Punta Arenas marks the end of continental South America. Beyond it lies the island of Tierra del Fuego – the Land of Fire – so named for the rising smoke that the settlers spotted upon arrival. By this point all of Patagonia’s greatest hits are behind you. Beyond lies only pampa, bone shaking wind and sadness. Excusing penguin enthusiasts and masochists, to brave this island and continue to Ushuaia is an act of ego (“I cycled to the end of the world”), lack of independent thought (“everyone else goes to Ushuaia…”) or something done simply because it’s there, like eating that final slice of pizza against your better judgement when you’re already stuffed. As an egotistical, penguin loving conformist who always drinks one too many, how could I say no?
Walking a stranger’s dog in a strange town is an unusual experience. You’re paranoid that something terrible will happen to the dog while simultaneously being dragged down the kind of streets a tourist never normally walks. Me and Ren made our way past weekend revelers drinking on the corner, teenagers playing football in the park and someone watching porn on a 50″ TV in their living room. Good times.
At the border control:
“Do you have any fruits or vegetables?”
“Nah just noodles”
“No wonder you look like such a noodle”
For ages I’d had an emergency $20 bill in my passport. I got it out to exchange at the border as I was fresh out of Chilean pesos. While the woman processed my details I put it down on the counter and stared like a zombie at the Shakira video on the TV which, after almost 11 hour on the bike, I found completely mesmerizing. I walked out and cycled down the road before after 30 seconds I realised I’d forgotten my money and went back to retrieve it. Only it wasn’t there any more. After 10 months on the road I’d finally been robbed, and by a border guard too. Bet it was that prick that called me a noodle.
Over those last 50km my entire trip passed through my mind. So many people, so many memories. I’d often wondered how I’d feel when I reached the end of the road. Would it be an overwhelming sense of elation, or would I feel numb, unable to accept that it was coming to end? As it was, when I saw the water peeking out from the end of the road I started welling up. After about 20 seconds of intense sadness, something I really hadn’t expected, I smiled and started laughing. I took a few photos, took a deep breath then found myself utterly indignant at the realization I had to cycle another 5km before I reached the town proper.
Well, not exactly. From here I’m planning to hitchhike up to Buenos Aires and end the trip spooning around Uruguay on my bike and fulfill my goal of reaching Montevideo.
Still some life in this old blog yet.
Tunes: Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights, The Strokes – Room On Fire, Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel of Love, TV on The Radio – Dear Science
Reads: The Old Patagonian Express – Paul Theroux, The Mighty Franks – Michael Frank, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold – John Le Carre, Lonesome Traveler – Jack Kerouac