Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Fin del Mundo

Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 16)

After only a few minutes but for what at the time seemed like hours, we reached the crest of the mountain.  Snow continued to fall but still did not accumulate on the surface of the road.  We were quite thankful that as we descended, the snow turned rain and the temperature turned from freezing to merely uncomfortably cold.  But we did count our blessings as a motorcycle trip down a snow-covered twisting mountain road would have been foolish endeavor.

We continued down the mountain in rain and by the time we reached its base, we were ready for some fuel, a respite from the weather and a dry warm place.  Onward we traveled in the rain on good paved road until we reached the crossroads town of Tolhuin.  There at a four corners stop was a gas station and even a mini-mart of sorts.  Bravo!  Time for a break.

We quickly parked up the bikes, bought some fuel and headed directly to the mini-mart.  Inside were all the accoutrements that you’d normally find in such a place.  Maps, oil, a small assortment of dry groceries, trinkets for bored traveling children and soft drinks.  As we marched around the place in our dripping rainsuits, Kim strolled over to the cooler to look for a Coke.  Ultimately she did find it, but she also found a can of liquid refreshment the likes of which we’d never seen.

In a slim white and pink can decorated with a big pink heart, there it was.  Our first sighting of can of; “Mr. Love”!  Advertised as pheromone enhanced, it was supposedly an aphrodisiac drink.  Wow, and to think, I wasted all that energy courting and being nice to Kim all these years.  All this time, the answer was actually in a can near the tip of South America.  The things you learn on a trip to the end of the world!  Although we didn’t purchase any of the drink, it did make for a good picture and we snapped several as the amused (or not so amused) attendant watched.

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.

We drank our drinks, dried off and warmed ourselves up in the free warmth of the mini-mart.  But it was time to get moving and after about a 30 minute stop, we got back on the bikes and making our way towards the southernmost city in the world; Ushuaia.  Luck was with us and the rain gods decided to have some pity on our souls and ceased unleashing their moist and chilly droplets onto us.  As we rode on, pavement started to dry.  Our spirits began to rise as the rain ceased; it was a perfect antithesis.  For as the falling droplets diminished, our spirits rose to meet and eventually surpass the cold and misery that had been deposited on us.  We were almost there; Ushuaia.  And it was only a couple of hours ride away.

Before we knew it, the road was completely dry and took on a smooth flowing and curving demeanor.  It wandered through forests and along streams that meandered beside the mountains which had guided the rushing water along its current path.  Shots of sunlight occasionally burst from the clouds above, seeming like nature’s own camera, taking flash pictures of motorcyclists wending their way southward.

And then the realization hit me.  We were almost there and nearing the end of our journey.  This had been a wonderful trip.  One that I will never forget.  I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to have made this ride, but the joys, challenges and excitement were nearing their conclusion.

So it was at this time that I had an experience that I had never had before.  Simultaneously, I was overjoyed but also sad to be near the point of tears.  Exultation ran through me as I knew that we had made this trip, enjoyed it, its sometimes challenges and all the people we had met to its fullest.  But at the same time I was extremely sad.  I felt as though I was experiencing a personal loss.  The loss of the continuing journey and the loss of all the first time experiences we had encountered.  It was a very strange emotion and not one that I’ll ever forget.

I suppose that many “travelers” experience this feeling at the end of their journey.  But it was the first time for me and I can tell you that the feeling was as intense as many other firsts you will experience in your life.  This feeling I would wager, is the kind of feeling that keeps “adventure motorcyclists” or any other kind of traveler, wanting more.

So as we rode the final few miles to Ushuia, it was very quiet on the comms between Kim and I.  I think we were both experiencing the joy and sorrow of completing what was such a wonderful journey together.  I would have it no other way, since for me sharing these experiences especially with someone you love, is something that can never be matched.

Emotions in check, I now sprinted on the twisty road towards Ushuaia.  Before we knew it we were there.  Approaching a stop sign at the end of the woods stood a 15 foot tall stone and wooden sign.  At its side large letters proclaimed the location’s name.  Hand carved in the wood and painted gold was the word “Ushuaia”.  Additional boards jutted from the side of the masonry and rock exclaiming in hand carved letters  “Bienvenidos A La Ciudad Mas Austral Del Mundo”; “Welcome to the Most Southerly City in the World”.  We had made it.

