The end of the world!

So here I am, at the end of the world, in the gorgeous port town of Ushuaia and it goes to show that dreams can come true! A few years ago coming to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia was just a dream for me, it was a place I had researched and whose pictures I had looked at longingly on the Internet, a destination with some of the most stunning scenery, mountains and wildlife I’d ever seen! Now finally, here I am!

Ushuaia is a beautiful town, surrounded by high mountain peaks on one side and the vast southern ocean on the other. It’s referred to as ‘the End of the World’ as it’s the southernmost city in the world. The only place south from here is the vast and icy wilderness that is Antarctica!

Port at Ushuaia Bay – where all the cruises depart from

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Ushuaia town surrounded by snow-capped mountains

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I’ve had some great active days here hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park, riding the End of the World Train (although I expected it to be a bit more spectacular!) and taking a short cruise along the Beagle channel to see some amazing wildlife… I even managed to see my first King and Gentoo penguins, albeit through binoculars as they were quite far away!

End of the World Train

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Tierra del Fuego National Park

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Beagle Channel cruise

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Penguins and seals seen on the Beagle Channel cruise

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Estancia Harberton – a stop along the Beagle Channel cruise

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After saying farewell to my tour group, I’ve been taking a few days to relax in this beautiful town and stock up on warm clothing in eager anticipation of tomorrow, when I begin my voyage to the seventh continent, the land of snow and ice, Antarctica! I’m extremely excited and can’t wait to see the expedition ship (MV Ushuaia) arrive at the port, although I’m not looking forward to days of potentially throwing up as we navigate along the infamous Drake Passage!

Although my South American adventure is nearly over… hopefully the best is yet to come!

The journey south – Patagonia and the Lake District

I’ve spent the last three weeks on an overland tour through the Argentinian and Chilean Lake District and Patagonia, taking me from Santiago all the way south to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.

It’s been one of the most breathtaking trips in South America in terms of natural beauty and landscape. Even after being surrounded by mountains for the last 3 months, I’m still not sick of them! The views became more and more spectacular the further south we went.

I had a great time for the most part of the trip with an inspiring, fun and really diverse group of people… we hiked, camped, rafted and spent long days on our truck (Rosita) together. It wasn’t all fun and games… camping was pretty tough mainly because of the harsh cold weather and biting Patagonian winds, especially during the night. I was really grateful to have a warm bed and shower after that was over!

Rosita (the overland truck) on the open road – Ruta 40

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We started our travel to Pucón and Bariloche in the Lake District of Chile and Argentina. Pucón was particularly fun because I managed to go white water rafting (in the freezing cold!) and also because of the majestic and still active volcano Villarrica in the background. I was lucky enough to be in both Chile and Argentina on my birthday and spent the evening in Bariloche, the Switzerland of Argentina.

Volcano Villarrica

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White water rafting on the Trancura river in Pucón

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As we went further south into Patagonia, we entered El Chaltén for some great hiking in Los Glaciares National park with amazing (and windy!) views, followed by El Calafate to see the spectacle that is the Perito Moreno glacier. It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe the sight of this huge body of ice and the sounds of icebergs calving off the glacier and splashing into Lake Argentino below… it was definitely one of my highlights!

Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park

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Piedras Blancas glacier – Los Glaciares National Park

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Mount Fitz Roy amongst the clouds – Los Glaciares National Park

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El Chaltén town

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Perito Moreno glacier and icebergs – Los Glaciares National Park

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Leaving behind El Calafate, we began our three days camping in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile… I thought I had already seen amazing sights but those were nothing compared to the views on the hikes/walks we saw there. To top that off I got to see the Grey Glacier with the spectacular blue/purple hues of the ice and with an elephant head emerging from one of the ice caves… … see if you can spot it in the pics!

Torres del Paine National Park

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Grey Glacier – Torres del Paine National Park

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Guanacos getting friendly

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The icing on the cake was being able to see Magellanic penguins after leaving the National Park and arriving at the Seno Otway penguin colony near Punta Arenas. Although I didn’t get up close to them, they are such adorable creatures, waddling around and flapping their wings. It was a lot of fun just watching them go about their every day business, in particular listening to the sound of them braying and watching them splash about in the water.

Magellanic Penguins at Seno Otway

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Shipwreck on route from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia

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Tango, spanish and steak in beautiful Buenos Aires

I’m a little behind on my blog because I’ve been having so much fun (and also because of the lack of good internet in a lot of places)!

Leaving Iguazu Falls behind I arrived in Buenos Aires ready for steak, more wine, Tango and Spanish! I spent a couple of weeks in this beautiful city, taking classes in both Tango and Spanish, meeting some really cool people from around the globe and generally having the time of my life!

The classes were so much fun, a little addictive even (especially Tango), and I really didn’t want them to end… I even got to go a long to a few Milongas and try out my Tango dancing 🙂

Dancing at the Milonga

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By the end of my stay, I really fell in love with Buenos Aires… if I have to chose another city to live in, I think this would be it. It has a very European feel to the place and is a very vibrant and bustling city. I enjoyed numerous cafes and restaurants with amazing food and wine, nightclubs, shopping in Palermo and the artisan markets of Recoleta and San Telmo. I also managed to fit in a couple of trips outside the city to the Tigre delta and for a fiesta with the gauchos at Estancia Santa Susana.

Delicious steak and flan

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Musicians at the San Telmo market

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Colourful streets of La Boca

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Streets of Buenos Aires

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Puerto Madero at Sunset – view from a catamaran

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Gauchos and asado at Estancia Santa Susana

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After a while I got used to being greeted with an ‘hola’ and a kiss on the cheek, saying ‘chau’ as I left a place and the cute pronunciation of Argentinian Spanish. I also figured out the best way to change my money… I remember how strange it was walking along Florida street seeing guys in t-shirts wearing suit jackets and silver chains shouting ‘cambio, cambio’ trying to exchange pesos for US dollars.

After my two weeks were up, I really didn’t want to leave… but it was time to start my trip to the south of Chile and Argentina… one steps closer to Antarctica!