Monday, January 28, 2013

Tierra del Fuego

We rolled into Ushuaia yesterday afternoon, 15 minutes after our friends from Mexico, Jackob and Pedro, flew out of town. It would have been grand to see them before they returned to Mexico, as we had a very good week of riding together, and those guy knew how to see the bright side of Life.

When I left Tahsis, I told my friend Bruno that I would simply keep the water on my right, and that I would not get lost. For the last 15,000 km or so, that strategy has worked, more or less. While I have been downright lost and confused on more than one ocassion, the rule of thumb has helped as I travelled Southwardly. It seems that given a few discretions for mountains and jungles, the rule of thumb will work as I travel north. Yes, I have run out of land, and I have reached the end of the Pan American Highway.

Today, January 28 is the anniversary of my Mom's birthday, and it is significant to me that I have arrived at another milestone in my life on such a day. My Sister and I will both remember the times when we were able to celebrate a birthday with Mom, and how she loved to party.

As I have mentioned before, riding motorcycles (and I am sure the same is true of bicycles) affords one a lot of time for thinking and pondering the mysteries of the universe. Usually this thinking time is more productive when one is facing 200 kilometers of the Atacama Desert or a similar distance on the plains of Patagonia, as opposed to the curves of Guatemala or Ecuador. This helmet time has allowed me to come to realize at this late stage in my life a number of profound truths, universal realities, and simple but inexorable rules for living. These "aha' moments can happen just as a guanoco appears on the horizon, a condor scopes out the bike for an early breakfast, or when the electrolyte level in my brain is at at all-time low and I am cranky and bitchy as a nine and half month pregnant woman... The downside to all of these great and wonderful life-changing thoughts and ideas is that they are as fleeting as the mileposts which fly by, as intangiable and elusive as those buzzards who circle road kills at a mile high..There is no doubt that the experience of riding the moto from my home to Ushuai has been a profound and singularly life-changing experience. The problem and regret is that it is extremely difficult to capture and document all of those thoughts and feelings that the road engenders.

When my parents passed away, I was present at their bedsides in both cases. For the past years, there has been a room in my mind where those experiences, while separate and distinct, lived. On the surface the death of ones' parents is life changing, and I rememember a friend at my Mothers' funeral asking me how I felt, now that I was an orphan, and that reality of no longer having parents is certainly a feature of my thoghts around that experience. A deeper and more telling feeling that hss remained with me, and the ride has afforded me an opportunity to thin about it, is that pain and sufferring that both Mom and Dad endured as they slowly passed from this Life. I think that I have come to terms with the tremendous guilt that I have felt for not somehow having the courage to find a way to end their suffering. From those experiences, it is clear to me that I would much prefer that my life end quickly and without delay. Of course, we have no control over our end of life circumstance, but we can be clear that it should not be prolonged unecessarily, and that I am adamant that I do not want my children to participate in any bedside vigils..I know they love me and that is sufficient for all time.

I would say that I have passed at least one hundred different riders who are on bicycles and heading for that magical mystery of Ushuai and the end of the road. I cannot fathom the drive and tenacity that it takes for these people who are undertaking this ride. When I see couples who are riding together, and facing incredible headwinds and huge mountain ranges, I think that there is a marriage that will last, or a relationship that will endure. On the other hand, riding a bicycle to Ushuai seems, to me, almost masochistic, and I eally wonder what motivates these folks when the going gets really tough. The upside of this is that these riders are prime examples of the beauty and uniquenss of the human race, in that we all have different hopes, dreams, and desires, and are living in a time and place where those individual dreams and asperations can be acted out, even if it causes one to shake his head. On the other hand, I see all sorts of normal people riding motorcycles and happily pushing their way south and north, through persistent headwinds and unrelenting ripio. These folks are completly adapted and fit into my world view without any problem.

What each group has in common is a willingness to face the unknown and to ride into the face of Life with a certainty that they have never been around the next corner, and that they will probably sleep in a place where they have never been before, and meet people that they have never met before. This willingness to offset the familiarity of day to day routine and the predictablity of normalcy is a common theme for the travellers, whether they are on motos or bicycles.

