South America Day 18 - Beagle Channel

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January 26th 2019
Published: January 26th 2019
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We are staying in an apartment in Ushuaia which has pros and cons compared to a hotel. Pro: we can cook our own food. Con: now everything we own smells of sausages. Pro: there is room to dry laundry. Con: laundry is forbidden. So we spend the night with the radiators on full and the windows open and by morning our undercover underwear wash is complete and we smell less like a takeaway.

This morning we are going on a cruise. The route conjures up school history lessons about explorers; The Beagle Channel, Cape Horn...

We arrive at the port 20 minutes before the published departure time, which is good because passports are required to embark. The old man rushes back to get the passports. The boat eventually departs 40 minutes behind schedule so the mad dash was totally unnecessary.

We leave Ushuaia, sailing into the Beagle Channel. The scenery is beautiful and the pilot navigates to line up with an island of black and white imperial cormorants.

Next comes Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse on an island inhabited by sea lions. I manoeuvre myself into a position on the bow of the catamaran, just as we hit a rogue wave on the otherwise calm sea. I get soaked with 6 hours of the journey left. But I get my sea lion photos to go with my impending pneumonia.

We cruise on in search of penguins. I go to the toilet, but am horrified to find the toilet is placed over a hole and I have peed into the Beagle Channel, in addition to being wet and smelling faintly of sea lion poo.

After the almost excitement of a tiny glimpse of whale, we reach the point where the Atlantic and Pacific currents meet and the main attraction; penguins. An island covered in penguins; penguins on the beach, penguins fishing in the sea, penguins everywhere. It’s a wonderful sight.

We detour to drop passengers at Estancia Haberton, Patagonia’s oldest ranch, then head back to Ushuaia.

In the evening we take a stroll round town. It’s very busy; an enormous (2400 berth) cruise ship is in port. A strange thing about Ushuaia; it’s summer and an agreeable 12 degrees C. I’m happily wandering round in a fleece and trainers yet most tourists are dressed as if they’re actually in the Antarctic. We saw people in the park dressed in hiking boots, waterproof trousers, padded jackets, hats, scarves, the works. And they were on a coach tour.

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