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
New Hampshire’s winter snows make for fine skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling, but not exceptionally good motorcycling. With autumn over and the real winter rapidly settling in, our motorcycling would be relegated to our anxious dreams awaiting the spring. It is always a funny feeling knowing that our thoughts would be similar in nature to those of the hibernating wild animals tucked away in their dens awaiting the new growth fresh berries with the coming thaw of spring. Each year, to both of us spring couldn’t come too soon.
But this year would be different. We were traveling to a place where at this time of year it would be warm and there would be no snow except very high in the mountains. It was time for me to bone up on my Spanish because this winter we were going to ride to the Fin del Mundo, or translated into English, to the “end of the earth”.
We were flying from Boston, Massachusetts into Santiago, Chile where the following day we’d hop a short flight to Pucon, Chile to start our riding adventure. Our route would ultimately take us from Pucon, Chile a ski resort with its own volcano to Ushuaia, Argentina at the very tip of South America. In fact, it’s the furthest south you can get on any land mass on the planet. Antarctica is composed entirely of ice, so it does not count.
So as the days of November increased, instead of padding around in small circles worrying that the NH snow would soon blanket the roads and trails ending riding for another season, we were actually quite spry, gathering all our riding gear and stashing it in our luggage for the flight to Chile. No sitting about for us this year, we were ready to ride!
So when the appointed day came in mid November, we boarded our flight in Boston and after a quick stop in Dallas for a bowl of some rather spicy chile and nachos, we once again boarded another plane, our destination once again Chile, this time the country, not the kind you eat. The flight was crowded, loud and the lavatory on the aircraft overflowed, but other than that, the flight was uneventful. Upon landing, we cleared customs and grabbed a cab to our hotel which was quite nice.
It was warm and sunny outside so we decided that since we only had an overnight in Santiago, we’d better make the best of it and we went for a walk to take in the sights and grab a quick lunch. It immediately became clear that Santiago was an alive and bustling city. Traffic moved chaotically, people walked on the sidewalks and went about their business, while others sat at the sidewalk cafe’s enjoying lunch, espresso or just good conversation.
But as we walked around, we found that we weren’t apparently all that far from home. As we rounded a corner, we came to none other than a Dunkin’ Donuts shop. Complete with a sign in Spanish that read “Energiza tu vida!” or Energize your life! Jeez, I didn’t know that Dunkin’ Donuts did that. I wonder what different stuff they put in the donuts in South America? We continued walking around for a couple of hours, bought dinner and returned to our hotel to get ready for tomorrow’s flight to Pucon where our journey to the end of the earth would start in earnest.
When we awoke the following morning the weather was excellent and after breakfast we headed to the airport for our hour long flight to Pucon. That flight was indeed uneventful and we arrived rested and ready to go. We were picked up by a van for the brief ride from the airport to our hotel. Immediately we began to see signs for the ski resort there as well as Pucon’s own volcano. Ultimately, we were dropped at another hotel at the edge of town with an excellent view of Pucon’s own volcano, Villarica. It is indeed a majestic peak, with smoke slowly but consistently puffing from its crest. Villarica is in fact an active volcano and a fairly active one at that. With all that molten roiling fury below, you can just imagine the strength and power that an eruption would unleash. It would be a disaster as the town of Pucon sits almost directly below the towering dragon that is Pucon.
Wiped out would the quaint town in which we now ate gigantic steaks and drank local beverages like Pisco Sours. Gone would be the vendors that sold their hand made wares and the restaurants that serviced all the visitors. There’d only be empty streets to show for all that man had accomplished in that area for years to come. But for now, we were content to watch the sun go down on Villarica and enjoy the increasingly bright and magnificent glow that was now emanating from its face and sides. So as the sun went down, it was time for some Chilean beef. We ordered steak and a platter arrived which could feed an army. One thing that Chilean and Argentine people do not do is skimp on the beef and when our beef arrived for inspection prior to being cooked, it looked as though 3/4th of a cow had been brought to the table for early dinner. In any event, we ended up scarfing down a gigantic meal for dinner and we were ultimately chauffeured back to the hotel for a bright and early start of the journey on the following morning.
We’ll tell you about the beginning of the real journey in the next part.