03.06.2013 - 03.09.2013 49 °F
The bus ride from El Calafate to Ushuaia was interesting. This is typical travel across land here - expect the unexpected. First of all, the bus drivers smoke while driving - just open their driver-side window and light up. I can't remember when that was last acceptable back home. Caution to anyone considering similar travel here in the future - come prepared for bathroom breaks where you may or may not have soap or even toilet paper. I've learned to carry both. On long trips the bus bathrooms are not pleasant either. Still, I've experienced worse camping, so it was more of a minor inconvenience - I guess depending on your expectations....
The ferry ride from the mainland over to Tierra del Fuego was definitely interesting given that I haven't been on one before. The ferry carried the bus, semi trucks and various vehicles and all of the passengers across the Straights of Magellan, which you may remember from world history or geography. I've included a couple of shots of the ferry:
Ferry pulling up
Our bus loading
My poor Algerian seatmate was not able to make the crossing as he was denied entry into Chile, which we entered just prior to the Straights. Without a prearranged visa for Chile, he had to hitch a ride back to the nearest town with an airport to fly to Ushuaia (in Argentina) instead. By flying, he leaves Argentina then lands in Argentina, bypassing Chile. Apparently he didn't realize the bus would need to go through Chile. Luckily for me, US citizens don't need a visa for Chile. After the crossing and travelling on gravel roads for some time, we crossed back into Argentina.
One last notable item about the bus journey is that I managed to pickup a bit of a stalker at the bus station. Luckily he was not on the same bus as me, but unfortunately our buses basically travelled together. I was finally able to discourage his interest by ignoring him and standing close to other people. It was the only time I have felt truly uncomfortable on this trip. This far south in the continent is actually very safe and I've met many women travelling alone here. Like anywhere else, you just have to listen to your gut and follow common sense.
Tierra del Fuego is absolutely beautiful with beech trees covering much of the land. It's very hilly (and mountainous) terrain with lakes and rivers. Due to poor lighting conditions, I was not able to take pictures on the way down, but I enjoyed the scenery immensely.
I did manage to make up for the lack of pictures from the bus yesterday on a 4x4 excursion north of Ushuaia. It was a fun time. Luckily, I eventually made friends with a guy from Buenos Aires that spoke pretty good English, and also chatted briefly with a couple from Bogota in Colombia who spoke some English; otherwise I had to rely on my very broken Spanish and hand gestures. I eventually won over the guide with my questions and general interest in the information he shared about the area, in which he was well versed in all different aspects. After the excursion, I went out for beers with my new friend from Buenos Aires where we discussed our somewhat mutual professions and compared our counties. Here are some shots from the 4x4 excursion:
Views from within town
Views on the road north of town
Heading down towards the lake
Looking back up the hill
Moss on the trees is something to see
We just followed along that entire lakeshore
Close-up of part of the 4x4 path
Crossing the lake channel
Break for lunch (a feast!)
Walk on the beach after lunch
Final stop - beaver habitat - apparently someone just offed the beaver
Later today, I embark on my Antarctica journey. I'm very excited about all that I'll see and am also a bit nervous about crossing the Drake Channel between South America and Antarctica, which can be very rough seas. I heard from someone returning from another trip that 80% of the passengers were sick from the crossing. I'm hoping the seasickness pills my mom gave me will provide relief - fingers crossed.
I'm not sure whether I'll be able to post at all while on my boat trip. If so, I'll attempt something. If not, I'll probably post again around 3/21 (give or take).