Tierra del Fuego

“Hola, hola … chico’s … ¿Quiero que los bananas?” At the airport we are awakened by a traveler who wants to get rid of a couple of bananas. A nice start of the day that gets even better when we emerge from the clouds 3000 km south for the approach to Ushuaia Airport. The airplane window offers an enchanting view over the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia, surrounded by snow-covered peaks. Summer temperatures will be a thing from the past, but are offered a warmly welcome when we are immediately get a ride from the airport to the city and find a small hostel where mother Marisa and daughter Ana are in control. The two are always busy, always seem to be in stress and are present all day, but after getting to know each other a bit better the two go out of their way to make our stay as cozy and comfortable as possible.

On the advice of Ana we buy a hiking map of the area and in the evening we are informed about the possible tours we could hike. The next three days we spend in the Parque National Tierra del Fuego. From the entrance of the park we climb the Cerro Pampa Alta for a spectacular view over Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel. After almost ten hours of walking we reach the camping spot in the heart of the park. We move our tent later in the evening to another spot so that we are treated to a beautiful sunrise the next morning. In this way, after breakfast of Nido powdered milk and muesli we begin motivated on the walk along Lago Roca until border post Hito I-XXIV tells us that we have reached the Chilean border. The last day we walk back to Ushuaia and are just less warmly welcomed than expected: a gas pipe is broken so the heating, the stove and the hot shower will have to wait. After a night at Marisa and Ana’s, a two-day walk to Laguna del Caminante and Paso de la Oveja is planned. The pass might be too snowy to cross and as we reach the starting point of the route, the walking path is not yet officially opened for the season. We decide to make an attempt, since going back is always an option. By four o’clock we reach the top of a number of waterfalls and we are above the tree line. When an hour later the Laguna del Caminante comes into view, a happy smile appears on our faces. The climb is over and we spend the night in a beautiful spot at the mountain lake. The Paso de la Oveja is indeed still pretty snowy, but the snow fields are not very steep and we sink just far enough into the snow to be able to walk through it stably. When Ushuaia comes into view again towards the end of the day, we have walked forty hours in the past five days and we treat ourselves to a nice dinner with Argentinian wine.

After all the walking, a visit to the penguin colonies on Isla Martillo and a boat trip through the Beagle Channel awaits us. There are only 80 visitors per day admitted to the small island, so we are happy to be able to get a spot. The tour starts with a visit to Estancia Haberton, a ranch of great historical importance for the region that also houses a museum about the underwater life in Patagonia. With a small motorboat we then sail to the island to view the magelhaen and the gentoo penguin from up close. The animals do not seem impressed with the visit at all and almost waddle over our feet. In addition to the two aforementioned species, there is also a king penguin present on the island today! The penguins are working hard to fulfill all the clichés, so the trip has already been a success for us. By boat we sailed westward for three hours towards Ushuaia and sailed past the Eclaireurs lighthouse and small islands with sea lions colonies to end up staying for one last night at Marisa and Ana’s Hostel.

To leave Ushuaia and more importantly, to reach Porvenir, we get a piece of cardboard from the dustbin and borrow a marker from the bakery. Since Porvenir is not a logical final destination, we decide to write Río Gallegos on the sign to indicate which direction we want to go. On the edge of Ushuaia we are not the only hitchhikers and have to wait a while for a ride. First to Tolhuin in a small car of a young woman, then to Río Grande in the pick-up of an older man who talks uninterrupted for two hours and in the meantime regularly forgets to press the accelerator and finally a truck to San Sebastian , the remote Argentine border post. For today we have reached our goal and we check if we can put our tent behind the gas station and restaurant of Automóvil Club Argentino. The next morning we drive to the Chilean customs in the back of a pick-up. The two apples in our backpack are not allowed to enter the country, fortunately we do. But after a few hours of waiting and a handful of vehicles crossing the border, we give up hope for a ride to Porvenir and decide to settle for a somewhat more usual ride up north. At this very moment a car stops to take us, to Porvenir! Two days, five rides and 437 km later we reach our goal: The small fishing town of Porvenir on the banks of the Strait of Magellan.

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