The time has finally come for me to finish my recap of the trip I took to Patagonia in January. It’s been 4 weeks since returned from Patagonia but I still think about it almost daily. I’m certain that one day soon I will go back and hike those beautiful trails and be awed by the majestic glaciers once again. When I last wrote about Patagonia, we had arrived at the end of the Earth, Ushuaia, Argentina.
Ushuaia means “the bay facing westward” or I think more poetically, “the bay towards sunset” in the language of the Yamaná people. It was once a penal colony for hardened criminals and political prisoners, and we saw references to this fact all over town. The old prison is now a well-known museum and the main post office in Ushuaia has a mural showing prisoners in stripes. I’d been pronouncing Ushuaia with a SHU but on the second day I confirmed my error with Carola, and switched to saying oo-SU-wah-ya.
The previous day we’d failed to set sail out to the Beagle Channel three times and I wasn’t sure whether we’d make it at all as it was the last full day we had in Patagonia. This is what I wrote in my journal on Saturday, January 14, 2012.
Woke up to rain and thought it a blessing. Went back to sleep and got a late start, thinking I’d stay in town to go to the Maritime Museum (that’s the old prison). But by 10:30 the sky was clearing up and I was itching to get outside. Lynne and I planned to first get some coffee at the cute restaurant we found yesterday. But as we were about to sit down something made me stop; a voice in my head told me to go, leave right now. So I turned to Lynne and told her that we should just go to Tierra del Fuego National Park and we took off for the bus stop.
Half an hour later, we were hiking in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the only coastal national park in Argentina. We chose a trail that followed the shoreline and it was breathtakingly beautiful. We had everything we could have asked for- water, mountains, hills, coves, twisted trees, birds, sun, shadows, horses, and flowers.
Lynne and I were so happy to be there we practically skipped up and down the trail, stopping every now and then to take in the view. It was turning out to be another amazing day in Patagonia and I was feeling positive about our chances to sail the Beagle Channel in the evening.
Forth time was the charm! At 7PM, we boarded a small boat to cruise the Beagle Channel. The winds had finally died down, the afternoon light was perfect, and our guide and the crew on the boat were informative and fun. I happened to strike up a conversation with the captain who was Brazilian (I found his Spanish a lot easier to understand than the local Argentines’), and later when we were navigating around some of the smaller islets he made sure I got a chance to take some good photos. He’d stick his head out and tell me how he was going to turn the boat this way or get closer to that shore, and pointed out sea lions and birds as we sailed.
I was really happy that we took the evening boat out on our very last day in Patagonia. The sunset and the colors of the sky were so incredible that I wished for a moment that I could stretch each second of each minute a little longer.
It was the perfect way to end one of the most amazing and rewarding trips I’ve ever taken. I still can’t believe I hiked up to see Mount Fitz Roy and the famed Torres, trekked on ice, spent an afternoon with penguins, watched chunks of ice falling off of Perito Moreno, crossed the Strait of Magellan with dolphins swimming next to our ferry, and reached the end of the Earth. I’m thankful for the fellow explorers I met on the trip and for my awesome guide Carola, with whom I had the great privilege of sharing this adventure. I will always treasure the two weeks I spent with them in Patagonia and hope that our paths will cross again one day. Maybe I should suggest a reunion tour…
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