After a grueling 6 hours of non-stop riding I could finally see the outskirts of town and right as I was thanking all the gods that my tire had held, I was startled by the gunshot bang common of a sidewall giving out to the compression of the inner tube. To my surprise it was my rear tire which had failed while the good ole egg from Mexico was holding strong. Nevertheless it meant I was push/carrying my bike for the last 5 miles into Rio Grande.
When I finally arrived downtown I found an internet cafe and opened an email from Seth informing me of his location and that he would be hitchhiking back to search for me if he did not hear from me in the next 15 minutes. I responded to him with 2 minutes to spare and once again hoofed it across town to the Club Nautico, an athletic club that allows travelers to lay their sleeping bags in the gym for a small fee. After allowing my hands to thaw out Justin came to the rescue with half a warm pizza and a hilarious story about how he had almost frozen to death because the guy he had hitched a ride from would not close the air vents in the front seat. He continued that when he had arrived he was so cold that he had dragged a mattress from the upstairs gym down into the steamy locker room where he planned to take a nap amongst the other showering patrons. He could not understand why the woman who lived in and managed the place almost exploded with rage when she found him sleeping on one of her mattresses in the shower room.
We spent the next few days waiting out the weather as we were in no rush to finish and did not want a repeat of the previous stretch. To our delight the club had a beautiful ping pong table in the boat shed so we took the time to polish up on our beer pong skills in preparation of our return to the US. As we were only 3 we had to recruit and English gentleman, Tim, who was eager to learn the American drinking game. It was not long before everyone in the gym, including the managers and owners, where crowding around the table, cheering us on and taking pictures of the heated matches. We had to shut it down after two epic battles as it was evident that nobody on the entire block would get any sleep as long as we continued to play.
With the weather much improved but still raining we set off for the final 200km of our international expedition. That day we knocked off 100 of those kms and arrived at the world famous bakery in Tolhuin. The owner, Emilio, an avid cyclist himself, has constructed a room in the back of the large multi-building structure for cyclists to sleep for free and escape the harsh elements of Tierra Del Fuego. Even better than the room were the empanadas and pastries and we can't thank Emilio enough for his generous hospitality.
Resisting the temptation and offer of a big BBQ the following night we said adios to Emilio and headed towards Laguna Bombilla. The only thing stronger than our appetite for a traditional Argentine parilla is our appetite to fish new water. In addition, it is also the only thing that would motivate us to take a 40km out and back detour down a dirt road in the rain when only 50km from Ushuaia and the end of the trip.
While the road was steep and a bit longer than we expected and the weather less than excellent, we were glad we made the trip to add yet another spot to our long list of beautiful fishing destinations.
The best part of this detour was reuniting with our good friend and fellow Panamerican traveler, Dan Grec. The last time we saw Dan was in Ecuador when he hosted us at the hostel he was managing in Parque Cotopaxi. Before Ecuador we had camped with him a night on highway 1 in Baja California, Mexico. After reminiscing on old times and realizing we were going to finish our respective trips, Danny by Jeep and us by bike, on the same day we also realized that we begun our trips at the same time. Not the same month or week, but the exact same day and Danny had passed us at the top of the Dalton Highway in Alaska. Now more than a year and a half later we meet again and arrive in Ushuaia no more than a few hours apart. Danny also came bearing the gift of yet another precious anecdote about Mr. Justin Dodd:
When Seth and I had left the bakery early that morning Justin was crawling back into his sleeping bag informing us that he would meet us at the Laguna later. Coincidentally Danny had rolled into the bakery as Justin was eating breakfast and Danny recognized him from our blog. Justin told Danny that he would be meeting us at a beautiful lagoon where we would be fishing and camping that night. Danny decided he would join us and Justin jumped at the opportunity to unload all of his bags in Danny's Jeep. Justin proceeded to give him directions to a completely different lake over 20kms away from where we would be. While somehow Danny eventually found us, Justin never did and we wondered how he would fare in the pouring rain of Tierra Del Fuego with no tent, sleeping bag, or extra clothes. Of course he would survive, and of course there would be another great story.
The next morning after determining that we would meet Danny at a campground in town, he took off and we began our final day of riding. Surly the last day would hold one final challenge which we soon found in the form of a 400 meter pass, but after the past few days of hellacious, this was but a hick-up in our short stroll to victory. The weather had turned for the better and our final day of riding was filled with spectacular scenery and sunny skies.
Just a few kms short of town we found Justin walking his bike along the side of the road still without any of his bags. We approached him eager to hear the sure to be entertaining story. We were not let down.
