Josh Ibbett: You have recently returned from 3 months on the road. Tell us about the route you had planned and the reasons for choosing it.
Federico Cabrera: Two weeks ago I returned home (Buenos Aires, Argentina) after spending 3 1/2 months at Tierra del Fuego. Last year, during the 9 months I had to stay locked-down at home due to the pandemic, I put together a Trans-Argentina MTBR, a 5200 miles route (with 410,000 feet of climbing) running the length of the country’s high Andes, through historical trails and remote off-grid communities (there’s also a less challenging 4100 miles dirt version). The idea is to encourage riders to explore trails and dirt roads that lead to smaller communities which could benefit from tourism, as opposed to the infamous Ruta 40 that nowadays is almost entirely paved, has lots of traffic, and crosses big cities.
I still needed to find a good closure for such an epic aventure and riding Peninsula Mitre’s shore to Ushuaia would be perfect, but it was never done before. This part of Patagonia is known as being particularly unforgiving and inaccessible due to the ever- changing weather, the absence of roads or paths, river crossings and a combination of cliffs, peat bogs, forest and valleys. For more than 6000 years, the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego lived on this land, but all white men’s efforts to settle in the peninsula during the last 200 years (seal fur factories, gold mining, logging, cattle ranching, etc) never endured the harsh environment.
JI: Did the ride go to plan or did you have to change plans en route??
FC: In 2016 I was the first to ever ride to Cabo San Diego (Peninsula Mitre’s tip and Tierra del Fuego’s easternmost point) and after that I wanted to complete the whole loop around the Peninsula. After doing some research and talking with some locals, I found out the possibilities were almost non existing and a few years earlier, Luis Andrade (a local Gaucho, horsemen) went on a rescue mission and saved the only other cyclist who ever attempted to ride the southern shore. I was also starting late in the season (autumn) with an UL summer sleep system and to make things even worse, luck wasn’t on my side as I sliced (beyond repair) a pretty new tire during my first week at Tierra del Fuego. Unfortunately, there was nothing chubbier than 2.1 in the island (which was not wide enough to ride on the beach at low tide) and I had to await until a wider one arrived from the mainland. I decided to trek along Lago Fagnano’s shore, but I lost my inReach satellite messenger on day 6 and I had to rush back to civilization (there’s no cellphone coverage there) to tell my friends and family I was OK - even my “dot” wasn’t moving. Back at Tolhuin with cellphone coverage, I was able to get my inReach’s coordinates and I was able to retrieve it from the middle of the woods (I was surprised to see it was still on after 10 days).
At the end, I wasn’t able to complete the whole loop, but I was able to ride 200 kilometers in the northern shore and 180 kilometers in the southern shore (plus scouting some of the 100km I’m missing to complete the loop, for a future trip).