WEEK #98 HOW ARE WE DOING? Fin del Mundo!!!

The last week was an emotional rollercoaster. So many thoughts and feelings were running through my mind. I couldn’t sort them or “press pause” for a moment. Sleeping was short, dreams were intense, days flew by. There are too many days to think back of, so many people along the way, the laughter, the tears and the joy. And still, there was quite an amount of kilometres to cross before reaching Ushuaia, Fin del Mundo. It doesn’t come easy, but the rollercoaster keeps going.

Leaving El Calafate, Argentina I decided to take a total different route than I had initially planned, weather reports had changed my mind. The choice was good, the road was quiet, flat and there was almost no wind, which is fairly unusual for this part of the world. Just a few days and I would be on Tierra del Fuego, the large island on the southern most part of the continent South America. A ferry took me over the Strait of Magellan, leaving the continent I had cycled over for just over 7 months behind me.

Tierra del Fuego is a rough place. The wind is ferocious, but coming mainly from the west I have a slight advantage. Yet the paved road turns into “ripio”; the worst I have seen in months. Cycling is difficult and heavy on the gravel road, filled with potholes. I’m blown over to the other side of the road, I have to get off my bicycle and push my way back to the other side again. This happens multiple times, and each time gets more difficult, the wind speeds are increasing. I’m already thinking of the fun I’m going to have setting up my tent…
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The day before I arrive in Ushuaia I stay in a “Casa de Ciclista”, a famous bakery and its owner, a big fan of tour cycling, has opened his doors to all those who pass by, offering free accommodation behind the bakery. There I find several other cyclists, all with their own story. It’s good to be surrounded by mutual cycling lovers, especially on my last night. A good meal is prepared, stories are exchanged and the mood is very relaxed. I get a very good night sleep and head off the next morning, after passing the Panaderia for a few of their famous empanadas (jamon y queso, delicious) for my lunch.

The road to Ushuaia is one of the most beautiful ones I have cycled. The air is fresh, the wind is soft and coming from a good direction, the sun is shining and the road is smooth. The scenery? It’s changed. From the flat plains it’s turned into beautiful mountains with a thin layer of snow, winter is around the corner. I pass a few lakes, climb a nice hill and enjoy the empanadas whilst enjoying the amazing view. It is my last day cycling, and it’s the best one, too.
Entering Ushuaia I don’t know what to feel, only to be overwhelmed by a proud sensation when seeing the famous sign “Fin del Mundo”. I ask a few tourists to take my picture, they ask me where I am from and what I have done. My normal “pitch” is interrupted by awes when I tell them I have been on the road for 20 months, starting in the most northern town of Alaska; Prudhoe Bay.
After a few minutes of talking I head towards the hostel I wanted to sleep in. When entering they already know my name. Weird, but possible. I am told there is a bar with free beer for cyclists who have reached Ushuaia, it’s free drinking from 18.00-20.00 hrs. After a nice hot shower and a change of clothes I make my way to the restaurant. along the way I run into two other cyclists who I met the day before, I tell them about the free beer for cyclists and they join me to the restaurant. It is however, closed. It opens at 20.00 so we agree to keep in touch and I return to the hostel.
The receptionist looks at me with question marks in her eyes, “Why are you back?”
“The restaurant is closed, I might go somewhere else for drinks and dinner tonight.”
She looks disturbed by my answer and walks away, saying she’ll call the restaurant. At that same moment I receive a text message from a friend in Amsterdam: “You have to be at the restaurant at 21.00hrs. tonight, they are expecting you!”

OK. What’s going on? Why does someone in Amsterdam know where I wanted to go for drinks and dinner? I start thinking and once I see the smile on the receptionists face I figure out what’s going on. It’s a set-up. But what exactly I don’t know, but I was to find out soon enough…
Entering the restaurant I was nervous. I said my name and they greeted me with big smiles, some applause and a bag. At the table I looked inside, a big picture of my cycling friends back home, all with a beer in their hand, “PROOST” (cheers in Dutch) it says on the front. A big smile and some tears of joy roll down my cheek. I’m really finished, I really am in Ushuaia after 20 months on the saddle. And they have been my biggest supporters, and this was the proof. A dinner, beer tasting, an awesome picture and a beautiful calendar of Ushuaia, all of it arranged from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. An incredibly well organised surprise that brought me to tears in a restaurant. I am blessed to have Team HBH as my friends.
The next morning I felt still slightly buzzed. The beer tasting was a good one. A quiet day in Ushuaia, a good time for a walk around the town and enjoy the silence of it all. It still hasn’t really come through to me, I’m at the end of the world. 30,000 km of cycling in 20 months, raising awareness for a cause I believe in, visiting small-scale development projects and helping out those who need it. Sharing, bringing people together. Showing people how you can change the lives of others with so little. It can be so powerful sometimes, it still amazes me.

So, the big question now is: “What’s next?”
Personally I will have some changes in my life. My life will be different in a few months time, and in a different place, too. As for 99%RIDE, let’s get home first and then see where the rollercoaster takes us…

From Ushuaia, Fin del Mundo,

Dirk Spits

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