Today was a bit different to what I had expected. I had booked a tour through the National Park and it turned out to be a little more active than I thought.
The Tierra Del Fuego National Park is about 12 kilometres to the west of Ushuaia and exists in sub-Antarctic beech forest. It is only a relatively new park and just three percent of its area is accessible by us ordinary folk. The rest consists of rugged mountains and a few offshore islands. There are some very scenic views across the Beagle Channel from a number of its little bays.
Our day started in Ensenada Bay, where the is a little jetty with a post office and immigration point. For ten pesos, I could have had my passport stamped, except that I already have one from a previous visit and as my passport is getting full, I need to reserve some space. There are some spectacular views from there across to Redonda and Estorbo Islands with the snow-white Sampaio Mountains in the background.
We began an eight kilometre walk along the coast from here and ended on the road to Lapataia Bay which is famous as the end point of the Trans American Highway which begins in Alaska over 17,800 Kim’s to the north. If I stretched my imagination, and substituted the beech trees for other vegetation, the track that we followed was similar to some of the coastal walks around areas like Wilsons Promontory.. We walked along beaches, around headlands and up and down gullies. Some of the steep sections tested me somewhat.
We found a couple of sites along the way where the original inhabitants of this area had stopped over. The Yaghan people, Were nomadic and survived on the natural resources of the sea. They lived by the beaches and made voyages into the sea in canoes made of beech, hunted sea lions and collected shellfish. They lived in huts made of tree branches and trunks and clothed themselves with leather made from sea lion pelts. They smeared their body with the fat and grease of these animals to waterproof their skins. The trouble for these people began in 1880, when European missionaries entered the area. They tried to shift their diet to western foods such as potato, but these did not provide sufficient calories. Other early settlers brought diseases and these resulted in a rapid, and nearly complete extinction, of the Yaghan people. The Yaghan tribe was reduced in number from about 3,000 people in 1880 to less than 100 by the 1990s. There is now one sole survivor – a woman on her 90’s who lives on the other side of the Beagle Channel in Port Williams.
Our lunch was in a little cafe near a camping ground on the shore of Roca Lake – pasta with some Argentinian red wine. I was a bit thirsty, so I took the opportunity to try a local beer (Beagle Beer) which is made in Ushuaia.
The unexpected part of the day occurred in the afternoon. I knew that there was a water component in the day and I expected it to be in a zodiac. Instead, I found that it was to be inflatable canoes. After donning rubber boots, water proof pants and a life jacket, we set off in groups of four to paddle five kilometres from the lake to Lapatia Bay. We were helped a little by the river current although the last 500 metres was a hard slog against the wind across the open waters of the bay.
I was back at my hotel by about 4.30 pm feeling quite buggered. I confess to having a ‘Nana Nap’ and not making it to the restaurant until nearly 8.30 pm for dinner. Just as well the Argentinians eat late as I could still enjoy a leisurely meal of crab meat risotto before returning to my room to Skype with Jill back home.