Sunday 2nd February 2014
Punta Arenas, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina
Woke up early today and were all on the truck at 7am ready to leave when Pat our driver told us that there was a major problem with the radiator. It had a hole in it and we wouldn’t be able to go until it was fixed, so we all trooped off the truck and went and had breakfast in the hotel while awaiting instructions about when we might be able to leave. We were told to meet back at 12 noon to find out progress so we used the time and the good internet connection to post some photos and do the blog. At 12 we were informed that it would take longer as it was Sunday and also we were in a very isolated place. So we went out and had some lunch while we waited. We then went for a walk and looked at the town cemetery, a very interesting place with many different types of graves, including ones in like a double storey construction. Almost all had photos of the deceased people doing things they loved or pieces of trivia related to their lives. We then walked down to the water and looked out across the Straits of Magellan. As it was a fairly cold windy day, it was something short of pleasant and this town is not really very nice, pretty basic and a bit run down. Back to the hotel for an update where we were informed that it would be at least 6pm before we could get underway but that two Mercedes mechanics were in town and the part had been given to them to fix (and in fact had been fixed with carbon fibre (apparently a near miracle in a place like this). They also didn’t want any money for fixing it. Not uncommon apparently. Anyway after much waiting, we finally set off at about 8pm to do an overnight (approx. 15 hours) drive down to Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world. To get there you need to travel about 150km along the Straits of Magellan then cross them by ferry and head through Tierra del Fuego to the border between Chile and Argentina, then drive the next 400 or so KM to Ushuaia, where the Antarctic tour cruise ships depart from. Just made one of the last ferries for the night and then at about 2:45am reached the Chilean border – trooped off to have our passports stamped. It was about 0°C there but the immigration officer was amazingly cheerful. About another hour later, we reached the Argentinian border, same process, and that immigration officer spoke to each of our group as he stamped the passports – he asked Lynn if she had read George Orwell (what the?). Then about a 5 hour drive to Ushuaia, arriving at our campsite at about 8:00am. Dreadful campsite, long grass, damp – grrr! However, we found a spot we liked and pitched our tent away from the other campers near an interesting playground – see photos.
Monday 3rd February 2014
Once we had set up camp, we had breakfast in the communal lounge at the campsite. We were to have a cruise on the Beagle Channel (Canal Beagle) at 3pm so we walked 5 or so km to town and bought some souvenirs and postcards posted from “The End of the World”. The town was very pleasant and we liked it very much. We ate our rolls that we had with us from the campsite on the way home. It started to sprinkle rain and we caught a taxi the last ½ km to the camp because we were running a bit late and got our warmest clothes on for the cruise. The cruise out to the Beagle Channel was great, really enjoyed it. Coffee, hot chocolate and biscuits and liqueur were the refreshments on the cruise. We saw sea lions, cormorants and skua on our cruise, the backdrop being the lightly snow-capped mountains of the hills around Ushuaia. Back to the port, then a bus back to the campsite, late dinner (after 9pm) but it was a delicious BBQ cooked by the camp owners – the steaks were huge. Then to bed in our snug tent about 50 metres from the nearest other person and we had a really good sleep.
Tuesday 4th February 2013
Today we decided that we were going to go on “The Train to the End of the Wold” as well as do some hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, so we (along with a number of others) were picked up in a bus at 9am. We were dropped off at the train station about 5km away closer to the National Park and waited in line to buy our tickets. It took so long we thought that we might miss the train. Eventually we obtained our tickets and waited for our departure time – we were on train #3. While we were waiting, there was a band playing and the train passengers were dancing in the waiting area. It was pretty bizarre and lots of fun to watch. Lynn had got friendly with the Station Master and he gave her a booklet about the train. After about half an hour we were ushered, before everyone else, to our carriage and headed off. Our fellow passengers in our carriage were very friendly and we did our best to converse. It was raining and quite cold, but by the time we reached the first stop (to view a waterfall) the rain had mostly stopped. Once back on the train, we soon reached the end of the line and were ready to set off on our hike into the national park. The railway was very historic and had been built by prisoners about 100 years ago. A prison had been set up by the Argentinian Government and criminals served their sentences down here near Ushuaia. It is a very forbidding place even in summer. Heaven only knows how miserable it must have been for these people who had to labour chopping trees down and doing many other tasks related to building a railway. It was about 11:30am by the time we set off on our walk, first down to the lake that is adjacent to the Beagle Channel where we visited yesterday. Believe it or not there was a post office on the wharf and we bought some postcards to send that were stamped Fin del Mundo (End of the World). The office was manned by an old guy who was very particular about the stamping of the cards. When we walked out, it had started to rain and so we walked along a very wet track (The Coastal Track) with beautiful views across the bays to the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Apart from some rain and cold it was beautiful and we took lots of photos. The planned three hour walk took more than 4 hours and it was up, down, through the forest, along the beach, all with views across the bays. When we reached the end, we were sitting waiting for the bus and a brown fox with a big bushy tail walked close by and did not seem frightened by the (admittedly few) people that were around at the time. The bus soon picked us up and took us back to the campsite where we rewarded ourselves with a bottle of beer. This is a beautiful area, wonderful scenery and many attractions, but soooooooo far away. Dinner in the big room at the campsite and then to bed in the drizzle after a really enjoyable day.