0076: The End of the World, The Beginning of Everything
What have I done?!
I sit in a Café in Buenos Aires and try several times over, to write this chapter.
I rewrite it in Lisbon, Huelva and finally in Madrid.
How do I start to finish this story. Have I even finished?
Do I write back to Prudhoe Bay?
Do I continue the story from Ushuaia?
The impact of the journey still has not really hit me.
Many of us dream great things and a lucky few of us turn those dreams into reality.
But I'm not sure I was prepared for something that has been a figment of my imagination for as long as I can remember to, not only become real, to live it and then finally to finish....
It left a shocking void.
Which opened suddenly as I arrived in Ushuaia.
Of course I was happy.
Of course I was extremely proud, but at the same time part of me was saying what next...?
I didn't expect the local people to break into fiesta, street parties, dancing elephants, fireworks and a ticker tape parade for my arrival.
Even though all this was happening inside my head.
The city was getting dark and cold and a few tourists were wandering the streets looking for a meal or some excitement for their evening.
I could tell them something exciting, but how many would truly care?
I was pushing my bike while fizzing with excitement. A crackling and tingling through my entire being which felt like the greatest firework display on earth and a weight of exhaustion on my body like being danced on by elephants.
I am happy. A tear rolls down my cheek. Soon followed by another.
I had sore legs and a grin on my face no one could erase.
652 days travelling and 41622 kilometres
I DID IT!
But I have not finished yet.
I'm in Ushuaia.
At the end of the world and at the beginning of something new.
Osvaldo and his family hosted me for a couple of nights as I organised my route home. He owns a local Mountain bike and sports adventure store in the city.
I could have flown from Ushuaia and been back in the UK in less than 24 hours.
24 hours to travel around half the planet.
A distance that has slowly taken me more than a year.
Despite the speed we can now travel my journey has never felt slow.
In fact, the times when I have taken faster transport felt like I was moving too fast and I was missing some vital piece of my adventure.
The Bus to Rio Gallegos and then north to Puerto Madryn felt like this.
Mercifully in one sense, they were night buses. So as I slept with my neck crooked and cheek flat cold and uncomfortable pressed against the window, unknown kilometres passed by in the night.
I woke with a sore neck and pains from every part of me as my body tries to readjust to a life off the bike.
Glenda, my host in Puerto Madryn is also a world keen traveller.
We met originally in Panama city as I was looking for a place to stay.
She wasn't able to host me on that occasion but through this blog we kept in touch.
Her flat was a perfect place to rest for a few nights.
I slept well on a lumpy mattress next to the window in the kitchen. And the wind would whistle and blow more sand and dust against the outside of the first floor flat. My bike parked on the balcony was soon covered in a fine white powder.
Her flat, almost on the shore of the Golfo Nuevo is new and in a quiet but modern suburb of the town. As we walked one evening along the promenade, a cold wind and fine sand blew into our faces and reminded me of how isolated this part of the world still is.
Beyond the city limits and its modern streets of familiar brands and coffee shops, gyms and primary schools a vast steppe tundra of almost nothing awaits for those who seek it.
Still, we managed to enjoy the Nacional fiesta del Cordero amongst other things with its 'Queen of the lamb' competition and huge barbecues of roasting meat.
Somewhere back near the Alaska border, an old guy criticised me for cycling across the Canadian prairies
"There is nothing to see!" he told me adamantly. Well I know more. There is plenty to see.
And though I have probably seen less than one percent of the continent, I feel as though I know every square millimetre.
It's an amazing sensation.
The bus company suddenly decided I could not take my bike on the onward bus to Buenos Aires.
"It's impossible to take a bike. There is not enough room on the bus" I was told by the girl at the counter. Despite having arrived on two identical buses to the one I had hoped to leave on. I showed her my old tickets as proof but she still didn't believe me.
The other bus companies were the same.
So for the first time since Panama, I flew directly to Buenos Aires.
The ticket price was double the bus, but a fraction of the time.
