29 November 2009

Tierra del Fuego

This "Land of Fire" is anything but fiery. It was cold, rainy, snowy and windy. But it was also well worth heading to one of the southern-most national parks in the world to get in some great hiking and camping.

The entire southern region of Argentina & Chile is called Tierra del Fuego because British explorers noticed that along the shores and many islands were fires, started by the natives. The name stuck but the warming fires did not.

Our taxi/bus driver stopped on the way up to the park entrance, wasting a few minutes but saving us 50 pesos each (about $25 total). We were entering the park after hours and wouldn´t have to pay the entrance fee. Yay! Furthermore, the camping was free. Doublegood. We knew this cheap camping wouldn´t happen everywhere. The more popular parks are quite expensive, costing $20-40 US per person just for the entrance fee.

The first night we hiked south, to a lookout viewing the Beagle passage. We were the only ones there. The next day we hiked up a nearby mountain peak. The last two hours up were in snow, but we had no trouble with just our sneakers and light gear. At the top we were afforded excellent views of mountains all around.

It started snowing on our way down. Mind you, a few days ago we were in the semi-arid desert of Santiago. A few days before that we were in the tropical forests of Costa Rica. How the times have changed - now we´re enjoying spring skiing conditions! If only we had our skis . . .

We also hiked along one lake all the way back to Chile. For some reason it´s illegal to cross borders by yourself. There is nothing at the border but more forest, so of course we explored a little further. Shhh, don´t tell the Chilean border patrol.

On the third day in the park we hiked to a nice flat area. The trails were fairly muddy as it had been raining most of the night, so this day was unspectacular except for a few fine views. In three days we had hiked almost all of the trails and so it was time to move on again. Now we´re heading to our most ´northern´section of southern Patagonia ' Los Glaciares National Park.

Yes, this really is the end of the road . . . a road that started 17,848 kilometers earlier in Alaska. Some people travel the length of this by motorcycle or even bike. We are happy to just be here.

The view from our campsite on the first night. We had the place to ourselves.

On our way to the top, before it started raining and I donned even warmer clothing. Far behind me is Chile.

[Note: This blog was written for the time period of Nov. 19-21]

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