I made it!!! It was only three months ago that I was standing on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and now I’m here south of Ushuaia at the southern tip of the Pan-American highway. North to south, 17,000 kilometers of highway. Three months of mind blowing sights, early mornings, quiet afternoons, and crazy nights. Three months of driving and no real problems. I really, actually did it!!! Wait, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
We traveled from southern Chile and through Patagonia in Argentina. Since we are heading back up through Patagonia (and I’m about two weeks behind in entries), you’ll get my full Patagonia report next. Our first introduction to Tierra del Fuego was a ferry trip across the narrowest part of the Straights of Magellan. The weather was windy, but the water was calm and we crossed without incident. After that, it was a drive down to the town of Rio Gallegos where we spent the night, and then a long and cold push to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Driving under dark clouds, we first hit rain, then wind, then freezing temperatures, and then…SNOW! There is a 1300 foot pass just outside of Ushuaia that you have to cross to get to the city. The dirt road to the top was frozen solid and covered with snow, but we slowly worked our way to the top, donned our snow gear, snapped a photo and drove through the city. Our destination, Tierra del Fuego National Park, just south of the town. We passed the southernmost railway in the world, the southernmost post office in the world, the southernmost golf course in the world. When we passed the southernmost internet cafe, I knew that things were getting a little crazy.
It was a strange feeling arriving at the end of the highway, the end of the trip I had planned so long. To celebrate, I popped open a bottle of 1996 Dom Pérignon, held a toast, and enjoyed the scenery. Walking with a glass of champaigne in one hand, my camera in the other, it dawned on me that at least one part of my voyage was at an end. When I decided to quit my job and hit the road, this was EXACTLY where I had imagined my destination to be. Standing on this wooden walkway, 18 months of new memories floating around my head, snow gently landing on my shoulders and nose. Right here. Ruta 3 (and the Pan-American highway) ends at a little inlet of the Beagle Channel, nestled in a little valley. To the north, the vast majority of human history. To the south, another whole continent. It was perfect. Behind me was 32 years of my own history, all my toils and tribulations, all my successes and failures, everyone I knew. Any yet, in front of me and only 700 miles away, was more to explore. I felt content and satisfied that I had set a goal of driving from the farthest north to the farthest south, planned it and DID it. And as I gazed toward Antarctica, I realized that in no way has my wanderlust been extinguished. If anything, it has been stoked by all the new things I have seen. What was down that little dirt road, or what was behind that corner? I plan on finding out before too long.
Of course, there’s this little problem of money, a place to live and a new carreer. But up until this point, I’ve had the luxury of not having to think about things like that. Now, I have the opportunity to go ANYWHERE and do, really, ANYTHING. Who knows where I’ll end up now?
We camped that night in the park and awoke to a fresh layer of snow covering everything. Reflecting my own attitude, everything was fresh, clean and new – ready to be explored.
To all my family and friends (both old and new), I wanted to thank you for your support on this adventure. Your e-mails, phone calls and comments have kept me going down the road. If I have learned anything, I just wanted to pass on one bit of advice. I’ve talked to many, many people on this trip. When I say that I’m visiting their community, they admit that they don’t know it very well, always thinking that they’ll learn more about it “someday.” My advice, explore! It doesn’t take a globe straddling trip to gain the satisfaction of knowing a place, there are things to see right at home. So, from the end of the world, get out and see something!