Tolhuin - Paradise found!
28 Nov 2004
From Porvenir, we continued along the west coast of Chilean Tierra Del Fuego, and around Bahia Inutil. The coastline was more rugged and lush than further north with estancias dotted sparingly around the countryside and flame red Chilean Firebushes punctuated the rolling hills either side of road and around field boundaries. Further on, the road seemed to pass through a military practise area with tanks on the hillside and personnel firing mortars. Quite bizarre! Eventually arrived at Onaisin and nosied around but nothing going on around here... a few sheds and no signs of life... probably springs to life at sheep sheering time.
From Onaisin, we headed almost due east for San Sabastian. First the Chilean border office... middle of nowhere, just a hostal and a manned border post. We and the car got through no problem and we drove another 10 minutes to the Argentine border office... again middle of nowhere, just a petrol station and a café and again we and the car got through no problem. Thank-you man at Adel! The tourist information office here was fantastic... very informative, loads of brochures and lots of help and advice from the staff... much of what we did over the following days was based on information and leaflets obtained from them.
Suddenly, roadworks and tarmac!!! Argentina obviously had more money for road improvements!!! We were disappointed!!!
Nothing at San Sabastian to stop for so we motored on down the dry flat paved east coast (havn't been near the Atlantic for ages!!!) for Rio Grande, a substantial town where we stopped for a late lunch. Rio Grande has a massive military presence and strong ties with the Falklands War. Many of the Argentine soldiers who died were from Rio Grande. We didn't notice any ill-feeling towards us though.
Stocked up on food, fuel & cash then headed out of town for the south and Tolhuin, passing the giant trout on the way! YES!
As we edged further south the landscape started to change again, rolling hills scattered with Nire and Lenga trees, many of them contorted by the severe winters, hardly looked alive. Estancias dotted the hill sides again and eventually our D21 came into its own as the tarmac disappeared and the rutted dust tracks returned. As we got closer to Tolhuin, the snow capped peaks of the southern most tip of the Andes Mountains were visible in the far distance.
It was now late afternoon so we decided we'd stop at Tolhuin. Took a good look around this middle of nowhere village, popularised by its famous Panaderia La Union... the cake shop of all cake shops that just about every tourist bus stops at! We called in, got a choice selection of goodies and a brew, courtesy of the tourist office at the border, then moved on to find some digs.
Tolhuin was near the banks of Lago Fagnano so we headed down that way first... the views were stunning, looking out over the lake to the southern Andes... Tried Hostal Kaiken first which was beautiful and I would definitely recommend it but was too expensive for us... If we get desperate, we might consider it! We quite fancied camping on the shoreline of the lake but there was no firm ground, all pebbles, however there was a camp site at the opposite end of the shoreline so we checked that out... it was disgusting! I'd rather wilderness pitch any day than stay at that hovel!!! On the way, we'd passed some beautiful wooden cabanas, recently built and facing out onto the shoreline... Thought we'd try them on the off chance... they were for 6 people but if they had one free maybe they'd do a discounted price for 2... and we were in luck! We could have one of the cabanas on the shoreline that looked right out over the southern Andes at a bargain rate... it was cheaper than the hostal up the road!!! We were stunned!!! Just shows what you can get if you try!!! He showed us around then said he needed a couple of hours just to get it cleaned and the laundry changed etc...
We sat on the pebble beach just 10 metres from our cabana, watching the gentle waves breaking on the shoreline and the most amazing sunset til our home from home was ready! This was paradise... the first time since we'd left home that we had found somewhere we could treat as our own home for the night. It even had a bath!!! Pete set about lighting the log fire in the lounge... Jan sorted dinner and opened a bottle of wine... then we sat and enjoyed the last of the wine, choices & sunset before dozing off on the sofas. Perfect!!!
--> 379 kms today, 770 kms in today
Had such a good sleep, soft cosy duvet, just like home... lie in then breakfast and a brew in bed!!! Cereal, yoghurt and pastries... such a change! And such a wonderful view from the bedroom window, don't even need to get up! A glorious morning!!!
Decided we'd stay another night if we could so eventually got up, had a nice hot shower then went to see the happy chappy running the place to see if it was OK to stay... no problem!!!
Today is the day we'll finally make it to Ushuaia, the furthest south on our trip! It was supposed to be only an hour away so we could "commute", check the place out, drop off some laundry, book a boat trip out on the Beagle channel for the following day, organisation some accommodation, get some more goodies in for dinner then head back to our little paradise for the evening.
Trip to Ushuaia took more like 2 hours, mostly gravel but road-works in progress to tarmac some sections, which held things up somewhat! Never mind, the views of Lago Fagnano, Lago Es Condido and the drive over the Andes at Paso Garibaldi were wonderful. Finally we passed the ski fields and dropped into Ushuaia itself...
"Fin Del Mundo" they call it... the end of the world... what about Isla Navarino? Cape Horn? Antarctica? Still, it's the 29th of November, just over 2 months since we left home, it's a beautiful day and we're here, Ushuaia!!!
Its just as you'd expect it to look... but bigger and obviously expanding! We managed to park right at the harbour front looking out over the Beagle channel. Wandered around town getting a feel for the place and did all the jobs we'd planned to do. Booked a hostal for the following 2 nights... nowhere near as nice as the cabanas but the same price! Then headed back to Tolhuin.
We had 1 bottle of wine left from our wine tasting up in Talca but reckoned it wouldn't last all night so Pete did a run to the local village store to get a second bottle while Jan got dinner on the go, road-kill roast chicken (you've never seen a chicken this shape before!!!) with mash & carrots! Nothing fancy but just what we fancied! On Pete's return he announced that he had purchased the most expensive bottle of wine in the shop... £1! We'd finished our first bottle while Pete was lighting the fire so before dinner was even on the table the local vintage was open! And... it was excellent!!! As was dinner!!!
We retired to the lounge to soak up the warmth of the log fire, enjoy the wine & chocies and look out over the lake and mountains til darkness fell... the water was completely still and moody rain clouds approached up the lake... beautiful in a different way to the evening before.
Sat chatting and reminiscing in front of the fire til 2am before eventually turning in.
--> 225 kms today, 995 kms in total
Jan soaked in the bath while Pete prepared breakie - cereal & yoghurt, potato cakes & scambled egg... a feast!!! We found the one non-perfect thing about the cabana... the bath didn't drain properly!!! Oh well!!!
Fed and watered we finally packed our bags and loaded up the D21. Really didn't want to leave but had to move on some time! Jan headed off to pay the happy chappy for our 2 nights of luxury but he was nowhere to be found... in the end we had to stick a note under the office door and leave the money in a mug in the cabana... unlocked... hoped he found it and not some other thieving fingers!!!
It was another beautiful day an we drove along the shoreline of Lago Fagnano for the last time then headed south to Ushuaia again, this time to stay for a couple of days!