Tacna, Peru to Ushuaia, Argentina
In this episode, I traverse the length of Chile, cross into Argentina and make my way to “El Fin del Mundo,” the end of the world. The further south, the colder and windier it got, but after arriving in Ushuaia, I was overcome with emotion.
Why stop with the videos now? So, here you go.
My first stop after crossing the border was the coastal town of Iquique… it was fun riding down through the mountains and into the dunes along the coast.
But, to get there, I had my first taste of Chilean roads, just south of the border.
Although northern Chile forms part of the Atacama Desert, the scenery along the oceans was brilliant.
Next, I stopped in Antofagasta and Copiapó, and then La Serena, which is another city along the coast. As I mentioned, the coastline dominates most of Chile. What’s interesting about Chile is that at its widest point (West to East), it’s only 240 Km wide. As you travel south, you have the ocean of your right and the mountains on the left, the whole way down the length of Chile.
I stopped in Concepción for the night, but really didn’t see much. My hostal was away from the city center and the ocean, so I took a couple of days off to work on the blog.
A highlight of the trip was stopping at Casa Matte’s in Santiago, a moto-oriented hostal in the heart of the city. I had good fun hanging for several days with Frank and Scott, who I’ve met several times during my trip. And Karen and Brian also joined us… all Stahlratte alumni! It also gave us all a chance to work on our motos.
I made way over to Pucón on several folks’ suggestions. Pucón is known as the adventure capital of Chile. It’s a large area filled with mountains, volcanos, and includes Chile’s second largest lake. There, I stayed at MotoCamp Chile, but after some serious downpours, it was sort of a muddy mess. Still, seeing other overlanders on their motorcycles gathering in one place is always a thrill. I even ran into Bryan and Karen again, who I’d first met on the Stahlratte last November.
I left Pucón early and headed to Puerto Montt, where I had an impending date with one of the many ferries that get you from place to place in Patagonia. While in Puerto Montt, I took care of some laundry and restocking some supplies, and also took a trip out to Osorno Volcano, an 8,000-meter behemoth that many say resembles Mount Fuji. While hidden by the clouds during the ride there, I was rewarded once I neared the summit as the clouds gave way to sun, which provided amazing reflections off the ice-covered top.
Puerto Montt reminded me a lot of Newfoundland.
Next, I made arrangements to board the ferry. It’s mostly a cargo and passenger affair, so there were not many private vehicles. And as far as I could tell, I was the only motorcyclist. The ferry takes a circuitous route from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, a meandering 900-mile trip through the narrowest and most scenic places I’d ever seen – the Patagonian Fjords. I spent 4 days and three nights on a mini-vacation, chatting with my fellow travelers and taking pictures as the scenery scrolled by.
In the end, I was glad I took the ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. While, I could have taken the Carrera Austral, I really needed some downtime as I was growing quite tired of the day to day grind of moto travel. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do. I mean I really love this lifestyle. It’s just my mode has been one of constant movement for months on end and seeing my desire to get to Ushuaia was constantly in my thoughts, I was getting drained.
Arriving in Puerto Natales in southern Chile, again I was immediately reminded of scenes of Newfoundland, which makes sense as both places are roughly the same distance from the equator. It was a rainy and cold day and I began worrying about the absolute barrenness of southern Chile and Argentina. I made plans for a long ride across the continent to Rio Grande in Argentina, which meant taking a ferry and then crossing the southern border.
After crossing on the ferry, I was officially in Tierra del Fuego. Tierra del Fuego is not attached to the South American continent, and as all areas of Patagonia is considered protected. Rolling hills, and violent winds, dominated the senses I continued riding south and east.
The road, actually the only road, connecting Chile and Argentina down to Ushuaia was about 50 miles of hard pack dirt with a little mud. I hooked up with a pair of riders, both on bikes I was surprised to see tackling these roads, a chopper and a big cruiser. One of them even had a bad off on the road, but they were great people.
I arrived late in the night in Rio Grande, Argentina, which is only a few hours from Ushuaia, for a rest. It had been a long 12-hour day, but I was excited about the next day and reaching my goal of El Fin del Mundo.
The next day, I took my time getting up and ready for the final push. As it turned out, the road was not as barren as I thought it would be, with small towns dotting the way south. The further south you go, the bigger the mountains become. Eventually, you reach a pass of 2000 feet or so and on the other side lies Ushuaia, where you are greeted by the really cool entrance signs to the town.
There, I met Chris and John, who I had met the day before at the ferry crossing, and Frank, again. They decided to book into the same hotel as I, and as soon as we dumped our gear, we headed out to the national park sign marking the end of Ruta 3.
I had been building up to this moment for nearly two years and when I saw the sign, I almost broke down, overcome by emotion. All of the area is a huge tourist attraction because it is jaw-droppingly beautiful. But, none of that mattered that day. After more than 10 months on the road, exploring North, Central, and South America, I had made it!!! Whew!
Not long after, my mind turned toward home. I was ready.