Update from the end of the world

Update from the end of the world

I’m in Ushuaia, self-proclaimed end of the world, so of course this post isn’t about Ushuaia, as I wrote most of it on the bus here 5 days ago…[And now I’m not even in Usuaia anymore!]

Anyway 🙂 A few observations from the last couple of weeks:

My optimistic hope that there is some kind of super-active, outdoors enthusiast lurking inside this sedentary city dweller is turning out to be kind of true. Ha! That’s not to say my need for ready sources of coffee, beer and internet has lessened, and I still break out in a cold sweat if deprived of any of the above for..actually best not to say how long that takes..[Also my enthusiasm was curiously awol when it came to the possibility of climbing up to see a glaciar in the mountains behind Ushuaia..]

I seem to have accidentally become a birdwatcher. There were a few warning signs: a casual membership of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust a few years ago, an excessive interest in identifying the bird with the yellow bit on it that was hanging around near my office (high up on the 5th floor) at work (grey wagtail – seems like a misnomer to me but what do I know!). Here are some of the birds that I have watched:

The best one (while hiking  from El Chaltén to Laguna Torre) was a Magellanic woodpecker but he was too fast for me to get a photo, but this is what they look like (the one I saw was male, with an entirely red head). [From doing the laundry last week to birdwatching now – my wild and exciting adventure continues!]

Sometimes what you read on the internet is true: I read that Rio Gallegos is a depressing hole with no redeeming features, loathed by backpackers. Wow sounds interesting, I thought! I’m sure that means it’s more *authentic*and will give me a glimpse of ‘real’ Argentina! It turns out that Rio Gallegos is a depressing hole. Actually, I think it would  have been interesting to hang around for a bit, but the place doesn’t make it easy to do that. Travellers avoid it if at all possible so there are no hostels – there’s a campsite near the bus station but that’s 2km from the centre in an area of grim industrial estates. I ended up spending over a weeks’ camping budget on one night in a hotel and great as it was to have an actual bed and bathroom and TV, that’s a wallet killer. There’s apparently a penguin colony nearby at Cabo Virgenes (140km away – near by Patagonian standards) but no way to get there unless you have your own vehicle. So Rio Gallegos was a one night stand for me and at 9am I was back at the bus station about to start an 11 hour ride to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia. [Yes I’m making sweeping generalisations and being massively unfair to the place! I’ll try & give this some context in a later post, honest..]

There’s no logic to the ATMs. Apart from the screw-you foreign tourist £5 flat fee, you have to find one that’ll accept your card and be able to dispense more than about £20’s worth of pesos. (Here’s a clue: just because a particular bank’s atm worked last time, doesn’t mean it will this time. But never bother with Banco de la nacion). Good luck!

In the middle of nowhere and near the end of the world, in a country obsessed with meat, you can get a raw vegan packed lunch to take on your day’s hike (from Curcuma Cocina). That’s El Chaltén for you.

There is (for now at least), free, reasonably functioning wifi in the restaurant at the Perito Moreno glacier – a rare thing outside of Buenos Aires, from what I’ve found so far. You don’t even have to buy anything in the restaurant – the only bargain left in Argentina. Oh yeah and the glacier’s pretty cool too [in the pic at top of this post]. Boom boom.

Chile has really stringent rules about not bringing in animal or plant matter – which to your average traveller means all the food you brought with you for that 11 hour bus ride. Because although I’m not leaving Argentina just yet, I’m actually in Chile at this precise moment [four days ago]: yes that’s right, to get from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia, you have to go through Chile.


This fact completely escaped me as I stuffed an orange and banana from breakfast into my bag, next  to my camping condiments (mayo, lemon juice, chilli flakes), and when I bought a small carton of fruit juice and family sized bag of crisps at the bus station. Oh yeah and there was some odd but good leftover crystallised grapefruit – hiking snack from Chaltén. All to be consumed or disposed of in the hour after setting off from RG, when we’d reach the Chilean border. Oops.
No more delicious meals like this one -‘camper’s surprise’ – for the time being!