It was time for some pictures and a celebration of sorts so we parked our bikes and set out to take some souvenir photos.  Now I was elated.  We had made it and enjoyed every minute.  There we were standing in front of the evidence.  There was nothing more than joy.  No sorrow could be found, it was just pure joy.  Pictures taken and hugs made, it was time to get to our hotel in the city.  We had little time before we would fly home and we wanted to take the time to see what Ushuaia had to offer and of course, ride to the end of the furthest south road on the planet.  We’ll take you there in the next chapter.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time


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


Experiences Never Die

I’ve gotten to thinking lately about how lucky I’ve been to have discovered two wheeled transportation.  Even more so, having discovered two wheels powered by an engine.

I can still remember my first pedal bike very clearly.  Those early experiences, spent on two wheels molded a desire for adventure and adventuring.  That machine, powered by the force of muscle and the breath of a young boy, was in reality powered by the imagination of a young mind, imagining and longing for adventure.

As I rode that 20″ framed machine, a pair of young legs thrust its rider toward unseen and previously imagined horizons.  Two wheels became the means to cover great distances at great speed.  I can still remember the rush of the air by my face and the wind tousling my then full head of hair.  Just the thought of being able to cover what appeared to be vast distances at what was then great speed, gave growth to a longing sense of adventure to new places and adventures yet untaken.

As the years passed, older and not necessarily much wiser, motorized two wheel transportation came within my reach.  Motorized two wheel transportation, to a budding adventurer, young or old represents a waiting magic carpet.  Often attractive in looks, slim, sleek and comfortable, freshly cleaned tassels (farkles) glittering, it awaits those who would simply climb aboard and enjoy the ride to the next adventure.

For those that do take that magical leap, the world and a world of experiences await.  The only barrier, the willingness to take off on the journey and an open mind with which to experience the world.  Should the rider climb on, grab the tassels, and consent to set the journey in motion, the experiences of the world await.  Both good and bad.

Whether those experiences are good or bad will be decided by the magic carpet rider.  Only that person, the one who has the intimate experiences, can pass judgement on them.  For those who truly savor an adventure, the good and the bad are what make up the adventure.  These experiences combine to provide a soup for the soul.  A tablespoon of fun, a cup of local hospitality and perhaps a dash of mechanical difficulty all combine to flavor the pot with a rich and hearty flavor.  Such adventurers know that a soup made of only a single fine ingredient will never match the taste of one made with many different standard ingredients.

So that brings me back to the title of this little article.  On any adventure, is it worth it to risk good and bad experiences, with the bad potentially outweighing the good?  At the end of the journey, will the adventurer be any better or worse for having taken the adventure?  Let’s examine this a bit and see what we can come up with.

Let me give you a real world scenario.  My father had frontal lobe dementia, a disease sort of like Alzheimer’s, that first robbed him of his memory, and ultimately his life.  A brilliant scientist, as the dementia took hold, his memory was severely reduced and he was a mere shell of the experiences he encountered and the education he obtained.  So was it worth it for him to work hard, get two undergraduate and two post-graduate degrees, have a family, raise children, and risk all the hardships that raising a family can bring.  The simple answer, of course it was!  My father lived a full life and enjoyed his family and his interactions with others despite some of the hardships that came with it.

With the passing of my father, did his experiences die?  No, they were had, felt and responded to by him and others.  These experiences molded him into the person he would later become.  Without them, he and indeed the world itself, would be different.  Both he and the people he met had changed, no matter how slightly, by their interactions.

So the same might be said of that would be adventurer thinking about jumping on that two wheeled motorized magic carpet.  Is it worth it to take that magical leap onto two wheels and commence your journey of new life experiences to new places and new people?  There could be difficult times during the journey…  For those that wish to experience the world and those in it, the answer is a clear; yes!