Puerto Madryn had been a gentle re-introduction to "civilised life" but as I navigated my way through packed and filthy city streets, tall buildings and huge parkland trees of Buenos Aires, a small part of me wanted to go back to the wilderness steppes, deserts and isolated grasslands of Patagonia, Atacama, Sonora or Alaska.
Sometimes I wake or daydream. A quick flash of a memory from some point on my journey.
It could be something as grand as Macchu Picchu or a simple flower on the roadside in Colombia. A road sign in Nicaragua or tumbling rocks falling off a mountain in rural Guatemala.
Perhaps the painful burning sun in El Salvador or my fingers and toes freezing in an ice storm in the Andes of Peru. Even getting splashed by mud from one of the trucks on the Dalton highway 645 day into my past brings a smile to my face.
These little dreams will last my lifetime and beyond.
Wandering the streets of the Argentine grand capital reminded me a lot of Madrid.
The style and format of the buildings. The faces of the people. The colours, the smells, noises and culture.
More memories triggered from my past of good times spent in that city with Milagros, Carmen and my other house mates and friends.
I'm now feeling the urge to return home.
The flight to Europe was another overnight journey. A brief hop over to Sao Paolo and country number 18. Brazil. Adventures for another time.
2 hours wait and a steak dinner later, I boarded a plane and left the South American continent for I hope not the last time.
In El Calafate some weeks before, the locals told me if you eat the fruit of the Calafate bush you will return to Patagonia again.
I ate plenty usually in ice cream and suffered for it, so I really hope its true.
As the thrill and rapid acceleration of the two huge Rolls- Royce Trent 700 on my Airbus A300 powered down the runway, the sudden light weighted feeling in my stomach was matched by an overwhelming sadness as the planes wheels and disturbingly flexible wings lifted off the ground and I finally left the continent. Even though we would continue to fly north over land towards Belo Horizonte, Petrolina and finally Fortaleza before beginning to cross the Atlantic to Lisbon, Portugal.
I had long been asleep as we crossed the equator.
So once again, as I slept with my neck crooked and cheek flat, cold and uncomfortable pressed against the window, unknown kilometres passed by in the night. The temperature outside was -62C as we cruised at seven kilometres higher than on of the mountains I scaled in Ecuador.
Now with equal joy and sadness, it feels like I have finished.
A new day, a new continent and a new city.
A few days before watching Guanaco leaping fences into minefields. And penguins and Dolphins splashing in the waters.
Now I watch affluent Europeans leap on and off trams as Pigeons and Seagulls splash in hundred year old fountains.
The Sun is just as bright and the spring air just as cold and as fresh.
Two more nights here with Ana and Bruno. A friendly couple who own a small bike shop in the centre of the city.
And then a new country to cycle through.
The hustle and bustle of the old city is quickly replaced by Cork oak forests, cattle fields and spring flowers dancing in the cool breeze.
Worryingly patient drivers make me nervous as I am still on edge from cycling in Argentina.
3 days and some pleasant scenes make me want to plan my next trip through Portugal.
I will, soon.
Then I cross the border and back in to Spanish speaking land.
Huelva is the home of Oscar and Laura.
Colleagues I worked with in Leeds before I began travelling.
They briefly left Spain because of the countries economic problems but returned home later to find it not much better than when they left.
Another beach with another cool breeze blowing fine sand into my face seemed the half a world away it really was from where I was a week or so before.
After a few days catching up, I jump ahead by bus as I have to rush ahead to Madrid and then north to León.
Real life is catching up with me again as I have to attend a job interview.
Great news of course! And the project is something I am keen to be involved in.
Perhaps I will reveal the details here, or maybe they are a separate story of their own?
I'll decide later.
This story is coming to a close though.
The road of little Miracles is almost over.
But I still have to return to England, and at the moment that route is undecided.
The blog will undergo an overhaul over the coming weeks and months.
I have to add a lot more of the 50,000 photos I have taken and I have no idea how many hours of video,
Then I would like to add maps, routes, plans, notes and much more information.
So while in one sense the journey is over.
In another, It has only just begun.
To be continued....