This was it, this was the crowning moment of accomplishment I’d been chasing for nearly 2.5-years from North, through South America. I’d turned a 20,000km drive into a 60,000km odyssey and along the way, created more momentous stories than campfire time I will ever have to tell them.
While crisscrossing the Andean mountains of Argentina and Chile, I was continually in negotiations with customs officials as to where to place the passport stamp. 32-total negotiations had been undertaken in an effort to preserve my disappearing passport pages. Taking in as much of Patagonia as possible had its challenges.
The wind would blow in the snow, then sun, then rain, and often just blow with no particular destination. It had been about 7-weeks of sleepless nights shivering in my tent. I’d been using the gasoline cooking stove to pump heat in the tent, that meant it was also pumping in Co2. Venting in the cold, fresh air on one side and questionable heat on the other. I’d shut it off before fully nodding off, often waking up under my biker gear and rain pants, fully clothed, only to light the stove again to stop from shivering. At least I was falling asleep fast…
The death of those, hopefully, replaceable brain cells was worth it though. The Patagonia region of the world is like no other place I’ve seen. A land caught in a prehistoric past of 3000-year-old trees and clear emerald waters whose depths were only identifiable when the top would ripple. It still felt slightly untouched as the regions infamous winds and brash winters would only allow adventures a brief-seasonal glimpse.
Starting in Canada those two and a half years earlier I can honestly say I was shit scared about a number of things. Being alone - I would usually surround myself with people, parties, and activities, and had never really spent much time alone. Could I do a solo motorbike trip?
The language - I only knew enough Spanish to count to ten & thank someone for a beer. This would quickly become the primary language of my excursion.
Safety – Were all the stories I’d heard true? I wasn’t convinced about the stability of the countries I’d be crossing. Would I survive?
And that motorcycle, man that poor motorcycle would need to deal with an inexperienced rider heading off to roads that would require a cliff-face learning curve. To magnify the experience, my mechanical skills could be outsmarted by a round hole with a square block, like those you might see 2-year-olds trying to un-riddle in a pen in their parents living room. We had a lot to learn.
Despite what had felt like a task too big to bite off with even the prehistoric teeth of my surroundings. On March 14th, at 3:33pm I arrived at the entrance of Ushuaia Argentina, the most southerly city on the planet. Well, I arrived there after I drove through the entrance expecting a more welcoming point of entry. Then drove I around the city only to realize I’d actually overlooked the entrance. Then drove back. Much like a thousand destinations before it, even at the finish line, I would get lost.
I’d brought a bottle of wine for the celebration, cracked the bottle, then promptly dropped the corkscrew through some wooden planks where it will forever remain. Then requested the assistance of some scruffy hitchhikers to take my photo. Dressed in several layers of anti-wind and rain clothing that were restricting my movement to a penguins waddle. I would savor the moment straight from the bottle of the first Malbec I’d ever purchased in my life. It seems some of my tastes had changed along the way too.
As the 5-minutes of monumental glory slipped through the hourglass, and my forced photo shoot was over, I felt empty. I mean nothing. Not a tear, not a laugh, not relief, not anything. I felt like a decorated Easter egg, who’d had his yolky soul sucked out and the exterior painted to look the festive part.
I wasn’t depressed or anything, I just wasn’t feeling the sense of accomplishment one might expect after what was positioned to be a crowning achievement in one’s present life. Now what, now what the fuck do I do, go back to who I was?
I’d read this feeling, of no feeling, had been experienced by others who’d survived this multi-Americas journey before me. Really, once you’ve negotiated with enough police officers, survived crashing into a mountain, survived being hit by a dump truck, shit your pants now and again, been bitten by stray Colombian dogs, had gunshots ring off outside your tent, cried your way out of the Amazon, and lost countless sleep over a girl. Really, who gives a fuck about arriving in a polished tourist town that sells postcards and offers English menus.
I needed a final sense of achievement, I needed to make it feel like I'd actually "made it."
I’d met some friends in town later that week. We’d went for King Crab dinner and drinks by the ocean and shared some laughs. I enjoyed sleeping in a Co2-free garage turned AirBnB with heat for a few nights, but it wasn’t enough. So I promptly left town on a cold, drizzly day and ventured a further 130kms or so southeast of the city down a gravel road. The wind blew, the weather was wet and unbearable. The roads were washed out at several points. On any scale of sales pitches, this one-way road that would end at the gates of an Argentinian naval base would not interest any touristy onlooker, for any reason. Well, unless that onlooker were looking for a sense of achievement to say he’d in fact driven as far as he could to the end of the world. For me, it was smiles the whole time!
With no one around, nothing in sight but a wind-battered flag of Argentina, and the blinking communications towers of the naval base. Myself, Stanley the monkey on the handlebars, and KLaiR my trusty motorbike were celebrating a successful journey to the end of the world. Well, maybe not KLaiR, that bitch has put up with a lot!
To savor the day, that night I’d found an abandoned cabin in the woods, set up my tent, froze my ass off just like old times, and never felt so good! It had taken me 2.5-years alone in a helmet talking to a plastic monkey and a metal bike to figure it out. Sometimes you need to re-adjust the goal to make the achievement mean something.
October 29th, 2016 – March 14th, 2019, 61,264kms. Alberta Canada to Tierra del Fuego Argentina.