Tierra del Fuego National Park and the Beagle Channel
May 6, 2008
|May 6, 2008
We began Tuesday with a beautiful sunrise. We were up and about because we had a tour planned with Sergio and Victor taking us to Tierra del Fuego National Park. This is the southernmost national park in Argentina. In fact, our cabins are the southernmost accommodations in South America. This area is farther south toward the south pole than Africa or Australia and most of New Zealand. It is the southern equivalent of Hudson Bay in Canada in the north in terms of latitude in relation to the south pole.
Sergio and Victor met us at the Finisterris Lodge and we headed down the road to the national park. Finisterris is only about 2-3 miles to the park on the same road out of town. But first we stopped at the Tierra del Fuego railroad—this was a 27 mile extremely narrow gauge railroad that transported prisoners to the country to cut firewood and lumber. It was right next to the Ushuaia Golf Club—you guessed it—the southernmost golf club in the world.
From there we went into the Glacier National Park and made our way to a little cove with a pier. We stopped there to observe Round Island and Crocodile Island. Sergio told us a little about the area and took us for a hike down the shore. He showed us a green beach made up of a schist rock that had been broken up. He pointed out the numerous mussels that live along the tidal basin area, and he showed us the large mounds called “middens” that are basically the trash heap from aboriginal Indians who lived in Tierra del Fuego and returned to the coast each year to gather mussels and fish.
We took some photos, then loaded up again to go to Lago Roca, a large lake in the park. There we enjoyed the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. Condor Peak rises above the lake and marks one of the boundaries between Chile and Argentina. We walked along the shore of the lake and then through the campgrounds along the lake. We ended up at a little cafeteria/ coffee shop where we could take a bathroom break and get some drinks and snacks. We warmed up and got more comfortable before our next trek-the end of the road.
On our way out to the end of the world road we saw three red foxes. Melissa saw them as we passed on the left side, then when we stopped to go back we could see them out the rear window crossing the road from left to right. We tried to get some pictures but weren’t successful. They were much larger than the red foxes in Texas—these guys were the size of a border collie.
We carried on to the end of Route 3, the final segment of the Pan American highway. That is a road the extends from Alaska to South America and ends at the end of Route 3. That’s where we went, posing before the two signs that commemorate that fact. We also walked on a boardwalk out to the bay to look at the area and get another view of the Beagle Channel and the mountains in Chile.
That was the end of our tour. Sergio and Victor took us back to Ushuaia, arranged for our Beagle Channel tour in the afternoon, and dropped us off at the Tia Elvira café. We had a great lunch there with a heavy emphasis on crab.
We walked back over to the boarding area for the tour boat—a large catamaran called the LM (we only have a picture of a similar catamaran the Elizabeth).The Beagle Channel tour took us to a few islands in the channel and gave us some perspective on its size. The first island looked like it had penguins all over it, but they were flying! Turns out the penguins left last month for Brazil—what we were seeing were black and white cormorants. There were also several sea lions laying around there, including two guys who had some sort of dancing duet thing going on that was really cute.
From there we went to another island that was really dominated by sea lions. Several of the sea lions greeted us from the water and swam around the boat.
Our next stop was the beacon near the end of the channel. We circled the beacon for awhile, then we headed back to shore. The boat ride was pleasant and entertaining but not as dramatic as the tour in the morning.
When we got back, we decided to walk around the center of town for awhile. We did a little shopping, then finally ended up back at Gustino’s again for a glass of wine, and that developed into dinner again. We tried new things this time, including the discovery of a wonderful dessert wine called Malomaldo. It has a port taste but it is made completely from Malbec grapes. Once again Joaquin bailed us out, picking us up and returning us to the cabins.