Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle

Ushuaia and the end of the road!

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Riding to the end of Ruta 3

‘Here is the end of Ruta 3’

My last day kept a treat in store for me, with a pretty decent 500m climb up and back down to the coast on the other side. Sadly it was rather a grisly day, but thankfully the wind was relatively ok.

I got some good views up and down the valleys of Tierra del Fuego along the route

Feeling upbeat despite the rain

Lago Escondido – there are some abandoned cabins where many cyclists stay tucked in on the left hand side of this lake. The weather wasn’t so great and I decided I wanted to end in Ushuaia feeling like I’d had a solid day’s ride, so I decided to keep going for the final 50km.

The view back down Lago Escondido with Lago Fagnano that I’d ridden round in the morning just visible back in the distance

Steam coming off the road when the rain stopped

Arriving in Ushuaia

Perhaps because this wasn’t the final final end of my ride, arriving in Ushuaia wasn’t the big emotional high that I thought it might be. I actually found it quite an anti-climax. Ushuaia is a fairly significant industrial port town, and so the ride in along a busy dual carriageway wasn’t pretty at all. In fact I’d say it was one of the least attractive sections of riding I’ve had in the whole of the last 6 months!

This wasn’t helped by the big container lorries, one of which forced me off the road just 15km before the end, having overtaken dangerously when another container lorry was coming in the opposite direction. Just 5 seconds of waiting and he could have done so safely. I was really pissed off at the disregard for another person’s life.

At the very least though, it did at least deserve a photo-opp to mark the occasion!

Ushuaia!!

The view across the industrial port and over to the tourist port where the cruise ships drop anchor

There’s never a missed opportunity to plant a sign about Las Malvinas/The Falklands down here!

I rewarded myself on my arrival with a ‘submarino’ hot chocolate and a piece of cake:)

First things first, I made myself busy making sure I had everything I needed to pack up the bike securely to survive three flights (Buenos Aires – Bogotá – Cartagena) and I hunted down a large bag that could transport all my panniers together. The bike box was easy to find, and the bike shop even gave me a plastic fork spacer (that you stick in the front forks to make sure they don’t get bent in transit once the wheel has been removed). Then I found a great DIY shop that had all the foam/zip ties / electric tape/packing tape I could possibly need.

It took a lot of traipsing round shops to find a bag big enough for my pannier bags. I only wanted one of those cheap Chinese laundry type shopping bags, but couldn’t find anything like that so ended up paying a lot more for something more substantial. At least I’d have some peace of mind that it wouldn’t fall apart in transit.

Fantastic DIY store that had everything I needed

Bike washed, packed and ready! – I find packing up the bike strangely stressful and was very pleased with myself once it was done (and pretty efficiently if I do say so myself!) so that I could just enjoy my last few days in Ushuaia.

All packed and ready to go – amazingly, without having scales to even things out, the bike and bag each weighed a perfect 22.5kg (just under the 23kg allowance) when I checked them in at the airport.

Glaciar Marcial

With the bags all packed, I had a couple of days left to enjoy myself and relax whilst I waited for my flights.

First up was a hike up to Glaciar Marcial. This was a nice walk directly up the mountain behind the hostal, so I could walk straight from the front door. Whilst the glacier itself is now pretty dead, having receded up and up the valley over the years, the views back out behind down to Ushuaia and out over the Beagle Channel were fantastic.

The path up to the top

The gravel shows the areas where the glacier has receded

Enjoying the views down to the Beagle Channel

What remains of the glacier

The Beagle Channel

Isla Martillo & Gentoo Penguins

Next up, I took a boat trip out to Isla Martillo to see some more wildlife, and another species of penguin. It was a long day – over 3 hours each way on the boat to see the penguins for just 30 mins or so – but the weather was good and it was nice to just sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery.

Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins hanging out together on the beach (Gentoo penguins are the rarer of the two). We were told there was also one pair of King Penguins nesting there, but we didn’t manage to spot them.

Penguins in action!

Here are a few more fun clips of the penguins – you can compare these to the ones I took earlier of the Magellanic penguins to see the differences:

Sea Lions in the Beagle Channel

Lighthouse in the channel

Cormorants

Tierra del Fuego National Park

Last stop – a final 15km walk through the Tierra del Fuego National Park (much of which is actually closed to the public to protect the wildlife). The trail skirts the coast past some beautiful bays and beaches. It was an easy stroll, much gentler than all the climbing and descending I’d become accustomed to in Patagonia (and a good job as my shoes are really wearing down now!).

The southern-most post office in the world??? – Not sure, but this trail starts here.

Stunning views across the bay

I saw two pairs of ‘Magellanic Woodpeckers’. One of the world’s largest woodpeckers. Both male and female are black, but the male also has this strinking red head. He was going hell for leather chipping away at the bark with his beak.

Check out the video of him in action here:

Shingle beaches

This lady(?) had been tending her chicks. I thought (s)he looked rather spectacular and as someone remarked, appears to be wearing wellies!

The view across the marshlands

The remains of an old dam built by beavers

A final glance over my shoulder

And so my last day down in southern Patagonia came to an end. I had spent such a long time surrounded by these beautiful super-scaled Patagonian landscapes, and was sad to be saying goodbye. But I also knew more fun and adventure lay ahead for the final 3 months of my trip. The flight out of Ushuaia gave me one last reminder of the great contrasts I’d experienced – from windswept steppe to snow-capped peaks. But because I ate the Calafate berry I know that, according to Patagonian folklore, I will be back!

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