As we know it, or don’t perhaps. Named because of the multiple fires that local tribes lit on seeing approaching ships, ‘Tierra Del Fuego’ (or, Land of Fire) is an intriguing region steeped in history. Once home to a prison at the end of the world for Argentinian convicts, who then settled the town of Ushuaia, a key Naval base during the obviously recent Falklands War, and one of the first landing points of famous explorer Shackleton.
With the acclaim of being the southernmost town in the entire world, Ushuaia has adopted a bit of a ‘couldn’t give a toss’ attitude. With a never ending influx of tourists here to visit Antartica, or here as a jumping off point for the rest of Patagonia, there is a definite feel of a town which is still very much in the process of developing it’s offering for foreign visitors at present. This is a good thing, and means that large swathes of the surrounding countryside have kept hold of a truly off the beaten track feel.
Coastal walk in the Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
We stayed at the ‘quirky’ Cruz Del Sur Hostel, a rule ridden family home esque backpackers which we used as our base for a few days whilst in worlds end. It was a cozy place to kick back in between hikes, but the constant post its and slightly fascist rules did seem a bit over the top. It didn’t make for a particularly welcoming atmosphere, and we sometimes felt like houseguests who were just getting in the way of the owners day to day life.
On our first day we visited the 200+ km spanning Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego. After hopping on a small collectivo minibus from the local bus station in town, we reached the park and got dropped off at the starting point for one of the more straightforward walks – the SENDA CONSTERA path. This was an easy going scenic 8km walk across the length of the coast and through some small areas of forest, a perfect test run before reaching some more strenuous parts of Patagonia in the North. Along the way were snow capped mountains which lined the stretch of sea we on our coast hugging route, we even bumped into a particularly inquisitive Falcon, who decided to come and sit with us on a rocky outcrop. Mainly because of the bread on offer from some of the other walkers, probably.
After baulking at the entry fee of the prison museum in town ($10) we decided to don our walking shoes and go in search of the local Glacier, which we’d heard many others talking about in the hostel. Following a pre downloaded map and now accompanied by two well fed, very friendly stray dogs (temporarily named Juan and Dos, if you’re interested) our route took us to the base of a small forest on the mountainside of CERRO MEDIO. The path up was fairly strenuous but doable, littered with tell tale yellow branches and markings, becoming steeper and more boggy the further we ascended. Dogs still in tow, with now muddy feet, we caught our first sight of the snow near the top and began clambering through it up towards the peak. The views from atop the rocky mountainside across the beagle channel were breathtaking, and well worth the increasingly steep 4 hour hike. Still, not for the feint hearted.
The airport is a busy one, and still seems the post popular way both in and out of Ushuaia . There are frequent flights daily to Buenos Aires and the rest of Patagonia. There are daily bus services to Punta Arenas in Chile (12hrs, departing 5am) which was also our next stop.