Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fin del Mundo

By Alex Mehlin

"So this is it." Mike and I sat looking out to sea, his face dripped with depression, "Yup, that’s all it is." Tourists milled about, snapping photos, artisans pushed carts filled with wooden penguins, the sound turbo diesel engines rumbled ready to escort their passengers to the next point of interest, while yachts sat anchored to the southernmost city in the world.

For the last nine months The Gypsy Train has driven roughly 20,000 kilometres spiralling down the Andean spine. Since the fateful morning of Friday the 13th when we pulled out of Quito, the distant thought of reaching Patagonia hung in the back of our minds.

Here we were sitting at the end of world with no real idea of what was to become.
Imagining life without the Gypsy Train is hard. It has become so much a part of us that the ridiculous life style we live has become normal. We live day to day, travelling where and when we want, we meet our simple needs of food, shelter and drink. Reaching Ushuaia was a sad wakeup call that one day we will have to return to average life.

As we walked the city littering it with flyers, gringo grabbing in hostels, drinking in bars, each and every person we met was a reminder that it all could end and we could be boarding some tourist transport in the morning just like them.

Zach, Alaena and I dabbled with the idea of selling the bus in Ushuaia, but we quickly learned that because of Chilean and Argentine import tax laws it would be impossible. Selling the bus would require us to falsify the documents and make a sale in no-man’s-land. Without finding bold and brave buyers, most likely other travellers, it seems a near impossible task.

Daily we lost Gypsies, some left by north bound busses, others thumbed it out of town and in the end we had only 4 Gypsies; Alaena, Mike, Jake and I. We all knew after 2 months of living together in a small bus that it was a time for a change. As they left, two by two, and we failed to recruit new people, it became apparent that it was going to be a quiet ride north.

We walked the city streets avoiding the hoards of cruise ship tourists flocking to duty free stores and gift shops that occupy the main drag through town. At times Ushuaia gave us a glimpse of her rugged past, a ship wreck sat just off shore, tin roofs rusted down the side of small square shacks, whale bones decorated the pier and interpretive tour leaders dressed in prison outfits walked the streets.

We spent our last few days as a group watching the sun set and drinking beer as it rose, we dined on King Crab, eventually we hugged and parted ways setting vague plans of meeting in Buenos Aires.

We loaded the bags on the newly repaired roof rack, grabbed some snacks and turned our backs on the last piece of land before Antarctica. Nostalgically we drove over the mountains.

Mike thumbed through our played out ipod, "There are two reasons to visit Ushuaia," he said between songs, "to drive your car there and say you did it or you are there to take a cruise to Antarctica".

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