Day 1564 Monday 26th January
Yet another departure day, five fifteen am saw us walking in pre dawn grey to the travel shop to meet our coach, “for a six thirty sharp departure” said the nice young lady who sold us the deal and our tickets. So there the thirty or so, of us stood shivering till quarter to seven. With bags stowed we soon were on our way out of town through the tall evergreens hanging onto the thin soil for their dear life. The high surrounding mountains eventually gave way to flat open scrub land and our customs exit out of Argentina. Once again we were eating apples, avocados, cheese and tomatoes, yep no fresh foods into the next country.
Being a little choosy and firmer with the immigration officers about where they stamp our passports we pointed to the space that we required to be filled as the pages are getting less and less. The smiley man obliged and we thanked him “muchas gracias, senor”. His smile broadened.
No man’s land was a whopping fifteen km of gravel before reaching Chile, where in the immigration hall just as the officer picked up Diane’s passport the power took a dive and the lights and precious computers went dark. In Africa most countries dealt only in paper, whether money or forms, so no power, no problem. Being high tech makes us much more vulnerable in my book. Ten minutes later, with light and machines all working we were soon on our way toward the ferry off Terra del Fuego to the mainland.
The terrain was very much like the Welsh countryside near my home town, short scrub land ideal for sheep and cattle. Rolling up from flat plains to the horizon then once again forming large soft curved hills. Opening out around every corner or hill crest. Though looking very remote all the land was fenced against the stock that roamed these huge empty areas. Including Lamas, first we have seen.
Arriving at the bus terminal Diane got a town map from the information desk that would enable us to find our way to our backpacker hostel a few hundred meters distant. With us both being weary from being sat still on the bus our route took a detour as we failed to recognise right from left….. Last check in was ten pm. And we rang the bell at nine forty five…..
The manager showed us our room which unusually was a corner of the sitting cum lounge room walled off with no outside window or real privacy once the door was opened. The room felt decidedly chilly to us, (still acclimatised to Wickham weather). Both of us being slightly claustrophobic we were not keen on our given room. On request we were shown a twin bedded room with an out side window, being on the first and top floor all the warmth from downstairs came up to us, AND we had a huge gas fire outside our room. Heaven.
Day 1565 Tuesday 27th January
At the breakfast table we met a mother and daughter who came from thirty km south of my home town, sounded very strange to hear my local accent spoken so many kilometres and so many years away.
As rain beat down most of the morning we busied ourselves with laundry and finding some real food to cook. I made some cooked beans with heaps of chillies, cumin and onion, with side dishes of rice and broccoli. We once again being over dosed on bread, cheese, onion and tomato, although we love it really.
Day 1566 Wednesday 28th January
Once again we woke late and hungry, brekkie of bread, jam, butter coffee and tea saw us fit for a morning of trying to book a tour of sight seeing, something or anything!! The mid morning rain came down steady and consistent, so being occupied with indoor stuff in the warm was fine with us. With the clouds being blow clear of the town and mountains we headed for town to book a boat trip up the local fiord to a couple of glaciers. Must do some tourist stuff while we are in this southern paradise.
Day 1567 Thursday 29th January
Set an alarm of daybreak to be at the wharf for eight am. Lots of bright eyed keen foreigners dressed in al manner of breathable, wickable, thermal and waterproof clothing from head to foot, including hands. I seriously wondered if we had booked an Arctic two week passage and not a day out. But I am known for being Mr. under-dressed so I just felt jealous of all the new looking gear and braced my self for being not that warm. But only for a day not a polar expedition for quarter of a year.
Soon we were herded into a coach that took us to the wharf where our boat sat to take us north through the fiord over emerald waters that ran from the glaciers where they had been solid for probably thousands of years, makes you think. But not about ‘global warming’, because what about the ‘global cooling’ that would have had the world of amoeba or dinosaur’s panicking as we do now over half a degree warming compared to the half a degree cooling that occurred all those centuries ago? With no one to record it there was no one to worry over it. Yes humans may have not helped the situation, neither did the volcanoes or vast bush fires in pre-people Australia that occurred naturally, to enable the seeds and plants to erupt from pods or find rich earth fuelled by the ash from their forbearer’s. To grow and flourish. Yeah well I’m just a simple wandering person, but it makes a misty kind of sense to me.
Anyhow we soon pasted very remote ranches, only accessible from the water to our first glacier that thirty five years ago met the waters that it fed, but now was a couple of hundred meters above the shore line. Must be getting warmer, once again…
Well our morning passed with much blue ice towers looming over green waters, water cascading out of rock faces, seemingly from nowhere. All fed from the ancient frozen water from above.
Our stop off and walk was to the largest glacier here that met the lake below was a welcome relief to the boatie rolling and rocky of the last four hours. The eight hundred meter amble to almost the foot of the ice was beside the fresh water lake, a couple of dozen offspring of the frozen river idled about, slowly being drawn to the tiny outlet, where they would wait to melt to water once again, into the vast lake beyond. An hour here was given to take in the peace and tranquillity of this special place. I mused over the varied plethora of travel books I had read over the years and reckoned at this point a huge lump of ice would have leapt off the mother ‘berg and headed west about now. Fat chance I thought, when honest, a smallish lump of over hanging ice shelf did detach its self and ‘plummet’ thirty metres to the water below. A tiny tsunami left the base of the ice and headed out for twenty or so meters to quickly diminish to many ripples and then disappear. Leaving the new ice berg to bob on its way to the outlet and wait to melt its way to freedom.
Our return journey stopped off at a ranch for a roast lamb lunch with potatoes salad and a glass of wine. For a vegetarian, the meat was fantastic, the animals had been split open and spread like a cloak around charcoal fire on a teepee of wood sticks to slow cook leaving crispy skin and fat wrapped around succulent meat, with chewy jerky where the fire had caught the flesh and toasted it to burnt sugar brown and a touch of black. Yummy.
Many of the guests found sunny places to sleep off their feed out of the fresh wind. On deck and below, while we watched the green hills and snow topped mountains cruse by.
All too soon we were back on the bus heading for town and an early night. Maybe we should have slept to on the sunny boat deck, but to miss the scenery? Nah, not so. I reckon we wont be back this way again any time soon.
Considering the amount of stray dogs and cats in Peurto Nalales and Ushuaia I was surprised at the lack of poo in on the sidewalks, given the amount of garbage that did lie almost in every vacant spot, I don’t think the town council was clearing it away! The animals mostly looked healthy and fed. A lot of houses had containers by the door with water in for them, which is something I had never seen before. Even in animal loving Britain.
There were skeletons of cars and trucks left lying on the pavement garbage every where, to be stripped of parts, or just a dog kennel or even graffiti I don’t know. But there were a lot of them.
Day 1568 Friday 30th January
Spoke with an English couple who has just got their Australian passports before they left for a nine month trip. They told us South America is not what they had anticipated but a glacial tour they had taken in a town further north was a must do. So we checked and booked a bus there for Sunday morning.