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Puerto Natales, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina (2-05-09 to 2-11-09)

February 19, 2009

WE’VE DONE IT!!!!!!!!!!!! WE MADE IT – to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the WORLD!!! And Pat held true to her promise made way back in Creel, Mexico – she truly did follow Ralph to the “end of the earth”!!!

Jamie(Ausie), Matt(Nebraska),us and David(S. Africa) Fin del Mundo!!!!

Jamie(Ausie), Matt(Nebraska),us and David(S. Africa) Fin del Mundo!!!!

 

And now for “The rest of the story”!

We left Puerto Natales after 2 days of rest and socializing with the many other bikers riding this part of our trip. We have met so many bikers in the last month of this trip and have yet another “small world” biking story for you. While biking from El Chalten to El Calfate (last blog – sorry, forgot to tell this one then), we met a Swiss lady biking north. She asked us where we had started our trip. When we told her “Alaska”, she said, “My boyfriend also started in Alaska and I am biking to Bolivia to met him“. Turns out it is our friend Damian who we met in Canada the first time and have run into 2 other times on this trip! (Crazy all the connections with other bikers in a distance of ONLY 18,000 miles, across 2 continents and half way around the world!)

T h i s   o n e s   f o r   Crystal ! ! !

T h i s o n e s f o r Crystal ! ! !

 

From Puerto Natales it is was a paved road going east across the pampa, the dry, barren, boring grasslands of Argentina. We were fully expecting to be blown to our next destination by the Patagonian wind we had heard so much about from bikers who had traveled this section already. Well, the wind decided to take a day off, in fact, several days off, while we pedaled toward Punta Arenas. The locals all said it was very unusual to have a day without wind in Patagonia which is known for being one of the windiest areas in the world! So we used our own power and pedaled on! We rode one side road to get off the boring pampa and went along the Skyring and Otway Sounds. It was great to hear and smell the sea again! On this section we were joined by a very strong Brazilian rider, Andre. He was interesting to talk with and he was amazed we were as old as his Mom and had biked so far! Just before reaching Punta Arenas, we camped along the rocky beach of the Straight of Magellan. It was amazing to think, we were camped on the waterway that nearly 500 years ago was the route Magellan took to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific on his voyage around the world. We remembered way back to 5th grade history class, how back then when we imaged what the area must look like, and now – Here We Are!

searching for Magallen

searching for Magallen

 

Once in Punta Arenas, we took a combi and visited a penguin colony at Seco Otway, where we got to observe over 1000 penguins waddle around on the rocky beach and the adjacent pampa. It was surprising to learn that they dig burrows in the ground beneath the low bushes to get shelter and raise their young, then by the end of March they swim all the way along the southern part of the continent to Brazil for the winter months and in the spring arrive back to the same spot they were born to start the cycle all over again by hatching their own eggs and start a family. We also found out there are many, many species of penguins and some are small, some tall and some in-between! This colony was some of the small ones known as the Humbolt penguin.

Penguins

Penguins

 

penquins

penquins

 

and more penguins!

and more penguins!

The next morning we caught the ferry across the Straight of Magellan and landed near Porvenier on that little “whoop-de-doo” at the southern tip of Argentina you see on maps of South America. We had finally made it to the last land mass on our trip – the island of “Tierra del Fuego”! Suddenly it seemed we knew everyone on the boat, we were joined by bikers we had been with off and on for the last couple of weeks – Carlos (from Spain), Emily (from France), Rike & Malte (from Germany) and Andre (from Brazil), and all with Ushuaia as our final destination! We all stocked up on supplies for the 3 day desolate ride across the windy pampa of Argentina and once again had hardly any tailwind to help us along. By the end of the day the wind did pick up and we had to ride until we finally found a small gully to camp in, down out of the wind, complete with green grass and a puddle of water. Shelter from the wind is a precious commodity, so we considered ourselves lucky to find this spot. Water is also scarce, evident by the fact that we actually used the murky water in the puddle (which we filtered first and then boiled and used only for cooking and coffee). Carlos did mention, after taste-testing his meal as it was cooking, that he was having “mud chicken”.

Tierra del Fuego - less than 300 miles to go!

