Diary/Photo Journal

Week of April 10, 2005 

We left rainy, windy and very cold for snowy, windy and even colder.  We were heading for Ushuaia, the self-promoted "Southernmost City in the World" and it felt more like we were driving to the northernmost.  As the Andes mountains disappear into the ocean off of South America's tip, they become lower and lower until their submergence.  Even though we only had to ascend through a relatively low pass, it snowed as though we were passing through the top of the Andes - wait, we were at the top of the Andes!

Views along the drive into
Tierra del Fuego island and
Where colorful fall meets its
colorless end.  Winter was
settling in quickly

Cindy did fine and her new tires definitely were appreciated.  Fortunately, as we dropped down a few hundred meters back to sea level and into Ushuaia, the snow ceased and we were met with a sunny, white-cloud day.  However, after an hour or so in Cindy, we stepped out onto a peppering of snow in our campsite located appropriately enough, at the base of a ski mountain. 

Snow-speckled trees guided
our passage
A myriad of colors punctuated by
the white of the fresh snow

As we planned, we met up again with Larry and Marylyn and after a brief and chilly exchange of the past few days' stories, we each ducked back into our respective mobile hovels and warmed ourselves by our artificial fires (IE: heaters).  Larry and Marylyn had the worst of the couple of days of travel.  Due to high winds coming into Rio Grande, their awning (built into the side of their camper), decided to stay in Rio Grande and blew off in a blustery gust.  They were lucky no worse happened to their camper and they remain somewhat water-tight.

The classic tourist pose - the
official "End of the World"
marker.  (Fin = end, Mundo = world)

The other end of the world for
many residents (IE: cemetery) -
but what a location!

View of the mountains along the
Argentinean side. 

View of our camp from atop the ski resort
(uh, or shall I say, the one-run, ski resort
and I am standing atop the one-run)
Where's Cindy?

I took a wonderful hike along the ridge of the ski area and fell into a winter wonderland.  Carefully prodding ahead with my walking stick, I discovered several patches of thin ice fragilely covering pockets of ponds and small streams.  The only sounds that disturbed my quiet was the snow dropping from the branches of the nearby trees and the occasional chirp of the flitting birds.  Not much one can say; however, I will steal from a famous REM song: "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I'm doing fine".

What an awesome place

The path less traveled 

Everywhere you turn, more
spectacular sights to behold

Watch your step!

Taking advantage of the glorious day, we stepped on down to the harbor and hired a tour boat to take an excursion around part of the Beagle Channel.  The channel was named for the boat used by Fitz Roy (remember Chalten) and Charles Darwin during his maiden voyage to study the unique Patagonia fauna and flora.  As you can imagine, we were graced with beautiful landscapes and quite a few barking sea lions.

- View from the harbor out onto a placid bay
- A look back to the city at the base of the Andes -
if you look closely, on the left of the picture, you
will see a vertical slash of white amongst the green
of the trees.  The base of that slash was our camp
and the slash was the ski slope.
- An Estancia on the Beagle Channel
- An important landmark lighthouse

Behind Gerson is the Beagle

and the second picture is the
view of the Chilean side of
the Beagle Channel

During our boat ride, we had the fortune to come upon many young female sea lions frolicking in the water.  Girls just wanna have fun!

The frolicking femmes The sea lion (yoga) colony watched over by its patriarch.
Cormorants fill in the spaces
Love the two golden pups

We finished off the day with the famous Patagonian style of bar-b-que called "Parrillada".  What distinguishes this style of cooking is that they take the lamb and spread-eagle the body over an open pit fire.  Many other meats are also roasted and sliced to your plate upon request.  Not as good as the Brazlian style of bar-b-que, but very good indeed!

Our chef for the evening
and the spit lamb and
other meats roasting

Still enjoying the good weather, we had a lazy morning and decided to walk into town and visit the museum.  The museum has a bit of everything of the history of the area as well as a well-preserved history of its penitentiary (as Ushuaia originally was a penal colony).  To see so many fantastic pictures of Ushuaia and the ships that graced the waters some 100 - 125 years ago was very interesting. 

Some relics of shipwrecks from over 100 years ago

Gerson seeing what the other side was like

That is a stuffed King Penguin and
yes, they are that tall.  Not the cute,
cuddly ones we usually see on TV

Back at our campsite, we made use of the refugio that has a small kitchen and a wood-burning stove for warmth.  Gerson concocted a wonderful pasta and chicken soup and next thing we know, we have three other campers adding their dinner to the mix.  Many stories were exchanged and thanks to Marylyn's plateful of dulces (sweets), we ended the evening on a cheerful note.

Larry, Marylyn, Oscar, Ariel, Emilio (Argentineans), Gerson and Louise
Enjoying the impromptu pot luck dinner in the cozy camp refugio

We decided to take advantage of a nice morning to make our way out of Ushuaia and over the snowy pass.  All was clear and colorful as Fall was upon the landscape.  No one tree had its own color but rather, the countryside looked like a mad painter splattered bright yellow, bold orange, blood red, soft pink, dark green, rust brown, lime green and mustard yellow paint in some dazed and crazed haphazard fashion.  If you appreciated a particular tree too long, you started to get dizzy when attempting to discern the individual colors that graced any one branch. 

Leaving Ushuaia and one
lovingly last look

The wind leaves its mark

I don't think I could ever get tired
of taking pictures of this changing

Seeing as Ushuaia has virtually only one way in and one way out (over land, that is), we traveled back to Rio Grande for the night before heading back across the border to Chile (and then across to Argentina - you cannot go from Rio Grande, Argentina to Buenos Aires without going through Chile - go figure!).  We again stayed with the Bomberos Volunterios (volunteer firemen) and we enjoyed looking through their scrap book that dated from 1997 that included all the well-wishes from travelers past.  Quite an amazing book and of course, we accorded our words.

Our camp in Rio Grande
and two very helpful and
nice firemen
Cindy as she is....and Cindy as she wants to be
Ok, when the road is long and flat and barren,
you find entertainment in anything you can

We cleared the borders and found ourselves relieved to be back in Argentina.  I am sorry Patagonian Chile, when we make the comparison with Patagonian Argentina, it is Argentina that is exceptional.  The people, the food, the roads, the services,...hence, we were happy to be in Argentina again.

The old-fashioned round-up.  Nothing like using a truck,
motorcycles and an ATV to round-up the cows...well,
almost all the cows.  Love the little guy looking on as if to say
"Catch me if you can!"
Patagonian sky over
Puerto San Julian and its
mountains around the bay

We pushed a bit to get through Rio Gallegos for a quick sleep-over and restock of our food and then onto Puerto San Julian, a small coastal town that is rich in history.

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