30 March 2010

End of the World

The bus from Punta Arencas was incredible. It followed the Strait of Magellen and finally boarded a ferry to cross it. I took a boat across the same East-West Passage that helped prove the Earth is round. Hours later, I arrived in the "Southern Most City in the World", Ushuaia.

After completing the standard tourist adventures in this city include stamping the passport 8-10 times, going on boat rides, and short day hikes, I planned a longer trek with some friends from Torres del Paine. We gave ourselves three days, two nights for a very easy trek with possible side trips. The plan was through a valley, up the side to a couple of lakes the first day. The second, back down in to the valley, up and over a pass. Then a leisurely stroll down and back to civilization.

The taxi driver dropped us off near the trail head, but not at it. We figured this out soon enough, and found the stream we needed to be close to. At this point, a pack of five dogs found us and decided to come along for the adventure. We made it back to the trail head, though without keeping our feet dry. Crossing the valley led us to our first lake, a chilly, glacial bowl for lunch. The nine of us (four humans, five dogs) then backtracked and up the other side to our second lake and first camp. Because we were not in the park yet, we were able to have a warm fire and dry our shoes.

The second day started well, we made good time out of the valley, the dogs leading the way. We made it back to the central valley, and even to the park entrance. After some hiking in the park, we came to a lake/bog that wasn't on the map. The dead trees located throughout gave us the impression it was rather new. We decided to go around, and ended up scaling down some cliffs, wading through rivers, etc. We found what we believed to be the trail, it even had logs cut of out the way. This eventually ended, and we tried to use the compass and map to find our way.

The dogs, at this point, were no longer leading, but following us. We were definitely lost, off trail, and it was getting dark. We backtracked, and eventually found out that we circumnavigated the entire bog lake from before, also discovering the reason for this unmapped lake. Beavers had built a series of damns which completely flooded the valley and trail. We found our way back to the park limits, camping on the outside once again to allow for a fire to dry our things.

The dogs followed us out and left us when we passed their home. We kept on, enjoying an all-you-can-eat dinner and a warm shower that night. Today, I took my muddy things to a lavaropa and bought my ticket north. At 5am tomorrow, I will begin traveling, and will not stop until 8am two days later. That is 12 hours, a 3 hour layover, then 36 hours.

Some photos:

Somethings Interesting
--As big as this continent is, all travelers are going to the same cities and same destinations. I have run into the same people multiple times. This fascinates me.

--I was expecting more violence and bloodshed in Lord of the Flies.

--25 breeding pairs of beavers were introduced here in the 40s in an attempt by the Argentine government to develop trade with Europe. Epic fail. Turns out, beaver pelts were popular pre-Industrial Revolution, not post-WWII. Also, without any natural predators, they have flourished and are destroying Patagonia, literally.

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