Trip Start Oct 15, 2006
48Trip End May 01, 2007
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As for Ushuaia, it's a gorgeous little city perched on the Beagle Channel at the southern end of Tierra del Fuego. Getting here's a bit arduous - although there's an airport this is only really served by flights from Buenos Aries and at this time of the year, there are no flights from Chile, so back on the bus for a 12-hour trip. This time, unfortunately, not an overnighter with sleeper seats! This was a slightly auspicious time to be visiting these parts - Last week was the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict and Ushuaia was very much the base of operations for the Argentinean war effort.
The main attraction down here is the Tierra del Fuego national park and where Torres del Paine, disappointed, this place more than matched expectations. It's the most stunning scenery with wooded mountainsides rolling down to the sea and fjords.
However, the main reason for coming this far south was the opportunity to get on another boat for 5 days. After the spiffing fun of our last boat trip, I was looking forward to this, the way a chocolate bunny looks forward to Easter. I was thinking back the other day to the contrast when I travelled from Mumbai to Tokyo and the contrast between these two boat trips is more than equal to that! Whereas the feeling on the other boat was that we were an inconvenience to be tolerated by the crew, on this boat, you were looked after magnificently. Admittedly this trip was a cruise, but the ironic thing was that the cost of the two trips was nearly the same and actually run by the same company. Anyway, the point of the trip was to see much more of Patagonia than you could from land. Sailing through the Magellan and Beagle Channels, thorough the wonderfully named Glacier Alley, disembarking at various points to see unforgettable scenery, flora and fauna. First stop though, was one of those places that seems to be written large in human endeavour, Cape Horn.
The next couple of days of the cruise was very much orientated towards glaciers, mainly because they're so easy to see from the boat. The cruising highlight was down Glacier Alley, where 6 glaciers appear from the mountains in various sizes and states. For the global warming theorists, there's a great example of a receding glacier, but ironically next to it is a glacier
Our final stop was to see a colony of Magallanic Penguins. Unfortunately, as we're quite late in the year the number on the island has shrunk to around 400 from a peak of about 100,000! These are pretty shrewd penguins and as they approach winter, they all get in the water and bugger off up the coast, half to the Chilean coast around the Atacama and the really clever ones up the Argentinean and Brazilian coasts to Rio de Janeiro!
Patagonia is stunning and although I didn't think I'd see anywhere as beautiful as New Zealand, this cruise has just about pipped it.
And that's the end of South America for me. Tomorrow I hop on a plane to Washington DC for the last leg of my trip in the USA. I've been on this continent for around 2 ½ months and it's been a great place to be. I can fully understand why so many people fall in love with it. It's not quite as culturally diverse as Asia and I've found the people to be not quite as welcoming, but for natural beauty it's hard to top. Be it the Galapagos, the Amazon, Patagonia, and of course the Andes which so dominate the landscape, the beauty of this continent is fantastic.