Day 116 to 122 – Argentina – Tierra del Fuego

2017-02-02 – Day 116 – El Calafate, AR to Punta Arenas, CL (565 km – 6,25 hrs)
2017-02-03 – Day 117 – Around Punta Arenas, CL (158 km – 2,5 hrs)
2017-02-04 – Day 118 – Punta Arenas, CL to Ushuaia, AR (565 km – 6,25 hrs)
2017-02-05 – Day 119 – Ushuaia, AR
2017-02-06 – Day 120 – Ushuaia, AR to Caleta Olivia, AR (1290 km – 13 hrs)
2017-02-07 – Day 121 – Caleta Olivia, AR to Bahia Blanca, AR (1178 km – 11,5 hrs)
2017-02-08 – Day 122 – Bahia Blanca, AR to Buenos Aires, AR (657 km – 6,5 hrs)

Ushuaia, located at the south end of the American continent, was the ultimate objective of my trip. The last 2000 kilometres were not always easy, nice or even interesting, but I finally reached my goal on February 4, 2016!

On the morning of February 2nd, I left El Calafate in Argentina, to drive once again towards Chile, more precisely, to Punta Arenas.

It is a real and huge city with more than 100000 inhabitants, but the road to get there was monotonous, long, cold and with rather strong winds.

All in all, it was not a very interesting motorcycle day but the surprise to see this huge city in the middle of nowhere allowed me to nicely finish the day nicely, although the winds were glacial!

A colony of penguins right in the middle of town! (UPDATE: I’ve been told that those were cormorants!)

I watched this male for a few minutes. He was obviously the Donald Trump of the group with his small yellow thing. He shouted extremely loud, pushed all other small penguins around and was very aggressive towards the gulls!

I was impressed by the city’s architecture considering its isolation and being in such a southern geographical situation.

At night, Heidi and Timothy, a couple of energetic and nice Americans, that I had met some days ago on the Carretera Austral, and once again in El Calafate, and finally this morning on the road leading to Punta Arenas, invited me to meet at night and so we went for dinner in a nice cozy restaurant, with a relaxed atmosphere and an antique decor. Just how I like them!

When I am impressed by the architecture of a place, I have the bad habit of taking multiple photos of the same buildings! But when the sun sets, this one looked different and all the more special. Side note, after 22h00, the city turns in on itself and it is impossible to find an open store, for example, to make provision of bananas or… beer!

The following morning, I went for a quick motorcycle promenade to the end of the road in Chile.

The landscape was very nice, and the road, full of successive curves, which was an appreciated change, considering last days of driving in a straight line.

Here’s one who didn’t win its battle against mother nature!

This is the end of the road in Chile. It’s impossible to go any further south on 4 (or 2!) wheels. Odd feeling to be so far from Montreal, but also, to begin realizing how the end of trip is approaching fast.

The following day, on February 4th, it was not only a big riding day, with a boat crossing and another border crossing into Argentina, but it was especially the fact that it was also the day of my arrival to my ultimate destination and the purpose of my journey on the Panamericana highway!

There were some other motorbikes on the crossing, among whom, a couple of Canada, and a bit later, a couple of guys from Spain.

The weather is splendid, with very little wind and a nice 21 degrees. The sail between Punta Arenas and Porvenir took 2 hours.

I got on the ferry amongst the last people to board and I made serious efforts to squeeze in between cars so I would be able to get off fast when we arrived. I knew that I had about 140 kilometres of gravel in front of me and there is nothing worse than to to be stuck behind other vehicles in the dust… I quickly passed the few cars that had beat me to the exit, ending up having all the road to myself!

In spite of the it’s monotony, I took advantage of the good hard-packed gravel to have a bit of fun and also, took some time to reflect on my trip that started in September, and which would end in a few hours.

San Sebastien border point.

Another crossing into Argentina, and not the last!

Finally, a paved road!