Although we all will eventually die, the experiences we have had, together with the interactions with those we have met, will live on in those people and their children.  So by riding the magic carpet, we will have made the world and ourselves, a little richer and better at each waypoint of the journey.

So jump on your magic carpet and take off on that journey!

Ride2Adventure – Shrink The Planet One Ride At A Time


Because It’s There!

Why?  That’s the old question asked of mountain climbers by risk averse earth bound mortals who can’t fathom why anyone would risk life and limb to climb a mountain.  The well known and sometimes quoted response… “Because it’s there!” attributed to British mountain climber George Herbert Leigh Mallory seems to be a somewhat enigmatic response.  Was he really saying that the only reason that he attempted to climb Everest was because it was in front of him?  Hmmm…..

One of my acquaintances recently asked a similar question having seen parts of the Dakar Rally, arguably one of the most challenging, exhausting and perhaps most dangerous sanctioned racing competitions on the planet, especially on a motorcycle. Why would someone, particularly a privateer with no corporate sponsorship and no real financial motivation, enter such a competition?

A clearly dangerous activity, racing the Dakar on a motorcycle is one hugely intrepid undertaking.  Towering mountains, vast deserts, blistering heat, high speeds on rough terrain and long days in the saddle are merely part of the challenge that is Dakar.   Numerous competitors have lost their lives over the years and not just from solo falls, but from collisions with other competitors, getting lost, days long sand storms, dehydration, and some would even say, sheer exhaustion.  Some days you ride over one hundred miles just to get to the start of the day’s race.  Stages (timed sections of the race) can be so long that by the time many competitors make it to the bivouac at the end of the day, they barely have enough time to eat some food, service the bike and take care of bodily functions before the start of the next day’s stage.  Sleep is a commodity that is often in very short supply making this grueling, physical two week feat all the more difficult.

So once again, people may ask, why do they do it?

I’ve never been a Dakar competitor so I can’t say with any degree of certainty why the men and women who take on this challenge and pay huge sums of money to do so, risk it all for a competition that many people don’t even know exist. I know that I’ll never ride the Dakar and probably will never have half the skill necessary to undertake such a racing adventure, but being a so-so rider always trying to improve, I think I may have an inkling of what drives a privateer to enter the Dakar.

The Dakar is a gigantic ever changing and shifting monster.  High as the mountains, covered in deep sand and jagged rock, it breathes its hot windy breath like fire onto all who would try to take it on.  Its call is a mesmerizing one for those who hear it, at first a chant, but increasingly becoming more of a taunt.  “You can’t beat me and you know it.  You can’t beat me and you know it.  You can’t beat me and you know it.”

To those who hear the chant and taunt, the Dakar is an affront to their abilities.  Some people come equipped with an excess of drive; drive to excel, succeed, and overcome challenges that many others might find overwhelming.  To them, the Dakar monster represents an irrepressible challenge, the triple dog dare of dares.  It’s one they just can’t turn away from.  The Dakar confronts them and thus the monster must be slayed.

Thus they risk financial hardship and potentially financial ruin, trying to prepare a Dakar ready and worthy effort.  Then there’s the physical training necessary to undertake to ensure the requisite fitness to endure such a travail and maximum opportunity to reach the monster.  Finally, there’s the task of slaying the monster.  If you are able to financially and physically make it to the Dakar, you have reached a major milestone, but you just begun your journey.  The monster awaits.

Over two weeks, you will engage and fight the monster.  Some days you may feel like you are winning, but most you will feel battered and lucky to be alive.  The monster is that tough.  It will fight you long and hard, with all of its elemental power raining down on you trying to force you to fail or quit.  If you are lucky, you will do battle for the full two weeks with this unrelenting force of nature few can overcome.  But, if you have worked hard enough, if you have trained hard enough, if you have tried hard enough and lastly if you are brave enough, the monster can be tamed, temporarily at least.

Your reward will be your own knowledge that you, using your own skills, strength, stamina and bravery have beaten an “unbeatable” beast.  The ultimate recognition that using your own abilities and wits, you overcame and conquered an insurmountable challenge.  This time.  And for those who have heard the chanting and taunting of the beast and emerged victorious, the question will be, “Was one victory enough?” For this beast never truly dies, it just goes back to where it came from and waits for you or others to try to beat it again.  For those who failed, the chant and taunt becomes louder and fiercer.  Only the truly daunting will attempt another attack on the beast.

