174 km of cycling - as part of a bicycle world trip - from the Chilean border at Tierra del Fuego southwards, because of a broken rim by hitchhiking the last remaining kilometers to Ushuaia at the end of the world, to Tierra del Fuego National Park and to the Beagle Channel, then by domestic flight for four weeks to the capital Buenos Aires.
12 January - 16 February 2007 / 36 days
609 metres in altitude
Highest cycled point: 126 m
I got the first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean at Tierra del Fuego's (Land of Fire) east coast. Since the windswept plain didn't appear to be a hot spot for pitching the tent, as a hundred times before, I had to build it up in an abandoned ruin where a Dutch cyclist had just made himself comfortable. Won't be long, that was what I thought, just two more days until I would finally reach Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. But unsurprisingly things turned out to be different, as the next day, 140 km before reaching the world's end my rear tyre rim broke for the second time. It was exactly the same as on Tahiti in French Polynesia where I had bought this rim. Cycling was impossible, even pushing the bike would have been possible just for a couple of kilometers.
Therefore I decided to hitchhike and despite the almost unexisting traffic virtually less than one minute later an old, rusty and rattling Ford Falcon with Luis, Andre and Christian from Argentina stopped. We put my bike and my stuff in the huge boot in the back and a couple of minutes later I found myself on the way to Luis' uncle's place, where I was invited to an asado (BBQ). Some other guys joined us having a couple of beers inside the uncle's simple hut on the hills above Ushuaia. At 2.30 a.m. in the night we prepared ourselves for a decent disco night. No tourists, just locals and cumbia (electronic Latin-Dance-Beat from Colombia), what a perfect night!
We got some sleep in the morning before heading downtown. While cruising through Ushuaia in the old Ford Falcon with all my stuff in the back we tried to find a hostal for me, as Luis, Andre and Christian had to turn back to work in Rio Grande next day. In the end somehow I was rather happy about my broken rim...
Actually I had planned to hitchhike the 3,000 kilometers to Buenos Aires, but mainly because of the weather I changed my mind and got myself a flight reservation for the end of the week, even though I finally had found a decent rim in one of the few tiny bikeshops in town.
With a couple of guys who were staying in the same hostal as I did we shopped around in the evenings heading for some pubs and discotheques. I walked up to Martial Glacier for getting a panoramic view of Ushuaia and Beagle Channel, but because of heavy snowfall and stormy winds I neither got the stunning view of Beagle Channel nor the glacier ones.
I went for a day trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park further south, an amazing remote and somehow mythical place. Surrounded by unexplored snowcapped mountains, we found ourselves in mysterious dense forest and open meadows with heaps of rabbits running around, giving the feeling of being in a wonderful fairytale.
Two days later I cycled my last American kilometers to Ushuaia's airport and one hour past midnight I found myself so far away from all the rain, the cold and the wind, which in the end I seriously couldn't stand any longer and because of which I fairly had enough of Carretera Austral, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. I made it to Argentina's capital Buenos Aires. With its 30 degrees, blue skies, sunshine and its buzzling metropolitan atmosphere it was exactly what I was looking for.
I was quite happy to end up in a small hostal which appeared to be more like a common living area for long-time guests, mainly from Chile and Argentina. It was a welcoming place and within minutes I got part of it.
With Gustavo from Peru I strolled around Recoleta, San Telmo and La Boca with its famous Boca Juniors Stadium in which Diego Maradona made his first glamorous steps. In the meantime we gave birthday parties in the hostal, went out at night often until after dawn by wandering through the capital's bars and discotheques and we danced the night away at the best clubs. We head out for open air concerts, took tango lessons (which I actually stopped as soon as possible...), we went to the cinema, did some running in the city's huge ecological garden and followed the crowds while shopping in downtown.
With Gustavo I prepared myself for the eighteen hours bus ride to Iguazu in northern Argentina to give the famous Iguazu Falls a visit. The first day we explored the fall's Argentinean side, where we got an incredible glimpse inside the Devil's Gorge. If our globe was a flat disc, it would probably look at its edge the way it looked like here. Unbelievable and mind-boggling amounts of water were impressively crashing down from three sides in this open gap.
Next day we head for Brazil and its part of the falls, before going for a brazil all-you-can-eat buffet. Gustavo had to go back to Peru by travelling to Paraguay and Bolivia and I went back to Buenos Aires.
I still was waiting for my Visa for India, but at the embassy fairly nothing happened. This was one of the two reasons why I didn't head to Uruguay, as my passport was kept by the embassy. One day Astrid and Mewes surprisingly arrived at the hostal and a couple of days later we met up as well with Jeannette and Gerrit with whom I had been cycling together in Bolivia.
I finally got my parcel from Germany with my new tires and as well I got my Visa for India. At the last night before leaving Buenos Aires somehow I couldn't resist to head once again for the city's best club. But for any reason I forgot to start the alarm. Therefore I was tremendously grateful when Astrid and Mewes woke me up after three hours of sleep, otherwise I definitely had missed my flight. I packed my stuff, went to the airport, checked in, and suddenly the almost four weeks I had spent in Buenos Aires and the almost eight months I had spent in South America were over. And yes, I was quite sure about that: I'd be back. Nos vemos America del Sur!
Fifteen hours later I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. In fact I made it one time around the globe, but actually I didn't like the idea to be back in Germany before finishing the trip, even if it was just for a couple of hours. But a shower would have been great. So as they were looking for volunteers to fly one day later to Bangalore in India, because of an overbooked flight, I unselfishly prepared myself to get a small compensation of 600 Euro cash and made myself comfortable in a 250 Euro hotel room inside the Steigenberger Airport Hotel, with full board of course! And a Steigenberger full board was different to nearly everything I had had in the past months!
With IT expert Murti from India, for whom the compensation was equal to a month's salary, I took a couple of beers on Lufthansa's expenses, before we head for Frankfurt downtown. And this now was a seriously strange feeling. Everybody was speaking German, luckily except the both of us. Reading and hearing virtually everything in German after more than one and a half years was a fairly unusual experience and for that reason somehow I was quite happy to be back in the Hotel for dinner buffet later in the evening. Having spent one night in this trip's most expensive hotel room we entered the plane to Bangalore, this time unfortunately not overbooked...