After a flight of almost 10 hours, I arrive in Santiago, Chile from Miami and head to the hotel to wait for my motorcycle to arrive the next day. I get up early the next morning and take a taxi back to the airport for customs clearance. With a familiarity that comes from having taken so many flights I put together the various parts of the bike and, satisfied with the result, decide to head over to a dealership, but although it is Friday, everything is closed for the Republic Holiday, so I will have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for a service and a change of tyres. I decide to take advantage of this 3 or 4 day break to travel north instead of going immediately south. In fact, I want to reach the Atacama desert to see the famous “Mano del desierto”, an 11-metre-high iron and cement sculpture of a hand that emerges from the sand to symbolise human vulnerability and helplessness.
Eventually, after having travelled about 1800 kilometres with temperatures ranging from 8 to 30 degrees, so sometimes suffering from the cold and sometimes from excessive heat, I arrive in front of these fingers which, in the midst of this lunar landscape, are disturbing yet at the same time quite spectacular. I place the bike in the foreground and take some photos, then I set off for Antofagasta, about 75 kilometres away, where I intend to stay for the night after enjoying some excellent meat dishes. I return to Santiago and leave the bike with the dealer for the necessary maintenance. I am able to pick it up again the same evening and set off, this time to head south. I want to reach Ushuaia, which is the capital of the Tierra del Fuego, as well as being the southernmost city on the planet. The Argentines call it “El fin del mundo”, or the end of the world, and it is the last city that can be reached by vehicle. Further on, in fact, you encounter the Beagle Channel, which links the Pacific with the Atlantic.
On the way to Ushuaia I cross a lot of different regions, each one more beautiful than the last: the lake district, the hot springs, Chiloè island … Crossing the Andean mountain chain, between Chile and Argentina, I admire wonderful landscapes as I zig zag between the two countries, exploring even the remotest corners of those breath-taking views to elicit some priceless emotions, to be treasured forever. I allow myself to become immersed in these atmospheres that are so dreamlike, yet I am experiencing them in real life as I ride along those roads with their overwhelming views. The route, especially the part in Chile, is made up of stretches of dirt road that the locals call “rupio”, sometimes there are beaten tracks, but often the roadway is made up of gravel, so the bike tends to sink, making it quite a difficult drive.
I reach Chico Chile, where I enjoy some excellent meat and where there is a nice surprise waiting for me; in the hall of the hotel I see a photo of my own city. I am amazed and wonder what possible link there could be between Belluno and that remote place at the end of the world. Chatting with the girl at reception I discover that the owner’s grandfather had sought his fortune in this overseas country, abandoning our land just like so many of our fellow citizens had done, driven by the poverty that a land that was less than generous had imposed. Many had set out with very little money in their pocket, but with the will to work and to seek employment. This had probably been the case for him too, and with great sacrifice he had obviously managed to accumulate a certain amount of wealth, considering that he had been able to build this hotel. But he had not denied his origins or forgotten his roots, which he proudly displayed to every unsuspecting tourist that set foot in the hotel. Pleasantly impressed by this discovery I stay for a day to visit the city.
I set off again to reach one of the most important attractions in Argentine Patagonia: the “Perito Moreno” glacier, famous, and quite unique, for being in constant advancement. Upon arriving I put on my crampons, and as I set off to explore the adrenaline is sky high. The enchanting deep blue streams are a feast for the eyes, but the crackling sound of the breaking ice gives me the shivers as I get the impression that it could shatter under my feet at any moment.
It all seems so unreal: I am inside the glacier and taking in all its beauty and grandeur. A thrilling experience, unforgettable, but I must set off again to get to Ushuaia. The town welcomes the tourist with 2 columns where you can read, on one, the name of the city, while the other reminds us that we are at “El fin del mundo”. I would like to take a boat trip to Cape Horn, to see a colony of penguins in their natural habitat.
The wind is icy and the sea foamy, through the rising fog I can just make out the Beagle lighthouse, we sail onwards to Martillo Island and draw close to admire these splendid specimens of “Magellanic penguins”, recognisable by the two black bands on their chest. As we turn back, I feel euphoric, I have crossed a continent, moving from deserts to glaciers, from torrid heat to intense cold, from starry nights to misty mornings… I think of all the riches that nature has to offer, they are there for us to admire at any time in all their splendour, and they are a treasure that we must guard carefully. While I am lost in thought I see in the distance a brightness that soon turns into lots of tiny lights as the boat nears the coast: it is the illuminated city of Ushuaia. On the horizon, behind the mountains, the sunset paints the sky red in contrast with the sea that is becoming increasingly darker.
I leave the next day, a long journey awaits as I set off towards Buenos Aires along ruta 40, which is almost all paved and so quite fast, however, along the route I remember that the G20 will be taking place in Buenos Aires and the cargo area of the airport will be closed for 7 days. So, I decide to take a detour to Santiago and send the bike from there. I head to the airport to meet the shipper and prepare the bike, the next day I would take the plane that would take me to Lisbon… practically home!