A fun day in the Woods

Published: April 1st 2009
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What a day of walking! We started out a little bit later than expected after a sleep in until 8:15am. When we woke the weather was a lot better than the previous day and the ground was covered in a small layer of snow. The mountains were covered as well so it provided a very picturesque start to the day. A enough ham and cheese rolls were made to feed a family but today we spiced it up a bit by adding lettuce to the rolls. Some fruit and yogurt was added to the bag and we were prepared for a long hard days trekking. We got the bus to the national park at a cost of 50 pesos each, that’s nearly €25 for the return trip. The journey was only 12km’s so it was extremely dear even by Irish standards. The entrance to the park was also 50 pesos each and the cost for the day was €50. It was a bit expensive considering all we wanted to do was walk. Argentinean national parks are quite expensive for non-nationals and a bit over priced to be honest. Even at home in Ireland if we got transport and entrance fee to a national park I don’t think it would cost €50 for the two of us. Ushuaia in general is very expensive and I think the notion that you are at the ‘end of the world’ like it or lump it!

We arrived at the park and decided on what trek’s we would take. There were four main treks in general and impossible to do in one day. We picked the trek that went along the coast and trough the forest as our first one. This trek was 8 km and about 3 hrs to complete. First though we had a walk of 1.5km to the start. At the start there is a post office where you can send your ‘official’ end of the world post card. Also here you can get your passport stamped to say you have been to El fin del Mundo. This El Fin is not to be confused with Elphin Co. Roscommon! Although they both probably feel like the end of the world, one actually is (well nearly is!). We set off on our trek with very few other people around. It was cold but we were well wrapped up in our thermals, hiking boots and ski jackets. It was snowing slightly, just to add to the adventure. The trek was rated medium, and that it was. It was never easy and had its tough moments but in general it was a pleasant walk. The trek cut along the coast line, every now and again cutting into the forest. It was mucky at times and our boots were taking on a new colour. There were little side trails where it would take you to a little bay or viewing point. We saw many different types of birds. One bird, I think a kestrel, was having a feast on another freshly dead bird. From the distance it looked like a penguin but we couldn’t fully make it out. The bird let me get pretty close to take a picture and was not put off by my presence and was surely protecting his feed from other hovering birds. After about two hours into the trek we stopped for a bit of lunch on a nice small rocky beach. We didn’t wait for long as we had intentions of doing other treks and as it was nearly 1 o’clock, we needed to keep moving. There was never anyone within our eyesight so we felt we had the place to our selves. We did pass people now and again but not many. The last hour of the trek was through the forest and only for the yellow markers every now and again it would have been hard to know which was the trail to follow.

As we walked through the forest I saw a rabbit. Exciting, I know! I tried to creep up on it and take a photo but I was unsuccessful. A few minutes later the same thing happened again. Michelle thought I was going mad as she had not seen them. Soon we finished the trail and headed in search of the next one. It was here that we found that me trying to be quiet and sneak up on the rabbit’s was pointless. Along this path there were 100’s who seemed unfazed by our presence. The photo’s will show you how close they would let me get. I would have to thump the ground just to get them to move so I could try and get a good photo! Most just looked around as if to say ‘what’s wrong with you?’. Along this road we found some picnic tables after about 1.5km’s. We decided to sit and have lunch and to work out our next trek we would take. We decided against a trek that took us up to the Chilean border as it was three hours return. There were another five smaller treks that all lead to some viewing point which sounded better. We set back on the road we had came in search of these other trails. We found the trails and walked solid from half 2 to half 5. Along these trails were other small trails. We would stop every now and again to admire to views and take it all in. The photos will describe the setting better than I will so I’ll let you judge how beautiful a place it was. Towards the end we came across a family of red headed wood peckers destroying some poor old tree. These were also unfazed by my presence and let me get very close. Near the end of our walk we were unsure how far we had actually walked. All we knew was that it was easier to walk than let our legs get stiff. Our brains were no longer telling our legs what to do and auto pilot was in full control. We got to the end and had lunch at a viewing point in the bay completely open to the elements. It was very windy and cold but we were well wrapped up. Our bus arrived soon afterwards and took us back to our hostel, tired and hungry. When we got back we checked the map which contained all the distances of the trails and the distance of the roads in between each trail. We calculated that we had walked a minimum of 20km's for the day and maybe even 25km. I was fairly impressed with Michelle's ability to walk long distances. It was always up and down hills and very rarely flat ground. Over 20km's and 7 hours of walking is tough enough going for the untrained and we both survived.

