Tuesday, 30 November 2010

... Patagonia: Arewethereyetarewethereyetarewethereyet?

No amount of "comfy" nor "reclining" could prepare your body for this bus ride - an estimated 12 hours travelling from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. The bus pick up was at 815am and by the time I got off it just prior to 8pm I couldn't feel the lower half of my body. I had also been riding the equivalent of a mobile sauna, much of it along a gravel road. I'm going to need to see my RMT when I get home.

From Punta Arenas is was a couple of hour drive to the Punta Delgada-Bahia Azul ferry crossing across the Strait of Magellan. Everyone had to get off the bus so it could board minus the weight and you then walk on. The ferry ride only takes you about 20 minutes  and it was a very gentle crossing despite the gale force winds that blew me out of the hotel that morning in Punta Arenas.

The Strait of Magellan is a known home of the Commerson's Dolphin. I had been told that the chances of seeing one were about 70%. Hmm that was enough to make me stand outside on the deck freezing my bits off on the off chance I might see one. Naturally, scanning the surface of the water had you convinced that anything that moved, be it the crest of a wave, was a dolphin. I was just starting to complain about having not seen anything other than some "bloody seaweed" when I looked over the side and saw it! There there was a dolphin chasing the boat, typical behaviour for this very active mammal. Commerson's Dolphin has a very distinctive patterning: a black head, dorsal fin, and fluke, with a white throat and body. Needless to say I was very pleased.

The gravel road east along Baha Inutil to the Argentine border is apparently in good shape. You try telling my back that. Crossing the Chilean border was quick and simple. The Argentineans took a little longer. Still, it was good to be able to move around and stretch. No-one said travelling to the end of the earth was going to be easy!?!

Tierra del Fuego has a mystical and unknown past. And a very cool name to boot! Unrelenting winds sweep its northern plains whilst high rainfall is found in the southern mountainous region. It is (in)famous for its trout fishing, naked men painted in black (Yaghan) and as a route for adventure seekers to Antarctica.

Rio Grande passed by as a blurry half-asleep haze of roundabouts and a monster trout sculpture. I suspect that unless you come with fly-fishing rod in hand or are looking to make it big in the wool or petroleum worlds then you aren't likely to stay long. The bus still had 230km to go and I was glad that it kept on going.  It was good to be back on smooth asphalt as the bus raced past Lago Fagano into the mountains.

The driver was a strange breed. One minute driving like he was Formula 1, the next like he was a grandad. So many hours into this godforsaken ride, this wasn't received particularly well. I was so dehydrated I feared I was about to turn into the human equivalent of dried fruit. Nevermind End of the Earth, I was at the End of my Tether! Just. Bloody. Drive.

Thankfully not long later the End of the Earth was in sight. Would the earth just stop suddenly causing me to just fall right off the edge? Was there a fence or does Darwinism kick in?

I guess I was about to find out.....

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