By Jim 30/11/14 (with photos and one video)
The rather loud bang and the feeling of being thrown off the bike came just as we’d almost reached the End of The World – this definitely wasn’t in the plan for today so what the heck was going on – the day had started well enough……..
The previous late afternoon we’d arrived at the Ruta 40 Hostel in Rio Grande, our last town before the final push to Ushuaia. A hostel with an ice cream shop attached is a bit of dream for me (yes, I am an ice cream fan) however Ornela suggested that as her and the family also had a suite for two we may prefer that to a shared dorm in the hostel. We grabbed the chance and she led us to her home where we got to share her house with her for a day. Fab accommodation. Breakfast the next day was an unhurried affair as we knew we only had about 200+ kms to do. We were able to have a good chat and she told us of her dream to visit England and the difficulty of saving sufficient money to make it come true. Why though? Because she can’t save? No, she’s an English teacher and a professional so that’s not the problem. The problem for her here is the shaky economy means her savings can be worth less next year than this. They’re not allowed to take much money out of the country and have no access to US dollars, the only really stable currency here. This was the second time we’d heard this type of story from an Argentine professional person. As we rode away we reflected on how lucky we are in ‘Europe’ to be able to go and travel the world pretty well unrestricted and knowing that our currency is not going to collapse overnight (we hope). We really hadn’t realised before we came here how restricted people in such a large country are just because the economy is unstable. You’d think it of a poor country but Argentina is not a poor country.
The previous days travelling had been marked with border crossings, a ferry and ripio roads. Todays was to see us at last reach our first big milestone of the one year trip we are on, the end of Ruta 3, the furthest south you can go on a navigable public road. As we left Rio Grande the ride started out with more fairly flat plains but very soon gave way to beautiful forests of wind-blown and stunted trees, curvy roads (camino sinuoso) and then snow-capped mountains and lakes. We made the most of it and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery. As well as beautiful scenery though there are the road signs that mark the site of fatal accidents. Not nice but they do serve as sobering reminders to keep alert.
we pulled over as we realised we didn’t actually know the way to the ‘end of the world’. Hheerrm, slightly embarrassing, better have a squizy at the map then. Just follow Ruta 3 it said but the signs for R3 had disappeared. However the Satnav said we were ‘driving on 3’ and we picked up signs in the town for the ‘Parque Nacional’ so we figured we were on the right track. I don’t know what we thought it would be like. Did we think there’d be great big road signs saying ‘Fin del Mundo this way’ – yes actually we did! We carried on around the outskirts of Ushuaia and over some of the largest speed humps I have ever seen; I think they were modelled on the surrounding mountains.
All was well until the far side of town when we stopped at an offset T junction to check it was clear to the left. That was when it hit us, or to be more exact, when the Argentine lady who can’t judge the width of her own car hit us! We didn’t see it coming but there was a sudden almighty bang that threw us off the bike and next thing we knew we were sitting in the road and Bertie was having a bit of a lay down. Jenny thankfully was AOK but was very shaky and a few tears were shed. As I realised that we’d been hit from behind I thought to myself ‘oh what a silly lady’ (or words to that effect) and then I told her in broken Spanish that perhaps she should get her eyesight checked and maybe seek professional psychiatric help. Lots of help from a small crowd and we were all upright again. There was one nice little glimmer of justice in it all – Bertie is a tough old sod and she’d made the mistake of hitting us a glancing blow on the left hand pannier with her front wing. The pannier had a slight rub mark and part of the petrol bottle carrier on the back of the pannier needed TLC but her front right wing was absolutely trashed and it’ll cost a few bob at the panel beaters to get it put right – I don’t wish to be vindictive but it serves her right.
After all agreeing we didn’t want to involve the Policia and spend the rest of our days filling out forms we set off again straight onto the Parque Nacional ripio roads. Another 15 k’s or so of truly beautiful National Park Forest and lakes, the smoothest ripio I’ve ever ridden (honest it’s like tarmac) plus two narrow wooden bridges and we finally made it to the end of Ruta 3 and the end of the world – we’d done it – and there was a bus load of German tourists there to witness it! Ah well …….. Video link here: http://youtu.be/U4b5KQF_RTs