We had got two huge thick steaks in the supermarket for €3 and some potatoes and carrot’s. We have a system where I do the cooking and serving and Michelle does the cleaning up and tea. It is a very effective system and one we will most likely to stick too. She does her thing while I cook and I do my thing while she cooks. Also from now on we will only book into hostels with full kitchens. It is more economical and we can have what we want the way we want it. For the first three weeks we ate out and its just not sustainable if we want to do and see as much as we can. Anyway, who wouldn’t prefer a dinner cooked by me!!!

The hostel we’ve been staying at was excellent. It had two full kitchens and no loud music pumping through the halls. It was like staying at some ones house for five days and feeling comfortable enough to make the place your own. We met lots of people, notably Shaun and Maria from Australia who have 20 odd days left travelling. They were really cool and Shaun being a chef gave us some very handy tips on food we can carry that does need refrigeration and can make any simple meal 10 times better. We have swapped e-mails and hope to meet up in Australia. The guys running the hostel were really helpful and nothing was ever a problem. As the days progressed we got talking to more and more people and that is one of the cool things about travelling. Everyone is so nice but in truth you never have enough time not to like anyone! Sometimes though, you do get to talk to people for longer and they are the ones you do get on with. The hostel also had a cool indoor barbeque and if it can work here in can work in Ireland. They work in they same way as the big old fireplaces and the heat comes from burning wood. On the Sunday we took off, the owners had there whole family over for what I can only describe as a meat fest, with a little bread and wine thrown in. I didn’t take a photo when they were cooking for obvious reasons but I did get one photo which I have uploaded to this blog of the Parillada when they had finished. I would really recommend La Posta hostel in Ushuaia to anyone.

Today we had to get up at 4am for a bus to El Calafate at 5am. We decided not to go to bed until 2 am so we would be tired on the bus and sleep some of the journey. It worked! We slept until 1pm and our bus dropped us at 3:30pm in Rio Gallegos. Our connecting bus to El Calafate was not until 8pm so we had to wait around at the bus station. Our first journey was interrupted by having to get stamped out of Argentina and into Chile and then out of Chile and into Argentina a few hours later. In all we had to get off the bus 4 times and queue for stamps, which fairly eat up your passport pages. it’s the route the bus takes so we had no choice. I really hope we don’t have to come home early because we got a stamp to say we were at the so called ‘end of the world’ and no more pages left. You cannot drive that long on Argentinean roads with out a checkpoint and its real annoying showing your passport every few hours to some military personnel. The roads in this part of Argentina aren’t exactly paved the whole time and can be pretty bumpy. For this journey we will arrive in El Calafate at 1am after leaving Ushuaia at 5am this morning.

While we waited at the bus terminal I said I’d go for a small walk. There was a big supermarket next door so I ventured in for a look for some hot food to make our 4 hour wait a bit more exciting. Instead I returned to Michelle with a 1 litre thermos flask, two plastic cups and a pint of milk. I have to say she gave me some funny looks when I returned. Yesterday when walking in the cold, a hot cup of tea would have went down a storm with our lunch if we had had a thermos. We did get a cup near the picnic benches, but it was expensive. I got the flask for less than €10. If we drink 4 cups of tea each from it we will have it paid for, the same as going to a café for tea 4 times. If I have confused anyone with what I have said I understand because I have kind of confused my self too! At writing we have drink 5 cups so it is well underway to been paid for! What about hot water I hear you ask? Every café will give hot water for 1 peso, about 20c, so its not a problem.

In El Calafate we will go and see a glacier that makes the last one we saw look like a ice cube. It is one of a very few glaciers that is advancing, at I think 2 metres per day. It also loses 2 metres a day so it doesn’t actually move that far. We have a lot of different options for visiting the Glacier and a 5 hour walk on it is one of them. We don’t think we will do it as we cannot justify the price of 520 pesos (€115) to do it. We were told we can do the same and cheaper in New Zealand so we will hold out. I really hope it doesn’t start to melt quickly all of a sudden!

Tea anyone?!

In a bit. DH.

Song of the blog: Survivor - Eye of the Tiger

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