So why would anyone with a sense of riding and racing adventure risk it all to ride the Dakar?  The answer is simple, “Because it’s there!”


Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 14)

Another Patagonian morning dawned cold and overcast.  Once again, we dashed for the luxury of the hot water showers.  Warmed and cleaned, we were anxious to commence the final leg of our journey to the End of the World at Tierra del Fuego.  We ate a quick breakfast and returned to our tents to put on our gear, clean our dusty helmets and get back on the gravel.  We would certainly miss Torres del Paine, but the end of the earth was now calling more loudly than ever.

Back on the gravel, we continued to experience towering mountain views and twisty mountain roads.  Riding up and over mountain passes and down steep roads, we felt like we had become one with the surrounding landscape.  In fact, in some areas, we literally became one with the surroundings.  Recent road construction had chopped huge chunks out of the surrounding granite.  Walls of rock surrounded us on both sides, while chunks recently rendered from the earth lay at the road’s edge and sometimes in the road itself.  Looking up at roughly hewn rock walls at both sides of the road, we made our way through the earth towards Tierra del Fuego.

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.

Along the way, we had the opportunity to cross beautiful rivers of multi-hued blues on wooden bridges.  Of significant length, the bridges were in good repair but consisted mainly of trestles lined with rows of wood and then overlayed with unsecured planks for two tire tracks.

Before long, it seemed like we had changed continents.  Large flat green plains dotted with trees and giant rock outcroppings covered in roots and vines made us feel like we had somehow made it to the plains of South Africa.   Wire and wooden fences designed either to keep animals in or people out, or both lined the gravel roadway and served as a frame to the beautiful scenes.

We rode across what seemed like African prairies while an ocassional large bird soared overhead on unseen currents of rising air.  Circling and gliding surveying all below and perhaps looking for a mid day meal.  Had the temperatures been 50 degrees more than the 50 degrees fahrenheit it was, I would have sworn we were somehow transported to Africa.

We continued on the good gravel on an undulating course.  As we motored along we came upon some giant rocky outcroppings.  We had to stop to check this out.  Standing just at the side of the road was a gigantic wall of rock.  Seemingly rising out of the ground for no reason, it looked like a giant anvil surrounded by some trees and covered with brush.  Nothing around it was so grand in size it just seemed so out of place and so random in what had been fairly open riding.

I asked Kim to get off her bike and stand near to the rock tower and the enormity of the rock was clear.  Kim was barely discernible as she stood by the roadside.  In fact, if you look at the picture in this selection, you will see her standing at the right side of the road standing beside her bike looking up at the rock.  You can barely make her out on the right side of the road.  It was truly impressive for a single rock.

Back on the bikes again, we made our way towards the little town of Puerto Natales on the coast of Chile.  It was a pretty ride sometimes along the cost as we meandered into town and back onto pavement.  But it was what happened in town that was about to make the day a little more interesting.   We had stopped at a little diner in town for lunch for a quick little meal.  As we left the restaurant, a man stood outside and explained that he was a newspaper reporter.  He had seen us ride into town (there’s more to this story) and he’d like to talk about our journey for the paper.  After a brief discussion, we were on our way southward once more and we found that the next day, a brief article was published about us in the local newspaper.

Back on the pavement we paralleled the coast for a while and passed a few small towns which had been abandoned.  The buildings were still in pretty good shape, but to townspeople had apparently moved on in search of something better.  It was a bit of a strange feeling seeing all these buildings, it good condition, and not a soul around.  Not far from he abandoned town, we came across an even more unusual scene.  Just outside of the last town we passed not even totally out of the water, lay the hulls of two ships.

One, lay mostly beached, its hull mainly intact and its but the stern of the ship had mostly rusted away and had nearly departed the remainder of the hull.  The other, laying on its left side had been reduced to its ribs and spars, the skeletal remains of a once seaworthy craft.  We decided the sight deserved some closer attention so we stopped and took a walk around both ships.  The more intact one was interesting, but the one that had been reduced to its skeletal remains brought about some terrific opportunities for pictures.

