[Jeff] Following a brilliant stretch of road and scenery, at the end of a straight, is the grand entrance to Ushuaia which welcomes visitors through a giant wooden facade and.....straight into a police checkpoint. The standard questions are asked, but the irony of 'Where are you going?' seems lost on them here at the end of the world.
Ushuaia is an expensive place, but we plan to stay at Momo's, it's a hostel where we know we can park our bikes in the back garden. Momo's can't be booked, doesn't have a website and doesn't advertise. It's mainly found through word of mouth from other travellers, especially bikers who are always looking for a secure place for their wheels. Indeed, it's even a challenge to find the place, we have to park in the street and walk up and down using GPS coordinates to narrow the search. Finally we spot a small sign facing away from the street. It's AU$27 each per night, pricey for a bed in a 4 berth room but reasonable for Ushuaia. We have the room to ourselves for the first 2 nights, there is a Canadian biker, Tim with a KLR in another room. On the third day a bunch more bikers show up and we share the room with Fransisco a Spanish rider on a Honda Shadow. There are riders from Australia, Columbia, Mexico and Brazil. 9 bikes now fill the back garden of Momo's.
Tim's a great guy and we agree to make it our mission to do an oil change on the three bikes, so we head out into town in the morning. There are a few bike shops and two YPF petrol stations, but as you will see that's no guarantee of getting oil, let alone the sort of oil that would be ideal for the bikes, in my case that would be a 10W40 Semi-synthetic. First thing we realise is that today is a pubic holiday, so none of the shops are open. We trundle down to the YPF but they don't stock any oil at all. We decide to cut our losses and try again tomorrow. I have another mission I'm determined to complete while here. I've mentioned previously that Sally's bike tends to be unstable when parked on the side stand, I want to find a welder to cut and shorten the stand. I give up on this also for today because of the holiday. There's a steady drizzle for most of the day, so we just do some food shopping and potter around.
The next day is Tuesday, the weather looks good in the morning so we unload the bikes of their panniers and roll bags to head to the iconic end of Ruta 3. It's 23Km from Ushuaia, most of the way is gravel, but it's a really good ride, a proper forest road. The national park costs ARG140 (about AU$14) for entry. The carpark at the end of the road is busy and there is a constant stream of people, but hey, we're on bikes so we just motor right to the end. There it is....right in front of us now! The very sign we have seen in so many photographs, blog and facebook posts. It's surreal to be sitting on our bikes that we brought from Sydney, ourselves now in that very spot.
At the moment there are dozens of people milling around the infamous sign.....how to get a clear moment to wheel the bikes in and take a photo? I decide to get the camera and tripod setup then tackle that problem. As luck would have it the crowds dissipated for long enough and we had plenty of time to get the shots, so here they are.....
We wheel our bikes out of the area (it's actually fenced off, strictly speaking you're not allowed to do this but the park rangers are very understanding), there's a short walk to do so we head off. When we return the bikes have been there long enough to garner attention from the bus loads of tourists. Many of them are from the Queen Mary which docked this morning. A constant stream of people chat to us (Sally attracts particular attention) and ask to take pictures. By the time we leave we grace dozens of random peoples photo collections. A nice couple off the Queen Mary from Atlanta, Carol and Max give us their contact details and ask us to call them if we are passing through.
A few shots of the walk near the sign...
Also, in the Tierra Del Fuego national park is the southern-most post office in the world. We hopped back on the bikes and found our way down to it, if anything it was even more spectacular than the first spot...
In a moment of madness I decide that I need to strip off the boots and stand in the water where 2 oceans meet - need I say brrrrrrrrr.
We headed back and Sally made a great Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner in the hostel kitchen - nice to have a proper home cooked meal for a change.
The next day we returned to the oil change mission. Tim heads out and found that the Suzuki dealer doesn't stock any oil but the Kawasaki dealer does....however by this time it is 10:00am and the shops are closing to reopen at 3:00pm. We wait until 3 and follow Tim up to the Kawasaki dealer. He speaks Spanish quite well and is able to ask is it's ok for us to change our oil at the back of his shop. The owner says it's fine and gives us a bucket. He only has 20W50 mineral oil but it will have to do.
[Sally] I'd like to do a small boat tour, but not one that takes 10 days to get to Antarctica and costs US$5000. We go on a 2.5 hour cruise around Beagle Channel seeing various Cormorants, a colony of Seals and the light house. It's enough to see the scenery from the water which is what I wanted.
We get back about 5pm - and it seems just the right time in Argentina for any mechanics business....
[Jeff] Wandering around town earlier I had found an industrial supply shop, of course being between 12 and 3pm it was closed, but now it would be open again. We go in and ask if they know a welder in town. He's very helpful and draws us a rough map, so we go in search of the location. There's nothing in the vicinity of the location shown on the map that remotely resembles a workshop and we begin to suspect that the map shows where a welder lives, not an actual workshop or mechanic. On the way back, we spot a workshop that repairs cars (a panel beater), so we decide to have a crack and ask if they can help. Turns out we struck gold, they not only spoke English, but also ride bikes and have a welder who could do the job for us. We went for a beer while he got to work and when we got back he'd done a great job for us - cost ARG100 pesos (AU$10). I fitted the stand back to the bike while Sally prepared round two of the Spag Bol for dinner.
A couple of shots from near the port in Ushuaia....
That night I had intentions of making it an early one, to be fresh for the morning. However I got into a long - but appreciated - series of discussions with our fellow travellers, swapping contact details and advice for the road ahead. The other guys had shown up back at the hostel at 11pm with all the ingredients to make pizza from scratch - needless to say it's wasn't ready until 2am, then they were up partying until 5. I managed to hit the sack around 1:00am, so could have been worse.
The following day it was time to bid farewell to the others and Ushuaia and head......well, the only way you can from here - North!