Ushuaia, Beagle Channel boat tour, Laguna Esmeralda and Parque National Tierra del Fuego

After completing the O Trek I opted to have a rest day in Puerto Natales, which worked out perfect as I needed to clean laundry and pretty much everything I’d taken to Torres del Paine. I was eventually able to relax and ran into Imi, Simon and Louie so joined them for dinner. I had a quiet night as the bus to Ushuaia was at 7am the following morning.

I had opted to skip the King Penguins that you can see from Punta Arenas, and in hindsight this was a good choice as I was tired to say the least. The bus journey was a long one and I had to make two connections. The first being dropped off on the side of the road, literally in the middle of nowhere, and the second when we reached Rio Grande. There was a ferry that took us across a hideously windy channel to the island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire).

The border crossing gave me two more stamps and does take time and then I was back in Argentina. Those of us that were heading to Ushuaia jumped in a minibus at Rio Grande. The landscape had been flat stepp but started to change as we headed further south along with the Sunset and i had one of the most beautiful journeys I’ve seen.

Ushuaia is on the coast of the Beagle Channel nestled amounts a range of beautiful mountains and valleys of peat bogs. The mountains are small in comparison to their Anides cousins (around 1500 metres) but due to the location they are snow capped all year round.

Other than the cold I think this is my favourite place after El Chalten. There are many hikes in the area and museums but I only had three days and opted to do those listed in the title. Be warned it is not cheap, but then what is the point of coming all this way to the end of the world and sitting in a hostel?

I stayed at the Antartica hostel and within 10 minutes of arriving I met Aline, who was going to Torres del Paine. I mentioned I was thinking about selling my tent and 24 hours later she took my tent and lots of my camping gear-I hope it is a good to her as it was to me. I was a little sad to see it go but felt there was little point in carrying it around when I don’t think I will use it much and let’s be honest I’ve not really used it a tonne in Patagonia. My bag does feel weirdly light but I have plans to rectify that!

I went out for drinks that night with Tyson and Zita who were in my dorm and stayed up until 12:30 which is the latest I’ve been up for a while!

Patagonia Adventure Explorer – Beagle Channel Boat tour

My foot was still hurting from the O Trek so I decided to have an easy day and take the boat tour. It was raining in the morning and the receptionist assured me that the afternoon would be better so I opted for a 3:30pm sailing.

Patagonia Adventure Explorer was the tour recommended by the hostel and i brought the ticket through them so no doubt they get commission. That said I checked it out and it had 5* reviews everywhere and I didn’t have the time/energy to research much. The tour does not include a visit to the penguins island but others do so if that’s what you want then go to the docks and check the other tours. I had already had my fill of penguins and to be honest I was still a little upset to have missed the King Penguins so the less i saw of them the better. The tour was really great and it’s one of my favourite things I’ve done in Patagonia.

I arrived at the offices at 3pm, paid the fee, was handed a lanyard to put around my neck, then paid the 20peso dock fee and waited in the tourist information as instructed. There I ran into Janine and Po, who I had met in Puerto Natales before the trek but had forgotten. The guide arrived and we headed to the boat just as the clouds started clearing. I loved the Beagle Channel so much as it’s surrounded by mountains and these are the views.

The first stop was an island with sea lions and birds. It took me a while to spot the sea lions and as there were only around 15 people on my small boat we could get really close, and I’m taking touching distance. There were a lot of birds throughout the tour which I love as it meant I can get my classic birds in Flights pics. Brace yourselves!

We then visited another island full of sealife.

Before heading to the lighthouse which is the famous sight associated with Ushuaia. To be honest I wasn’t really listening as I was just taking in the views, it’s so beautiful here, but this isn’t the lighthouse it pretends to be or something along those lines. It does stop the big ships getting caught up in all the seaweed. Anyways I took photos so that’s what really counts.

Next we went to an island of birds.

And then we visited and island the natives used to live on. We had the opportunity to get out of the boat and it was so cold. I don’t know how they survived here as they didn’t wear clothes due to the constant contact with the water. They used seal fat instead. The Sunset from the island was beautiful so maybe that’s one reason they stayed here so successfully for so long?

Afterwards I went back to the hostel and I was given dinner by my new friends-they gave me the leftovers too as they were leaving the next day which I took as it was delicious, I really need to learn how to cook properly in hostels and we sat around drinking. Before heading out and meeting with the others from the boat tour. It was a fun night.

Laguna Esmeralda

I was a little slow in getting up the next day, no idea why, but was told the bus for Laguna Esmeralda was at 10am. I rushed to the bus station, which is near the docs in a car park next to the petrol station, and as I was the only one who wanted to go I had to wait for others to join. By 11am a French couple had arrived and the three of us left the sunshine behind and drive into the mountains. As we arrived it began to snow and we were told the return bus would be at 4pm, so only 5 1/2 hours to be in the cold. Still snow is better than rain in my book. As we got off the bus this chap came to say hello.

It was cold so I quickly put on my gear and started hiking along the forrest path. It was muddy but luckily due to the temperature a lot was frozen. So I hiked through frozen crunchy mud. The forrest opened up into a clearing with a river and it was possible to see a beber dam. Apparently these creatures escaped from a farm and now play havoc with the local wildlife.

Then the path returns to the forrest and heads steadily uphill. When you next leave the trees you will find yourself having to traverse a prat big. I was told that the mud could go up to your knees but there was nothing that my boots couldn’t handle. I could see how it would get bad in the rain. If you do trek this path the on the way back make sure you don’t miss the route back into the woods as some people do. Look for the posts. Halfway through the big a stream appears by the pathway.

After the big and up one more climb you are rewarded with this.

The walk back is much the same and I had a 45minute wait for the bus. Later that night I decided to treat myself to lamb so I visited Bodgeon Fueguino and had lamb in an orange sauce. Expansive, but delicious.

Parque National Tierra del Fuego

The next day I decided to head to the National Park to visit the Post Office at the end of the world. I was hoping that it was still open, it wasn’t, I also wanted to try my luck on the CerrΓ³ Guanaco trek but this was also not possible. I heard there was a bus at 8am so headed to the bus stop and it was deserted. Instead I was the sole occupant is the 9am bus and decided to try trek 2. I didn’t see another person for the next 8km and was happy to have the path to myself.

By the end I realised I was really tired and trekking the O the previous week had beaten me. I wanted to try the trek to the Chilean border but I didn’t have the energy so instead I walked to the lookout point. When I arrived I realised that I had reached one end of the Pan American Highway.

This made me particularly happy as it was looking at that road that started me off on this trip and I realised I really had gone as far south as it was realistically possible. There was no more road to travel on. I waited here for the bus knowing that for now my Patagonia adventure was complete. I’m sure that one day I’ll be back as I’ve left a little of my heart here but I’m safe in the knowledge that I did everything I set out to do. I’d travelled to the most southern city in the world. It was now time to head north.

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