We walked around and through the ship’s hull taking pictures from different vantage points.  Once fully inside, you got the feeling that you were indeed inside the belly of some beast.  Ribs surrounding you and diminishing in size as it made its way to the sea.  With a little imagination, you could envision yourself in the story of Jonah trapped inside a whale.  This time, a whale with iron ribs which were slowly melting with time.  It was quite a little short term adventure.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to dawdle around the wrecks since we still had to make it to our ferry for the trip across the Strait of Magellan.  So we hopped back on the bikes and continued our way southward.  A couple of hours later, we came across another quite interesting sight.  In the middle of nowhere, we came across what appeared to be some aluminum poles with some circular twisted tubes of metal at the top.  There were several of the poles all in a row and they were on both sides of the road.

Of course we had to stop and check out the poles and find out what they meant.  When we got closer we found that the poles and the metal at the top of the poles were designed as art and as an homage to the wind circling the globe.  What that perspective, the poles easily started to make sense and the artistic viewpoint was readily seen.  There was another learning experience for me as well.

On one of the poles was a plaque that indeed said the posts were an homage to the wind.  However, there was also a globe inscribe on the plaque and Antarctica was on the top!  Since we were in the southern hemisphere and the wind was from the south, the orientation of the globe for this artist was the opposite of what we were used to.

Each of these little stops was eating into our time and we really needed to be making time towards the ferry.  Back on the bikes we straight lined it to the ferry and made it in plenty of time.  Phew!  As we pulled up to the ferry station, we had a little time to look around.  There it was in front of us, the Straights of Magellan!  Choppy waters awaited us but the ferry had not yet arrived.  We looked for the dock, but none was to be found.  This ferry was to arrive, pull up to the asphalt that ran to the ocean and drop a ramp to allow us to embark and other vehicles to disembark.

After about an hour of waiting, the ferry came into view.  There was quite a strong current and the ferry had to crab heavily in order to run itself aground at close to a 90 degree angle.  Seconds after it landed, the ramp came down revealing a heavily loaded ferry with several tractor trailer rigs and many cars waiting to unload.  However, it was clear that the loading and unloading had been done many times before and it wasn’t long before it was our turn to board the ferry for the crossing of the straits and landfall at Tierra del Fuego where we’ll take you in part 15.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time


Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 13) Video Shots

So you’ve seen a lot of pictures and read quite a bit of our story in the Ride To The End of The World – Fin del Mundo.  But sometimes, words and pictures take a back seat to being there.  Here are a few video shots that bring you on our ride to Torres del Paine’, hopefully putting you on the bike with us.

We had stopped at a rather remote border crossing at the Argentina/Chile Border.  The wind was way up and non-stop, in fact, it was so up, that the border guards stopped what they were doing, came out of the border facility with their cameras just to waive us through and wish us luck on our ride.  What an experience!

Wind at the Argentinian Border from Mike & Kim Botan on Vimeo.

You must also remember the moments I spoke about in Part 11 where my attention was divided by the beautiful mountains, winding road, pristine blue lakes and grazing guanacos.  Well let me take you there for a few seconds to see for yourself.

A Great View At Torres del Paine with Guanacos from Mike & Kim Botan on Vimeo.

Thanks for riding with us!

Mike and Kim

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time


Ride To The End Of The World – Fin del Mundo (Part 12)

With the morning sun came a beautiful blue sky and chilling winds and a weak and mostly ineffective sun.  It was outright cold.  Kim and I wiped the chill from our faces which had been sticking out of the blankets all night and sprinted for the hot showers.  Running only as a chilled American can across the freezing and wind swept Patagonian landscape, we scurried to showers and nearly dove in head first.  Thankfully, the water was hot and it was not long before we were warmed up and ready to head back to our tent to put on warm clothes, eat breakfast and start the day.

