Monday, October 26, 2009

The End

Here ends Route 3: Buenos Aires 3,079 km, Alaska 17,848 km

Well, the end of the road, not exactly the end of the trip. At 1:27 pm on October 23, 2009, we reached the very end of the road in the most southern city in the world. We were joined by our friends Tom and Kelsey, who we met on the road in Mexico over a year ago, for a celebratory picnic. We toasted this milestone in our trips with a bottle of red wine from a Patagonian vineyard and shivered as the winds picked up. Tierra del Fuego National Park in the springtime isn't exactly the warmest place for a picnic, but we were buoyed by our accomplishment. We finally called it quits when it started to drizzle and headed back to the heat and comfort of our bed and breakfast.

Looking for El Glaciar Martial

Deciding to brave the falling snow the next day, we hiked into the mountains around Ushuaia to visit the Martial Glacier. While the surrounding mountains were beautiful and the sun managed to peek through the swirling clouds, we're not sure we saw the glacier (or maybe we were walking on it). It's not a large glacier and has receeded significantly in the last century so apparently it's easy to miss. We amused ourselves by sledding down the steep glacial mountainsides and enjoyed the stunning views over the Bay of Ushuaia.

Faro Les Eclaireures

We also took a 4 hour boat tour of the islands of the Beagle Canal that separates Argentinian Tierra del Fuego from Chilean islands to the south. Shortly after our boat left the port I started to have flashbacks to our fateful voyage from Panama to Colombia. The waves were crazily rocking the boat as they splashed over the hull, but luckily we made enough stops near islands (and areas of relatively calm water) that my stomach had a couple of chances to calm down. We first circled around the Faro (Lighthouse) Les Eclaireurs. Built in 1919, this lighthouse is considered a symbol of the city of Ushuaia. Nearby we floated next to Isla de los Lobos (Wolf Island), a small island covered with South American Sea Lions. I think it's interesting that the animals we call sea lions are called sea wolves in Spanish. Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island) was covered with nesting cormorants who were busy flying to and from the island carrying moss and sticks to construct their nests.

Cormorants nesting on cleverly named Bird Island

Lastly we took a quick walk on Bridge Island. We first stopped by the remnants of a shell midden, the home structure of the original people of Tierra del Fuego. The Yamana may be the most hard-core people who have ever inhabited the earth. Here I was, clad in Gortex and fleece, and I was shaking from the cold and wind. The Yamana did not wear clothes - ever. They kept warm by huddling in a crouching position around fires and by smearing themselves with sea lion grease. Apparently they evolved to have a higher metabolism than other humans so they didn't need clothes to keep them warm even in sub-freezing temperatures. The women actually swam in the frigid oceans surrounding Tierra del Fuego to hunt for shellfish. They could survive sleeping outside without shelter because of their biologically unique adaptation. Of course their contact with European explorers was disastrous and the last full blood Yamana person, Cristina Calderon, is 95. She is also the last person who speaks the Yamana language. We took a quick hike around the island before bundling back on the ship to take shelter from the biting winds.

Sea lions warming up after a cold dip in the water

Now that we've reached the end of the road, we are headed back to Buenos Aires where we will finish our trip. For the first time in fourteen months, we are actually headed towards home, and it kind of feels nice.


7 comments:

  1. finish? or head to alaska??? just throwing that option out there - might feel balmy after tierra del fuego... but regardless, congrats on reaching your destination!!

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  2. You guys are incredible! Congrats!! I hope you are driving back to the US. Reading about your adventure has been a real fascinating pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing your trip on the web. Hope the end of the road is not the end of your trip. Good luck.

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  3. I don't think we'll make it all the way to Alaska (this time). Our plan is to visit Glaciers National Park, see some penguins and whales, and catch some surf. We then plan on sending a week or two in Uruguay before ending up in Buenos Aires, where hopefully we'll figure out how to ship our car back to the US. If anyone has shipped their car like this and has any recommendations, we'd love to hear from you.

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  4. Hi!! Congrats on making it! I have very much enjoyed reading about your adventures along the way. Looking forward to seeing you when you make it back to the bay area! Teresa

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  5. MET YOU IN TAXCO
    WONDERFUL IDEA TO SHARE W/OTHERS
    IN SUCH A "cyber-way"
    WOULD LOVE A RESUME OPINION
    ABOUT MEXICO
    GRACIAS

    LILY CASTILLO

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  6. Hi Lily, not only did we love Mexico, we absolutely loved staying in you place in Taxco. We hope to come back in the near future to visit again and to buy one of the beautiful silver/ceramic bowls your family makes. Mexico was one of our favorite countries due to the diverse regions, excellent food, amazing culture, and such friendly people. Take care, and hope to see you again soon! -Chris & Kristin

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