After leaving El Chalten, I returned to El Calafate for some much-needed laundry. Handwashing is discouraged here, yet laundry costs (at least if done via the hostels) are per load of 6-7kg rather than per item so, for travellers like myself with limited clothing, this is only good value for money if you wash pretty much everything at once. I had to wear shorts during this process as I had no other legwear.
Despite there still being droves of tourists in El Calafate, my hostel was one of only two in the town (the other being its sister hostel) that close at the beginning of April as, according to their flawed business plan, that's when the season has ended.
It's possible to do the run from El Calafate to Ushuaia via Rio Gallegos in 1 day, but it involves leaving El Calafate at ~3AM. I've already paid my dues on long bus journeys at inconvenient times so I opted instead to break up the trip by taking a later bus to Rio Gallegos and overnighting there. I had a top deck front seat in one of the monstrous double-deckers that ply the main routes here, but the views consisted
From Rio Gallegos to Rio Grande
merely of rolling countryside under a cloudy sky, enlivened only by scattered flocks of rheas. DVD "entertainment" in the form of "300 Spartans" and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" only made the journey seem longer.
Rio Gallegos may appeal if you are into fly-fishing, but otherwise it's unmemorable. My hostel had a kitchen but you weren't allowed to cook in it as it was reserved for the sole cooking use of the owner's family. I'm surprised just how hard it seems to be to find a decent hostel in this country.
The Rio Gallegos->Ushuaia leg took up about 11 hours which, due to the vagaries of terrain and international borders, involved crossing into Chile and back again. Thus, despite starting and ending the day in the same country, I acquired 4 new stamps in my passport. At the border post to enter Chile, "World, Hold On" was playing in the background, bringing back memories of a continent slightly further north but half a world away. The landscape was little different to before, but I did catch sight of an armadillo beetling through the scrub.
At Rio Grande, I changed bus and from then on the
road was fast. There were precisely 2 other passengers, both locals, and I began to wonder just how touristed Ushuaia was going to be. The weather remained grey and began drizzling with rain, but the colourful foliage of the Tierra del Fuego autumn was still apparent in the gloom.
At last we crested a hill and saw below us the lights of a town huddled next to the calm waters of the Beagle Channel. We had reached the End of the World (© Ushuaia Tourist Board).
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