As we neared The End of our cycling adventure and the South American continent, daily rain and powerful winds were exasperated by plunging temperatures. We had our lives saved more than once by the legendary generosity of Tierra del Fuego’s residents. One Fuegan estancia, or ranch, gave us an empty cabin with a wood stove on a cold and stormy night, while yet another offered us a place to sleep and all the lamb we could eat for two straight days while rain blotted out the view of the horses and sheep blowing around in the fields on the other side of the rattling windows. In both cases we’d only asked for water or a place to camp.
Southern hospitality reached a new high just over 100 km from Ushuaia in the village of Tolhuin. “Panaderia La Union”, the town bakery, has a back room full of bunk beds set up especially for fools like us. Emilio, the bakery’s owner, has been welcoming touring cyclists for 25 years. He seems to get a kick out of meeting people one day shy of completing an epic journey, which is the case for most of those who ride through.
Guests of La Union traditionally make lunch for the bakery’s employees. Luckily, a French couple, Denis and Charlotte, were also pedaling through the area, and under their direction the four of us whipped up a Quiche Lorraine about the size of a card table. It was a pleasure to cook with professional equipment and industrial quantities of everything we needed. “We need… a kilogram of cheese…. a gallon of cream…. two dozen eggs…” The four of us also got to make churros early in the morning. Churros are a kind of star-shaped donut that are fired out of a mold, deep fried and then injected with dulce de leche. Since the Peruvian Andes they’ve earned a special place in our hearts – and arteries! They’re best served hot; a disturbing number went straight into our bellies as they came off the line, much to the delight of the woman who was showing us the ropes. “When you first start working here, you eat a lot of churros. Later, you eat less,” she told us.
There were several centimeters of snow on the ground in Tolhuin when we set out for our last day of cycling. I found this exquisitely fitting; it was our first real snowfall since the riding across the Yukon in the initial days of our voyage.
The scenery became more and more beautiful as we rode south. The leaves were changing colours to yellows, oranges and reds, while just above the unbroken forest’s treeline, magnificent mountain ranges rose up, their faces dusted white; I found myself humming “Winter Wonderland” more than once.
We rode grinning into Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city. After 26 650 kilometers through 15 countries in over a year and a half, we’d finally reached our finish line on the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego, this lonely, broken-off knife’s point at the end of the Americas. We stopped at the sign; laughter, hugs, and high-fives ensued.
That night we had the meal we’d been dreaming of and promising ourselves over the last thousand brutal kilometers. The wine was an aged Malbec, Argentina’s emblematic grape, from the aptly-named Fin del Mundo Patagonian winery. Lucie and I had steaks whose sheer size shocked and horrified Denis and Charlotte, with whom we shared a room in a comfy hostel downtown. After dinner, the French couple presented us with a cake they’d baked to mark the occasion. It was chocolate and pear, had a little bicycle on it and was as delicious as their gesture was heart touching. We stayed up late talking, eating and sipping; it was a very special night.
We took a day off to stroll along the seaside, send a few postcards and wrap our heads around what we’d just accomplished. We were feeling – and are still feeling – totally chuffed.
This is not our last post! The journey’s not over until we’re re-united with our families and friends. Aside from all the photo galleries we need to post, we also have a 3000 km road trip from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires to tell you about, as well as some final reflections we’d like to share about our experience on the road.
We fly out of Argentina’s capital on April 18.