Check out our post about PENGUINS!
After crossing into Argentina, we headed towards Ushuaia. Along the way, there were few places to stop along the beach. As we headed South, the eco-system changed, and within hours it looked like we were going through the Sierras in California – snowcap mountains, lakes, greens, and windy roads. We arrived at Ushuaia and were surprised how big the city was. It was one-way streets, parking was challenging, and tourists everywhere. Shopping is the thing to do – lots of brand names and tons of eager shoppers. We had to stop to find cash, fuel and groceries (story of our lives now). Getting cash was a bit of a struggle again. Steve was able to find a working ATM after 3 attempts. We got our gas and groceries and were only looking for ice. It took us close to 45 minutes to find a shop with ice. At this point, I was over this town and ready to get out of there. Onward to Tierra del Fuego National Park! The National Park entrance is within 10 minutes of the city, and cost us $420 ARP total for the two us, and was valid for 3 days. At this point, it was well into the evening, and we were ready for dinner and relaxing. We found a free campsite within the park with a creek and lake nearby. We were delighted to find the resident Goose family, with their little babies – so fuzzy and cute. We also got to meet a fascinating couple from Belgium – Rose & Michel. They drove this insane off-road motorhome that they bought in Africa! They loved to travel and have driven from Morocco to South Africa, and now they were traveling from South America to North America. The ship from Europe to South America with their motorhome was 5 weeks. Needless to say, Steve and I were inspired by their numerous stories of travels and adventures. Please check out their blog. We also met Chris & Chris, a married couple from Portland, Oregon also driving a funky WickedVan! They had just started their adventure a few days prior and planned on driving up to El Calafate, Torres del Paine and back to Punta Arenas. It has always been a pleasure to chat with other WickedVan people, especially other Americans!
Today was the day we wanted to get in some good hikes in. We had planned on two hikes, so woke up eager to leave the van behind us. We said goodbyes to our new friends and left the campsite with a packed lunch, plenty of warm clothes, and a positive attitude. The first hike we set out to do was the Coastal trail, 9km one way to the next campsite, and hugged the coastline. The trailhead was 2 km away, and had a few view points along the way. Once we started on the trail we were amazed how many trees grew, especially with the wind. Throughout the hikes that day, we repeatedly heard the sounds of trees creaking, cracking and moving in the wind. In fact, there are numerous signs warning for falling branches. The trail was a lot of incline and decline, with exposed roots and logs to climb over. I was surprised this trail was rated as “medium” because by the end, I would’ve assumed it was rated “medium-difficult. We were slightly disappointed that for being the “coastal trail”, we only walked along the coast 3 times, everything else was in the woods. We wanted to see birds and other wild life, but had no luck. We arrived at the end of the trail, which is also a port. We visited the “post office at the End of the World” and decided to mail a few post cards to family – which was a bit on the expensive side, but what do you expect when you mail post cards from the “End of the World.” By the way, we just checked, and they still haven’t gotten them (3 weeks later). We ate our lunch, and before we knew it, the wild life came to us. A hawk smelled our turkey and cheese and was keen to wait for any crumbs.
After lunch we hiked to the next trailhead, about 1 km away, the Pampa Alta trail. This trail promised to have a beautiful viewpoint once reaching the summit. We went for it. The trail was 5 km round trip. This trail was a lot less busy, and within a mile we saw a woodpecker along with many other birds. We had read that the North American Beaver were introduced here in 1946 (as a potential fur trading) and since then, they have destroyed most of the natural habitat. It was announced in 2011 that the park was starting to extract the beavers, which at this point had a population of 200,000. On our hike, we witnessed many beaver dams and damaged trees from beavers. We didn’t spot a single beaver. The summit proved to have the scenic views it had promised. We spent about 30 minutes enjoying the views and the quietness (and after enjoying nature for a while, we enjoyed the 3G internet that summit provided which we hadn’t had in a few days). We hiked back down, a little tired and mostly hungry. It was 5PM by the time we reached the main road, we had 4 miles to get to our campsite, hiking mostly on the highway. Steve and I talked about attempting to hitch a ride back to camp, but for the first 10 minutes no cars were heading our way. Finally, we heard a car, thumbs up, and success! My first time hitchhiking and I scored on the first attempt! The Argentinean couple were both Physics professors from Buenos Aires and were happy to bring us back to camp. They were both very interesting to chat with, though Steve was doing most of the chatting as they spoke as much English as I do Spanish.
