Fireland, Argentina/Chile

Our big journey by bike in direction to the north started on the Big Island of Tierra del Fuego, in the very south of America. We landed on November 8, 2019 in Ushuaia, on the Argentinean side of this island. The temperature shock was huge: in Buenos Aires we were riding around in t-shirts and shorts, in Ushuaia the temperature was around 0. To bring the bikes back up, we made ourselves confortable directly in the small airport and in the end, we spent almost the whole day there (we had to fix some small problems with the bikes). When we finally went outside, we were packed in almost all the clothes we had (just the swimsuit remained in the bag 😉 ).

Ushuaia

When we arrived in the city of Ushuaia, we immediately took refuge in a restaurant to eat a good burger. We didn’t pedal much yet, but we spent the night at the airport and the day putting the bikes back together, the burgers are  well deserved 😉 Once settled at the youth hostel, we went for a walk in the city – and we were delighted! The centre of Ushuaia looks like a mountain village with wooden chalets and sports shops around every corner. At the port, you can see the Antarctic expedition boats waiting for passengers. The clouds on the mountainsides hide the view, but they give us a good image of the “end of the world”. When it starts to snow during our walk, the scenery is perfect: we feel that we are close to Antarctica, perhaps the closest we will ever be in our lifes.

The next day, big surprise: the weather is great and the temperatures have risen by almost 20 degrees during the night! The locals confirm us, it’s summer temperatures for them. We take the opportunity to make a mountain bike/hike trip along the Beagles Canal. We are spoiled with magnificent landscapes, we could not have imagined better for our day in Ushuaia!

The Argentinian side of the island

The next day we make our first pedal strokes to the north, still accompanied by the sun. At the exit of Ushuaia, we meet an Argentinian cyclist who accompanies us on the first km. We enjoy the views of snow-covered mountains and valleys without any human trace. After about 30 km we stop to see one of the valleys closer and we make a hike to the Laguna Esmeralda. In the end it was more like an obstacle course through mud ponds, but we still loved the scenery. Back on our bikes, we attacked our first mountain pass of the Andes, the Paso Garibaldi. Fortunately the Andes are not yet very high there, we are quickly at the top. And here, the next surprise: Not only do we have a nice descent in front of us to end the day, there is a big lake hidden on the other side of the mountain pass. It is on the edge of this lake that we will find a great spot to put our tent. Only a few beavers to keep us company 🙂

Our journey continues between mountains and lakes during the next day, before we start to enter the steppe. At the beginning, we are happy when we see the first Guanacos (a kind of llamas) and enjoy the emptiness (during 200 or even 300 km there is not a single village). But soon we realize that the wind is always blowing in front of us, independant in which direction we pedal. We hope for a change by passing on the Chilean side of the island!

The Chilean side of the island

After having crossed the border of Bella Vista in the middle of the island, we quickly understand that nothing will change in the next few days: still nothing, only Guanacos and sheep, from time to time a farm and the wind always in front. Unfortunately, the rain adds to our experience. But when we knock all drenched at the door of an estancia (farms on the island of Tierra del Fuego) to ask for shelter in a barn for the night, we see what hospitality is like here: We are made confortable in a detached hut (often used for people who work on the farms), with beds, a stove to make a fire and cook, a bathroom – everything we need after a hard day on the bike!

After 2 days in the centre of the island, we can finally see the Strait of Magellan on the horizon, we know that all we have to do is ride along the coast before taking a ferry to Punta Arenas, our return to civilization is not far away. But we underestimated the time it would take us to go along the coast to Porvenir, the port where the ferry leaves: The headwind rarely let us exceed 10 km/h, even downhill, and the road in poor condition did the rest. We arrived at the ferry just 15 minutes before departure!

What we liked:

  • The scenery and the roads in the south of the island
  • The Guanacos
  • The hospitality of the estancias
  • The tranquillity

To see the photos:

Fireland

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