Tierra del Fuego

I’m sat here at the port waiting to leave the island of Tierra del Fuego bathed in evening sunshine, so now seems to be a good time to look back over the first week of my round the world bicycle trip. It was a departure of mixed emotions from Heathrow airport, saying good-bye to friends and family was never going to be easy, however the sense of excitement that I felt rippling through me as I pushed my bike in its cardboard box through the airport overwhelmed any other senses.  At last, all the day-dreaming and fantasising that I’d done over the past few years was suddenly becoming a reality. However, the crossroads between nervousness and excitement left me in a strangely neutral emotional state, not quite the euphoric sense of adventure that my mind had imagined over the many years. Anyway, after a couple of flights, a cycle through the sweltering streets of Buenos Aires and a night in an airport I was finally a the bottom of the world and my bike trip was about to begin for good.

LEAVING THE AIRPORT IN WINDY USHUAIa

(Photo: Sam Oakes)

FIRST NIGHT CAMPING BY THE SHORELINE OF THE BEAGLE CHANNEL

ENJOYING THE SUNSET LIGHT BY THE SHORES OF LAKE YELHUIN

(PHOTO: ROBBIE COATES)

LATE EVENING CAMPFIRE AND CHEAP RUM

(PHOTO: ROBBIE COATES

Jam, Robbie, Sam and I cycled off with the Beagle channel behind and snowy mountains rising up in front of us. Along the way we were fortunate enough to spend a night in a bakery in Tolhuin, the guests of a gentlemen famous amongst bike-touring circles for allowing tourers some refuge in his house and sweet goods from the shelves of his establishment. We did however pretend to be Australian for the evening since Top Gear were recently chased out of the town by a mob of stone wielding angry locals. The following morning with a bellyful of bread and cakes we took to the gravel roads for two days exploring the wide plains, lakes and snowy peaks of the southern part of Tierra del Fuego. We pitched our tents on the shores of Lake Yelhuin and spent a glorious evening running around the shoreline snapping photos and videos before settling into a rum soaked night of music around the campfire. The end of these two gravel days unfortunately marked the start of the windiest section of the trip (so far!) and our tempo and morale quickly plummeted. A constant mixture of strong cross-headwinds and lorries meant that we spent half of our time being blown across the roads and into the verge making distances that would ordinarily be covered in a couple of hours into a full day’s attack. Thankfully however we managed to find some comfort in the evenings spent sleeping in abandoned buildings that scattered themselves along the roadside.

Early morning bakery work

Robbie, sam and jam enjoying some £1 vino

Just a great hat

Eventually we were at the border crossing between Argentina and Chile. After a cosy night spent sleeping at the Argentinian border we rose early the next day naively expecting to be able to cycle the 15km section of gravel road to the Chilean border post. Unfortunately, the wind was howling to such a degree we were relegated to pushing our bikes for almost the entirety of the distance, unable to stay upright whilst pedalling! Heads down and lungs burning we pushed onwards, the wind whipping up the smaller bits of gravel on the road and throwing them into our already sun burnt and wind beaten faces. However rosy the glasses may be when I look back on this period, nothing will hide the memory of being blown into lorries and on coming traffic whilst battling along at a couple of kms and hour. Finally, with a Chilean border stamp in our passports, we couldn’t refuse the generous offer of a lorry driver passing by on his way to Porvenir who was willing to throw our bikes into the back of his empty container and save us the 150km of water-less windy plains that we’d already accepted would take us 4-5 days worth of cycling. So here I am, sat at the ferry port in Porvenir, sun slowly setting on the mountains beyond the Magellan Straits waiting to board the ferry that will take us away from this windy barren island and to the southern tip of the South American mainland. Here on in only a road winding its way northwards lies ahead.

cycling into the windy distance in southern Tierra del Fuego

(photo: James hamer)

Seeing the expansive northern plains of tierra del fuego from the back seat of a lorry

(photo: Sam Oakes)

Our departing sunset from the island

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