Day 101 -104: 8.4. - 11.4.2009
Tierra del Fuego

Sailing the world on a small boat

There it is. Almost at the end of the catwalk of Ushuaia harbor (the word “harbor” is an exaggeration) I find a small boat that carries the name “Macao” on its rear end. I need to walk over another boat first to get to the Macao (people around assure me that this is very normal and that I shouldn’t bother) and knock the window to see if somebody is on board. And yes, here appears the face of Alix. I have met Alix together with Ronald ca. 2 weeks ago in Puerto Natales. We found out in our talks that she would be in Ushuaia about the same time as I. She will get on a boat here again to continue her journey on the water (she did that before already). The “Macao” is ca. 12 meters long. Inside she looks a bit like an old motorhome. There is not a lot of space for five people (that is the size of the crew now). I don’t envy them for their “privacy” over the next few weeks. I can well imagine though how wonderful it has to be on a boat in good conditions (warm air and water, no waves etc.). But while trying to imagine how it would be on that boat out there on the sea in a storm I almost get a nightmare straight away. Alix explains all the equipment on board to me. The two owners of the boat, a French couple have come all the way to Ushuaia all alone. Now that have extended the crew for a part of their journey. They want to be on the water for 4-5 years. Hard to imagine for me how this could not become boring at some point of time. Alix explains to me that being on a boat is more than a journey. It is a lifestyle. And there is no objective or target, it is simply a decision that has been taken by those people to live their lives on a boat for a while (or forever). I leave this to the sailors. My terrain is the mountains much more than the sea. The weird feeling that comes up when the boat begins to move a bit does confirm this. Firm ground is what I need to have under my feet. That doesn’t mean that I am not looking forward to my cruise-ship journey through the Patagonian fjords and to Cape Hoorn though.

Climbing the peak in a snowstorm

“It is a bit dangerous as of now. There are some icy parts to pass and on the top the wind is at storm level.” The guy who comes down the mountain that I am climbing looks as if he comes down Mount Everest. Fully equipped and only his mouth free to breath, all the rest is covered. He also has two hiking sticks to help him balance through the tricky parts of the trail. Admittedly, the last 1,5 kilometers look more tricky than a normal everyday hike but still it won’t be as bad as he explains. Usually people I meet exaggerate in their descriptions. Especially if they have already done something they usually describe it a bit more difficult than it really is. Thirty minutes later I am on my final few meters to the top of Cerro Guanaco, one of the higher peaks in Tierra del Fuego National Park. It is only 1000 meters high but starting from sea level it still is one of the higher elevations around. I started in very different weather conditions compared to what I am in now. After having passed through an outstandingly colorful forest first the trees disappeared and rock and lose gravel are the ground that I walk on during my last hour to the top. The last 1,5 kilometers are in the snow then. Not too much, knee-deep is the maximum but still it is all white, which makes for a great feeling. In one thing the guy was right: The wind is indeed a big challenge up here. The gusts have so much strength and surprise effect that they almost throw me over twice. The only way out I see is to walk in a ducked way, deep in my knees with my upper body leaned forward as if I had no headspace to use. The wind cannot impact me so strong in that position and I feel much safer. Up on the top it is definitely not panorama picture time. The view is limited and I can already see the next snowstorm coming with a set of really dark clouds. I better make my way down again quickly to not be stuck completely without sight up here. On my way down I am very satisfied with myself. I am glad I made the effort to climb all the way up to the top. It is a good feeling. On my way down I am rewarded with nice views because the sky begins to clear a bit. The trees around me shine in all kind of colors. From green over yellow through to a deep red everything is available here. The picture is great. I am glad I am in Ushuaia in autumn because the autumn colors here are really spectacular. Especially with the snow capped mountains and lakes to add to the scenery and complete the idyllic picture this has postcard niveau. Unfortunately my little digicam cannot cope with the bad light conditions at all. The photos do not at all reflect the beauty of the real view in this case.

4 WD Experience

Will the car fall over or not ? That is the big question that I ask myself while everybody around me is mainly busy screaming. The Land Rover Defender that we are in is a strong off road car. Diego knows how to drive it but also likes to show off. An Argentinean macho at his best. Obviously he knows much better where the limit of the car is than we do. I am sure he didn’t take us anywhere close so far but still it is a great feeling to sit in the back with the car being in an awkward angle. The backcountry in Tierra del Fuego is great for off roading. Loads of trails, loaded with big ditches filled with water. Often the hood of the Land Rover completely disappears in the water. It is fun. Actually I would like to drive myself but this is not part of the package. My revenge is a big hunger for lunch. I eat as much of the rich barbequed meat as I can. And that is a lot today. An unexpected highlight is that we see the Rallye Tierra del Fuego for enduros and quads on our way back. They are at the start of their second stage through the island when we see them. We also see them struggling in the dirt, Jesus, these guys are dirty. With all the rain of the last few days the track is more than just muddy. I assume they have autumn as a date to make the Rallye more demanding on purpose.
Have you ever been driving through a lake in a car? I did it today. The doors are well seamed but still I am surprised that no water enters the car. We go through hood-deep water for at least a minute or so. Oncoming waves splash against our car but our feet stay dry. Sitting in a car with a boat-like view is a strange and exciting feeling at the same time. I can recommend it.
On the way back to Ushuaia we get stuck in a traffic jam because of the Rallye. No problem for our Macho-driver though. He simply changes into the hard shoulder and overtakes the cue on the right side. Suddenly one of the cars in the cue he overtakes is a guy he knows. He stops by, chats for a while and then gets into the cue right in front of the guy. His wild-west driving style has immediately changed into a very civilized driving style. I wonder how that happened. On demand we find out that the guy in the other car was his boss. That explains it.
Another highlight of the day are the colors in the trees again. Again I see everything from dark and intense red to very bright yellow and the original green where it all started from. The mountains are covered with layers of forest in these spectacular colors. Incredible. I have chosen the right time to come here. Definitely. Have never seen such intense autumn colors before. I try my best with pictures but have to realize that they cannot capture the effect the colors have on me. I am trying though anyway.