Anchored in Ushuaia.
By now you have probably read Omar’s posts about his strong desire to help another injured dog he met in a small coastal town in northern Chile. The dog and its precarious situation has been on Omar’s mind for the past two weeks, so he decided to return to the town to see if he could rescue it. He left early yesterday morning heading north on his mission of mercy.
As for me, I am heading in the opposite direction. In two days, I am going on an “expedition” to Antarctica. The term “expedition” is a bit of a stretch. I am actually going on a small cruise ship that will take 180 passengers on a 10-day tour of the Antarctic Peninsula. While there we will have the opportunity to get on zodiacs and visit icebergs, small bays, and islands. During our time along the peninsula we will see marine mammals, sea birds, and visit penguin rookeries. We might even see a few whales.
Before Omar left, he and I visited the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. It is located 20 miles north of Ushuaia in a small bay off the main Beagle Channel. To get there Ana, our hotel hostess offered us the use of her SUV for the afternoon, which we gladly accepted. The park was very picturesque with forests, mountains, rivers, and small bays. We decided to drive to the end of the road and hike a short trail that leads along the west side of the bay. Along the hike we saw several dolphins near shore breaking the surface. We couldn't tell if they were after food or just playing. The park also had many other trails that looked inviting, but we only did this short hike.
Another mini-adventure I did was to go sailing in the Channel around the islands that are home to several varieties of sea birds and penguins. On this trip the operators of the sail boat only accepted a maximum of eight passengers, which meant the voyage was far more intimate than the other tours that accommodate up to 100 passengers. The sailboat, named the Paulini, was moored in a small bay about 25 miles south of Ushuaia. As soon as we got on the boat the crew gave us heavy rain suits to put on. Without these we would have frozen to death due to the strong winds, rain, and the cold. After we suited up, we looked like we were ready to go crab fishing off the coast of Alaska in the Barring Sea.
Because it was blowing so hard, the captain decided to use the engine and head up the Channel directly into the wind. If he hadn’t, we would have spent the whole day tacking back and forth and getting nowhere.
After an hour or so we made it to the penguin rookery located on a island in the channel. Our guide said that the rookery had somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 penguins in it. These penguins had been there since early in the summer raising their young. The variety of penguins in this rookery dig small burrows in the soft soil where the newborns stay the first weeks of their lives. Most of the burrows were close to shore, but some dug them quite a distance from the shore up the hill. I guess those penguins wanted a room with a view.
Out in the ocean we could see the penguins swimming about at breakneck speeds, which was quite a contrast to their tottering and awkward movement on land.
Our guide also told us how different sea birds prefer different types of landscape to roost and raise their young. On the same island where the penguins were, there was also a large colony of cormorants that made their nests on the side of what appeared to be a very steep wall. The nests looked very precarious, like they could fall into the ocean at any time. Not far from that island, another type of cormorant preferred a rocky island to make their nests and raise their young.
Once we turned the corner and headed back down the channel, the crew hoisted the sails and we returned to port using the power of the wind.
That afternoon and throughout the night and into the next morning it continued to rain. That was when Omar was scheduled to head north on his rescue mission. I didn’t realize it until a few hours later in the day after Omar left, that overnight it had snowed on the mountains around Ushuaia. I worried that Omar might have encountered snow or ice on his ride back to Rio Gallegos. Also, I worried that the section of dirt road might have turned into a muddy quagmire. His text later that evening allayed my fears.
Having made it to the tip of South America, both Omar and I have had second thoughts about riding all of the way back to the States. Instead, we have settled on the idea of air shipping our bikes back from Buenos Aires.
My tentative plans after the expedition to Antarctica are to head north along the Atlantic coast to Buenos Aires. I am thinking of staying in Buenos Aires a week or so and then heading north to Iguazu Falls that are on the border between Brazil and Argentina. They are world famous and I been told by other travelers not to miss them. From there I may tour Northern Argentina for another week or two, and then head back to Buenos Aires where I will ship my motorcycle back to the States. I will probably stick around Buenos Aires for another couple weeks and then head home too.
Omar may join me in Buenos Aires and ship his bike with mine, or he may just head to Santiago and arrange shipment from there.
As you can see our plans are pretty fluid at this point, so stay tuned.