Where did all the Penguins go?

Trip Start Feb 07, 2006
Trip End Aug 07, 2006

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Where I stayed

Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, April 24, 2006

Make sure to check out Andrea's Travel Blog for more stories and photos of our trip!

At the end of the world

Ushuaia is known as the southern most city in the world, but that wasn't why we were going there, the landscape and nearby penguin colony promised to be first class.

I'd never seen penguins in the wild and this was my chance.

A backpacker we had met weeks before told us of a tour where you could actually walk through crowds of thousands of penguins! How cool.

A short flight from Chile, we headed south to Ushuaia.

From the flight window we could see just how remote this place was. Hundreds of jagged snowcapped mountains stretched out as far as the eye could see. It made for a beautiful sight but I wondered just how the first inhabitants made their way through this harsh land to finally live here...and why.

I pictured the natives trekking through freezing cold snowy mountains with their tribes saying "Nono, I swear, it's just across the next peak, really!" to finally end up at the beagle channel, a freezing cold stretch of water which spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the pacific.

Ushuaia is situated at the base of a wall of mountains next to the channel. A very scenic place but much colder than anywhere we'd been to date.

Where are the penguins?

Unfortunately for us, we had arrived just at the end of the penguin season and they had already begun their migration north to warmer climate in Brazil.

Although only a handful of penguins remained on the remote island, I didn't care. We bought tickets to the last boat leaving for the season and hoped to see at least a few.

As the boat went out to the island, a few hours away, sea lions splashed in the waters around us and birds hovered inches above the water seemingly chasing our boat.

We saw many birds and sea life but all I cared about was the penguins. When we arrived, we all searched the beach from the boat for a few penguins and found only 2 starring out into the ocean. It looked as though there were thinking "Hey were did everyone go?".

Finally a few more splashed onto the beach in from the waters.

Hardly the thousands we had wanted to see but we still had the chance to see the last 14 penguins strut around and play before heading north.

Tierra del Fuego

The region was named Tierra del Fuego because the early inhabitants kept fires burning 24x7, they even had fires in their canoes!

Nearby we visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Unfortunately, my knee was still in severe pain from the Torres del Paine summit I had done the week before but we slowly walked through the park staying on flat ground. The early settlers here had introduced many species into the wild life to help the economy.

Many of them flourished. Rabbits being one of them, bounced around us springing out of every bush as we walked passed, the park almost seemed infested with them. Canadian beavers were also introduced for their pelts as well as falcons.

As with most of the places we had visited in Patagonia, lakes in the park were icy green from glacial waters.

We spent a few more days in and around Ushuaia visiting a nearby glacier and trekking a little more and feasting on the excellent local king crab.

Time to Head North

Our adventures in southern Chile and Argentina were over, it was now time to head north.

First we flew to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, the Ushuaia airport remained true to its reputation.

Both mine and Andrea's packs, where we had locked them, had been cut open!

We had heard from others that when they had retrieved their bags after flying through Ushuaia that many things had been stolen from their backpacks. It seems that our bags had also been attacked.

Luckily we had locked the top of our bags only out of habit. The thieves working at the airport must have thought that we had locked some valuables there and cut, not the locks but our bags to see inside.

They would have only found my bathroom kit and a few miscellaneous things in Andrea's and left our things there.

Despite our unfortunate farewell, we had enjoyed our stay in the cold, snowy south.
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