Friday, 2 March 2007

Tierra del Fuego

So now I think I have an idea what people mean when they say it can get a bit windy in this part of the world...

My introduction to Tierra del Fuego could not have been easier or more beautiful - Ushuaia. I love it there - a fun town, amazing views of mountains and sea, a beautiful national park, outdoor pursuits galore, last-minute trips to Antarctica, and great steak! Plus, it was always sunny when I was there. Or maybe that is why I have such fond memories of the place. Likewise Antarctica - I saw both the Drake crossing and Antarctica itself on its best behaviour. Seeing the glaciers sparkling in the sun, I just wanted to put on a pair of skis, grab a tent, and head inland to explore... luckily I wasn´t allowed (this time).

So back to Tierra del Fuego. Disembarking from our ship nice and fresh (hungover and horribly short on sleep) and raring to go after ten days eating onboard, I spent a day in Ushuaia sorting myself out, had a final dinner with people from the boat, and then early to bed for my first day of cycling. I should have gone out partying - not used to being onshore, the bed felt like it was moving as if at sea, and I only got two hours sleep due to comings and goings and snorers in my dorm...

I left in the morning anyway, disgruntled and tired, but after a while, the sun came out and I had a beautiful ride through the mountains to camp next to a lovely lake. I slept like a baby listening to the waves lapping gently a few metres away. A great day´s cycling, and the only one I managed... Since the next day was rainy and windy, I jumped on a bus. Feeling guilty later, I went for a ride out of town, and got my first taste of the wind. Riding was horrible, and I don´t even think it was particularly strong...

The end of the road, west of Ushuaia, right in the south of Argentina.

Cycling out of Ushuaia, through the mountains and past some lovely lakes.

I get the impression from the trees that it can get a bit windy here... Idyllic camping by Lago Fagano, one day´s ride out of Ushuaia.

The next day I bused it to Punta Arenas in Chile - and my guilt about taking a bus disappeared as I saw the terrain.
Miles of nothing - grass (being blown flat by the horrendous winds), sky, road and a few sheep. In good conditions I´d have made the trip in four days by bike; in those conditions, probably never... Crossing the Magellan straight by ferry, at times the wind was so strong it was hard to stand up, let alone walk.

Now, out of Tierra del Fuego and in southern Patagonia, things didn´t improve. My plan was to cycle to Puerta Natales, 250kms north, but after 30kms, my feet were blocks of ice, I was making just 8kms an hour, there was nothing to see, and I had the prospect of several days of the same... In the interest of my sanity, I therefore decided to turn back to Punta Arenas, and my bike, I, Jimmy and Jemima (the omnipresent squeaks from my left and right pedals, respectively) got on another bus.

The plan remains to do some more cycling; but only when the scenery is more interesting and/or the wind drops!

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