Argentina: Ushuaia and the End of the World

From Torres del Paine (Chile) we hit the road, spending a few very windy nights in Puerto Natales and continuing south towards Tierra del Fuego.

I love that the Chileans have dubbed this lonely stretch of highway the “End of the World Road”. Fitting, yes?

At Punta Delgada, we took the ferry across to Isla Grande Terra del Fuego.

The route from Torres del Paine is mostly in Chile but dips into Argentina only after crossing the famed Strait of Magellan. Isla Grande (most often simply referred to as Terra del Fuego) is jointly occupied by both Chile and Argentina.

The Strait of Magellan lies almost entirely within Chilean waters and today remains an important navigable sea route separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. Indigenous peoples have inhabited the area for thousands of years, relying on fire (hence the name Tierra del Fuego) to stave off the bitterly cold weather. Since its (European) discovery by Magellan in 1520, it was considered a safer route than the treacherous Drake Passage around Cape Horn. It was an especially vital link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans before the completion of the Panama Canal.

Even with modern technology and maps, it remains an unforgiving climate.

We spent a few nights in the sparsely populated landscape – oil extraction and sheep seem to be the main productions on the island currently.

A sad-looking fox begging for scraps.

Farther south the land turns mountainous and suddenly you emerge into the bustling town of Ushuaia, Argentina. This is, quite literally, the end of the road.

The Bottom of the World!
The town is a busy tourist hub; a shock to the system after three days of meandering through wind-swept and desolate countryside. It is from Ushuaia that most of the Antarctica cruise ships depart. We considered doing a tour but heard it was hard to find ships that accommodate very young children – and they were shockingly expensive. Another time, perhaps.

We promptly hightailed it out of town to Parque Nactional Tierra del Fuego and spent a few days enjoying the surroundings. It was the height of summer and the land had shaken off its winter cloak: the grass was green, the skies were blue, and we were happy to be at the tail end of a long adventure.

A band of horses roamed the nearby pasture and would saunter by nightly in search of fresh veg.
Tourists travel to the park via a tiny steam train that was originally built to bring supplies to a prison colony in the early 1900s. Today it is the southern-most railroad on the continent.
Daily visits from the horses.
Nightly visits from a family of grey foxes
We also had a big milestone while at the park: Our little Emma turned 4.
Happiest of birthdays, sweet girl.

On our last night we got to meet up with a close family friend who was in town for a Patagonian vacation; the world is a small place and it was truly lovely to see her.

We also met up with our new camper buyers! (This was very exciting for us but I’ll save that for the next post).

The adventure was almost complete.

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