Not long ago we were worried that we were going to be rushed getting down to Ushuaia with enough time to take in the sights before Mike's parents arrived at the end of February. Apparently we picked up our pace because we found ourselves in Punta Arenas a couple of weeks ahead of schedule with only 300 miles of riding remaining. Our last few weeks have been extremely lackadaisical, sleeping in late, quitting early in the day, napping, taking frequent rest days and trying to stretch out these last miles so we don't end up waiting for a week or more in one place. After being in constant motion for so long, never stopping for more than a day or 2 in one place, being stationary for any longer than that makes us bored and antsy. We are now wishing we had taken more rest days to explore some of the areas further north and relaxed and slowed down considerably along the Carretera Austral when we were feeling frustrated, but we had no way of knowing how timing would pan out and in the end it's much better to be ahead of schedule than behind and feeling rushed.
We spent the better part of last week in Punta Arenas at a hostel near the center of the city which also offered cheap camping in their front yard. It was youthful and lively with travelers from all over the world sharing adventure stories as well as the owners and all of their buddies partying until the wee hours of the morning. Although it was crowded not only with hostel guests sharing a tiny kitchen and 2 bathrooms but also all of us who were crammed on the lawn, no one seemed bothered by the constant commotion and we found it to be an entertaining place to spend a few days. The town itself was decent sized, located on the Strait of Magellan but there weren't many touristy things to do other than check out the trinkety little shops and visit their cemetery. Indeed it sounds like a strange thing to do, but it was quite interesting and significantly unlike any cemetery we had ever seen. The graves were all above ground, grouped together by families or lifetime professions, such as law enforcement or military, within buildings that were much more elaborate, fancy, decorated and better constructed than almost any house, store or restaurant we've been in in South America. The stark contrast between the cemetery and the world surrounding it were simply fascinating.
Camping at Hostel Independencia.
Punta Arenas cemetery.
We took a break from the city for a couple of days and did a short out-and-back 100-mile trip to the southernmost motorable point on the mainland continent of South America. It was a spectacular ride along rolling coastal hills, past the old fort of Fuerte Bulnes where Chile organized and executed a fleet to claim the entire Strait of Magellan as their territory, through some tired little fishing villages on the edge of the world to the end of the road. The road went from wonderful pavement and progressively worsened as we went along, turning to a dirt path spotted with mud puddles of increasing frequency and size to 2 sandy, often unrideable, tracks that eventually dead-ended on a beach. At that point, the only way we could have gone further south on the mainland would be to hike. It was cool to stand there, think about where we were on the globe and really realize for the first time just how far we have ridden our bikes.
An old ship in the Strait of Magellan.
Cari at the gates of Fuerte Bulnes.
The end of the road.