Ushuaia

January 14th, 2010

Southern-most point of Panamerican Highway in Bahia Lapataia (near Ushuaia)

Yesterday I reached Ushuaia after flights from Miami via Buenos Aires to Santiago (including a close fly-by near Aconcagua in excellent visibility) and then via Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. My mountain backpack stayed behind in the hotel in Santiago; I’ll ride back up there over the next 6 weeks or so and then switch my bike and mountain gear for the Aconcagua expedition.

View fom flight descending towards Ushuaia

The last two hours of our flight were all covered in rain clouds; the 10-day weather forecast is not good – lots of rain and pretty cold (50F, 10C), and I have read horror stories about the stormy wind in Patagonia! That said, during the last minutes of our flight the sky cleared a little bit and the sun came out – what a welcome to this Southern-most city!

Then I needed to re-assemble the bike. I’m getting more used to this now than I would like… And I fiddled 1/2 hour to get the trailer wheel back into the trailer frame – apparently the latter must have been bent during transport, slightly annoying. But eventually everything was put together, and I put my empty bike box next to another one with a Swiss name and address on it (so I’m not the only rider).

Ready to roll in the Ushuaia airport after re-assembling the bike

It was already 7pm when I started to ride. It felt really good to pedal again – somewhat cool (52F, 11C), but not uncomfortable. The surroundings reminded me of Iceland, with snow up in the mountains above the fjord-like bays. I tried getting some cash as I didn’t have Argentinian pesos, but the ATM machine failed to dispense any money!? So I bought a big orange juice and some bread with my last small dollars and set out to ride down to Bahia Lapataia, the Southern end of the highway.

At entrance of Tierra del Fuego National Park, South of Ushuaia

Even though it was now already past 8pm, I was not too concerned, as the sun sets at 10:05pm and it is still light until almost 11pm. It’s not quite as extreme at 55 degrees South as it was up in Alsaka (70 degrees North) last July, but still very different from the tropics in Central America.

My first surprise was the traffic, lots of cars driving back from Bahia Lapataia – and kicking up lots of dust on the gravel road. It’s high season down here. While I was the only rider, there is no solitude down here, even at the late hour. Also several camp grounds and tents along the way, so not exactly the untouched wilderness, but still great.

I got to the endpoint around 8:45pm and stayed for 15 minutes or so. The obligatory photo was taken as the last tour bus left the parking area. Some quiet time allowe to reflect: This is the Southern endpoint of the Panamerican Highway. Only 90 miles to Cape Horn, and just 1100 km to Antarctica. I walked out to the actual beach.

At Bahia Lapataia, only 90 miles from Cape Horn

I recognized this spot from photos on Stefan and Pius website (panamerica.ch) My recumbent had already been here two years ago (Stefan riding it) – quite amazing. This may be the first recumbent to do the Panamerican Highway twice, who knows?

Then I returned back to Ushuaia. It started to rain a little bit, but not enough to warrant getting out raingear; I was riding in shots, which on the uphills was comfortable, but downhill it was getting quite chilly. Due to the cloud cover and sun down it was now getting more and more dark, with the city lights of Ushuaia visible in the distance.

Riding back to Ushuaia from Bahia Lapataia at dusk

Now the journey heading North can begin!

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