I have encounterd on at least 5 different occassions a different kind of traveller, and I have to admit that I have not stopped to explore these folks' minds or motivations, because they are quite frankly, a little scary. Of whom do I speak? They have all been single men, and I have driven by them in the absolute middle of nowhwere, which seems to change according to my circumstances and the amount of gas that I have in my tank. I remember passing by a walker, not a hitchhiker, in Nevada. I swear that I was at least 100 km from the next gas station, and I have no idea what he was doing out in the middle of nowhere; heading north while I was beating my way south. I had a similar experience in the Baja, and again I felt that I was out in the middle of nowhere and on the opposite side of the road is a walker, heading along without a glance or acknowledgement that he sees me. Besides being men, these loners are typically burned black by the sun, and most look like they haven't seen a barber in years. Now, one might suppose there is an element of WASPish guilt in the telling of this tale of the walkers, and I suppose there is. It was clear to me that they did not want to have anything to do with me or anybody else, and that whatever mission they were on, it was straight in front of them. These guys were not of the Forrest Gump category, and I think that perhaps in order to satisfy my curiosity and perhaps salve my guilt, I will pay closer attention to walkers as I head north, and perhaps even gain a little wisdom......






Torres del Paine....


 My new Karoo....good for a couple of thousand, maybe...











What's up, Bird...






I am watching you, watching me, watching my girls....



And more Torres.....


Torres .......


Charles E. Condor thinks that a yellow BMW would make a fine breakfast, until he sees what is sitting upon said meal....



 Cataracts and Waterfalls (I don't know the difference)

Patagonian Flag....


 Two ways of seeing the world: in a rolling hotel with 40 of your closest friends... or on a moto....


I am still watching you....



Blondy hanging around Purto Natales...








Mother ostritch and her chicks, except they are not called ostritches down here....












 They may remember, but they forgot their plate....


That's Toronto, Canada.....




 Magellan Straits...






 Didn't even have time to put out the anchor....must have been quite a blow...




An old boiler...



 Prop is dug right into the sand....She is not going anywhere.....























You are here......and the wrecks are there.....




The ferry crossing takes about 20 minutes at this northern end...




Chile and Argentina have declared ownership of parts of Antarctica, along with others......

 Argentinian leather panniers for their bikes.....

 Argentinian saddles: no horn  (not 12V)


Turnoff for Tierra del Fuego....

Tierra del Fuego is an island, and these ferries connect people and cargo with the mainland....











Captain Magellan was here....



 Looking across the Magellan Straits...





 I always tend to howl at Full Moon time...





Aliens, I think....


 Windpower drives things around here....


 Sunset before the Argentinian border...

A little spread, or estancia....

Thats how you spell Ushuaia...

 My kids don't believe that I was raised in the time of these phones: with party lines and your neighbour could listen in, if they were bored.  Definitely pre-Facebook era.  And they wonder why my Smart phone is smarter than I am....

I have seen some rig trucks carting around larger drilling platforms....


As I mentioned the bikers are of a different breed.  This guy is going into a very strong headwind for the next four or five days, at least....


 The Argentinians are still upset over the Falkland war.  Many Argentinians lost their lives as a result of one mans' ambitions..
 Mirage jet (French isn't it) with Exocet missels, sank British destroyer...



 I don't know Beafort, but it felt like about 40 knots pushing against Blondy and I for a few hours today...



Too many Argentinians died over the Falklands...

The Falkland Islands are over there somewhere...


There are some big fish in these parts....Spring Salmon to 38 kilograms....hmn....


 Did I mention something about crazy people on bikes, or was it crazy bikers..anways I don't think this young lady knows what she is in for in a few miles...RIPIO!!!



Well, at least Blondy made it to Ushuaia...



As I said, too many Argentinians (and Brits) died over this little fiasco which still is a big deal down here....
 Here we have clear evidence that two Mexican bandits have defaced a perfectly fine poster of Ushuaia in the winter time: obviously too cold for them....

Apparently there were a few convicts in Ushuaia in its day.  Something in common with Australia??


Pedro and Jackob, I know where you live, and I know how to speak Spanglish......



Pretty tall sign, eh???
 But we had to go to the real sign, and the real end of the road, which meant more Ripio.  Reminded me a lot of the Tahsis road, complete with idiot drivers and dust....



And Mountains too....
 Greeting committee for all overland bikers...

Proof is in the picture, folks...


(Amazing phtoshop work, from my desk in Tahsis.  It has been a long winter..)


Some old guy from Isreal decided to get in on the celelbration too...

You are there, and I am here....more to come..