Tierra del Fuego - less than 300 miles to go!

 

The next morning, shortly after we had woken, Emily and Bernard (from Germany), came blowing by (they had camped 20 km back). Surf was up!!! We finally have the great Patagonia tailwind!!! Yahoo! After a quick breakfast of oatmeal (yes, again!), we nearly effortlessly pedaled east to the border and entered Argentina at San Sabastian. To give you an idea of how strong the wind was blowing, Ralph decided not to pedal starting from a standstill and got blown 3 miles over gently rolling terrain without a single pedal stroke!

We followed the Atlantic coastline down to Rio Grande and the next day on to Toluain. We stopped there for some empanadas, and of course some great sweets too, at the famous “La Union” bakery. At this point it was beginning to get dark and 5 of us bikers had to find a place to camp. We ended up having to bike out of town about 3 miles, but found a “Wizard of Oz “ type meadow of 1′ to 2′ tall flowers with trees all around to protect us from the wind! Emily pitched her tent in the “hobbit-type” forest, Rike, Malte and us chose the flower meadow. It made for a soft bed!

Which way does the wind blow?

Which way does the wind blow?

 

 

 

almost there!

almost there!

getting closer! - getting COLDER!

getting closer! - getting COLDER!

Paso Geribaldi - almost 4,000 feet - now back down to sea level!

Paso Geribaldi - almost 4,000 feet - now back down to sea level!

We started out our final day of riding (can you believe it?  The FINAL DAY of riding!!!) pedaling along the beautiful and long Lago Fagnano with absolutely no wind – a blessing, since we were headed straight west, the direction the wind usually blows from. This day found us biking in forested country and surrounded by low mountains – beautiful! As the day progressed so did the clouds and the rain. Biking up Paso Gribaldi we were greeted by the rain and chilly wind, had a bone-chilling very long descent down the other side and rolled into Ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world, fittingly cold, wet and tired! Fortunately, Ralph had the luck of finding a tiny bottle of Champagne (the size of a beer bottle) at a store several days ago. At the welcome sign we popped the cork and toasted to the end of the longest ride of our lives! It was a great mooment – we had finally made it to the destination we had been focusing on for over 1 ½ years. It actually didn’t seem real – didn’t seem possible! We were finally here!!!!!

Here we are 18,000 miles later!

Here we are 18,000 miles later!

Once in Ushuaia, we met up with 3 other biker friends we had met along the way that actually did the whole trip from Alaska too and 2 of them, Matt and Jamie finished the morning of the same day as us! David finished the second part of his trip on his BMW motorcycle and had started the trip with Matt and Jamie in June 2007. Along with a few other biker and backpacker friends we celebrated our accomplishment into the wee hours of the morning!

 

We are spending this week here in Ushuaia, cleaning and packing gear, resting, eating good food, but mainly decompressing from the trip and getting prepared for the shock of the real world again! We chose to put the bikes in a box, instead of ride them back, and fly into a world that we have not been in for 1 2/3 years. We are very excited to see our children, sleep in the same place for more than 3 nights, do our laundry in a machine, not have to dry our laundry on our bikes, throw our dishes in a machine, buy more than 1 roll of toilet paper at a time, have a wardrobe bigger than 1 pair of pants, 2 shirts, 1 pair of socks and 2 sets of biking clothes, have something other than oatmeal for breakfast, be able to park our butts on something other than a bike seat – preferably much more comfortable (a chairlift bench will do just fine for Ralph and a sofa for Pat), do something other than go south every morning, toss our bikes in the garage, take time to read our journals about the trip, look at more than 6000 photos of this awesome journey, reflect on the sheer magnitude of what we have done, and maybe, just maybe, start writing a book about our Epic Ride!!!

 

Here are some statistics from our trip:

It took us 20 months and 4 days (613 days) to ride 17,794 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina! How much vertical? LOTS! We had 35 flats – that’s 1 flat/1000 miles/rider. (Not Bad!) We got about 5,000 miles out of each tire and drive-train. Our gear, especially our bikes, held up wonderfully. Moots, DT Swiss, Mavic, Patagonia, Northface, Stevenson Warmlite, Schwalbe, Granite Gear, Trico, Thermorest, OR, MSR, Pearl Izumi, Zoic, Hind, Sock Guy and Shimano make wonderfully durable gear – without them it would have been a much more difficult trip.

