Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Punta Arenas to Ushuaia
This is another one of those all day travel days, so come prepared with snacks and something for entertainment. We went with the company called Pacheco (30,000 pesos / $50), which ran on time and was comfortable enough considering how bad some of the road was (we were literally jumping out of our seats at times on the bumpy road). We left around 8.30am from their office and a half full bus. This was unexpected and nice to stretch out a little. Sadly it didn’t last and about 1 hour into the trip we met with another bus coming from Puerto Natales to then fill up our bus completely.
We arrived at our first stop of a ferry crossing to Tierre del Fuego. We had to get off the bus and sit in a passenger saloon as we crossed the water before getting on the bus on the other side. The crossing took around 15-20 minutes in total.
On the other side we board the bus again and drive for another 1 or so hours to the Argentinian border control exit. Getting stamped out we’re back on the bus and another 15 minutes to the Chilean border entry. Back on the bus and our next stop in a couple of hours will finally be Ushuaia. As you can see, it’s a long day of getting on and off the bus and a major reason why some people fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia even though it’s about 50% more expensive to fly.
We’d made it to the end of the world
It had taken us 437 days since we’d departed Toronto, Canada to arrive at the Southern most point of Argentina. We cheated in North America with some flights, so from Mexico City to here we’d only taken buses and boats for onward travel.
That’s a lot to think about. From Mexico to Ushuaia using some rough calculations that is some 13,000 km in a fairly direct route along roads and water. That doesn’t include thousands of kilometres of side trips and some awkward backtracking.
Antarctica Hostel in Ushuaia
We’d heard quite a lot of good things about this hostel and it didn’t disappoint. We got lucky and managed to reserve online in advance as coming into peak season it was often solidly booked out each night. The staff was incredibly friendly the whole time we were there. The wide open space in the common room was nice to stretch out and was quite popular the whole day. The breakfast had the typical Argentinian offerings of bread with dulce de leche or strawberry jam. The usual sides of tea, coffee, hot chocolate and juice were also available. A bonus was a basket of raw eggs that you could cook to your own desires. It was strange but quite a number of people couldn’t be bothered with the egg option, that little bit of work was worth it in our opinion.
What to do in Ushuaia on a rainy day – book our travel
Our first morning in Ushuaia was met with on and off storms of rain and sunshine. Oh so typical of our past month in the region and not surprising that it was continuing. We had some fairly major travel decisions to make and chose to visit the airline office and an Antarctica last minute cruise office.
Toby had his mind on flying to Buenos Aires and finding the warmth of the sun again with only 3 weeks of our trip to go. A flight with the national carrier of Aerolineas Argentina cost 2,300 pesos ($180) and took around 4 hours. A bus when we got a quote was 2,800 pesos ($215) and would take around 48 hours to Buenos Aires. The choice was pretty easy at that point.
Rodora had her mind on Antarctica with the season starting a few days earlier and some last minute options available in the next week. A typical itinerary is 11 days returning to Ushuaia all inclusive and paying in advance anywhere from US$6,000-$10,000. Last minute was around $4,000-$5,000 depending on some different conditions. If you’re doing the maths here, our daily budget up to this point after nearly 450 days of travel has been about $45 per person per day all expenses included. 11 days on a boat would average 10 times that budget at around $400 a day. This would even far exceed our 8 day Galapagos cruise which came in at $200 per person per day. As tends to be the term used in cases like this; it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The remainder of our day was spent with a short walk around town and another walk to some of the surrounding hills to find a viewpoint back over the town and water.
Returning to the hostel with beer on our mind, we found the hostel offering a sampler selection of a local brewed beer called Cape Horn. This would be 6 bottles of your choosing from the range for 200 pesos ($15). Ok it wasn’t the cheapest beer going, but it was local and different to anything we’d tried and in the end was pretty good.
Beagle Channel Tour
This is one of the most popular tours to do in Ushuaia. The typical cruises leave twice a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The trip cost 600 pesos ($46) each plus a port fee of 15 pesos ($1) each paid just before getting on the boat. The company was Patagonia Adventure Explorer and all in all were quite good.
With the weather forecast to be ok we chose the morning tour. The boat was full with about 25 people trying to fit into the available seats. It times like this it’s good to be quite slim and nowhere near overweight. The Beagle Channel is the water splitting Argentina and Chile to the South. Our tour started by visiting a couple of islands filled with Sea Lions doing their typical alpha male thing of fighting for the women.
The boat would circle around the islands a couple of times to give you the best opportunity for photos. Perhaps at some points really coming far too close to the islands and disturbing the animals.
Next on the itinerary is a visit to the lighthouse at the end of the world, well a look at it, not actually going onto the island as you can see it’s tiny.
We would then journey in the boat for a while to our next stop having some hot drinks and cookies while we chatted in broken Spanish to some other passengers. Our next stop was a visit to one of the islands for a ‘hike’. Don’t get worried, this was easier than walking to the corner for some milk it was that short.
Our return to the boat met with some more hot drinks and snacks as the boat rocked in the big waves. If you get sea sick, this was the time to find your bag to throw up in. It only lasted around 15 minutes before we changed direction and met with calm waters again. We were offered a local coffee type liquor which neither of us particularly liked and in no time we were leaving the boat.
Park Tierra del Fuego
We took a gamble on the day we went and probably should have waited another day. The rain wasn’t heavy but it was persistent and didn’t help with photos. The bus to/from the park cost 200 pesos ($15) each and the entry cost 140 pesos ($11) each valid for two days. The bus has several drop off and pick up points throughout the park, so it’s best to go in with a bit of plan of what you want to do on the day. We started next to the second main bus stop with the boat launch and walked along the coastline. We did find a couple of nice photo stops and Rodora was seriously hoping to pickup some of the mussels for a snack if possible.
This was another of those parks with overstated times for trails. This trail was 8km and suggested 4 hours. We covered the distance in under 2 hours even getting held up for a while by some tour groups. We arrived at the main cafeteria to eat some lunch and try figure out what to do next and avoid the rain.
We took a short walk up the nearby lake, but thought it was boring and turned around. Next plan was to hike further into the park and the final shuttle stop. At times we got rained on, so maybe that darkened our spirits, but in general we really didn’t enjoy our time in the park. The trails for the most part were either the road or just next to it. Not exactly a rewarding hiking experience. There also just didn’t seem like there was all that much to see in the park. Perhaps we’d spent too much time seeing other similar things, but overall it was an expensive day for not much pay off. We wouldn’t actually recommend anyone to go there.
This is another of the many day hikes in and around the town. Rodora wasn’t feeling well and Toby was keen to get some more sights in on his last day in Ushuaia. The Glaciar hike is a bit of a misleading name, think of it more as a mountain hike. You can cheat and take a taxi to and from the starting point which is a chairlift for skiers in the winter. Toby declined the 80 peso ($6) option and walked to the same point in around 1 hour. From here you hike up to the top of the chair lift and keep following the trails going up. At the end you’re looking for a viewpoint of town and it’s not a marked trail. There were still some deep pockets of snow around and memories of Torres del Paine were flashing back as feet started sinking in knee deep. The final point is marked with a signpost “Mirador de la Ciudad” (Viewpoint of the city) and is more than worth the effort on a clear day.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/