Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fin Del Mundo

Photos: top, the famous sign at the end of Highway 3. Commerson's Dolphin from ferry crossing onto island of Tierra del Fuego. Flag tree. Shipwreck along Strait of Megallen

02/12/10: Life is good again. I am back fighting headwinds, but not because I am just trying to walk across the street, but because I am finally on the bike again. I swear I have never blown out of a place with such enthusiasm as I did with Punta Arenas. By the end of the day I will reach my goal of making it to the end of the road in South America. However, I know not to celebrate too fast...

While I was in Ushuaia at Christmas with Kristin, we invited a biker from Canada to join us for lunch at our table at the Irish Pub. Because the highway ends in Ushuaia, it is the destination for many overland travelers, and a tradition to be there on New Year’s Eve. Over lunch he was telling us of a recent mishap that took place involving a female motorcyclist. As he told me more, I began to ask questions. The woman he was talking about was Annette!

I had met Annette back in La Paz, Bolivia. We were staying at the same hotel and had shared a dinner together. She was from New Zealand, and was in the midst of riding her Suzuki DR650 from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (the beginning of the road) to the end of the road in Ushuaia. When I met her, she was in a bit of a slump and was questioning whether she wanted to finish the ride or not. We talked quite a bit and we have been “friends” on Facebook ever since. The news was not good: She had just woken up in a hospital after three days in intensive care only three hours north of Ushuaia, in Rio Grande. She was found along the road with several broken ribs, a punctured lung, broken wrist, facial lacerations, and severe concussion, and her bike nearby in shambles. She had no recollection of what had happened, but everyone that has ever ridden that portion of paved road along the Atlantic coast will tell you that the crosswinds coming off the western plains feel like they are going to blow you into the ocean. Even with your bike leaning 20-30 degrees into the wind, it can still blow you sideways. If your bike drifts enough and reaches the shoulder at speed your front wheel will be swallowed by the soft gravel and, well, “lights out”.

Thankfully, Annette is fine now, and she made it to Ushuaia, but unfortunately, only to catch a flight back home. Disappointing yes, but for someone who had barely ridden at all before this trip she has an amazing adventure to tell.

The Patagonian winds in general are unrelenting and tiresome to say the least. Gusts can make you feel like a powerless ragdoll, but on the day I crossed the island of Tierra del Fuego, the angry wind gods must have been sleeping because I made it to the end of the road without incident. With my ultimate goal of reaching the top and bottom (via roads) of all our major landmasses, this was my the first check off that list.

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