The Argentina immigration offices. The crossing is fast and efficiently done.

The road towards Ushuaia is, let us say it politely, a bit boring. In fact, my main motivation to go through these last 500 kilometres is to be able to accomplish the objective of driving to the last city in America, but, apart from a few kilometres just before arriving at destination, where mountains and lakes turn up on the horizon, it is monotonous and it is of little interest compared with Carretera Austral.

And the big moment happened!

On February 4, 2016, at 15h58, after 118 days on the road, 14 countries and 25736 km (and 10 years of dreaming about it and preparation), I officially drove to Ushuaia, Argentina, on my motorcycle, all the way from Montreal!

This was bit of an emotional moment and as I was alone, I lived it live with my girlfriend and my good riding buddy Geoffrey from Canada, via telephone. Thanks to these 2 important persons in my life and during this adventure.

Incredible isn’t it?

Here is my itinerary. You can study hit in detail here: Carte Google – Canada2Argentina. Each colour represents a day. Once on the page where the map is hosted, you can zoom in the region which interests you. The degree of detail is very high as I used a mobile app which recorded the data of my movements several times per second!

Ok, let’s get back to business here!

Ushuaïa is the capital of the most Argentinian southern province and considered as being the most southern city of the world.

It has a population of more than 55000 inhabitants. It has a deep-water harbour which is one of the closest of the Antarctic.

The mountains and the seas which are all around it are superb, but unfortunately, the city as such is a complete anticlimax. It is aesthetically without any interest, often dirty, full of dust, packed with dogs, very loud and overpriced. I had been informed of all of this, therefore of it didn’t ruin the moment too much, even if, to tell the truth, I expected a much smaller, isolated and a little less touristy place.

I nevertheless decided to stay 2 days and luckily so, because the following day, I took advantage of a superb day to go to for a walk in the mountains, towards the Vinciguerra glacier. As it was on a Sunday, and because Argentinians go out very, but very late in the evening, I made an effort to start the day a bit earlier.

And very good idea it was! I had the mountain to myself for the whole ascension. It was not the case for the descent, when unfortunately, the place became crowded with Argentinian tourists, their dogs, their music and their shouting… A little less peaceful!

After just a few minutes, I am welcomed by this superb animal! Impressive!

The trail is, in some sections, very muddy. This allows me to see the Argentinian architectural talents!

No motorcycle permitted on site??? I protest! This is discrimination!;)

After walking for an hour or so, I get the chance to come face to face with a scene taken directly from a movie.

A large herd of horses, freely roaming around in the forest. It was the first time in my life that I could contemplate such an incredible sight.

I was able to get a bit closer, without disturbing them too much, and take this picture. There were several other animals around, all of this in a rare and peaceful silence.

This is even worthy of a short video for you to appreciate the instant!

And finally, after a few hours of easy trekking, the summit!

After 20 tries, I was able to get a straight picture of myself! Not easy when all the rocks are crooked!

On my way back, another friend was waiting there to congratulate me on my 26000 KM journey! Superb animal.

In spite of some muddy spots, I strongly recommend this trek. The place is superb and, if you get the chance to get out early in the morning, is of a comforting and appreciated calmness.

When I got back to the city, and after a quick shower, I took advantage of the nice weather to go back to the centre and walk for a while.

Small ironic event…  I tried to ride south about 20 kilometres where a monument has been constructed to mark the end of Ruta 3. There were hundreds of cars waiting in line to reach the same spot, which made the experience a lot less agreeable. I turned back, especially as I was on a very dusty dirt road. It was not going to wait in line for hours to take a picture!

In spite of the very precious nature present everywhere in the region, here is an example of completely wild development which spoils the show, in such a unique place in the world.

From this angle, it’s a bit better!

This big Italian ship was present in the harbour, with a unique consequence… During this weekend, the majority of the town’s population spoke Italian!!!

