We spent a total of 9 days in Ushuaia at Galeazzi Basily B&B, a great Argentine owned bed and breakfast located a few blocks up a hill from the main street. Alejandro and his wife, Francis, were very friendly hosts, who provided us with plenty of recommendations for places to eat and visit during our stay. There were a couple of things I personally wished we had been able to do whilst in Ushuaia and both involved cruise ships. The first was obviously to go to Antarctica and the other was to cruise with Australis from Ushuaia in Argentina to Punta Arenas in Chile, going round the infamous Cape Horn. Cost, Andrea’s work restraints and end of season weather stopped us this time!
As well as the day tours in the Beagle Channel to see the penguins and sea lions we also went hiking in Tierra del Fuego national park, the Martial glacier, and Laguna Esmeralda (the latter two only Wayne got to go!), all day trips from Ushuaia.
Tierra del Fuego NP
Tierra del Fuego, Spanish for ‘Land of Fire’ is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. It consists of a main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina, and a group of many islands including Cape Horn at the very bottom of the continent. A lot of the park is off limits to hikers but the few trails that are available are easily accessed by hourly buses from Ushuaia. We paid what we thought was an astronomical $20 return per person for the 12km ride to the park. On top of that we paid the park entry fee of another $20 per person – a little on the expensive side we thought!
Anyway, the short hikes inside of the park were great, even though it was a chilly day. We first headed along the senda costera trail which runs along the shore of the Beagle channel for around 8km, followed by some of the shorter trails to Laguna Negra, Castorera and the mirador Lapataia at the end of RN3, kilometer 3079. Ruta Nacional No.3 runs from Buenos Aires to the tip of Ushuaia, the longest road that begins in the capital city.
Located a few kilometers northeast of Ushuaia at an altitude of 1050m, and an easy-moderate hike the glacier is somewhat pathetic compared with Poreto Morino and others in Patagonia. We skipped the public transport that takes hikers to the Martial glacier trailhead, and also the chair lift and decided to walk all the way making for a good half day of hiking and a 20km round-trip. I did this hike with Josh, an American on a tour of South America who we met on the ‘W’ circuit in Chile and again in Ushuaia. Since then we heard about the Antarctica cruise he went on whilst in Ushuaia and how spectacular it was – yet another person who said Antarctica is a ‘must see’ part of the world.
I was planning on hitching a lift (very popular in Argentina) to the starting point for this hike, some 17km’s out of town. Fortunately a shuttle bus was just departing as I got to the station which provided me a return ticket too. The bus took me as far as Valle de Lobos, a husky sledding center, and the beginning of the trail to the emerald lake and Ojo del Albino Glacier. After passing the biggest beaver dams I have ever seen and tramping through peat bogs I came across the lagoon with mountains and small glaciers as the backdrop. This was midweek and I had the entire trail and lagoon to myself, making for a very tranquil location. Being able to visit in the fall had many benefits, with reduced visitors, good weather and amazing fall colors, totally unlike back in Florida!
The restaurants around town offered some of the best artisanal beers and steak we had found anywhere, obviously forcing us to indulge like we would never get to enjoy them again! We also came across World Cup fever whilst in town as some of the South American 2014 qualifiers were being played. We felt obliged to head to an Irish Bar to watch knowing we needed to cheer for Argentina no matter who they were playing! They were actually playing Venezuela and had a pretty demanding lead the entire game so the bar was pretty tame, but fun to be refueling at. In the same bar were returning end of season Antarctic cruise staff, and hearing them state they had 12 successful Drake Passage crossings made me hungry to go..
Antarctica 2013/14 here we come… Anyone that wants to donate funding for this is more than welcome 🙂
March 17th – March 26th 2013