MPW | BLOG
I am currently nursing a head cold in a tourist town. Colonia, Uruguay is like a resort destination for citizens of Buenos Aires.
Pretty, a little pricy and a simple choice for weekenders. My mild fever and general lethargy has me with lots of time to think.
I am finding this last month hard. So much identity was wrapped up in riding into towns and villages on a motorcycle. It was a calling card of individuality and helped lubricate the encounters as a traveler, not a tourist.
Plus what ever glory I felt in achieving my goals is fading and the journey is ending in a whimper. Not to mention I’m disorientated by the ease of life on foot and busses. I miss the ab workout of strong head winds and slippery rain as riding does take some physical energy.
I know that it is my attitude that is at fault and I’m trying to reconcile this but for now I just want to kvetch.
How fickle is the human spirit to have moved my body across a substantial part of the globe yet feel disappointed that I only scratched the surface. My style of travel was very cautious and for that I feel sad that I missed so much. I dream of taking my acquired knowledge and confidence and do it all again. I suppose one could say that about most lives lived.
I can’t decide if my desire to continue deeper into world travel on motorcycle (Africa is next year… or so) is a healthy awakening of my spirit, or just further alienation from the world of the familiar.
How the moods do swing when traveling solo…
When I work in the recording studio I can easily grind away for 12 hours. Much gets done in that amount of time. Yet 27 years of that perception has distorted my notion of the length of a day. To be still (motionless) in travel mode (and not ill) seems to make a day much shorter. There are so few days in a given life. My Toronto, big city, carrerist instincts… struggle against the gentle passing of time. Let alone without a motorbike to put that, need to make life difficult, feeling to work.
Hmmm. Oh restless spirit… Who leads who?
Colonia, Uruguay sunset.
I uploaded then deleted another rant about leaving the bike in Punta Arenas.
Best I start shutting up about that stuff.
I will say that I was that smelly guy on the bus that we all can’t stand. My apologies to the fellow passengers… Cest la vie.
Otherwise the trip was pleasant enough for a continuous 36 hour experience. Three meals a day, a front window and lots of dignity. Route 3 is long and flat and boring. Two sunrises.
One nice moment was when the conductor asked for passports the young man beside me noticed it said Canada. We did not exchange any words but when our first meal of steak arrived with plastic cutlery he offered me his asados meat cutting knife. A formidable 5 inch blade he must keep on him with a holster. Then in the middle of the night he was dropped off at some lonely crossroad by himself, pitch black, still well south in Argentina. As he was leaving he startled me with a warm and heartfelt double handed handshake. I guess traveling from so far away sparked his imaginations and he wanted to silently thank me for making the effort to visit his country. It was very sweet.
Found a nice hostel and am getting ready to sort out visiting some of Uruguay on foot.
The simple truth is that I have learned so much about world travel only in the last few weeks of my journey. Yes, I did very well on my own for many months and I am proud of that… yet the leaning curve has been logarithmic.
As the continent tapers to a wedge more and more riders who make this same pilgramicdge to Ushuaia start to converge and there is naturally more contact with other motorcyclists.
Amazing choices of other riders reveal to me a wealth of ‘what can be’. The principal lessons have to do with saving money and how much more ‘off road’ the joys of overland travel can take you.
The final push to Ushuaia began with the ferry ride to Porvenir. It was on that boat that I met both a pod of dolphins and Martin Bruker, a German born serious world traveler. A very interesting man, 3 years deep into his journey he has already traveled on his BMW X-Challenge 650 extensively in Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. Now beginning his northbound journey from Fin del Mundo the the north Mexican border with the U.S. Missing a finger and blind in one eye he has taken himself to the most remote areas of the world. More so with his one good eye takes exceptional photographs. Images of his motorcycle being handled into the smallest canoes in the the deepest mud of Cambodia to be dropped off in even more remote regions to push so deep into the wild that it boggles my mind. Animals and landscapes… so beautiful. Calm and confident. A very driven spirit for sure.
We three riders made the km’s into the national park to place our bikes by the famous sign signifying the end of the road. Our timing was excellent because by the time we finished the photo’s three busses of tourist arrived to crowd around the same sign. What we did not realize was that in the eyes of these people we riders were worthy land marks to take photo’s of. I must have posed in front of my bike with over 20 people, arm in arm, all wanting to be captured with these motorcyclist.
It was funny but did help deepen the sense of accomplishment.
I remained in Ushuaia for 2 days after which the return to Puenta Arenas began. It was a beautiful ride through the epic landscapes of the southern Andes and open pampas. Dodging rainstorms the offroad portion to the northern ferry was fantastic. My riding skills continue to improve and I found that I was able to relax and enjoy the broader picture. Weaving through the winding gravel roads surrounded by llamas and cattle. The low setting sun casting yellow and orange highlights to the land. At one point a tractor trailer had slid off the road and was waiting for another truck to offload it’s content. Carlos and I chatted with the two men in the calm evening. Winds were minimal and the whole thing was peaceful. Finally a paved road appeared and I blasted forward on my own for a while. I knew that this was the last motorcycle portion of my journey and I wanted to revel in it.
The shape of the storm clouds off int he distance, all back lit by the setting sun was so gorgeous that I found myself weeping. Such simple gifts, delivered to me in my complex life, it’s arch felt deeply within me, I was moved to tears.
Finally the ferry docks appeared and we waited to board… but there was a problem.
The Argentine/Chile boarder did have a gas station but the attendant smiled and waved his hands slowly to inform us that there was no gas to sell. This was of course a problem. With what fuel was left in both our motorcycles plus what was carried in the plastic gas bottles, there was still not enough to get us to Punta Arenas. We needed to find more benzine…
Well, by the time Carlos’ bike sputtered to a stop it was pitch black night with temperature of 3 C. Not to bad for me but his Columbian/Panamanian blood was getting hypothermic. For all his strengths, deep cold was a new challenge for his constitution. I had added my extra fuel while waiting for the ferry so I simply helped him add his fuel and we pushed off. The few cars and trucks that passed us did not stop to help and it was clear that if we ran out of fuel we may have to pitch tents by the road and wait till morning for more traffic to hitch a ride into town.
My fuel light came on with 90 km left to reach the city. I knew that the reserve should give me around 60 km before empty. We discussed that we had a chance, though slim, if we ignored the 110 km/h limit and reduced our speeds to between 50-60 km/r in high gear. So, slowly we spent the next hour and half limping home on fumes.
In the end I managed over 90 km’s and rolled into the gas station well after midnight.
After a meal the sleep was deep and sound.
Then as far as selling the bike went I’ll simply say that the deal is done and I will write more on the long bus ride to Buenos Aires.