TDF

We are back in Punta Natales after a 1600km round trip to the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, and the end of the road. We removed all the camping gear and left it with Mike’s broken bike. With what we thought we needed and with  limited supplies we rode south to Punta Arenas to confirm a shipping address for the parts being flown in by Fedx for Mike’s bike. Here, we also managed to find some new shoes for Nick’s and my bikes.

Two hours of riding later, we were at the docks of the ‘quick ferry’ en route to the land of fire (Tierra del Fuego). The weather was fine at this point but the day was not without its dramas. Once on the infamous island, Nick’s bike carrying himself and Mike ran out of fuel 20km earlier than expected. I rode solo onwards hoping  that I too  wouldn’t experience the same fate. Fortunately, and probably with little spare I was able to refill the canisters and return to the roadside where the boys were occupying themselves throwing rocks at a sign. The person in charge of siphoning was naturally determined in a game of “Scissor, Paper, Rockâ€�. I escaped this duty this time round, deservedlyI thought.

Later that same day a strap  used to hold the groups’ luggage on the back of my bike came loose and caught in the rear wheel. The feeling was similar to hitting  a pothole the size of a wheelbarrow as the rear suspension bottomed out in an instant. This time the bike and I were fine, however, the force on the strap before it snapped was enough to squash my metal top box. It was left as a mangled mess and the set of hinges were destroyed.  I’ did keep it attached hoping that it could be beaten back into shape but to be honest, this might be the perfect excuse to rethink the luggage system!

That night we needed to find refuge in Rio Grande. We first inspected a roadside hotel that was well lit up with an array of fluorescent lights. The driveway led us around to a boom gate and a box that you would expect to order a burger and chips through at a generic drive through. The menu was stuck up on the wall behind, but on closer inspection it listed bed prices by the hour. Even the ‘standard’ was well beyond our budget,  let alone the VIP.  Being dark and finding ourselves on what we thought to be a brothel, there was almost an element of fear amongst us. As quickly as we could  all three bikes managed a three to five point turn and throttled out of there.

We stayed the night elsewhere and woke the following morning early enough to scrape the ice from the seats of our bikes. We had only 200km to the southern most city in the world, not the southern most bar as apparently Vernadsky Polar Base in Antarctica takes this prize. Our hope was to ride straight through and be there for lunch. But it became impossible for me to ride more than about 40km before I had to stop proceedings. My fingere, seemed  to be dead, aI would attemptto  ridefor as long as possible fighting through the pain barrier that stemmed from my finger nails before there was no choice but to quickly dismount and warm them slowly on the exhaust.

Riding through the flat grassy plains  eventually ran into the side of a mountain range. Here we began to wind up with the stunning view of the Lago Fignano to the right.   Crossing  the pass at the top of the range we found that snow from the previous night had left an inch of slush on the road. I’ll be the first to admit I was just a ‘little bit’ scared,  my riding abilities weren’t prepared for surfaces so slippery. I cant even imagine how vulnerable Mike felt on the back of Nick’s bike, completely out of his control.  He later explained how he was thinking and preparing how he would jump when the situation arose.

We did make it through easily and without misshap, feasting  that night on an overestimated  supermarket shop , including a bottle of wine each!  We drank to the success in conquering the trials and tribulations  recently conquered and discarding the fact that we had arrived one bike down and a month late.

Not allowing any time to rest, we hit the next day hard, against and across the wind. There was a fundamental difference in our attitude now, our bearings were set northward, and it was only going to get warmer. We crossed back across our sixth border crossing of the trip and rode into the night to Porvenir. Porvenir offers a three hour ferry back to Punta Arenas where Mike’s bike parts were waiting, next morning this awaited us.  Uncomfortably  pushing through icy winds and battlling with the rain, the final 250km back to Punta Natales was covered, and there awaited Mike’s bike.

The rest of the day was spent sitting and waiting,  the following morning off to wake the mechanic!  All were very eager to clock up some kilometers, and being mindfall to kill some of the costs by getting back in the tents for the warmer weeks ahead.

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