Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 15)
Due to the strong currents the captain had to keep the ferry’s engines running. The current was indeed swift and strong and the ferry continued to try to wash itself ashore. But with excellent seamanship the captain jockeyed the ferry so that it remained at a 90° angle to the landing. Soon all the other traffic had offloaded in it was our turn to ride right onto the ferry. Luckily for us, as motorcyclists we took up little space on deck and we were the first to board with a few cars and abundance of tractor trailer rigs following behind.
It was cold and windy and as the ferry lurched left and right with each new tractor trailer rig, we decided to go inside try to warm up a bit. A very narrow passageway led to a cramped cabin area, but it was an escape from the strong winds and the spray of the cold ocean waters. We sat side-by-side in the narrow compartment stamping our feet trying to get warm. Still chilled to the bone, we overheard somebody talking in the compartment saying there was something outside to see. We had no clue what was out there, but what the heck, how many times would we be crossing the Straits of Magellan? Not knowing what awaited, we wandered outside to have a look.
By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.
At first we saw nothing. Jeez, here we were standing in the wind and cold spray for what? But then, someone pointed at the water and I caught a glimpse of something. At first it was a darkish blur gliding through the water alongside the ferry. It looked like the reflection of a cloud on the surface of the water, but it was moving with amazing speed and zigzagging through the water.
Suddenly it breached; more like leapt from the froth of the wake of the ferry. A small black and white dolphin accompanied by two more friends. We would later find out that they were Commerson’s dolphins, and these guys were one of about 3,400 in the Straits of Magellan. They continued to follow us for about 10 minutes leaping from the water in graceful fluid arcs. They were the best ambassadors to the land of fire that we could have ever wished for.
About twenty minutes later we were nearing the coast of Tierra del Fuego; The Land of Fire. The wind, the overcast and the increasing rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm to reach our destination. Before we knew it, the belly of the ferry was scraping on the shore of the land that just weeks ago seemed just a distant dream. Yet we had made it and we were here. We were very, very excited.
As we rolled off the damp and slick ferry ramp, I was a bit overwhelmed. It was dank and dreary, but I was elated. We had come a long way, over thousands of miles on gravel and through high wind, and there in front of me suspended from a large sign were the words in Spanish, Bienvenido a Tierra del Fuego; “Welcome To Tierra Del Fuego”. We had made it and we only had a bit over a day’s ride to reach the very tip of the South American continent. In fact, the most southern habitable place on the planet excluding those small scientific camps in Antarctica.
After about 15 minutes on pavement, we once again returned to the gravel. The rain began to intensify and we still had a few more hours to ride before reaching our hotel for the evening. Our route took out through the small coastal town of Rio Grande. The rain, wind and cold were beginning to take their toll and we decided that we should stop somewhere to eat and warm-up.
We roamed around the town a bit and found a small local shop selling roasted chickens and 2 foot long sandwiches. The shop itself was tiny. It was nothing to talk about and full of smoke from the chicken roasting in a brick hearth inside. Still to us, it looked like a haven of gigantic proportions. It was a take out only place, but we asked the owners if we could sit down on our little foldable portable chairs and eat in their tiny little rectangle that was warm and dry. They were more than happy to let us and as we squatted in their shop, we ate hot empanadas and slowly dried among the sizzling chicken and baking dough.
After stuffing ourselves on empanadas, we were somewhat dry and feeling much warmer than when we arrived. We thanked our hosts and got back onto the bikes in the drizzle and wind. As we exited Rio Grande, we rolled past a memorial to the Malvinas War (Falklands War). A single, easily 4o year old jet fighter stood perched on a pole in a small park. It was a symbol of pride for the Argentines and a remembrance of lives lost in that war. As we passed the still bird held aloft not by the air under its wings, but by a rusting piece of steel, it was a bit of a solemn reminder for two riders that the world doesn’t always get along.
Not long after passing the memorial, we were once again back on pavement and heading over mountains that loomed ahead. The weather continued to deteriorate and the heavy clouds began to descend quickly. From these clouds, tendrils of virga appeared as fingers reaching for the earth, hoping for a handhold lest they be torn apart on the jagged mountain peaks. As we climbed on the mountain roads, it was unclear whether the clouds were descending upon us or we were climbing to them or a combination of both. But as we climbed, the visibility continued to drop and then… it began to snow.
Large wet heavy flakes drifted towards the pavement and impaled themselves on us as we rode onward. Our visors quickly began to frost up with ice forming around the edges. Still the snow was not yet accumulating on the pavement and we were quite thankful for that. We thought it best to ride on and hoped that we would soon be descending into warmer temperatures so that the white wet flakes would soon return to their 100 percent liquid form. With increasing anticipation, we rode onward knowing that we would shortly start our descent from the mountain. We’ll tell you about the ride down the mountain in the next chapter.
Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time