 We will most likely do an after-trip follow-up blog after the dust settles, for we are sure to have some reflections on the trip as a whole which we would like to share with you. Thanks for being part of our journey, your interest and input made it all that much more exciting!

Bikin’ On (not in the near future tho!)

Ralph & Pat

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12 comments

  1. What a great trip. Congratulations!


  2. Dear Pat and Ralph
    It was wonderful to read your final blog. Well done on such an epic journey- you guys should be soo proud of yourselves! It was so cool to meet you guys in Futa. Hope things go really well when you get back home- I´m sure you´ll have an amzing time!
    Take care, Kate and Matilda


  3. Pat and Ralph,

    Congratulations!!! Have been looking at your blog occasionally since we met at New Years and am stoked to see that you have made it to Ushuaia. Well done. What a fantastic trip. Was great to meet you and have a good rest in Ushuaia!!! Our 3 friends have gone back to New Zealand now, we spent the last 2 weeks doing some epic mountain biking in Bolivia, near La Paz and Sorata, was great!!

    Awesome effort guys, even though you can´t make it in the Guinness Book for being the oldest couple to do it, we´re still really proud of you..

    Kate and Matilda (New Zealanders you met at Futaleufu) xx


  4. G’day Pat and Ralph.
    Congratulations on a fabulous trip. It seems so long ago that we met on the Dalton after having both left Deadhorse on our respective trips, us on our recumbent trikes and you on your steeds. We are now back in the workforce again and saving for another trip, and Ushuaia North to where we stopped at Columbus NM is certainly an option. We will be re-reading your site for inspiration and information.
    And now for the hardest part of your trip – the return to the so called “normal” life :-)
    Congratulations once again – Fabulous!
    Best wishes, Joanne and Andrew
    PS. Say hello to Jamie for us.


  5. I can’t wait for the book to come out…most of all I can’t wait to see you, look at all your pictures, and hear all your wonderful,exciting stories. Hurry home!


  6. Pat and Ralph; I feel almost as shocked as you – you did it! Maybe I’m feeling what did I do for the last 2 years- at least we started building our cabin. As you know the real world has changed at least financially. But since you got by on just bikes and a couple of sets of clothes that shouldn’t bother you!
    Looking forward to seeing you soon,Betsy and Thane
    PS Thane just went to Mexico to see his brother.


  7. Congratulations Ralph and Pat! You two are an inspiration. We met in Malinalco probably a year ago. WOW. Your blog makes my feet itch for pedals and new adventures. Thanks for sharing your photos and stories. Congrats again!!! so awesome!
    Marla Temoin


  8. Good Job! It has been great to keep up with you and we will be interested to see how you fall back into the ” real world “. We are currently in Albuquerque house siting, not sure where to next. We are very proud of you for your truly amazing feat. We don’t care how many other people have done this or how old they are. Ches & Allison


  9. What an incredible accomplishment in life. Cannot wait for “more”details when you return. Thanks for posting this adventure and allowing us to “ride” along. ps 62 degrees at home today. Snow’s gettin funky!
    Allen & Gail


  10. Skied the bowl yesterday in 16 inches of new..Lou is here from Tucson and we’re preparing for a hut trip to the McNamara three nights Mar. 3,4,5. Been kind of sentimental lately..every time I visit your last two blogs I laugh and cry..good job guys..you have been an inspiration to more people than you know.

    Mark Mace.


  11. Hello Ralph and Pat,
    What a long journey, but you have really reached your destination. Congratulations!!!
    Seems like eons since we have met you in Peru in Huancavelica. We were following you on your website, every now and than and have been always impressed.

    We ourselves are still taking the easier way by bus – now in India.

    All the best for your trip home
    Klaudia and Frank


  12. AMAZING, and again thanks for taking us along for the ride. If you ever pass through Minneapolis, please look us up. I cannot wait for the book to come out and it had better be autographed. Thank you Pat and Ralph for all you have done and shared!



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