Because it was a bit cold, that the city was not the greatest and especially because I am the type of fellow who appreciates being on the move, I was not unhappy to leave Ushuaia very early the following day to attack the thousands of kilometres on one of the most boring roads of the trip, the infamous Ruta 3, leading to Buenos Aires.

Normally, I would have made a single publication with this part of the trip, which, with its 3000 kilometres, is quite major, but it was so long, monotonous, almost always in a straight line, and with landscapes as empty as flat, so I am only going to write a few lines to summarize the experience. And in addition, I only took very few pictures.

The only important detail is that in order to leave Tierra del Fuego, it is first necessary to get out of Argentina and enter Chile (therefore go thru a 6 step border crossing procedures), then take a ferry, then once again, get out of Chile, and finally, enter back, for one last time, into Argentina (therefore go thru a 6 step border crossing procedures)!

Fortunately, the system is well broken in and, if you don’t start the procedure just after a big bus has arrived, the process only takes minutes. No document copies are necessary, nor any fees have to be paid. At no time, I was asked for a proof of insurance for the motorbike. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is forbidden to enter Chile with food like fruits, vegetables, meats…

My first stop was, after a long day of more than 1200 kilometres, the city of Caleta Olivia. A dirty place without any interest, therefore, no photos!

When enter the city from the south, you get one of the lamest sights ever.

There are thousands of plastic bags on the ground, hung in fences, trees, bushes, houses and this, for several kilometres.

Sad. How can people tolerate such dirtiness?

My hotel was, in spite of its high price, a similar horror vision and, the following day, I left as early as possible to go on another long 1100 km ride towards Bahia Blanca.

Fortunately, this city was a better stopover, with a rather unremarkable suburb, but with a very dynamic centre and an interesting architecture. This is without mentioning the great sunny 35 degrees weather. What a change! The heated jacket was tucked away and summer gloves came out!

It was nice to go for a walk wearing shorts and sandals, and even with some sweat drops on my forehead. It had been awhile since I got hot! (read between lines: I am Canadian, but I “f… ” prefer heat to cold!).

The strong moment of my day was not the city, nor the landscape, but my meeting with Rachel and Paul, from the United Kingdom, on their superb machine! We are going to try to meet in Buenos Aires in a few days.

I finally arrived in Buenos Aires on February 8th around 14:00. This is where I am going to spend the last 3 weeks of my trip. I am going to use the time to organize the shipping of my motorcycle to Canada, with the help of Javier (Dakar Motos). I cannot leave La Gorda behind so far from the home! Also, she’s asked so often to fly on a plane!

Small anecdote, when I arrived, as always in mega cities with more than 10 million inhabitants, traffic was dense. While I driving on a big urban boulevard, with 4 lanes each way, and just a few metres from my destination, there was a long queue of stopped vehicles but the right lane was completely open. There was a little bit of water accumulated on the street, but my motorbike and I saw much worst and we were dirty as hell anyways.

So, I slowly started driving to the lane in order to pass the stopped vehicles which were waiting at the red light. Suddenly, the bike and I fell in a deep pothole! But when I say deep, I mean deep! I had water up to my knees, and, because I was in 2nd gear, the engine stalled, and therefore I was not able to get out of the hole right away!

Fortunately, I was able to start it back right away and I could, by twisting the throttle strongly, to get out from there! And I laughed like a madman, because it was a completely funny situation. I nearly lost my motorbike in some meter deep pothole, a couple minutes before arriving to my destination, having gone through more than 27000 km in more mad places some than I can count! Of course, there was no sign to notify drivers of the danger…

What an arrival in Buenos Aires!

As I will not go back to Chile, I am going to write my final thoughts about my visit to this country here.

First, it is unquestionably the most modern and structured of all the Latin America countries. In spite of a poverty which is sometimes present, it is of a much lesser importance or at least, visible. Roads and infrastructure are, for the great majority of cases, very modern and well maintained. The north is arid while the south is very green and cool (and wet!). The centre is also very dry and several wildfires were visible along the road.