Nicely warmed up, fed and wrapped in appropriate clothing, we started towards the Mirador Condor trail.  The sun had done some work and the temperature had risen into the 40s so it was a pleasant walk to the trailhead.  From the road, we could see holes in the sides of some of the mountains where the condors were nesting.  The opportunity to see the Andes Condors as well as the view from 2ooo meters spurred us on to make the climb to the top.

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The first part of the trail was through forested hills with tree branches blocking out most of the sun.  We could hear the birds chirping above us alerting others to our arrival in their neck of the woods.  As we wended our way to the top, we stopped to take a few pictures of the things that surrounded us.  Brightly colored flowers adorned the rising dirt paths as we made our way higher into the mountains.  Flowers and berries splashed with reds and purple dazzled our eyes while small birds flitted from one tree to the next.

I watched a small bird bringing a green worm to its family members as it nervously flitted from branch to branch, concerned about the welfare of his/her family as well as the dinner he/she had just brought home.  Luckily I was able to catch a few pictures of him/her as it jumped back and forth, eyeing us nervously.  We didn’t want to scare him/her too much, so we walked away letting it bring its dinner to its family assured that we were not there to interrupt their afternoon dining plans.

After about 30 minutes of walking in the forest, the path took us into the open and we found that we had already climbed fairly high from where we had started.  Below us we could see the Lago Pehoe’ campground and absolutely breathtaking views of Lago Pehoe’ and the surrounding mountains.  My words will do the sight no justice, you just have to see them yourself to believe it.  The pictures you will see here, really don’t come close to the absolute stark beauty of the scene.

I am learning that as I travel the world, each time I think I have seen the most spectacular sight that will never be surpassed, all I have to do is travel a few more miles and open my eyes to that which surrounds me.  It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that may be true.  But having seen what I have so far in my journeys on a motorcycle, this beholder can only wonder how many more superlatives, how many amazing visions are left for one person to see in a lifetime.  For what I have seen during our motorcycle journeys, certainly could fill the lifetime of visions for many less fortunate than me.  For that, I am extremely grateful.

It was not much longer that we spotted our first black speck circling in the sky.  It’s wings were outstretched as it lazily floated on the currents of air rising from the surrounding mountains.  Tiny movements of its wings steered course corrections and it seemed like forever before it started to come closer to where we were.  It was too far away to be sure what kind of bird it was and since it was very high, we had no background reference to tell how large the bird was.

We patiently (or perhaps not so patiently) waited for the bird to get close enough to ascertain what it was.  As it got closer we could indeed make ut the fact that it was a very large bird.   Black with a white ring around its neck, it seemed in no particular rush to go anywhere.  Perhaps it was looking for its dinner, but it just soared and sailed on the currents rising from the mountainsides.  Soon another bird came into view and then a third.

Now there was some action as the three birds started to swoop up and down and dart amongst each other.  By now we could clearly see the white ring around their necks.  These were indeed Andes Condors and they had decided to put on a show for us.  Circling and sometimes diving, the birds put on an aerial show that was a delight.  We stood and watched them for about half an hour, but it appeared that the weather was beginning to deteriorate and we decided it was best to return to our camp.

With more than a little regret, we made our way down the mountain, through the little forest and back to our campground.  It was still fairly early in the afternoon, so what were we going to do for the rest of the day?  Well the campground had a playground for kids and we were feeling rather like giddy adolescents, so we hit the little playground area and took turns on the see-saw.  It is with deep regret that I must show you the photographic evidence of such foolishness, but I must tell you, we had fun!

After what seemed like hours in the playground which was probably more like 20 minutes, we returned to our tent for a quick nap and an late call for dinner so we could watch the sun setting on the Torres del Paine mountains.  As the sun dropped lower on the horizon, the mountains came alive.  Individual faces of the mountainside turned molten gold as the sun sank.  The intensity of the gold increased until suddenly, the sun dipped below the horizon and the faces of the mountains turned to grey again.  What an amazing show!

After dinner, we returned to our tents for another night of blanketed but cold sleep.  Tomorrow we would be heading to Tierra del Fuego (the land of fire) in earnest.  We’ll take you there in part 13.

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.

Ride 2 Adventure – Shrink the Planet One Ride At A Time