Country number: 76
Territory number: 83
When? Christmas & New Year 2004/5 – Round the World In The Other Direction 2004, coming from Chile. Next stop Los Angeles, via Buenos Aires
How? Overland tours in buses with local flights, taxi, walking, boats, zodiacs
Who? Group Tour
‘If you tremble indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.’
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
Then to Argentina El Calafate and an excursion to the colossal Perito Moreno glacier. Nearly 300 feet high, a land area the size of Buenos Aires and a mass of blue peaks, like giant frozen penguins marching into the sea. (There are more real penguins, too). We watch the glacier calving icebergs into the iridescent lake. They fall with a giant roar, creating mini tsunamis and an explosion of ice before floating off.
The Argentinians are not like the Chileans. As the Chileans say:
“How does an Argentine commit suicide?”
“He jumps off his ego.”
The weather is colder now and whenever anyone remarks“It’s chilly”, we chorus: “No, it’s not, it’s Argentina”.
We venture out to sample the renowned Argentine steaks, but our food arrives overcooked. Duncan, the guide complains and they eventually bring another round, so we end up devouring two meals. I haven’t felt hungry since.
The expedition is becoming a little sedate. Duncan has foolishly told me that, in his opinion, Mount Fitzroy is the most impressive sight in South America, but it isn’t on our itinerary. So I decide to see it anyway, sign off the tour for two days and take a four hour bus ride to El Chalten, the capital of Patagonian trekking. I end up in the middle of nowhere at midnight with a map I can’t read. I have virtually no Spanish. I am rescued by a lanky drunk musician, toting a guitar home after his gig.
My walk is great. I get a taxi to the end of the trail and work my way backwards to the start. it’s easier for transport back to Calfate, I’m told. Duncan warned me it would be busy : You’ll have loads of company’, but he is wrong. I wend my solitary way for two hours accompanied only by a large, noisy, persistent horsefly who will not depart despite my constant entreaties. He keeps reappearing, not satisfied until he has stung me hard. Perhaps, like the locals, he doesn’t understand English.
Fitzroy, a wall of stone, is carved out of the sky, like the Last lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. It is a beautiful, beautiful day. Parrots peek out of holes, gunacos leap and hares lollop.When I finally get back, I scan the park noticeboard. ‘A steepy (sic) trail’, it warns. ‘To prevent bad encounters with pumas do not walk alone.’
From Calafte to Tierra del Fuego National Park, boating and visiting the pioneer Harberton Ranch. It’s very strange to think I’m poised at the bottom of the globe. It’s a little fresh, but not too uncomfortable. On to Ushuaia, southern most town on earth and gateway to the Falklands and Antarctica. There are maps of the former hanging in the port, though of course here they are called The Malvinas. There’s another sign in the harbour:
Smile, it really is the end of the world.
This part of my adventure is over. On to Buenos Aires.