Oncoming traffic: whales and white horses

It had been soon 10 months when I was on my bike last time. When I reached Bali, I was done with biketouring for a while. Southeast Asia with too many people, too many cars and too hot and humid climate for my liking had worn me out. I needed a break. And that I had. I had been waiting for the moment to get back on the bike for a long time now, very long. When I was on a truck on my way to Ushuaia from my 2 month home, Tolhuin, ready to have a fresh start for the Americas, I felt excited but nervous.

Everything was set to departure, just a couple of beers in Ushuaia with some other long distance cyclists and then into the night. Two litres of crafted local ale in my stomach combined with completely calm and clear Patagonia sky made the 1 am departure dreamy. When the lights of the city got further and further behind me and the realisation of being back on the road again started to kick in. I am finally on my way to north! Living again the life of simplicity outdoors with a clear mission for every single day. Forward, forward, forward!

I reached the end of the gravel road, opened the gate and got on a single track, which aught to be my route for the following day. A couple of kilometres on the track and it was time to camp. Once I stopped I started hearing loud noises from the beach. It took a while to recognise the sounds. Not cows, but whales! Right at the shore! I left the bike on the track and found my way to the shoreline in the darkness. One, two, three whales! Every once and a while they blew their blowhole, but most of the sounds they made reminded me of irregular talking and occasionally singing. I was eager to see them and directed my torch to the sea hoping to see a glimpse of these mystical creatures, as a result of making them disappear. What was in that ale? Did I imagine this all?

I found a clearing in the woods a little later and pitched my tent on a grassy cliff. After falling into sleep, I was soon waken. The whales were back. A school of 3 or 4 whales were now directly under the cliff where I was camping, making their sounds. I watched the starts and listened them doing, what ever they were up to, in my sleeping bag until I fell asleep. I was woken up by morning sun and a miraculous view to the mountains of Puerto Williams on the other side of the canal.

If the first 24 hours of biketouring the Americas would be my last, I would not mind. 

Riding out from Ushuaia.

I had been warned that the first day from Ushuaia would be a little tough. A little tough. The first few kilometres from my camp I could mostly ride my bike on rolling grassy hills, but eventually the hard part started. The trail was on somewhat a mountain face, going up and down, often slippery with mud and wet rocks. Additionally the trail went often through thick thorny bushes. Riding more than 10 metres at a time was a challenge. I had been told that this section was only 7 kilometres, which kept my spirits up. The hard part would be done anytime. Eventually after more than 6 hours of hike-a-biking I got out from the woods into ridable grounds again. I had blisters in my palms from dragging the bike and scratches even in my face from the thick vegetation I forced my bike through. The distance of the hard part was eventually more like 9 kilometers, the straight distance, which makes it on that trail more like 14km in reality. Double the distance I expected. My diary entry from that day is titled ‘The f…ing 7 kilometres’.

Hike-a-biking, my new hobby.

Worth it? Knowing now what was on the other side, totally. If there is a such a thing as a perfect road, this would be close it. Double track and small gravel roads across empty landscapes. Oncoming traffic; whales and white horses.

Ushuaia treated me with a glorious sunset in the end of my first day cycling the Americas. 

My Spanish is not that good yet, but I am sure the text on the sign welcomes cyclist to the unused military area.

After 6 river crossing and many closed Estancia gates I finally reached the public roads again and started a gentle 450m climb toward the Paso Garibaldi, the gate away from Ushuaia to the Pampas of Argentinian Tierra del Fuego. The 40km climb was fast progress mostly on good hard packet gravel road with beautiful views to the valley between two low mountain ranges and a 10km section of the main road to Ushuaia. Though I got a fair bit of mud on the top of the pass as well, riding a section of the old Ushuaia road to the pass and down to the Lago Escondido.

Up to the Paso Garibaldi.

I was not the only cyclist who had heard of the abandoned hotel at Logo Escondido. There were other four cyclist occupying the empty beach side huts when I reached the lake at sunset.

On the third day from Ushuaia I road on empty gravel roads, quad tracks and cow trails alongside the Lago Fagnano to Tolhuin. First 165km done! I was sore, but happy. The first three days were exactly how I had imagined Patagonia to be; challenging but rewarding. It would be a couple days of rest now in Tolhuin, before getting back on the bike across Tierra del Fuego.

Autumn at Lago Fagnano. 

The route

The route is drawn, as I do not yet has a GPS to track my way. You should be though able to ride the route according to the approximate route. 165km took me three days, but I would advise to stock up food for four. Plus size tires would be nice to have on soft and rough section, but this has been done with 2.0 tires as well. I was running 2.5s. Heavier you are, harder the trail section close to Ushuaia would be. The climb to the pass on tarmac could be partly avoided by taking a hiking trail on the mountain face.

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