The End? Not even close.

If I could have looked into the future and seen myself rocking up to the end of South America freezing in the land of fire, just me and my bike in the rain, chances are I would have just stayed up in the mountains where my true passions lie.

So how such an unremarkable moment, not at all what I envisioned, felt so right is to tap into the vein of life on a bicycle; to surrender needs of convenience and routine for the rewards of giving yourself to the elements, hostile and divine as they can be. The best way I know to appease nagging curiosity is to pedal towards the pulse of it. To be given the chance to explore a beckoning dirt track, a desolate beach or camp next to regal emperor penguins are wonders that make the spirit soar. That is the only way I can explain my travels by bike…a means to stop losing time and to get lost in following my calling. I found more than I ever anticipated.

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Riding in the strange Tierra Del Fuego with it’s contrast of harsh conditions and beacons of warmth with nothing but my own thoughts felt consumingly good to me. I was right were I should be after 2 years on a bike: in the present.

Sitting in a kitchen buzzing with rough around the edges gauchos “Es tu casa” they would say with such conviction. I wondered how on Earth would I ever find myself here if I wasn’t on a bike? I have pondered this in jungles, Mayan villages and while looking death in the face only to feel reborn on top of a mountain peak. I’m not sure photos or words convey this freedom or kindred spirits of people who despite cultural, language,and religious differences were like family without question or conditions.

Did I achieve what I set out to? I asked myself near the end. As much as I had experienced I reeled at the thought of how much I aspire to do. Before this would I ever have had the guts before to write a book? Afterall, I was no “writer”…although I wasn’t a “cyclist” either.  By this seemingly insignificant steel structure with wheels I learned to let myself feel at home in wilderness, uncertainty and the thrill that I have so much to learn and possibly teach?

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These emperor penguins from Antarctica showed up at this estancia a few years ago. Numbers began to dwindle as more people came to get up in their penguin business. They are 110–130 cm (43–51 in) tall and weigh 22 to 45 kg (50 to 100 lb). They are mesmerising, and became my world for an entire afternoon as I watched their every move as they preened, basked, crooned, played and brawled. It stung to pay to see wild animals but they are being protected and I was the only person there and was able to camp here.

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The baby ¨pollo¨.  Lifespan is 15-20 years. Males incubate the egg for 2 months, eating nothing while Mom splits to pig out, returning to regurgitate for the chick.

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I was pretty pumped to tell these folks I had rode from my hometown of San Clemente just to see Estancia San Clemente. This didn´t warrant a discount from the $25 entrance fee however
I was pretty pumped to tell these folks I had rode from my hometown of San Clemente just to see Estancia San Clemente. This didn´t warrant a discount from the $25 entrance fee however

Just as in “normal” life taking the easy way usually leads to burn out. I yearned to break free of  Patagonia’s classic routes as a key ingredient to my happiness is the road less traveled. I have so much gratitude to other cyclists like Harriet & Neil Pike,Cass Gilbert,Nathan Haley, & Anna Kortschak who invest tremendous effort to explore, document and share the routes that kept me pumped, juiced, and fired up to continue to evolve my riding. A huge highlight was Skyler Des Roches titilating beach route leaving Puerto Natales to Punta Artenas via Morro Chico, Villa Tehuelches, Rio Verde, Seno Skyring and Seno Otway.

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Nathan sand snakin Seno Skyway

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Celine Hella Breezy
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light as a feather!

la foto 5

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Just after an armadillo blazed in my path
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and wants little to do with the likes of us
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Rio Verde

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minor setback en route to Punta Arenas
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Arriving in Punta Arenas we find outselves lifting over several gates and then in the middle of a mine as we whizz by confused workers.
A little over 2 hours by ferry from Punta Arenas through the Estrecho de Magallanes and 5k from Porvenir
A little over 2 hours by ferry from Punta Arenas through the Estrecho de Magallanes and 5k from Porvenir

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The beginning of Tierra Del Fuego.

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Sheep shearing. Too hard to watch them man handle these adorable dum dums

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Cows have a knack to be grazing peacefully and when they spot a bike, go ballistic and run directly in your path
Cows have a knack to be grazing peacefully and when they spot a bike, go ballistic and run directly in your path

With so many interesting shelters and accommodations, home is everywhere.

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Estsncia camping, Tierra Del Fuego
gimme shelter
The kids who lived at this estancia knocked on my gnome shed that night to play their accordians for me.
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Canadian Charlotte met Gab on holiday in Ecuador, they hit the road in a whirlwind of hitchhiking romance. I was preparing to bed down in this shelter when they peeped through the window and scared the hell out of me. We shared an arctic night made glowy by a bit of absinthe and a full moon. In the morning they were thumbing it hoping to arrive in Ushuaia that day. Reminds me what a contrast the journey by bike is.

