My ultimate travel dream of South America comes crashing down to earth with a bang into the gusts of wind so brutal, pushing me this way and that all over the road. Cycling out from Ushuaia airport I’m scared at my inability to control my bicycle and pedal only 3 km before retreating to the Mochilero camping, reserved exclusively for cycle tourers.
I’ve wanted South America all my life. But now I’ve got it I think what a terrible mistake I’ve made.
I want back on that plane.
I’m not a celebrity but please get me out of here!
Ushuaia, with a population of 57,000, is often referred to as ‘The End of the World’ and is said to be the southernmost city on the planet. To reiterate that any idiot can travel the world; it takes me a few days upon arrival to even know I’m on an island and not mainland Argentina. In fact, I had to ask on the plane which country we were flying into.
There are two groups of people who visit Ushuaia. Wealthy tourists for ships to Antartica and skint cyclists at the end of their 31,382 km pedalling adventures from Alaska.
Ushuaia caters for the first group of tourists making this town ridiculously overpriced. Understandably; considering the cheapest trip to Antarctica is $5000 USD but painful all the same. More painful for a Scottish girl.
I purchase my first map of the trip. It sets me back $20 USD and breaks my heart a little as I hand over the equivalent of four days on the road.
Who am I kidding? It almost kills me.
Not having quite managed to connect my brakes in the airport, I venture out to the local bike shop, head bowed in shame and whisper the words:
“I’m cycling the world but can’t work out how to connect my brakes; can you help me?”
I lessen my red face by telling myself it’s not necessity to know such things for cycling the world. After all. I’ve been doing it since 2014.
I want to visit the penguins but the $100 USD price tag means I don’t. I find other ways to put off cycling across America in such a ghastly head wind.
I trek to see my first ever glacier but instead experience only disappointment and snow. I think of the many gold prospectors who came to Ushuaia in the 1880’s. The rumours of large gold fields proved to be false. At least my disappointment is short lived as walking in snow is always fun!
I trek to Laguna Esmerelda with new found friends. Relaxing by the shore side admiring Esmerelda’s beauty, snow flakes begin to fall on our sandwiches. A hasty retreat ensues as we ponder the Ushuaian summer, not knowing how much snow will fall.
Day three and I’m still whimping it out in the campsite avoiding all reality that to pedal across South America I must first cycle into that head wind. With gusts of over 120 km it’s not an attractive prospect.
I decide instead to test the water by cycling 20 km to the nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park where I intend to enjoy local wildlife and trail walking.
As always, thanks for being a part of the journey. WBG. xxx