It’s the End of the World as we know it, and I feeeeel fine!!
I’ve dreamt about Ushuaia. Not in an obsessive, odd way, just for the last ten years (erm. . .) or so imagining what it would be like. Think Scott and the Antarctic, treacherous weather blighting you all the way and yet somehow making it through to the world unknown and find . . . yourself! Or God! Or a snail, or something. Yes, I know, setting yourself up for disappointment much? The Scott reference may also refer to my blighted attempt at climbing the summit of Torres Del Paine in Chile a few days ago only for the snow to white-out the mountain and cancel my, at that point, 8km and 3-hour ascent. Such is life!
Yet as with everything, it’s what you make of it. I had a 600km journey from Chile’s Punta Arenas after dropping my incredible uncle off to the airport, and I planned on breaking the journey up a bit and take my time. It’s a long stretch of road, ferry ride, long stretch of nothing, uneventful border-crossings from Chile to Argentina, some towns, and then beautiful mountains. I gave lifts to two local hitchhikers trying to get to work, both old men, both I could barely understand (bit like having my Uncle back) and made good time to eventually camp out at a lake about 60km from Ushuaia – thanks iOverlander App! I had this beautiful peaceful lake, with water so clear you could see the bottom even halfway across, all to myself: no fires, no lights, no people, no animals anywhere. Lovely! Still, at dawn I did notice some animal somewhere peed on my wheel to mark their territory. The country is crammed with stray dogs but I didn’t notice any last night. But anyway, packing up my stealth camper early that morning, I was off again, to the great Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world!
Problem is, the city at the end of the world isn’t ready for early starters, so most things were closed. Bypassing the valley of shipping containers, the first view as you enter the city, I into the city . . . and then out the other side for Tierra Del Fuego national park: the park at the end of the world, the last road of all roads, where I found . . . tourists! And all had come to the end of the world to say ‘look, I’ve made it to the end of the world, just like Richard!’. Cabrones!
However, I did manage to head off the beaten track, find a rock to sit on, and watch nature unfold. A colony of cormorants basking in the sunshine kept me company, a pair of seals made large gaping breaths at the water’s surface before ducking down to feed, the sun tore through the clouds to light the world. It’s not what I’d imagined, but it was fantastic. I treated myself to a wonderful local seafood stew from a back-alley restaurant with no one in it – no self-respecting local eats at 7pm. Usually after driving, sight-seeing and taking a million photos all day, by the time 8pm hits, I’m ready for bed! Rock. And. Roll. Lifestyle.
As I write this, sitting in the national park after a lovely night’s sleep, and being greeted in the morning by a screeching Hawk sitting on top of the Landcruiser, it’s a bit other worldly. Most of the time on this journey there have been few tourists: most have drifted north as I’ve come south. My uncle and I would travel on backroads with barely a car every few hours. I spend my entire time thinking “I can’t believe no one is here!” and then when I encounter other travellers I then say “why the hell are you here?”. And yet this morning, as I went around the park and to the touristy areas of yesterday, no one was there. Not a soul. It was like the world ended or heard me bitching and complaining yesterday and thought ‘yeah, I’ll do something with that’. It was fabulous! I’ve since worked out that my guardian-angel has wiped out the entire population of Tierra del Fuego. So . . . sorry about that.
Life and the microcosm of travelling are similar in many ways: everyone is on a journey of their own making, paths cross, you navigate through the problems to the best of your ability, and you make of every situation the best you can. And that’s what starting the day without tea and toast gets you: philosophy. And yet to make a point, something has peed on my wheels again.
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here