The end of the second day brought us to Tolhuin, and the world-famous Panadería La Union, which is again well known in touring circles for hosting hungry cyclists! They have a small room out back that, like the pink house, is covered in pictures and messages from grateful cyclists, many of whom I had come across in my travels.
There to greet us was Taneli, a Finnish long-distance tourer who had been working at the bakery to pay for his lodging whilst awaiting the arrival of a cyclist with a Rohloff internal hub and disc brakes who would be finishing their journey in Ushuaia and might be willing to sell him their disc rotor to replace the one that baggage handlers had kindly broken on his way out! Needless to say, it’s a very non-standard part and he’d waited 6 weeks before us 3 cyclists (all with the aforementioned rotor) rock up together on the afternoon that he’d finally given up hope and spent several hours trying to weld and bash his broken rotor into shape! I agreed to sell him mine, in a weeks’ time, once I had reached Ushuaia.
The next day we headed out on the highway on the final push to Ushuaia. It just so happened that there was a major quad and dirt-bike race happening on a route alongside the highway, which meant for lots of short groups of support cars flying past as they followed their rider along the course! Thankfully, we soon turned off the highway to take a route along the shoreline of Lago Fagnano – a blissful detour along rarely followed double-track through grassy meadows and across highly-sketchy disintegrating bridges…
I strongly recommend this route to anyone heading along this stretch, as an antidote to the otherwise stressful highway. Given that there’d been a bit of rain, we didn’t try and take the track all the way up to Lago Escondido, but this is rideable, according to Taneli (http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/fin-del-mundo/).
After a brief spell back on the highway, we reached the lake and swiftly made our way up to the head of it where we’d heard there were some abandoned lakeside cabins. Most of them were in a pretty poor state, but one had been maintained a little better than the rest (mainly by travellers) and we made it our home for the night.
Unfortunately, we’d only made it a short way up the climb from the lake before the quad and dirt-bike race began again the next morning! For a while, we tried cycling or pushing our bikes in quick bursts in between the riders (who were coming down the track at high speed in the opposite direction) but that was getting a bit dodgy, so we ended up having to just sit to one side and wait for them to go past for well over an hour! Thankfully, by shortly before midday, there appeared a break in proceedings and we were able to climb the last section up to Paso Garibaldi, hardly a major pass at 439m but the final one of my trip!
With incredible weather, it was a spectacular view looking back down on where we’d come from. Ahead of us, we had two options – cruise the final 87km predominantly downhill all the way to Ushuaia or take a 250km 5-day detour to the very end of the road, taking advantage of that incredible weather and putting off the impending finish! Easy decision.