Part 10 - Can Harleys swim? (Rio Grande - Ushuaia)
The next day we shake, judder and jump over a collection of potholes called Ruta 3 into an enchanted forest. Wind bent trees, branches in all shades of green, overgrown by moss and silvery lichen, sunrays inching through low hanging clouds and wisps of mysterious fog. Why didn’t they make “Lord of the Rings” here? The next village’s name: Tolkin.
Before we reach Ushuaia, the main town in the Land of Fire and the southernmost town in the world, we take a detour over the alpine-like Paso Garibaldi, and suddenly, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, snuggled beside the awesome Beagle Channel, there it is. Ushuaia. Journey’s end. We made it. We actually got there. Strangely we’re not euphoric.
After five weeks and 5500 merciless kilometers, the trip is over too soon.
Later on we move to the Rugby Club camp ground, where supposedly all the bikers meet. Not today, the 4 Patagonian Riders are all by themselves, taking their pick from the nicest spots. They find an excellent pitch right by the river Pipo. The sausages from the BBQ get washed down with some chilled beer, and the river is gurgling in our sleep.There’s a couple of days left, and we still have ideas: we could take the bikes by boat to the Isla Navarino, still further South, or we could take a plane to the Antarctic. As there are no flights available, we check out the port. Tommy finds a skipper willing to take us over. The only problem is customs, as the island belongs to Chile, and we are in Argentina. This could be arranged with the Chilean consulate, but not on the week end. To kill time we do yet another asado and take a ride to the Lapataia National Park. The sky is a screaming blue and the sun bounces cheerily off rivers and lakes. On the distant Cordillera snowfields are glaring and we have the warmest day in Ushuaia since 92 years with 28°C.
It’s getting time to think about the transport home of the bikes. Again, the paperwork isn’t quite right. Using the phone helps though.
The meeting with the consul is short. The Isla Navarino? No problem at all, just go there and tell immigration that you’ve arrived. The possibility of reaching Puerto Toro is however cast into doubt; the road there is “not much more than a trail”. Well, we decide to have a look first and worry later. Before we can do that however, there’s the crossing. For $2.000 skipper Mono offers to get us and the bikes on his sailing yacht “Mago del Sur” to the other side. That’s a hefty price, but we don’t know when we’ll be around next time, so we accept. We’re told to be at the marina at 18:00. The marina is an L-shaped pontoon with loose planks. Mono’s boat is moored on the outside of two other boats and needs to be relocated. So off we go to have some pizza. When we’re back, Mono is gone, and the boat is still inaccessible. A few hours later Mono is back – he’d gotten hungry too. At last he moves the boat to the end of the pontoon and bridges the 1 meter wide gap with two planks tied together for a combined width of 20cm. By some miracle the four Harleys get on board without taking a dive. We tie the bikes down tight – out in the Beagle channel it can get rough, they say. A few minutes after midnight the “Mago” slips her moorings and steams out of the harbour – with official permission. We pass a huge cruise liner, the “Bremen”. Out in the channel the wind freshens sharply, and Paul’s pizza decides it’s had enough of Paul’s hospitality. The bikers take on variable shades of green and retire belowdecks. With great relief they see the harbour lights getting closer, after only 3 hours instead of the calculated 5. Slowly the “Mago” potters past another whopping great cruise ship, this one also named “Bremen”. It turns out that Mono had wisely decided to forego the maritime experience of scuttling four Harleys in the middle of the Beagle channel and returned to port. The 4 Patagonian Sailors celebrate their born again machines with yet another Barbecue.The next day leaves us just enough time to round up a couple of souvenirs and before we can say “Hasta luego Argentina y Chile, muchas gracias por una aventura inolvidable!” we’re already sitting in the plane home, having yet another Barbecue. Well, not.