Still recovering from the highs of Perito Moreno Glacier, we made our way South, towards Chile.
Day 15 – January 3, 2017
We left our “campsite” around 9AM. I use campsite loosely here. We were on the side of the road behind a small hill (which offered no wind protection) and the wind was relentless. We had chosen this site based on it being the only place on iOverlander that was close to the border. The people who had stayed there previously said that the hill provided protection from the highway and some protection from the wind. We were not so lucky with the latter. We had become accustomed to the Patagonia wind, but on this particular night, we were just over it. We couldn’t use our “outdoor” facilities without the wind doing some major damage. We had to leave as soon as we could.
We made it to the Argentina customs office, along with about 100 people (two busses and a handful of cars). Lucky for us, the office had a dog to keep us occupied. I played with her for 20 minutes, and she had taken a liking to my scarf. After completing our exit of Argentina, we made our way to Chile’s custom office, with everyone else. This was our first time crossing into Chile in the van, and we heard they can be pretty strict with fruits, veggies and meats. We made a point to eat all those items the day before (I was pretty sick of eggs) and tossed the few slices of cheese we couldn’t finish. The customs agent spent about 2 minutes looking in our car and said we were good. It wasn’t as bad as what we were told. I imagine that each inspector has their own thing, and we just got really lucky he didn’t spot the garlic that we completely forgot about. It was a little chilly outside, and he didn’t bring a jacket. We suspect this might have influenced the thoroughness of his search.
Once in Chile, we headed South towards Puerto Natales, a port town we were going to refuel, and restock. The grocery store had the Chilean version of cup of noodles – YES! We wanted some soup for lunch to deal with the cold weather. We decided to make lunch by the waterfront before driving to Punta Arenas. We found a parking spot and quickly got the stove going to boil some water. It was minutes, just minutes after getting setup outside, the weather took a drastic change and poured on us. The wind and rain were no joke – it was blowing sideways, instantly blowing out our stove fire. We rushed to get back in the van and decided to cook in the van. The Chilean version of cup of noodles taste exactly like Cup of Noodles, except it includes a fork (less dishwashing – haaaayyy). Honestly, it was the best thing I have eaten. It warmed me up, and tasted like my college days. Peace out, Puerto Natalies – see you in a few days and please don’t rain on me next time.
The drive to Punta Arenas was windy, cold and had some small towns for us to gawk at. The Highway is called “Ruta del Fin del Mundo (Route of the End of the World)”. We arrived at a free campsite around 6PM and were the only ones there. We picked out the best spot with the view of the Magellan Strait, enjoyed a warm dish of pasta, and even had signal to FaceTime/WhatsApp with family and friends. The only disadvantage of this campsite was the proximity to the airport. We were within 5 miles of the airport. We thought it would be annoying, but the airport doesn’t seem to be a busy one, and the last flight we heard was just after 10PM (Though we did get a sweet flyover by some military jets!).
We headed to the city to refuel, and purchase our ferry ticket for the next day. The ferry office is closed between 12-2pm (long lunch people) so we had to burn time while we waited. Turns out, there is a Lider (Walmart) in town, so we went off to do some shopping. We bought an extra blanket – it was getting colder at nights, and was much needed. We also restocked on toothpaste, soaps, gas cans, and a luxury item – leave-in hair conditioner! We picked up a few food items, more dried sausage, muffins, shredded cheese, hot chocolate, and wine.
The ferry office was open, and sold us a car/passenger ticket, plus a regular passenger ticket – total cost $26,000 CLP for the 9AM ferry to Tierra del Fuego. We wanted to drive around Punta Arenas for the rest of the day and enjoy the views from the beach. We drove South as far as we could. Along the drive we looked for wildlife. At one point we got super excited because we thought we saw penguins. We pulled over, eager to check out some “rogue” penguins, only to find out they were imposters! They were birds that look similar to penguins, but not actually penguins, but Magellanic Cormorants. How dare they! We still enjoyed our drive, looking at birds, the waves, and monuments. We headed back to our free campsite, and called it a day.
We got up early for our 9AM ferry. We were told to be there by 8AM, so we were. We pulled into line and waited for the next instructions. It wasn’t long before an employee came over and told us that due to weather, the ferry hadn’t left the other port until 7am, and we wouldn’t be leaving until 11am. So, Steve and I waited, read, napped, in our car, waiting for when we would need to board. Around 10AM, the boat pulled up, and movement was happening. We had our ticket checked and boarded the boat. This was both of our first time ever driving onto a boat, it was weird and exciting. We parked and were ushered into the passenger waiting area. They had a café, large windows, and seats outside. It was COLD, so we stayed inside. The ferry experience was pretty nice. When we arrived at Tierra del Fuego, and headed back to our car, we couldn’t believe how they packed every car on the boat! Efficiency at its best!
We traveled throughout Tierra Del Fuego – stay tuned!