Mar. 25 – Punta Arenas, CI to Rio Grande, AR

2009 April 24
by joe

Up really early, with a wake-up phone call.  We get a really nice breakfast, with the promised eggs, from a bleary-eyed staff.  We upset the normal hostel routine with our early rise.  It is a short 3 klicks to the ferry dock, and it was really cheap for the bike and passenger – $15 USD total!  The ferry operation was very modern and professional.  When I parked the bike on the deck, they put just a single strap over the seat;  when I questioned that that was all they thought necessary, the deck hand pointed to the clear sky and said ‘good weather’ as justification for the light-duty strapping.  It was just fine.

The ferry ride was great.  The sun was out, temps were warm, the straight was calm and winds were low.  A beautiful ride, with the straight enclosed with hills and mountains on all sides.  We either sat in the comfortable passenger cabin, or strolled on the cabin-top deck in the fresh air.  A nice 2-hour boat ride, and then we pulled into the dock at Porvenir.  Just before we landed, we were spotted buy a pod of dolphins, who cam rushing over to the boat to play in the bow wake.  What a cool sight, watching the dolphins jump play, getting a ride from the ship’s wake.  A fascinating sight.  Porvenir is just a sleepy fishing village,  with a few too many restaurants to accommodate the tourists coming to the island.  Today, there were not many of us.

We ate lunch in Porviner, and then started out on the 150 klicks of gravel road we needed to cross to get back into Argentina.  This road was not so bad;  a ‘real’ gravel road that you could do 40-50 mph on.  There were a few bad spots, some construction, herds of sheep and packs of guanaco, and plenty of strong winds,  but we covered the ground in less than 3 hours.  The scenery continued to be the same Patagonian desert we had been riding in for days now…  flat scrub-land without trees, dark grey or black scrub-brush, and occasional salt-flats.  After those 3 hours of rough riding, we arrived at the San Sebastian border crossing – and another easy entry into Argentina (third time, now).  Soon after crossing the border, the road was paved and decent, and we speed along until we stop for gas in Rio Grande, which is about 250 kilometers from Ushuaia itself.

It is now very cold (temps in the 40’s), and very windy.  When we pull into town,  my bike starts acting stupid again, and will not idle.  As we gas up, it starts to rain, and I do not feel like we should try to make it the rest of the way today.  It is so late now, that if we continue on to Ushuaia, it will be well after dark before we can get there, and there is nothing between here and there, at all.  We search around, and have to settle for a tiny room in a hotel with little to offer.  We walk about, getting money at the bank, and then finding a micro-brewery where we have pizza and beer for dinner.  Our first night on Tierra de Fuego;  cold, windy, raining.  Tomorrow, we will reach the end of the earth!

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