Tierra Del Fuego (the land of fires) is the largest island in the very south of the South American continent. It is divided between Argentina and Chile.
We crossed the border from Argentina into Chile, slept in our tent beside the ferry terminal (we got some odd looks from passing truck drivers) and made the ferry crossing to Tierra Del Fuego the following day. We passed through Chile in 2 hours and crossed back into Argentina.
The transition in landscape was so dramatic, changing from a dry barren landscape in the north to groves of trees, and then snow capped majestic mountains, and lakes. The drive into Ushuaia was incredible.
Instead of staying in Ushuaia itself we headed to the National Park. We made camp in a beautiful valley beside a steam amongst a grove of trees, Rio Pipo campsite. Wild horses ran through our camp and grazed in the pastures with snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. Breathtaking!!
I completed a hike with Kaj called “Cerro Guanaco”. It was a climb of 1106m, taking us from lakeside to a high vista. The hike itself was a challenge as it was straight up and straight down. I don’t think Argentina has heard of switchbacks. The view at the top was by far the best I have seen from a mountain. Snow capped mountains with crystal blue lakes, islands of the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia in a 360 panorama. We had the place to ourselves except for 2 friendly foxes.
We also completed several shorter hikes along the coast and to a small waterfall.
Heading further south east of Ushuaia we spent a night camping by a stream at the southern most point of Argentina. The furthest south we could go on land.
Ushuaia itself is a tourist town overlooking the Beagle Channel. It is the centre for tourism in the area, and the starting point for cruises to Antarctica. We have meet many people who have made the trip, and their experience has been amazing. We have decided not to make the journey, concerned about the impact of tourism on the area, and wondering if there are areas humans just should not go. Food for thought!
Patagonia is known for its high winds, and we certainly have experienced our fair share. Our tent has held up well, however there were a few nights when it has “rocked and rolled”. We had perfect weather when we first arrived in the area but for the last 4 days we experienced high winds, rain and freezing temperatures.
We have been mostly free camping in National parks or on the properties of Estancias (farms) with no facilities. It becomes a bit of a challenge and a little tiresome cooking outside in the weather conditions so we spent a couple of days in Ushuaia staying at a campground with an indoor area, a kitchen and showers. It is amazing how good a hot shower can feel!
The road north from Ushuaia, involved another border crossing back into Chile. We took the opportunity in spite of high winds to visit a King penguin colony, the only colony you can see outside of Antartica. The colony moved there from Antartica 3 years ago and consists of about 50 penguins. It was incredible to see them. The ferry ride back was an adventure, as the ferries had stopped working for 10 hours due to high winds. The line of trucks and cars stretched for 4 kms. We slept in the car for the night (what little sleep we got) and made the crossing at 4am!
Mike is taking some time to do work when we have decent Internet. Keira has been playing with other children whenever possible, which she is enjoying.
We have been travelling for about 2 weeks with a German couple Carina and Kaj, which has worked out great. We have now separated for a few days but will catch them up further north.
We have met a variety of fellow travelers, from backpackers, to bicycle riders, a crazy English guy who has been walking from Mexico for 8 years, people like ourselves in basic vehicles and many Europeans travelling in very expensive over landing trucks. Most of the travelers are European, although we did briefly meet a family from California, and another from British Columbia riding bicycles with two children aged 2 and 5.
DAY TO DAY:
I know a lot of people like to know how we cope with day-to-day activities when on the road. So here is a run down: SLEEPING - in our rooftop tent, occasionally a hostel which are easy to find in most towns (but expensive $50-60 USD a night compared to $0-$5 camping); EATING: cooking for ourselves on our camp stove (Mike ends up doing gourmet meals and feeding everyone in the area) or in kitchen facilities at campgrounds or hostels, occasional restaurant, good grocery stores which even have gluten free section!; TOILETS- found at most gas stations, restaurants or behind a tree works well; SHOWERS- every 5-6 days at campgrounds or the main gas station “YPF” has showers too; LAUNDRY- done by hostels or campgrounds for 90 pesos a load ($7 USD per load) and occasionally some hand washing with drying on a camp line ; BORDER CROSSINGS- so far straight forward with a lot of paperwork, no fruit/veg/fresh produce to be taken into Chile, usually it is a race to eat everything before crossing) 90 day entry permit given at border entry to Chile and Argentine, GAS FOR CAR: priced less than USA, there are sometimes large distances between gas stations so we have to be aware. DAILY MAINTENANCE- we are getting more in a groove with keeping the car organized, Mike is keeping up on car maintenance and I am doing sewing repairs. The dirt roads are taking its toll on tent zippers, the tent ladder and car air filters, not to mention our clothes which are constantly covered the dust.
I think that covers most things, but let me know if you have other questions.
So far the trip is everything we were hoping it would be. Keira is now referring to the car as "home" and she wakes each morning with a "good morning mummy and daddy. What are we going to do today!"
Hope all is well with you all.
Catch you up in Torres Del Paine.
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Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.