It is absolutely necessary to take the time to visit a few vineyards. Chilean wines are splendid!

The city of Santiago has all of what big modern European or even North American cities have to offer (and more, in certain cases!), and this, on a cultural and culinary level, and even for motorbike parts! People are a little colder and distant, as it is the case in several big cities. They are also physically much larger than in other Latin America countries!

Last thing, the distance between cities is huge! It is necessary to plan a bit more than in other countries. The service stations are frequent and all accept credit cards.

Coup de cœur: Motocamp Pucon
Disappointment: The country, with all of its modern aspect, made me lose the feel of being in a different world than North America
Most welcoming city: Puerto Varas, because of my friend Daniel who welcomed me into his house and life!
Best atmosphere: Motocamp Pucon
Where I would spend a full month in winter: Puerto Varas
Where I will not return: Iquique
The surprise: The impressive modernness of the country and its infrastructure
The nicest road: In spite of some difficult passages, unquestionably, the Carretera Austral
The ugliest roads: The Ruta 5, south of Santiago. A big highway filled with tolls, big lorries and without any interest
If I had to do it again:  A little less time in Santiago, a little more in the south, but before or after the holiday season
Next time: A better preparation to take advantage of all the possible mountain treks and camping spots (and a better weather forecast!)
What I missed me most: Discover and visit cities or regions in the low season. There were tourists everywhere, congestion, and the availability of accommodations was low and prices, high

Number of days: 28
Distance: 6300 km

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Marc Ouellet

Adventurer at heart. Travelling on 2 wheels to South America soon!

13 COMMENTS
  • David Prejean
    Reply

    Very nice report. It is instructive to we who are armchair adventurers who one day aspire to be real adventurers.

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Thanks! Hope you make it happen at some point soon!

  • Martin
    Reply

    Merci d’avoir partagé cette super avanture! Bon retour!

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Merci!

  • Geoffrey Parsons
    Reply

    Wow………Almost over. Long trip. It will be 6 months since Peter and I saw you off. Great adventure!!
    Ready to pick you up on the 9th along with your worn dirty bike.
    What’s next?

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Indeed it was! Don’t forget old man, I’m back on the 2nd… Hope the Ranger can deal with the size and weight of La Gorda!

      What’s next… Hem, a big roast and a good bottle of wine at Tim’s? But for sure, Maine in May!

  • Jean Valiquette
    Reply

    Congrats!!!!! Woohooo Tierra del Fuego / Ushuaia! Enfin tu l’as fait! Faudra célébrer ça ensemble avec un bon hanger et un Quimera au Tavern. Ciao amigo

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Merci Jean! Oui pour fêter cela mais pas de Quimera au Tavern!!!

  • Steve B
    Reply

    Congratulations for your accomplishment Marc. I’m smiling as I read and recall my own adventure. It was a lot easier, cheaper and safer than expected wasn’t it?!! Glad to hear you won’t leave an old friend behind. Say hi to Javier and Sandra for me, they might remember, the guy with the Harley several years ago. Have you started thinking about your next adventure yet? it’s in your blood now, no getting away from it. Don’t chase your dreams, RUN THEM DOWN!!! Have a safe flight home. Steve

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Thanks!!! Indeed, it was easier but certainly not cheaper! Not at all!

      I still have a few dreams, but they might not include the motorcycle for a while. But for now, I’ll need to concentrate on getting back home, and more importantly, getting used to life at home!

  • George F
    Reply

    Congratulations, great RR. I plan on leaving June 2018 for 6 or 7 months, can’t wait, excitement is building more and more as I read other’s reports. Do you know Brent Carroll? He was just there too.

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Thanks George! I know of Brent. We communicated at some point but were never able to get together! Hope the plan works for you and have a great trip!

  • Stéphane G
    Reply

    Merci de nous avoir fait voyager par procuration avec toi 🙂

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