossed on the Stahlratte with him, saw him in Mendoza, and now seeing him here. He is heading north after spending a few days in Ushuaia. AJ’s the great guy that is letting me borrow his extra bluetooth speakers for my helmet. Thanks, AJ!
When I arrived in Rio Grande the wind picked up and was blowing the cold air off the ocean into the small city. I tried to find Ruta 40 Bed & Breakfast (a highly recommended place by other moto travelers) but with no success. I rode to the location google maps listed but it wasn’t there. Cold and lost trying to find the right street I saw an auto electrical shop so I stopped to have them check something out. During yesterdays ride my heated hand grips stopped working, the solder broke at the switch. The man at the shop heated up his solder iron and fixed it in under 5 minutes. Being in what’s probably the coldest place of the trip, it’s good to have that fixed again. The shop owner wouldn’t accept payment and even pointed me in the right direction to Ruta 40 B&B.
When I arrived at Ruta 40 no one was there. I asked next door and they told me to wait a few minutes for the owner. A man walked in with a big smile and greeted me with an energetic handshake. He said that they were actually closed for the season but that if I didn’t care if the room wasn’t made up, I could stay. He showed me the room and around the place which is also his home. He told me to help myself to anything in the kitchen, gave me the keys, and said he’d be back in a few hours. What just happened? Did some stranger really just welcome me into their closed down hotel and give me the keys? That stranger was Guillermo, or Willy as he goes by. When he came back we chatted for hours. Covering the walls are photos, magazine covers, maps, and other memorabilia from many of the adventures Willy has been on. He rode a small scooter all the way up Ruta 40! He owns the ice cream shop next door and treated me to the largest and best triple scoop cone I’ve had down here. He had a book on the table that hundreds of other travelers had signed. I saw a few riders I recognized from ride reports last year. I lay in bed that night and couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing the day turned out to be. I’ll never forget the incredible kindness I was shown by complete strangers, again. Thank you, Willy and heated hand grip repair man! PS Willy wouldn’t take a peso from me. He’s thinking about taking off and traveling around South America. While I hope he does that, I hope future travelers can meet this great guy in Rio Grande. If nothing else, stop by his ice cream shop.