To reach Ushuaia, we have to cross Chile a last time. A strange distribution of the country borders divides Ruta 3 with a Chilean part. It is a costly and time lasting operation for all the trucks and cars that want to cross to the most southern part of Argentina. We have to fight seventy kilometers of head wind to reach the border, and for the first time in our trip we have to stop at a police control. They give us two flashy safety jackets and we can continue our trip safely. At the border it can get tricky with the Chilean border officers, who are less tolerant than their Argentinian counterparts. They are very strict with fruits, vegetables, cheese and other fresh products. We hand over the peel of our banana, which we just ate, and can head on without any other inspection. The Brazilian couple is less lucky and have to show everything, and eventually they find a garlic clove, which makes the border officer cheer of joy. They even have to show the official bicycle documents? There isn’t a single cyclist who has a document like this. Being a European definitely helps us at those border controls.
The next days we always keep an eye on the weather forecasts and enjoy the favourable tale winds this way. In the evening we find some remarkable places to spent the night.
After the border control we slept in an ultra modern bus shelter with double glassed windows, which felt like a lodge. A couple of days later there was a small shelter on a crossing of four roads to nowhere. It was remarkably clean inside and the walls were full with names of other cyclists. At the border crossing in San Sebastian the Argentinian border officers offered us a warm room with kitchen and shower. That evening Ross, the British cyclist we met on the Carretera Austral, came in. He was already on his way back to from Ushuaia, hitchhiking to Buenos Aires with the bicycle. After this we slept in the bakery in Tolhuin, a famous stopover for cyclist, where we leave the next morning with a big bag of pastries. Almost every night we meet up with Tiago, Milka and Frida, the dog and spent the night together. The last night before Ushuaia we end up in an abandoned tourist resort. It hasn’t been used since a couple of years and most of the cabañas don’t have a roof and windows anymore, but one of them is well preserved and a beautiful place to spent the night. For a world touring cyclist this is almost a five star hotel. There is even a bed and a mattress. On top there are two extra mattresses which we give to the Brazilians, but we regret this when the other mattress has some wooden planks inside. The next morning we wake up, feeling five years older.
In between San Sebastian and Tolhuin, we passed in Rio Grande, the biggest city of Tierra del Fuego, which received his name thanks to the first explorers who saw fires everywhere on the island from the local inhabitants when the reached the island. It is only 200 kilometers before Ushuaia, but it was almost the end of our cycling trip. Suddenly Zoë feels a bump in her rear wheel and surprisingly the rim is broken. 11.000 kilometers long our Giant Troopers worked perfectly, but the rim’s last effort isn’t enough to reach Ushuaia. Luckily we find a bike shop who has a racing rim for Zoë. Yes! We don’t have to hitchhike to the end of the world. Rio Grande itself is, like Rio Gallegos, a windswept place. Despite this it has almost 150.000 inhabitants, almost all of them working in the big assembly factories. Argentina started a completely new industry to inhabit the southern part of the country. The people earn a fortune in the factories and can get retired at a young age, whereafter they move to the poor north to live like a king. In Rio Grande they assemble all kind of electronics, which is an enormous logistic operation because all the materials and packaging have to be brought from Buenos Aires and brought back once it is finished. We wonder how long this expansive industry will last.
After Rio Grande the boring and windy steppes changes into a mountainous landscapes. We have to battle the foothills of the Andes for a very last time and cross the Paso de Garibaldi before racing down to the sea. In full descent there are suddenly the two towers who mark the entrance of ‘Ushuaia’, the end of the world. Now we are here it doesn’t feel that unreachable, until we look at the map and see that we are quiet far from home. Ushuaia itself is a bustling city with an enormous tourist industry. The harbour is full with cruise ships going to Antartica and there are more cars than the 1.000 kilometers before. It is definitely not remote and the end of the world. We wait to days for the visit from Belgium and will celebrate the end of the year in the end of the world.
For many cyclists Ushuaia is the end of their trip. They fly back home and take a cycling break to get back to ‘normal’ life. We are 15 months on the road, but it definitely isn’t the end of our trip, although we need a little break to use our brains. We plan to stay two months in Ushuaia and think about our next project. A hundred times people asked us ‘are you going to write a book’?….Yes!! And the end of the world might be the best place to start the first pages. And now we are so close to the most southern place of the world, we might be able to step on Antarctica! It will be as difficult as finding the sailing boat that brought us over the Atlantic.