Guanacos are my new favourite camelid. No it’s not weird to have a favourite camelid!

Guanacos through the bus window

Apparently they like to lick stones and are good swimmers!

My world is held together mostly with gaffer tape*:

(Let’s overlook the washing line failure – that was operator error..)
*For pedants: yes I know this is probably duct tape not gaffer! Sue me!

Yes yes that’s all very nice but what have you actually been doing for the last couple of weeks?

I took the bus from Bariloche to El Chaltén which took almost 24 hours but I didn’t mind at all because the views were like this:
dsc00217-smallAnd this:
dsc00219-smallAnd this
dsc00229-smallAnd this:

The roads were great too – well by great I mean that some of them reminded me of Central Asia  😊

I saw a lot of those guanacos that I mentioned by the side of the road:

And then as we neared our destination, through a windscreen that would really benefit from a trip to Autoglass, this bad boy appeared.

Fitzroy, one of the most famous of the Patagonian peaks, not for it’s height (which is a little less than 3500m) but for it’s striking shape and its towering granite walls, taunting climbers from around the world. Well that’s it, job done – we’ve seen the great beast so no need to bother with any of this tiresome *hiking* business! Ha…not quite – but that’s going to have to wait til next time now (after another night bus..).


19 thoughts on “Update from the end of the world

  1. Great pictures as always Ju, and I always like a good map to go with them. 🙂


    Are you planning to go to Chile properly, as it were?

    hmm…yes, parts of it do look a bit central Asian, don’t they? (based on my seeing your pictures of cenral Asia, not of course, on my own experience, which is zero in this respect.

    Can understand the late-onset birdwatching. Relatively late in life, I came to appreciate the beauty of birdsong. (Pity that then my hearing started to go, but that’s one of life’s little ironies… 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gracias a vos! Nah just going to stick with my improper visits 😉 Joking, going tmrw but will have to walk 15km (good thing I love hiking now…) as cross border bus no longer runs..and maybe improvise when I get there as I’ve heard visa cards don’t work, only mastercard (which I have but forgot to bring, doh)..
      Outside of BA & major tourist centres, it’s suprisingly comparable to C Asia in many respects!
      Late-onset?? I like to think of it as prime time! But yes, those little ironies….


  2. At least you know you can do 15km after our Camino walk.

    Blair has raised his head above the parapet re Brexit. Whatever you think of him, I think he’s got the Tories rattled.

    Finished knitting the hat.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A blue beanie style hat with 12 yellow stars on it. It’s for the demo on 25th March. We are also in the process of getting up a small choir to sing some words to the tune of Ode to Joy.

    The Tories are really rattled – Boris Johnson condemned TB for the Iraq war, conveniently forgetting that he voted for it also. As did Theresa May and Deadwood Redwood. The Tories lost another council seat last night, in Deadwood’s Wokingham constituency.

    I can’t remember our longest day, but 15 km should be a doddle for you then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes the EU beanie, how could I forget! The news continues to be a tragi-comic farce, entertaining at least 😊
      I walked 10km across the border into Chile with my all my luggage a couple of dats ago so think I must be fitter than in a long time! (blog still needs updating..)


  4. BTW I forgot – the Greens also took a seat from UKIP in the Forest of Dean. An unlikely place for Greens, I would have thought – small c conservative would be expected.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The same as last time, but both ways this time. We were thinking of taking the train from Oslo again, but then the flights were included ‘free’ so it seemed silly not to go with those. We therefore won’t be finding our own way to the boat, as we had to last time. We are flying from Gatwick. There wasn’t a lot in it,between that and Heathrow in terms of timing – Gatwick later times. Heathrow return would have required a change in Amsterdam. I thought of doing that for old times sake, but then thought that it was a bit silly to have a journey with a connection, when you could have a single flight instead.

      Liked by 1 person

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