Running out of Road: Río Grande – Ushuaia

New Year’s Eve was a massive anticlimax. Río Grande isn’t a very touristy city, so there aren’t many places to go out to begin with. When William and I went out to find a restaurant that evening, everything turned out to be closed. Back to our rooms we went to have some bread for dinner. I was asleep by midnight and I didn’t hear any fireworks to wake me up.

Monday 1 January

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
07:58:28 05:33:04 86.36 15.56 41.40 675.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

Consequently I had no problem getting started on New Year’s Day. William had already left earlier, as he is in a hurry to get to Ushuaia. I have plenty of time and want to take the path less pedalled again. When I got outside and finished loading my bike I first put on sunglasses, as it was such a nice day. There was hardly any wind and Windguru says it will stay that way for several days. If that comes true I’ll have an easy ride into Ushuaia indeed. It appears to me that southern Tierra del Fuego has much less wind in general, judging by the trees I saw.

When I reached the junction with Ruta Provincial 9 I was already completely done with Ruta Nacional 3. It was extremely busy and many drivers had zero patience. This I quickly turned right and didn’t look back. I can now answer the question in my last post with certainty: That was not the last ripio on the tour. The road was fine though, but still quite busy.

Remember Patagonian weather? That’s right, four seasons every day. So the afternoon had hail, rain and some wet snow. The hail got quite serious at one point, starting to turn the road white. However, the stones were not big and mostly molten before reaching the ground. I saw better weather ahead, so I just kept moving.

Out on a busy Ruta 3, but not for long.
Ruta Provincial 9, the road less driven. Except today.
Hail was turning the road white. The layer of hail was already thinning when I remembered to take a photo.

A little more than halfway to Tolhuin I got to Lago Yehuin. There is a nice camp spot at an abandoned hotel next to the lake. But things were as I already feared: The people on the road had all gone here to enjoy the holiday with their family, so the place was absolutely packed. It’s also very large though, so I still found a secluded spot. As I was unpacking my tent a few people hanging out nearby told me they would be leaving soon and their spot is much nicer, so they invited me over.

Even if they were getting ready to leave, their parrilla was still going. Thus they offered me bread, sausages, chicken and some cuts from their whole lamb. When they left they offered me their leftovers, including an entire lamb leg. Thanks, but even I can’t eat all that.

Muddy roads eat bike chains for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. Oh and derailleurs as well.
There are still some mountains left…
How to have a good parrilla party: 1. Build a wood fire. 2. When hot coals collect below, take them out and put them under a grill. 3. Grill your meat. Bonus points for roasting a whole lamb on the cross above the fire. Don’t forget to bring a large quad bike so your children can drive around the property.

Tuesday 2 January

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
05:32:56 04:15:16 62.65 14.73 45.72 612.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

It rained all night, but the morning started with good weather. Everyone from yesterday was gone, so I took some pictures of the abandoned hotel now that it was abandoned again. I started slow on the road that was now much quieter than yesterday. I reached the main road shortly after noon. This too had far less traffic than yesterday, but some people still manage to create dangerous situations on an empty road. I don’t get it, the drivers on Ruta 40 were generally much nicer, let alone Chilean drivers.

Good view over the lake from the hotel.
The building itself. Definitely not safe to go into with very bad floors.
A bunch of cows getting scared of a strange contraption approaching them. And one that hasn’t got the message yet.

I got to Tolhuin at 14:00 and stopped at Panadería la Unión. Apparently it’s famous in Argentina because many celebrities visited it. Among cyclists this bakery is famous for a different reason: They offer you a bed for free. As I was buying a half dozen empanadas I asked for a bed and I was taken to a warehouse across the street. It turned out that I bough the empanadas for naught, since a large amount of empanadas and facturas was already sitting there. Some other cyclists are here as well. One is Sebastian, whose artwork I saw at the Onaisin crossroads a few days ago. The last time he was here in Tolhuin, he stayed to work at the bakery for a year and now he also plans to be here for a few weeks. In general the people who stay for more than one night help out in some way or another.

That evening we received three huge bags of facturas to eat, which is going to be hard with just the four of us, despite their awesomeness. If things continue like this I’ll never get to eat the food that I’m still carrying and I will arrive in Ushuaia with an almost full fuel bottle too. Sebastian was allowed to use the large kitchen, so he cooked pasta with a great sauce for all of us, using some of my leftovers too. And then there were discussions about good wild camping spots in locations some 1000 km north.

Back on pavement just before Tolhuin.
Sebastian put up behavioural instructions during his last stay at the bakery.
Bike storage in a warehouse otherwise full of flour, butter and dulce de leche.

Wednesday 3 January

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:28:52 05:30:16 104.64 19.01 57.96 1,152.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

I left the bakery after having a bunch of facturas for breakfast and also with several of them in my bags to eat on the road. Someone didn’t get the message about the correct weather, since I counted only one season today, which I’ll call “British summer”. That’s right, it was raining all day in various amounts. In fact this was likely the day with the worst rain on the whole tour.

The road is good and started out pretty quiet, but got busier later on. In general people seem to be more careful in the rain, which is good for me. The road went up and down slightly all the time, but one challenge remains: Ushuaia is on the other side of the Andes compared to the rest of Argentina. That isn’t as dramatic as it sounds, since the mountains get lower and lower toward the southern end of the range, but you have to cross Paso Garibaldi to get to Ushuaia. The top is only at 400 meters and the gradient is quite easy, so it’s not a hard climb. However, the rain got stronger as I was climbing and at the top I was pretty much in the clouds. Below me a little bit of snow was still left from last winter.

Initially I was riding along Lago Fagnano.
And then climbing into the clouds near Lago Escondido.
Like I said: Clouds at the top of the pass.

The descent was a good gradient too, but got cold soon. After that the road keeps climbing very slightly for about 20 kilometers, which I found very tiring. Here I also met the last cyclists on the road: a Dutch couple who were restarting from Ushuaia after riding Buenos Aires province for a while. The last few kilometers into Ushuaia are easy riding until you reach the Beagle channel and just around the corner are the city gates. Of course I stopped to take pictures here and on the other side of the road were some of the cyclists I met last week. They were now trying to hitch a ride to Buenos Aires with a trucker.

I wanted to ride to the center via the waterfront, as it’s nice and flat and also has some good views. The rest of the city is built on a hillside and especially the roads perpendicular to the coast are very steep. At some point I encountered a large road construction project and so I had to climb back up to the main road. In the center I took the obligatory photos with the “fin del mundo” sign before going to the preferred cyclist’s hostel: Refugio el Mochilero. However, this one was completely full for more than a week to come. The hostel situation here is crazy. Most are full and the prices for a bed are what you’d pay for a room elsewhere. A few others I tried were also fully booked, but eventually I found a hostel where I can stay for three out of four nights. For now I’m just glad to have a place to rest after completing the ride.

Arriving at the Ushuaia city gates while others are trying to hitch their way out.
A short stop with a view of the city center.
It’s the end of the world! And the tour…

Distance covered: 253.5 km. Total so far: 5865 km.

2 Replies to “Running out of Road: Río Grande – Ushuaia”

  1. Zoea en noe op dien gemaak de bike inboxe en langzaamaan nao Buenos Aires, dao nog ein paar daag de toerist oethange en den weer op Naer/Haonssum aan ! Geniet nog van dien lètste vakantiedaag en toet Vriedig.

    Groete

  2. Sjoean Stef, dao woore wae 2 jaor truuk. ‘T waer is herkènbaar… Sjoean om te laeze allemaol, en gooj truukreis! Groet Rob en Loes oet Den Bosch

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