After leaving the bakery it did not take long before Justin realized he had forgotten the directions we had given him to Laguna Bombilla. It was also not long before it started getting very cold and started raining very hard. He knew that without a tent or extra clothes he would not survive a Fuegian night alone. He conceded to hitching a ride into Ushuaia so as not to freeze to death and he soon found himself sitting shotgun next to a man who had seemed a little too excited to pick him up. After a little small talk in espanol, the man knew he had to make his move before they reached the city limits so he placed his hand on Justin's inner thigh, looked directly into Justin's big beautiful eyes and said, “Nos vamos amigo, nos vamos.” This best translates into, “Let's do this big boy, let's do this.” While most people would have jumped out of the truck and taken their chances with the cold night over roadside rape, Justin simply laughed it off, removed the man's hand from his thigh, and milked the ride all the way to the hostel of his choosing. The next morning he had ridden back out of town to meet us on our way in and join us for the last few kms into Ushuaia. We were very glad to have his company and were happy he had survived the previous night unharmed. Although I did find it a little weird that he was walking his bike instead of riding it and he mounted that saddle very gingerly as we departed.
After taking some mandatory photos at the “Ushuaia, End of the World” sign, we stormed into the campground to find Danny, Kevin, and Max (a French Canadian who also finished his trip from Canada by car that day) waiting for us with a round of cold beers. We all hugged it out, congratulated one another and began what turned out to be a big night of celebrating. In addition to finishing our trip it also happened to be my birthday so we decided we would splurge that evening and dine at one of the famous all-you-can-eat Argentine BBQ restaurants then hit up the Irish pub. In retrospect we probably should have split up the all-you-can-eat BBQ and the Irish pub into two separate nights.
I had intentionally not eaten since the meager bowl of oats that morning so I was ready to eat about 5 times the amount of the 80 peso fee. Since it was my birthday and my pride was at stake, I took the prize with 5 heaping plates of BBQ meats ranging from lamb to blood sausage. I was sure not waste any room with a single vegetable or piece of bread. Seth and Danny were close behind with a respectable 4 plates. After dinner none of us felt like doing anything but rolling our way back to the campground but we knew we must push on and celebrate our accomplishment. We approached the Irish pub with fear in our eyes but determination in our hearts and before we could protest Justin had arrived with a round of Tequila shots. Without getting into too much detail about the events that followed, let me say that it will be a night that some of us will never forget and others will never remember.
After two full days of recovery we all decided to gear up and ride the final 20kms of the road into the national park and touch the Antarctic Ocean.
This trip was amazing and we spent 3 days of spectacular weather camping in the park.
When we got back to town it was not more than a few hours before Justin blessed us with yet another anecdotal gem. This time he had gone into town on his own to get a blown out tire and broken spoke replaced at a local bike shop. On his way back he was stopped by a German tourist who was bubbling with excitement and spoke to him in heavily accented English. The German complimented him on his large manly physique and burly appearance. He said when he spotted Justin he could tell that he was a very hairy man and that he just HAD to photograph him. Justin, needless to say, was taken aback by this odd man and his request but was also strangely placated by the showering of compliments. The man pulled out a professional grade camera and lens and began taking shots of Justin's hairy arms. Within minutes Justin was posing shirtless in the middle of downtown Ushuaia as the man laid below him on the sidewalk snapping shots up at Justin's towering stature. He informed Justin that this was his favorite angle to shoot from and that these photos would appear in his upcoming exhibit. He actually gave Justin his website and just to prove that I am not making this story up please take a look for yourself. Viewer discretion is advised:
http://www.joachim-jacob.de/downloads/Austellung.pdf (Page 4 and 5 are my personal favorites)
The following day we met up with Mickey, owner and head guide of Wind Fly Ushuaia, who allowed us to tag along on a family and friend camping/fishing trip at one of his favorite and not so well known lakes. The trip was phenomenal and exactly what we wanted to finish our journey. The first day of fishing was a bit slow but as soon as dusk arrived, so did the fish.
The bite stayed hot through the following day and we were blessed with a consistent action of rainbow, brook, and brown trout.
The food wasn’t bad either.
We returned to Ushuaia to a beautiful Austral Sunset.
After getting back from fishing we only had 2 days left which we spent packing up and preparing ourselves for a full 3 days of flights and layovers back to the US. Here was the final mileage before breaking down the and boxing them up for the long trip home.
When you have been camping for almost two years straight it is tough to kick the habit of rolling out a sleeping pad wherever to catch a few z's. Like this spot in the Buenos Aires airport during a 24 hour layover.
And that is about all we got for ya. I hope you have all enjoyed following our trip as much as we have enjoyed sharing it. You will never know how much your support has meant to us and we look forward to returning a lot of favors to all of those that have assisted us along the way. A very special thanks to our Mother and Father for too many things to list, to our sponsors, and to the entire fishing community we met along the way that made the dreams of a couple of trout bums come true beyond anything we could have ever imagined.
As for the proposed Pebble Mine, it is still the proposed Pebble Mine and nothing more. They are still completing their environmental impact reports and still have not yet applied for mining permits. There is currently a large legal battle being fought to protect the constitutional rights of the people of Alaska against the possible atrocity of the largest open pit mine in North America being constructed in one of the most sensitive ecosystems in the world. When we started our journey very few people were aware of this issue outside of Alaska but now it seems we receive alerts weekly about Pebble newspaper clips, Pebble magazine articles, Pebble TV programs and even Pebble SPAM emails. We can only hope that we played at least a small role in spreading the word.
With that said this will be our last blog... until of course, the next trip.
The Pebble Pedalers
Seth and Parker Berling