Tierra Del Fuego and the Long Road North

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 It was 4 degrees and the rain clouds were forming as we queued for the ferry from Punta Arenas in Chile to the island of Tierra Del Fuego.  We had opted for the longer ferry crossing into a small town called Porvenir as we were excited to catch a glimpse of the resident penguin colony further down the coast.  We were loaded onto the ferry and onto the rough sea exactly on schedule (something that has rarely happened on this continent).  The ferry runs once a day to Tierra Del Fuego and it was packed full of tourists, truckers and overlanders.  Once we were into Porvenir, the passengers all went onwards in various directions, leaving us to be last off the boat.  Tom had hoped that by some miracle the wind would be less of an issue here but his hopes were short lived as we rode off the wet and slippy ramp and into a passing hail storm.

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We followed the rugged and harsh coast line for a couple of hours towards the highly anticipated penguins.  We arrived and as we climbed off the bike and rested it onto it’s side stand, the wind actually blew it over!  Back upright Tom decided to stay with the bike whilst Lorna explored the beach and got the important photographs of the Penguin Colony that were in their breeding season.  As we rode away on terribly loose gravel the wind reached such a level that riding became almost impossible, but so was the thought of stopping! We rode on, leaning the bike into the wind and battling with the gravel beneath us.  Tom was relieved that the gravel only lasted 25miles before the road turned to a much easier hard pack dirt and with the wind finally behind us we got an extra push towards the border with Argentina.
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The roads on the Chilean side of Tierra Del Fuego were in much poorer condition that those on the Argentinean side.  Ruta 3 was a tarmac road in great condition and it allowed us to make swift progress towards Ushuaia.  We stayed in Rio Grande, a naval town with it’s history linking it strongly to the Falklands conflict- something that the signs, monuments and even tanks on the road side kept at the front of our minds.  It was clear that the memory of the war was still very fresh in the minds of the inhabitants here, so to were their beliefs on the sovereignty of the islands.  Yet, people were friendly and not once did we feel uncomfortable with our nationality in this clearly patriotic region.
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The ride to the Fin Del Mundo was not to be the overwhelming experience that we had expected.  All of the planning, all of the day dreaming and we were set to reach the bottom of the world (well as far as the road takes you anyway).  Yet arriving into Ushuaia, we could not help but notice the over priced tourist town that the most Southernly city in the world had become.  There was even a Hard Rock Cafe!  (Tom got the t-shirt).  We soaked it up, treated ourselves to a meal and then had the worst night’s sleep of the trip courtesy of two annoyingly loud Germans in the hostel dorm.  Photo taken at the famous sign and it was time to head North in search of cheaper accommodation, better weather and no noisy Germans.  We had set ourselves a tough challenge, to ride 1500miles North in 6 days to meet up with Brett who would be travelling South from Santiago.  Lorna took to reading her kindle whilst Tom focused on the road North- it was very straight and very boring but finally the wind had begin to ease- riding became far easier without it.
 We wild camped on our way North as the temperature began to rise a little more each day.  By the time that we reached Neuquen, it was 39 degrees and we were back in our Summer riding gear.  We found ourselves moaning about the cold one day and then the heat the next!
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We stayed in a eco cabin owned and ran by a wonderful and kind German family, not far from a beautiful river with wild otters.  Three nights here with Brett allowed us to recover from the long days riding and we began to finally think about the last leg to Buenos Aires.  After eating and drinking too much we said goodbye to Brett (with a plan of a European road trip together firmly in the making) and we headed away from our original route to Buenos Aires to take advantage of some incredible hospitality and to catch up with friends that we had not expected to see again on our trip.  Karen and Dieter were last with us in El Salvador yet over 10,000miles later we found ourselves just a few hours away from them.  They were heading to a mutual friend of the overland community, Enzo.  Enzo and his wife Anabelia have become famous in the adventure motorcycling community for putting bikers up at their home for free.  To make it even better, Enzo is a butcher who takes great pride in cooking authentic Osado for his guests too.  We were treated so well and were made to feel like family by them both.  Having Karen and Dieter with us made communication a lot easier too.  We both enjoy their company very much and will be seeing them next year when they return to Spain via Australia on their bike.  (What a trip that will be!)

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Whilst we were at Enzo’s we had an interview on TV in Las Vegas which was a funny and interesting experience.  We continue to be surprised at the level of interest in our trip, but we are learning to enjoy to share and embrace the experience of it all.  Hugs and kisses goodbye and we were packed for the 10 hours ride due East to our final destination with the bike.  Buenos Aires beckoned and we rolled out of Enzo’s town of Bowen with mixed feelings about our final leg..
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