The Magellan Strait by motorbike: entry point to Tierra del Fuego at the mercy of the Patagonian wind
For us the Magellan Strait is often a point of reference: we meet it in the Tour of Patagonia, travelling towards Ushuaia, in riding along the Ruta 40, and in various stretches of Tierra del Fuego.
But what does it means to sail, with the motorbikes loaded on the ferry, where two oceans meet?
Situated in Chilean territory, it is the most important natural channel joining the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and, until the building of the Panama Canal, was the only passage that avoided Cape Horn. It owes its name to the expedition of the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan, the first European to sail through it, in 1520, during his circumnavigation of the world.
We usually reach it from Torres del Piane and cross it at Punta Delgada, the shortest crossing, and, in some ways, the most exciting. In truth, for all that it is technically simple, crossing the Strait always evokes strong emotions, which could receive some surprises. Although the ferry crosses 3 km of sea in 20 mintues or so, the strong Patagonian wind is a notable obstacle and is often the cause of obligatory delays, sometimes of several hours. However, once we are on the opposite shore we reach our hotel after only 30 kilometres.
The excitement is due above all to crossing the Strait on our motorbikes, after a journey of 3000 km, and disembarking on the legendary Tierra del Fuego. A feeling of conquest added to by the surreal atmosphere: the wind, the sprays of sea water, the immediate sight of two symbolic notices, ‘End of the Road’ and ‘Welcome to Tierra del Fuego’. At this point, our travellers are so enthusiastic as often to improvise a ‘dance’ to celebrate the achievement together.
But the crossing is also made thrilling by the historical assocaitions of the place: an aspect created by stock rearers, farmers and sailors whose traces are still visible today. Not dar from the place of embarkation you can visit the San Gregorio Estancia, the largest and most flourishing Patagonian agricultural community of the end of the nineteenth century, abandoned in the 1930s, and to visit the old steamship Amedeo, run aground on the beach. Two pieces of evidence to the past which, despite the sense of oblivion and the inclemency of the Patagonian climate, still today succeed in capturing one’s attention.
Crossing ths Strait of Magellan is a thrilling experience, in every way: first with the embrakation, in discovering the human and social aspects which characterised this land, during the crossing itself, between the wind, the dolphins and the sea, and afterwards, by landing on Tierra del Fuego, the sense of conquest that this magical place gives you.
The return crossing is via a longer route, with a sailing of around 5 hours, from Purvenir to Punta Arenas, both in Chile; this time you experience the joys of a tranquil and peaceful sailing, arriving directly by ferry at the point where the motorbikes are returned, and at the end of our journey.