Finally I have a few moments to write the blog I have most been looking forward to write! 2 years of really hard work, 140 days of travelling and 70 days of driving have brought us to this moment, and I hope I can communicate to you just how incredible a feeling it is to have been able to reach the world’s southernmost city after such a gruelling challenge!
Even though it was only a short leg of 215km from Rio Grande to Ushuaia, we didn’t want to leave even the slightest of things to chance! As such, we planned to leave at 10am on Tuesday morning so that we would be sure of meeting our scheduled arrival time of 4.30pm. As we wanted to have a proper breakfast, give the car a quick inspection, and do some pre-finish filming, we were up at 7.30am despite some of us getting a little nervous the night before and not getting much sleep!
However, we left on time and made our way off into the cold and gloomy horizon. As fate would have it, our last driving day was the worst weather we had had since entering Argentina over a week ago. For much of the drive, the cloud and mist was so thick that I can’t even tell you what the scenery was like. Water droplets were perpetually condensing on my helmet visor, which made the driving that much more demanding. Couple with this a road which was continually throwing up surprises, and it made for a very nerve wracking and somewhat slower than normal drive!
As you would expect though by now, the car performed perfectly throughout, and after about 120km the weather began to clear just as we entered the tiny village of Tolhuin. As it was only 12pm, we thought it wise to have some lunch here as we didn’t know when we would next eat, and also so that we could time our arrival appropriately. So, we spent our last meal on the Pan-American Highway munching down a delicious parrilla, which is a selection of grilled meats and sausages for those of you who have not had the pleasure of trying this Argentine speciality!
With lunch finished at around 2pm, we headed off for the final 104km of the journey. To put this into perspective, this equates to just 0.4% of the entire length of our journey, or 5 minutes to midnight after a long 24 hour day…this is how close we were! Yet we were still determined to stay focussed right until the very end, and despite how difficult this was with our hearts and minds literally exploding with excitement, it had to be done. It is not exaggerating to say that anything could still happen in these remaining few kilometres, and to drop our guard now could spell disaster.
Almost immediately after leaving Tolhuin we began to climb up into the mountains, and the roads became twisty again; another feature of the journey which we hadn’t experience since crossing the Andes. The scenery, perhaps appropriately for the end of such an epic adventure, started improving as well, and before we knew it we were driving through pine forests with absolutely spectacular views of the massive Lake Fagnano beneath us.
In fact, so incredible were the vistas we encountered that, in order to capture them in their full glory, we often doubled back on ourselves to ensure that Claudio could fully capture it on film. You can see a small portion of the results of this in the latest video, so if you want to get a real feel of what it was like to drive into the world’s southernmost city, I encourage you to take a look!
The time for reflection, at least for the time being, was now over as we passed between the last 2 mountains and the city of Ushuaia appeared in the distance! We had seen pictures of this place, we had dreamed of this place, and now we were driving towards it! The scenery could not have been more dramatic; with the city nestled between huge snowcapped mountains on one side, and the sea on the othe;, I could not imagine a better place in the world to call this the finish line!
But, just as we were about to enter the city limits, we had our last delay, and what else could it be other than being pulled over by the police?! Why oh why would they want to stop us on our home run! It turned out that they wanted to check our paperwork, and then escort us into the city, but as is usual with these stops, this one being our 46th, this took around 10 minutes. It was frustrating, but as soon as we pulled off and entered the city, we forgot all about it!
With the crystal clear waters of the Beagle Sound on our left, and the mountains on our right, we drove into the most southern city of the world! As driver of the SRZero, I was literally shaking with excitement, and before long a huge crowd of people who had gathered to greet us appeared on the side if the road. We drove up onto the pavement and brought the car to a halt amid a cheering crowd and clicking cameras, and, just as we did so, the clouds parted and we were bathed in warm sunlight…we could not have asked for a better entrance!
As soon as the car was stopped, myself and Toby jumped out of the car to be greeted by the rest of the team who was running full pelt towards us from the van. I honestly can’t remember what we were shouting at each other or the general order of events over these few minutes, but my lasting memory will be of all of us holding each other and jumping up and down in a state of complete and utter joy!
Right at that moment we proved to the world not just the viability of electric cars and how different they are to peoples’ perceptions, but just how much a small group of “fresh” graduates can do if they put their minds to it. And this includes those members of the team that chose to stay at home; they were absolutely crucial to this project’s success and it was a real shame they could not be there with us at the finish line.
After the hugging and screaming with delight, Toby, Nik and I retrieved a secret stash of 3 champagne bottles which we had bought the day before unbeknown to the rest of the team. And so, in front of the crowd and cameras we popped the corks and sprayed the champagne everywhere in celebration! No-one was spared from the onslaught, and before long we were all thoroughly drenched!
Before the team had a chance to be approached by the media, Claudio put down the camera for a brief moment and waded into the crowd to present us all with a surprise. Since being in Argentina, the only thing he has wanted was a penguin ambush! He had a vision of us driving along a desolate road to find ourselves blockaded and then slapped about by these flightless birds, but unfortunately this was not to happen and the best he could arrange was to present each of us with a fluffy penguin toy! The thought was very much appreciated by the team, and at this point we also had a chance to sincerely thank Claudio, Paul, Chris and Cynthia for all their help on this trip. In their own ways, they have been instrumental to the project’s success, and we thank them profusely.
In summary, the next few hours consisted of media interviews, photoshoots, and an impromptu presentation to a bunch of school kids, many who had come to see the car arrive. The finish was completely fitting of the journey we have had, and I cannot put in words how proud I am of the team for getting this far, and to each of our sponsors for supporting us to such great lengths.
The feeling of arriving in this beautiful city, for Ushuaia is really quite breathtaking, after being on the road for so long and pushing so hard is indescribable. It still hasn’t sunk in even though I write this 2 days after arriving, and I suspect it will still take some time for each of us to appreciate the journey we have accomplished. As such, this will be the one blog post that I will continue to update as our thoughts and feelings about the last 5 months crystallise, and once I find words to describe such acute emotions!
This will not be my last blog post as there are still a few things other bits and bobs I want to get out there, but at this point I would like to thank each and every one of you for continuing to read and message me about them; you have been a constant source of motivation to get these blogs up even when I have been absolutely exhausted at certain points on the trip!
However, the story is not over yet; while the trip has now finished, the project still has a long way to go in achieving its objectives. We still want to encourage the younger generation to take up science and technology subjects, and we still want to make people aware of the benefits of electric cars.
To this end, we have been fortunate enough to secure investment to produce an 8 part documentary series for BBC World News; the world’s largest TV channel with over 74 million viewers a week in over 220 countries. Each documentary episode will be broadcast globally 8 times every weekend, starting on January 1st 2011. So, whatever you’re doing on New Years Day, make sure you watch the first episode! I hope you find it just as fresh and exciting as we did whilst actually doing the trip! The website will continue to be updated with what’s going on, events that we are attending, and details of the forthcoming documentary and DVD, so please do keep checking back on our home page.
And so this leaves me with just one last thing to say; thanks to everyone and our best regards to all! This is not the last you will see or hear from us!
P.S. If anyone knows how we can sell on our support van during the next 8 days we are in Argentina, please get in touch! We’re working on a number of options, but if you have any ideas we would certainly love to hear them. Just for reference, the van is a 2009 silver Ford E350 with about 45,000km on the clock. It still works fantastically with great power and comfortable ride, and after a quick clean up it will be in great shape again!