The (Other) End of the World

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
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Trip End Apr 16, 2011


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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We arrived in our 4th continent so far in the trip a little dazed: we took off at 4pm on one day, spent what feels like a evening and a night on the plane and then arrive 4 hours before we took off. Weird. South America immediately feels totally different to New Zealand.  We had a six hour stopover in Santiago before our flight on down to the very south of the continent, and managed to fill it with culture by hopping into the city and finding the inevitable Irish pub that was showing the Six Nations rugby. Fabulous. Gordon's sport-watching withdrawal symptoms calmed for a little while.

Finally we arrived in Punta Arenas, a fairly non-descript town on the Magallanes Strait that separates mainland South America from Tierra del Fuego. Our ultimate destination was Ushuaia, Argentina which is right down at the bottom of Tierra del Fuego and the southern-most city in the world; 12 hours of bus away. We wanted to go here partly because we had heard it was nice, but partly because, having been up to the Arctic circle in the North we really wanted to get as far south as possible before starting to head north.

We had one unexpected day in Punto Arenas (there weren’t any buses the 1st day) and Sarah surprised Gordon by suggesting hiring bikes for the afternoon (think she was feeling a bit ill). We set off through the fairly grotty outskirts of the town avoiding packs of angry and rabid looking dogs as best we could en route to the town’s little ski hill that we had been promised was open and had a chairlift that would whisk us to the top for views of the town and the straits with minimum effort. Of course, with hindsight it should have been obvious that even the bottom of the chairlift would be significantly above the town. Along a steep, windy, dusty gravel road. Filled with dogs. After 2 hours of uphill cycling and after Sarah’s 3rd tantrum we finally made it to the gate of ski area. To find it was closed. Grrrr. Having come all this way we decided there was nothing for it but to jump the fence and walk up the hill anyway. The ride down was significantly quicker, easier and more fun that the ride up... except for the pack of dogs that jumped out of a side road and looked for all the world like they were about to commit suicide on Gordon’s spokes and create a great big accident.

Part way through the bus ride to Ushuaia we started to wander whether we should have bothered with the journey. The Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego was as barren as parts of Australia and interesting only in its seemingly endless nothingness. Finally, and with some relief, about 2 hours before getting to Ushuaia we started to move into a more mountainous and interesting area of forests, lakes, mountains and glaciers. We liked Ushuaia very much (as Bill Bryson, who we have been listening to on audiobook, might say) and spent three days there, walking up a hill behind the town to a glacier, cruising the Beagle channel on a tour boat seeing sea lions and penguins and doing a beautiful walk along the coast of the Tierra del Fuego National Park. At night we would sample the various varieties of nice Argentinian beer and, of course, barbecued meat in the town’s profusion of nice restaurants. It has also been nice to wheel out our rusty Spanish and converse with the locals.  This is the first time since we left Germany 11 months ago that we’ve actually been able to say more than 'thank you’, ‘beer’ and ‘arsehole’ (strictly for card game purposes only) in the local language and we’re loving it.

Ushuaia wasn’t all happiness though and we did have one especially sad day when Sarah had to finally admit that her old Brasher walking boots could walk no more.  Having bought them before her last trip to South America they have now come all the way around the world and done more than a pair of boots’ fair share of walking in their 8 years - and never gave her a blister.  They’ll be missed dreadfully but went out as they would have wanted, on a hike in a stunning place.  Even the thought of being allowed to spend some money on replacements barely cheered Sarah up as we couldn’t find Brashers in Ushuaia.

All too soon it was time to get back on the bus to start finally travelling north – on the start of our more than 12,000km journey northwards across the entire length of the Americas.
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Comments

Marion on

Argentinian BEER??? I'm hoping you'll correct this quickly...... Looking forward to reading the rest of your adventures. The trip of a lifetime. Lots of love,
Marion

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