This might be my last account of our travels…a lot has happened since our time in Ushuaia–also known as Tierra Del Fuego or “The End of the World”. I spent last January (2020) in Brazil, soaking up the Brazilian sunshine, and eventually flew to a tiny city in southern Chile where I met my family and the motorhome. Together, we began our descent to the very tip of South America, a region famous for its glaciers, frigid lakes, melancholic landscapes, mountain ranges, herds of sheep, and perpetual wind.
We spent many days venturing ourselves in national parks and towns filled with backpackers, crossing dark-colored channels with ferries while observing sea lions sunbathing, walking on stretches of beaches with coarse sand and colonies of Magellanic and King penguins (one of the few colonies outside of Antarctica, in Parque Pinguino Rey), and driving days across muddy, dirt roads without seeing a single soul besides herds of bleeping sheep. In order to endure the rainy weather, as well as the gusts of wind, we elaborated a comfort drink: boiling hot tea with lots of lime and honey. Some days we were lucky and the sun came out, creating the most beautiful sunsets. If I had to choose one single word to describe the region of southern Chile is “remoteness”. However, as we crossed the Magellan Strait from Punta Arenas, mainland Chile, to Porvenir, situated in the Isla Grande of the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago, and drove southeast across the Argentinian border the scenery changed. The further south we drove, the more coniferous forests appeared, as well as snow capped peaks, glacial lakes, and mountain ranges covered by permanent snow.
We finally arrived in the southmost city of the world after many days of isolation on the road, Ushuaia, which means “deep bay” in Yaghan tribe, an extremely picturesque town sitting on the foot of the Martial Mountains and the margins of the Beagle Channel. What a glorious day it was to finally stop driving south after 3.5 years of travels, and slowly make our way northward to Brazil–our sweet home. Our time spent in Ushuaia was memorable and fun, filled by hikes, sightseeing, freshly brewed coffee with alfajores, and layers of jackets and hoodies. We parked our home right in front of the Beagle Channel and showered in a private swimming club (thank you janitors). We also spent a couple nights in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park, surrounded by evergreens and below a starry sky, the Milky Way easily spotted. The national park is a great place to hike, explore, and spend the day in contact with nature. A few fun activities to do in town are to walk on the waterfront, explore the numerous cozy cafes, eat some unique seafood and sheep (yup, that’s a very traditional dish), visit the Galeria Tematica Historia Fueguina (highly recommend it!), and the Museo Marítimo y Presidio de Ushuaia (another great place to visit). However, my absolute favorite thing to do was to tour the Beagle Channel–to see penguins, sea lions, and a private show of two humpback whales– and visit Estancia Harberton, a sheep farm of the 19th century. The tour takes a few hours, and on our way to Harberton Farm the boat stops on a few penguin rockeries; additionally, one is able to sip a nice, hot coffee while observing the Martial Mountains, curious whales, and lazy sea lions basking in the sun. The farm is charming, keeping its original 1800s infrastructure, and tourists are given a tour and an account of the intriguing story of the Harberton family.
Lastly, I would like to finish the post by saying that the indigenous history of Tierra del Fuego is amazing, and that’s why I highly recommend the museums cited above (especially Galeria Tematica Historia Fueguina). For instance, do you know how Tierra del Fuego got its name? When Ferdinand Magellan, the first European explorer to reach the region, sailed the cold waters of the Beagle Channel at night, he saw numerous fires on the coast and nearby islands (made by the indigenous people); consequently, they called it “Land of Fire”.
Ps: A tour that provides a one-in-a-lifetime experience is to visit Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; nevertheless, we weren’t able to do it because the season was almost over. I believe this is a tour for adventure and nature lovers, who would rather explore the foreign arctic waters rather than do an “ordinary” Bahamas cruise.
Ps 2: Many of the photos were taken by Plinio R., a Brazilian photographer who we met during our stay in Ushuaia. Since our camera was broken, he was kind enough to give us many beautiful shots of our time in the Harberton Farm and penguin rockeries.