We made dinner and met our new neighbor, Erwan, from France. He had a mid-sized SUV that was prepped for camping. He had bought the vehicle in Santiago, and planned on traveling for 5 months. It is always inspiring to hear everyone’s journey, he is taking a year to travel South America, West Coast of US and parts of Canada – amazing!
I woke up this morning to a swollen eye and knew it immediately. Turns out, a mosquito got me right on the eye lid area, causing redness, itchiness, and lots of puffiness. Sunglasses on – no problem. Steve and I first hit up the last part of the National Park we missed, the last dock. We drove there and took obligatory photos – this is the farthest you can drive South (or so the sign reads). We had read that this was a fantastic spot to bird watch – well, we didn’t get so lucky. We saw one duck, and that was it. We hit to road, with the hope of crossing back into Chile, and off Tierra del Fuego.
It was both weird and exciting for the first time on this trip to say “let’s go North!”, and we traveled along the same roads we took going into the park and Ushuaia. Rather than head West towards the same ferry port, we headed North to a much smaller one. Crossing into Chile took some time, it was crowded, but we made it through. When they checked our passports and I was horrified to take my sunglasses off, it had gotten worse. Steve and I both decided it was best I probably take some Benadryl to ease the itchiness and hopefully the swelling. It also caused me to be sleepy, and a bit cranky (I am leading up to an epic meltdown). We arrived at the ferry by 8PM and within 30 minutes we were on boat. This boat was MUCH smaller. In fact, they didn’t have much seating, so we stayed in our car the whole time. We had planned on spending the night at the port but once we saw the area (and the bathroom), decided it was best to keep moving. We drove another 45 minutes until we got to a beach we were able to camp at. The beach was beautiful, the wind was annoying, but the most unfortunate thing about this site, we weren’t able to find a level spot. We cooked inside our van (already cramped) and with the van already leaning, I accidently spilled a glass of wine all over the van – it got my pants, our sheets, and went all over the floor. Look – I am putting this out there, I am not a perfect person. Did I have a mini meltdown – yes. Was it about the wine – no. I was tired, cranky, itchy, smelly, wet with wine, and annoyed that I spilled it. Was it my best moment – no. Did Steve handle it well – of course. I told him I just needed 5 minutes of silence so I could pout about it my head. Once that was done, Steve suggested we stay tomorrow night in Puerto Natalies and get a shower, laundry and some relaxing. It was the perfect solution to my mini-crisis.
I think this may be a good back to reality moment here. I hope when you read our blog posts, you realize that I obviously don’t put in all the bad stuff. I try my best to put in our struggles, and issues – so you can learn from us if you choose to travel where we have been. But in reality, I don’t put all the times Steve and I have bickered at each other, argued about navigation (it’s always an issue), and other times we have been less than pleasant. The truth is, we are not a perfect couple, nor have a perfect marriage. We are flawed people. But, we love each other through those faults, and because of those faults. We are flawed people who try our best to make each other laugh, smile, and be happy – but did I mention… we are flawed. Steve is a patient man… except with my navigation skills. We have our limits. This trip has taught us how to handle more problems than we ever imagined, it has taught us to laugh at really horrible moments, and taught us when we need to put our pride away for a second to help each other out. In the moment I mentioned above, I acted truly horrible. Steve put aside everything to let me know it’s okay, not to feel ashamed and helped with a solution (and cleaning the van). We have learned when we need space, when we need a hug, and when we need to just laugh at the situation. I guess the point is, I hope when you read this, you understand that there is more beyond the words, I can’t write down every struggle, because you would be bored to know how many times I can’t read a map properly. Steve and I are having the times of our lives, but we are learning so much more about the type of marriage we are in, and what we strive for.
On that note – thanks for reading (this rather long rant…post)… will post soon!