Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Days 207-209: To the End of the Earth

We took Day 207 to rest our muscles and get some planning done. We needed to book ahead some accommodation and buses, and everything takes longer when your internet likes to cut in and out. Thankfully, we had the Olympics on in the background in our hostel common room, and we were able to watch Canada rake in a few more medals! We checked again for another beautiful sunset, but were starting to realize how fortunate we'd been our first evening here.

We woke early on Day 208 to catch our bus into the National Park. It seemed like our luck had run out; the sky was grey overhead and the ground wet from a recent drizzle. We threw an extra layer in our backpacks, worried that we'd worn out our welcome with the good weather. In the end, the day turned out to be just as clear, sunny, and warm as the rest. You can see our pictures change from overcast to a stunningly blue sky as the day progressed.

Tierra del Fuego National Park encompasses a great area of land in the southern tip of South America. Most of the park is off-limits to allow nature to take its course, but a small section is set aside for hiking and camping. We'd mapped out a full-day hike along the Beagle Channel past the bays Ensenada and Lapataia.

The trail followed the shore at first, offering plentiful views across the bay, as well as many places to stop on the rocky beaches to let the crowds that arrived on our bus slowly pass us. Once we had firmly established ourselves at the back of the pack, we were able to enjoy the startling changes in our surroundings and the starkness of the windswept range in peace.

As the trail bounced its way over rocky outcroppings, we caught up with the pack of tourists ahead of us who we had tried to give a healthy headstart to. At a splendid viewpoint, we once again tried to find a quiet place to ourselves, so we walked down the beach to a small point. As we unpacked our lunch we noticed a hawk(?) was standing roughly 10 feet from us. It would walk around and seemed to be young and possibly used to getting food from tourists. We protected our food and tried to hide the fact that we were eating. The hawk seemed content to just watch us and wait. Then another couple, from either Canada or the US, crashed our spot and promptly began feeding the hawk. After a quick verbal scolding from Craig, we were back on our way.

We climbed higher, then passed by a peat moss bog before we turned towards a smaller island. The trail hugged the shoreline and we spotted many waterfowl. We were treated to a palette quite different than most of our hikes so far this year, the earthy greens and browns being replaced by many shades of grey and blue, accentuated by orange lichen. 

To finish off, we circled around the edge of the bay and met up with the end of the R3, the highway that takes you from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. We walked the extra couple of kms to be as far south as you can (legally) be on the continent.

We ended up with an extra day in Ushuaia, because there aren't any buses out on a Monday, so we again used it to relax, figure out a few onward plans, and chat with fellow travellers.

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