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cozy camp digs

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When faced with dismal weather on Tierra Del Fuego, I still wanted to experience the side routes through the estancias, no matter how muddy and wet. I channeled back to the momentary indecisiveness en route to El Calafate when Nathan and I ditched Ruta 40 for Ruta Provincial 21 and found a Peru reminiscent gem void of traffic. I had vowed to myself to always follow my instincts, and the dirt roads. I got what I asked for…rain and muck included but free as a bird!

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Estancia kitchens..invites are plenty and a godsend. All of the workers live and work together for months and they genuinely seem to enjoy each others company with little hierarchy. At some point in the evening usually a plastic Cola bottle is cut to make a pass around whiskey and soda mug.
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Rio Grande. Looked for ages to find a camp spot, got out of the gritty town..sigh of relief.
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Camped in this estancia garage, feeling much like this old gal looks.
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Panaderia La Union. The owner lets cyclists sleep in back of the bakery. So much history and good vibes in this place.
Full moon camping in the door way of a kitchen outside a hospital
Full moon camping in the door way of a kitchen outside a hospital

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Lunch times of hilarity and hijinx are over.
Vans with shiny globe stickers beginning their pilgrimages north would honk and wave wildly. Sharing the same road, with very different perspectives.
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I was not long for Ruta 3. With semi trucks nearly blowing me off the road and stars painted on the highway of fallen cyclists I turned off on the nearest dirt road, trading this…
...for this
…for this
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in about 15 years the Selk’nam nomads with a population of about 3,000 saw their numbers reduced from 3,000 to 500 during a genocide from cattle breeders, farmers and gold-prospectors The last full-blooded Selk’nam, Ángela Loij, died in 1974.
welcoming committee
who you lookin at?
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The ancient moss ¨Old Man´s Beard¨ sets the scene for a stormy fairy tale ride complete with mud, numb hands and a snapped gear cable.
So they keep telling me. With over 40 border crossings into Argentina, the Southern border I  really wanted was already closed for the season: The humorless Carabineros (Chilean cops) take no bribes (not that I would!) this really put a damper on my route plans. I encountered no wind in all of Tierra Del Fuego but didn´t fancy having to turn back so I slogged through San Sebastian.
´Summer Road Only´So they keep telling me. With over 40 border crossings into Argentina, the southern border I really wanted was already closed for the season. The humorless Carabineros (Chilean cops) take no bribes (not that I would!) this really put a damper on my route plans. I encountered no wind in all of Tierra Del Fuego but didn´t fancy having to turn back so I slogged through San Sebastian.
Argie
Mar Argentino. My last border crossing.

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Lago Fagnano..
Lago Fagnano…dreamy dreary. My last day… Tolhuin to Ushuaua not epic by any means but I was pretty high on life.
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Ushuaia. I spend a day here. Lovely enough but I have more riding to do in Peru!
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Punta Arenas. Chile loves their skate parks.
During the first half of the 20th century, the city centered around a prison whos population became forced colonists and built the town with timber from the surrounding forest
During the first half of the 20th century, Ushuaia centered around a prison whos population became forced colonists and built the town with timber from the surrounding forest
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Murals outside the hospital in Ushuaia.
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Ushuaia with some of her charms.

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I started this ride an overloaded turtle in the desert of Baja Mexico, so exposed with Cherry who I’d only just met, the arduous sun and cactus. I began to trust and believe in strangers, really because they did the same for me. I chose a life of taking chances to know others outside my world over an insular one free of risk. The more simple life became, the more clear my surroundings were and I felt a synchronicity with the places where I didn’t traditionally belong. This acceptance by people, even if they thought what I was doing was crazy, was what made undertaking such a difficult endeavor fill with ease.

More than counting countries, distance and days, my trip was defined by the history and lives of the households and places where I arrived at my worst..filthy and exhausted but there always seemed to be a place for me at the table, on the floor, and in the hearts of strangers. So many times someone gave up their bed for me and shared everything they had. So what I set out to do all along is share my experiences,  in the hope that we all open our doors more.

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One thought on “The End? Not even close.

  1. Wonderful blog, enjoyed it so much, your writings are so interesting and consuming!!!!!! I alerted Dan and Crystals dad to be sure and read it!!!!!!!! Are you still in La Paz, hope all is well and your getting prepared. Love you mucho, Grandpa, Grandma

    The Scofield’s

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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