The crossing of the Magellan Straits from mainland Chile to the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago is a major milestone on our Trans Americas expedition as it is only the second ferry crossing of the entire 24,000 mile, 140-day trip… and the other was on our first day in Canada!
The ferry runs back and forth constantly, operating as a vital lifeline for the people of Tierra Del Fuego. There’s a very quick turnaround as the boat doesn’t dock or get tied up, the captain just aims it at the sloping concrete shore and drops the loading ramp down! He keeps it held there with the engines churning up a maelstrom of white water behind the boat while making constant adjustments with the side thrusters to counteract the notorious strong currents of the Magellan Straits.
We then ride up the wet steel ramp, which is constantly moving against the dock, line the bikes up, a collection of BMW GS adventure bikes which have coped admirably with the tens of thousands of miles we’ve covered, and leave them on their stands in first gear. The turnaround on the ferry is so rapid that they don’t bother to tie the bikes down in any way!
We disembark and remain on Chilean soil for our first evening. The main island in the chain is divided between Chile and Argentina, meaning the following day sees yet another border crossing as we cross to the Argentinean side. A few of the group take the opportunity to visit the Tierra Del Fuego Falklands Conflict Memorial on the sea front in Rio Grande. Sadly, it looks tired and unkempt.
We are stopping off just 65 miles from Ushuaia – our destination and the southernmost city in the world – for the night so we can ride in as a group on this remarkable day. We rest up at the head of Lake Fagano. The mood is mixed. People are reviewing old photos, playing cards and talking with friends, but everyone is a little subdued. Tomorrow marks a huge achievement for everyone here, but it also marks the beginning of the end of this epic ride.
The Trans Americas trip has been our reality for five incredible months; 20 weeks of riding our motorcycles in ever-changing environments through fourteen different nations. We’ve ridden through volcanic ash, treacherous snow and fiery deserts to be here. However, other realities are starting to beckon. Some are sorely missed; with reunions with wives, partners and children very much anticipated. Some other realities are perhaps less looked forward to, as jobs and business equally demand attention…
The next morning the skies are overcast, but it is dry and relatively warm. We ride out at 9am and make our way gently over the mountainous Paso Garibaldi towards the most southerly city in the entire world, some 9,000 miles as the crow flies from GlobeBusters HQ in Wales – and 24,000 road miles behind us.
Just as we’re contemplating the vast size of our planet, fate deals us a reminder that it’s sometimes a small world as we pass an Iveco overland truck with British numberplates and a Welsh flag in the window!
At Ushuaia we stop at the iconic road sign for photos and then push on into the National Park and the literal end of the world’s road. “Here ends Ruta 3” proclaims the sign and, just 20 metres further on, is the ocean. But… which one? Pacific or Atlantic? Are we by the Antarctic Ocean? Or is this part the Southern Ocean?
The good-natured debate winds on and on and we all hug, congratulate each other and let the champagne corks fly. We have 17 riders here, 11 of whom have ridden all the way from the Dalton Highway in Alaska to the end of Ruta 3 in Ushuaia, but all of whom have completed an epic journey whether they started in Alaska, Tucson or Bogota.
There will be a very well-deserved celebration this evening and there will be hangovers tomorrow. The next day we start a final week’s riding, with 2,000 miles to go to Buenos Aires and our ultimate end point for this ride. We have reached the end of the world but the road ahead isn’t quite finished yet.
In February 2012, BMW Tours will be running their first ever visit to the region: Ride to the End of the World. For more information on this fly-and-ride trip from Osorno in Chile to Ushuaia, visit www.worldofbmw.com/tours