Patagonia – Day 16: Ushuaia, Argentina

Date: 11/25/2014 Tuesday
Starting Location: Cerro Sombrero, Chile
Ending Location: Ushuaia, Argentina
Mileage Today:  263.4 Miles
Mileage Total:  2263.7 miles

Leaving Cerro Sombrero

Our morning ritual of getting ready to go, and then, eventually, actually getting on the bikes and going.  On this morning, we had a brief delay as we had lost Jay.  I suspect that he was inside trying to pay for his extras from the night’s stay, but we may never know…

For the dirt riding junkies

This clip is an extraction of a run that was about 2 hours long, and was exclusively on dirt.  The surface was mostly compressed gravel and dirt, with pockets of gravel, mud, and loose sand.  In this clip, I reached speeds of up to 107Kph.  I do not recommend that anyone else do this type of riding, at these speeds, but as I’ve taken a bit of off-road training, and have become comfortable letting the bike move beneath me, I’ve been able to go faster and faster.

This run was EPIC, and at the end of it, it took quite a while to wipe the silly grin off of my face.  For anyone who has ridden dirt, and fancied themselves riding in Dakar, watch and enjoy.

Bike problems – 140 miles to go

With about 140 miles yet to go before we arrive in Ushuaia, Stan’s bike started acting up, and suddenly, the clutch decided that it did not want to grab any more, and as a result, his bike would not move forward with any meaningful amount of speed.  We were riding along one minute, and then the next, he had pulled over and come to a stop.  I tried to stop and help him, but as soon as I started to pull over, he waved me on.

Stan and I had been talking about his clutch problem, so I immediately figured that this was the likely issue, and I began to accelerate to catch Eduardo, our ride leader.  After 5 minutes of hearty acceleration, I caught him on the side of the road, where he pulled over when he noticed the bikes missing.

Eduardo turned around and after about 50 minutes or so, and a good amount of waiting on the side of the road in the bone-chilling cold, the truck and Eduardo showed up with the bike mounted on the front of the trailer.  At this point, it looked to be a casualty of war…

Stan was riding in the truck with Alain and the two ladies, and while he was steaming that the bike was not able to be ridden, he was enjoying being out of the wind for the remaining 140 miles.

The road to Ushuaia – Almost there…

Now, it does need to be said that the ride in these parts is notoriously boring, and I was getting tired, so I started singing to myself, very loudly, in order to stay awake.  If you’ve ever heard me sing, you’ll understand when I say that I woke up immediately, and made it to within 45 miles of Ushuaia.

Garibaldi Pass (Paso Garibaldi)

GaribaldiPass03Garibaldi Pass is the gateway to Ushuaia.  From this point on the road, you enter the pass, and the road becomes even more twisty, and winding.  The weather in the pass can be unpredictable, and ever-changing.

The feeling that I had at Garibaldi was that of suspense and excitement.  We all knew that, in just a few minutes we would be heading to our ultimate goal, the final destination.  This final destination, the place that I had been thinking about for more than 18 months was just 35 miles ahead.  What would the next 35 miles bring, and what would we see at the end.

GaribaldiPass01GaribaldiPass02As noted in the video below, we were told to expect nasty weather, construction, cold temperatures, and any manner and number of obstacles.  We stayed at Garibaldi for about 10 minutes and then headed towards Ushuaia, on the final push.

The road becomes a racetrack

At this point, the road became like the road in a Laguna Seca racetrack instruction guide.  There was one high-speed turn, followed by switchbacks, followed by another set of sequenced turns, etc.  This was some pretty great road, and we owned it.

Jay is a slower rider than me on the dirt, but he’s damn fast on the tar, and when I saw him come up from behind, I waved him by, and within a short period of time, I was following Jay, Dennis, Tom, Peter and Eduardo as they put on a demonstration of “the proper way to commit to a turn”.  It was a thing of beauty, and all I could do was focus, accelerate and try to hang on the back.

The video that represents these last 35 miles or so is not what you’ve come to expect from me.  I’m trying something new.  What have I done you ask?  Well, what I’ve done is to slice up the video into about 150 individual still photos which represent the ride, and then downloaded and added some royalty free music, and then set the whole mess to music, with sequenced transitions.  I hope you don’t get too bored with all of it, but you might just want to give it a go…

Arriving in Ushuaia

UshuaiaArrival01We made pretty short work of the mountain pass that leads into Ushuaia, and arrived at the gates of Ushuaia.  At this point, we had traveled more than 2200 miles, and spent 16 days riding, packing, unpacking, packing, and riding again.  We did this each day, like a ritual, never complaining (well, hardly complaining anyway).  Now, we’ve arrived.

I’ve planned this trip for 18 months, and have enjoyed every moment that I spent thinking, planing, buying gear, learning new things, and imagining the route and the trip.  Now, after all of that work, I had arrived.  I guess for some people this would be a moment of great excitement, and they would leave it at that.  But, those of you who know me well can only guess that it wasn’t quite that kind of moment for me.  I had a different way of looking at the journey.  In the end, as I figure might be the case for some others, I had mixed feelings.

UshuaiaArrival02For me, this moment was so much more than just a brief moment of glory, or a great way to finish things up.  This moment was simultaneously both climactic, and anti-climactic.  Let me see if I can explain.  In addition to the climax that comes from all this hard work, I was also thinking that by reaching this sign, the ride would be over in less than 24 hours.  By this time tomorrow, I would have said good by to my bike, and been in the hotel for one last night.   And so it was with both great joy, and great sadness that I reach the gates of Ushuaia.

Ushuaia – OMG this place is really something

Ushuaia is a city in flux.  It seems that Argentina has really embraced the tourist industry, and as such, they want to be sure that the infrastructure in towns like Ushuaia can support this level, and number of tourists.  As a result, and due in large part to the fact that the days are light for about 18 hours, they are constantly doing roadwork, or public works projects.

In addition, the city itself is a bit of a logistical challenge, in that it is quite hilly, and is a combination of the old and the new.  It seems that for years Ushuaia was a small city, allowing people to begin a trek north, or to exit the mainland and head to Antarctica.  The houses, buildings, roads, and general layout are of a town that was created many years ago, with the expectation of a much smaller number of travelers.

So, as I walk through town, I’m able to see new projects everywhere, and these projects are often active until at least 8PM or so, each day.  Given the short period of time each year that is available to fulfill these public works projects, I guess you really need to take advantage of each day.

What will tomorrow bring

Tomorrow, we’ll have a day to ride to The End of the Earth.  Sounds ominous…

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.