After 7 months and 2 days I’m finally at the finish line, at the ‘Fin del Mondo’ and the world’s most southern city. With £19,128 raised so far as I’m writing this, and more on its way over the next couple of days, it’s almost the finishing point of this long journey.
It’s been around a week since my last post on Laura’s birthday. I had around 800 kms left at the time and was gunning it south towards the finishing line in Ushuaia. I had spent the night in the warmth as a kind lady who owned the café I was eating in offered me her brothers place for the night who was away for the winter. The next morning I set off back over the Argentinean pampas, only to come to a swift halt 20 kms down the road as the lovely Marita chased me down in her car to bring me bags of food for the journey south (so much pastry and chocolate…an instant win). Such a warm hearted person, a running theme for the people I’ve met on this journey. I carried on for another 180 kms before throwing up the tent on the side of the road as the sun set on the desolate plains of the pampas.
The next day I woke up to another set of frozen water bottles as I raced to Rio Gallegos, where I hoped I was another afternoon’s ride away from crossing back into Chile. I had been very lucky with the weather till that point, bitterly cold at times but stunning blue bird days and importantly, no wind. After I left the town though, Patagonia’s wind finally showed its true colours and I was left grinding through the head – winds in my lowest gear, trying to move my piano shaped bike through the wall in front of me. 10 kms took over 2 hours before I finally had enough and on seeing a tiny hill on the flat landscape, flung the tent up and tried to get out of the wind as best I could. I left at 4am the next day to see if the wind was a little less in the night. It definitely helped as I raced up to the border. As soon as the sun rose though, the wind picked up again and I was left swearing to myself as I ground out slow kms towards the ferry crossing to get to Tierra del Fuego. As it turned out all those efforts were in vain though as the winds caused the boat to close for the afternoon and I was stranded in a small town waiting for the winds to calm. It wasn’t the end of the world as in one restaurant, an old man eating his lunch, kept buying me empanadas. Every time one was sent my way, I’d smash it, only to be sent another one 2 minutes later as the man shouted ‘protein’ after pointing to my less than impressive cycling gun-ceps. I’m not sure he realised I could play the empanada game all day though and after he had sent over 4 more, each the size of my face, he finally threw in the towel, left me a bunch of bananas before congratulating me on my glutinous efforts. The restaurant let me sleep on the floor of their restaurant that night out of the cold, as I headed off the next morning early doors, with news the ferry was back up and running.
After a bumpy crossing, the wind was still howling but the road changed direction so it was less of an effort to cycle through. That night I found an old bus stop at the crossroads to keep me out of the wind. It turned out this was a popular stop for hikers and other travellers on this road as people from all over the world had left their mark on the place. It had been dubbed the ‘Casa del Piss’ for reasons I’m sure you can work out and the smell was all the encouragement I needed to leave early morning, the next day, for the last border crossing. I walked into the Chilean side of the border to stamp out freezing cold and was greeted by the border officials with a slice of chocolate cake and coffee to warm me up. 120 kms more and I was stopping early once more in the town of Rio Grande as the road had turned back into the wind. I found an old, abandoned race track with a shed to sleep in for the night before I headed off for what I hoped would be one more day to the finishing line at Ushuaia.
I woke up for the first time in 4 days to a silent morning, no wind and just a stunning, still Antarctic Ocean to ride past, whilst watching the sunrise over a crisp, cold morning. I had 217 kms to go but with the wind gone, I was loving it, tearing through the miles and eagerly heading towards my final destination. Fast forward 3 hours and after turning one corner, the wind suddenly came back, just as strong and miserable as before, as I reached the halfway point, the town of Tolhuin. The owner of a bakery was a cyclist and advised me against going on for the day with the wind so strong, offering me a place to stay for the night with a much needed shower. I had my heart set on finishing that day though and after reading some beautiful messages from family and friends which gave me the added boost I needed, I headed back out to get through the last 106 kms of this journey and one last mountain pass before reaching Ushuaia. I did have to chase off a dog first though, who was busy urinating all over my front bags. The wind continued to pound away as I climbed up and over the pass and into the valley towards Ushuaia. For the first time in days, the scenery changed from the miserably barren and desolate pampas to stunning snow covered peaks. As night fell and the wind grew stronger, I finally turned a corner to see the twinkling lights of the finishing line in the distance. Exhausted after riding from 6 am to 7.30pm, the sight of the illuminated Ushuaia gateway to the most southern city in the world was met with a huge sigh of relief. A fitting way to end with one of the toughest days of the whole journey.
That night there was no celebrating, just a good nights sleep and a hearty meal. The next day my kiwi amigos I kept bumping into all over Patagonia, arrived in their camper van and treated me to a much needed local brew. We rang the night in with an Argentinean steak, some local seafood and it’s safe to say, a few more local beers.
Which now leads me to this point, sitting on the sofa in a hostal, over – looking the mountains surrounding this tiny jewel of a town, right down the bottom of the world. I honestly haven’t had time to reflect on the journey too much yet, anxious as I am to see the last 4% of this target raised. One thing though, which has been a running theme of this entire journey is how amazingly warm hearted people all over the world are. I have been truly blessed to have had the most incredible family, friends, teachers, students and strangers constantly offering help and support for this cause. From north to south, Alaska to Argentina, along the entirety of this journey, people I had never met before, friends I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, went way above and beyond, simply helping a stranger. The kindness shown to me both at home and on the road has been a humbling experience and given me memories which will last a life time. This journey isn’t mine at all, it belongs to every person who has followed along the way and offered beautiful words of encouragement or a helping hand wherever needed. The only reason so much money was raised for such a worthy cause is down to the work of so many people and I for one couldn’t be more grateful. To end this post I can only say one thing; simply thank you, to all my family, friends, teachers, students and new friends I’ve met along the way. Your generosity and help means at least £20,000 will be going towards improving the lives of children going through far tougher challenges then anything I faced. So one last time, I invite anyone who hasn’t yet and would like to, to follow the link below and sponsor a mile today.
In memory of Laura, Dad and Jamie x