Andes Trail Stages 108-109 Dec 16-Dec 17, 2019

Stages 108-109 of 109, days 140-141 of 142 – the ride is over!

Photos and routes on Strava

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America10,6932,000107,523
Andes Trail10,3921,991103,782 X

Missed distance: 3.5 stages sick in Peru (19-20 and 31-32) – 282k and 3 stages cancelled/shortened in Chile (100-102) – 120km.

What an exciting time – it seemed we’d be riding this epic tour forever but the end finally had to come. There’s some sadness but with all the things we’ve been through, mental and physical, it feels like a good time to be ending.

It looked funny when I fired up my Garmin for stage 108 with only two choices for courses to ride.

Our second to last stage started at 9am, leaving the hotel in Rio Grande into a pretty stiff headwind. I stuck with the A-team the whole day which may have been a mistake. Pushing so hard just to go a few kph faster sometimes doesn’t seem worth it. I know I felt spent at the end of the day. Say it all together now: soft cock! We rode out to Ruta 3, then followed it all day to Tolhuin. The wind was mostly from the front and side, not as strong as our previous day’s tail wind, but enough to cause us to work hard. The road also has a lot of fast traffic so slanting pace lines aren’t safe but we did it anyway.

After rotating out of the hot seat, you get to rest in this position

Lunch was “about halfway” as Rob always says, then we continued on again. We rode through Tolhuin to the Panadería La Unión, supposedly the most famous bakery in all of Argentina. I don’t know about that, but all seven of us loved sitting down, out of the wind, and eating pastries in the crowded, fun place. A couple of churros and some other pastry set me back 75 pesos, just over $1.

From there, we had an easy dirt ride down the hill to our campground on the shore of a large lake, Lago Fagnano. Camping Hain is a crazy place with the owner cruising around greeting everyone multiple times on his fat bike, and “interesting” artwork all over.

We put our tents up inside teepees or other shelters although there weren’t enough for everyone. Twan and I fit both tents in one shelter. There was a warm kitchen hut where we had delicious soup and snacks, then it had warmed up and I had a snooze in my tent. The hut was FULL of signs made over the years by many travelers.

Last post ride soup

Our last camping dinner was fun, squeezed inside the hut. After eating, Anneke was Santa Claus and gave out presents Dutch-style. Each person got a personalized present, or in my case, many. I received a box full of many yellow items: peanut M&Ms, a yellow streamer, a yellow drink, a yellow dish sponge, a yellow bag of potato chips, and several more items. It was really fun although dinner was quite late and I was so hammered I went to sleep right after and slept like a stone.

Anneke is Santa

In the morning, it was raining, even a little inside our shelter. It was better than sleeping out though. I unzipped my tent and a friendly dog was curled up right at the door looking like he wanted to come in. We packed up in the rain, ate breakfast and got ready to ride. By the time we actually started, the rain had almost stopped. We had a few km of dirt back to Ruta 3, then headed along the lake.

I could still feel my legs from yesterday so rode easy the whole day, chatting with Miranda and Cees. The kilometers passed so easily and quickly it was amazing.

We stopped for coffee/hot chocolate after 40km, then did a 400m climb up into the fog. All this time the scenery was getting more interesting, higher mountains, more beautiful, although we didn’t even stop at the summit mirador as it was fully fogged in.

We came down the other side toward Ushuaia and wow, it was gorgeous. Soon we even saw some blue sky ahead.

Lunch was at 75km, not really halfway, but who’s counting? We regrouped there, sitting in the sun, enjoying our last Bike Dreams lunch.

Sonja arrived (and someone of course said “let’s go” as she pulled up) and after a reasonable time, Rob said, “Let’s go” for real and we all followed him in a group. The plan was to arrive all together which was great. The scenery got better and better.

The pace was slow but before long we were stopped at a set of giant Ushuaia signs – the final regrouping point.

After many photos and hugs, we continued together the last few km into town. I recognized it from nine years ago but there are many new buildings and it looks much more prosperous now.

Arriving in Ushuaia

I was expecting the Finish Ceremony to be at the classic “Fin del Monde” sign downtown but that area is more built up now and the trucks can’t get there. Instead we stopped at a giant new Ushuaia sign at the waterfront. There was a giant finish arch, music playing, champagne and many many snacks. The champagne was served by Kees who had left us in Cusco but came back with his wife for a trip to Antarctica. He looked great and I really wish he had been able to ride the whole way with us. There were so many congratulations and hugs etc, it was awesome.

We did a group photo on the Ushuaia sign, shot by Rob standing atop one of the Bike Dreams trucks.

Then we rode to the famous “Fin del Mundo” sign.

The last ride was a couple of km up to the Hotel Ushuaia above town. I got a nice double for the last time with Andrew. There was some screw up with dinner plans so we ended up all staying in the hotel until 9:15pm but that gave us time to get bike boxes and start packing and drink a number of beers. We walked downtown in the rain and I recognized several stores and bars I had been to before. We ate at a Chinese buffet place, not the greatest but it was improvised at the last minute. Everyone ate their fill and Rob gave a bit of a speech, kind of summarizing the whole trip.

Andrew got up and thanked Rob for the trip and for his sense of adventure. Wytze and Miranda presented the last quiz of the trip: a couple of words to describe each staff member, then we had to guess who it was. We walked back and it was midnight and I was so tired I couldn’t even have one more beer or Pisco Sour. What a day. What a trip! In a day or two I’ll try and write up some impressions of the whole trip but my brain is pretty full right now.

Andes Trail 2019 finished in Ushuaia!