The End Of the Road….

Quite literally so...

Quite literally so…

The Pan-America Highway, Ruta No. 3 ended right in the middle of Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego –  which was where we found ourselves one VERY windy and rainy morning.

Before we continue, I feel I need to point out that Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego translates directly to “The Land of Fire National Park”. To be honest, we knew nothing about the National Park prior to our visit to Ushuaia (yes… SOMETIMES, we are THAT kinda tourists), but based on the uber cool name alone, we felt that the National Park would be worth a visit (That… and also because Tripadvisor had some nice things to say about the park..)

Did I mention that it was VERY windy and rainy?

Totally not a posed shot

Totally not a posed shot

The first thing we noticed about the park is that we were constantly buffeted by gale force winds. We were at the Southern most point of mainland America. There was nothing to shelter the National Park from the winds coming in from the sea. The winds were so strong that the rain drops that fell on us felt like needles poking at our skin.

Combine this with the almost barren landscape that is synonymous with Patagonia, and I guess they really weren’t joking when they talk about the harsh living conditions. 

"the wild, rain lashed beach of the inhospitable Patagonia"

Or as Darwin calls it… “the wild, rain lashed beach of the inhospitable Patagonia”

However, since this is a National Park, they actually made concessions for sissy tourists like ourselves. There were walking paths throughout the Park and numerous signboards/maps pointing us towards the “correct” direction to go…

Walking the tourist path

Walking the tourist path

Yet, despite the best efforts of the National Park, we still managed to find ourselves wandering on a deer path through the woods.

We are THAT good at getting lost.

Get Lost!

Get Lost!

I swear… at one point, we were bashing through a bunch of shrubbery because we’d run out of road.

But I guess it was because of us getting lost that we managed to see some things that were just off the beaten path.

Like these geese for example. Initially, we were quite amused to always see them in a black/white pair. It was only after we got back that we found out they were ruddy headed geese

Like these geese for example. Initially, we were quite amused to always see them in a black/white pair. It was only after we got back that we found out they were ruddy headed geese

But my favourite sight for the National Park is easily this dam.

ushuaia tierra del fuego beaver dam

It is supposed to be made by beavers that had stowed away on the early ships from North America to Patagonia. It just feels kinda surreal to find something that looks ALMOST man-made in the middle of the woods…and on top of that to discover it was actually made by the elusive beavers. (elusive because we didn’t see any of them)

It was definitely an interesting trek because the scenery changed so often. One minute we would be walking along a snowy river bank, and the next we would be bashing through a barren shrubbery field, and one minute after that we would be meandering through an eerie coniferous forest. The only things that were constant were the piercing Patagonian winds and the gorgeous Andes in the background.

ushuaia tierra del fuego shrub landOf course, after our adventures were done, we had that little issue of finding our way back to civilization. Being the great woodsman that I am, I elected to find our way out of the forest by using an ancient tracking method… following the sound of the motor vehicles.

Of course, given our luck, we found ourselves on the furthest end of the motorway.

The looooong way home

The looooong way home

The long AND very windy road home

The long AND very windy road home

Thinking back, it was actually a bit scary as we really could have gotten ourselves hopelessly lost. But at the end of the day, aside from our sore feet and some partially frozen appendages, we managed to get ourselves a new adventure under our belt.

So… Great Success!

A little too late and much too early… also more Puerto Montt!

I don’t want to say that Puerto Montt is a boring place. It’s a nice port city in its own right. I just think that there are better places that I could visit… like the local dental clinic, where they can perform a root canal operation on me, using only a toothpick and a hammer.

I’ve always liked towns by the beach. I don’t really know why, but most places by the beach gives me the sense of tranquillity tempered with the possibility of adventure that might jump out at you around every corner. Probably one too many readings of Enid Blyton when I was growing up. The contingency plan is that when all else fails, you can always go for a walk down the beach.

sea

“Sea” side town

Except in Puerto Montt’s case, I could only use the term “beach” in the loosest sense of the word.

Boat Buddies!

Boat Buddies… at the “beach”!

Of course, it doesn’t help that being situated at the edge of Patagonia, Puerto Montt is “blessed” with the gale force winds and blistering rains that the Patagonian region is notorious for… without the stunning and isolated beauty of Patagonia.

This meant that we didn’t have many chances to go down to the salted sand pit they call a beach anyway.

And then there’s the food… The local delicacy is this dish called Curanto.

In essence, it is a platter stacked with mussels, clams, potatoes, milcao (a kind of potato bread), chapaleles, fish, and mystery meat of the day.

So, how does the Curanto taste like? Is it good? Well.. Curanto is a traditional dish and the Chileans at Puerto Montt has been eating it for thousands of years… I think we managed to grab some leftovers from the first cooking.

Curanto

Curanto

The only good things we got to look forward to is the brief moments (strong emphasis on “brief”) after the rain.

Ok... this part is kinda awesome

Ok… this part is kinda awesome

So how the hell did we end up staying three days in Puerto Montt???

Puerto Montt is THE gateway to Chilean Patagonia. It is also the only place that you could take a cruise ride on the Navimag Ferry down the Chilean coastline to Puerto Natales and the famous Torres del Paine.

The 4-days cruise was supposed to take us “along endless fjords, desolate channels and uninhabited islands that are covered by virgin temperate rainforest and overlooked by the snow-capped peaks of unnamed mountains that stand above the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Field”.

At US$400/head for the off season rate, it almost sounded too good to be true.

It was… for us anyway…

Since the ferry is scheduled to sail every Tuesday, we didn’t want to (literally) miss the boat. We arrived in Puerto Montt on a Friday night, hoping to catch the next ferry out. We figured we would get the tickets from the ticketing office first thing the next morning.

Guess what?

We overslept!

By the time we reached the ticketing office (at 2PM) (Not too late what!), it was closed. Since they don’t open for business on Sunday as well, we needed to wait till Monday to get our tickets. So, that’s three days we needed to stay in Puerto Montt.

At that point in time, we could’ve gone to nearby “tourist-friendly” Puerto Varas to while away the time, but we chose to stay in boring (windy and rainy) Puerto Montt. There was a very good reason for that… We were very settled at Casa Perla and cannot be bothered to repack our stuff and move our lazy asses… also, we figured all the hard work we’ve put in would be worth it once we stepped on the ferry.

I know... I can see the irony so clearly now too... we thought that we could take a break from lazing from doing THIS by going on a lazy four-day cruise...

I know… I can see the irony so clearly now too… we thought that we could take a break from doing THIS by going on a lazy four-day cruise…

We never did find out if that assumption was true.

After waiting for three days to get our ferry tickets, we found out that we were too early for the ship.

The first ferry of the cruising season will only run in a month’s time.