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200104-Argentina-14-22
Even the mountains seem to bow to the Fuegian wind!

No wake up calls or early start, we both still needed our sleep. Woke up to a sunny Fuegian morning, only some of the mountain summits are hidden in cloud. Ness didn’t sleep well, and woke up 3-4 times during the night, including once courtesy of guests stumbling and talking in the corridor at 4.30am, loudly of course, and is still feeling unwell. My toe and ankle are feeling better. Toe nice deep shade of turquoise and green now. Ness slept in for a bit longer while I went in search of eggs and bacon. No such luck. Jamon y queso, as usual. View from the breakfast room is directly over the Beagle Channel. Small flocks of birds flying low over the water. The birds look like small fat geese, or big fat ducks. Some completely white, the others black/brown/grey. Across the channel you can see the Isla Navarino, the only permanently inhabited piece of land south of us (Puerto Williams, Chile) [Note: in diary I put “and Pitcairn Island”, which is actually only at 25°S]

Plan is to head into town and find out about the boat trip along the Beagle Channel. When we found the agency, All Patagonia on J.Fadul, it was shut. A few piccies and a pit stop for Ness and we decided to head towards Estancia Harberton. This was the first farm/settlement built by white man in Tierra del Fuego, by a missionary couple, the Bridges.

The road out of Ushuaia was blocked. A female police officer told us to take another route, which brought us back to the main road (Ruta Na. 3), then we saw why: part of the road and a traffic roundabout had been turned into a karting circuit. We drove on along a well-paved road, further inland, between spectacular mountains, their summits partially covered in snow. 40km later we split off to the right, unpaved but easy to drive, onto the first part of ruta J. The road took us through woods along a valley. Ness was still not feeling well and had a bit of sleep in the car while I drove on. Along the way we passed a few small farms, none looking well to do, and inevitably guarded by a few dogs. Fuegian dogs behave completely differently from the Patagonian ones: in Bariloche they were simply sauntering along the road but here they chase you (or think they can stop a car by standing in front of it.)

We spotted a very big bird sat among the trees. Pictures will hopefully show. Eventually we came out of the woods and the last section to Estancia Harberton was a bit more rugged. We only stopped for a water and coffee at the local confiteria. The farm is still run and owned by descendants of the original founders. The two girls in the confiteria looked normal but an older guy looked like a real hillbilly. Checked shirt and blue grubby overall, unkempt, thick specs, either inbred or an idiot, or both.

Ness was not beginning to feel any better so we thought about heading back to town/hotel but decided instead to drive on to Estancia Moat. They (the girls in Harberton) told us it was a winding road with great views, guide book said the same (winding = "hair-raising turns", great = "stunning"). The road was gravel and bumpy but nowhere near as bad as in Bariloche (to Tronador) and we made good progress. Still the drive seemed to last forever. It took us completely out of the woods, directly along the Beagle Channel, from where we got direct views towards the open ocean. Tierra del Fuego stretched further along on the left, on the right the final small islands on the Chilean side. On the way there were some cows, lots of cormorants and not much else.

200104-Argentina-14-29
View at the end of the road. Cape Horn is just out of view, over the horizon on the right.

Eventually we reached the end of the road, literally. The estancia was on the other side of a small river but the bridge across it had collapsed. This was as far as roads can take you, anywhere! We parked by the shingle beach and sat there for a little while. Ness stayed in the car while I had a smoke and a mate outside. I thought about having a pee in the channel but after a few minutes my hands and face were frozen so quickly decided against exposing any other more sensitive parts of my body!

By this time it was about 4.30pm, time to head back if we wanted to make it in daylight. The drive back seemed to last forever and the lumps and bumps in the road had given us both neck aches by now. As we were on the last part of ruta J the weather closed in and it started to rain/sleet/wet snow. The road was still gravel, unpaved, and I was wary of it turning to slush but it wasn’t too bad. We made it back to the hotel by 7.30pm.

We both crashed for a couple of hours and came “down” (hotel is bungalow style) for dinner at about 10pm. Pollo with peach and pineapple, and “papas william” for Ness, and lamb stuffed with mushrooms and onion and fried potato, onion and peas for me. One café chico and we headed for bed, again! Ness nodded off quickly but I read my book for a while. Then a strange noise started. I thought it was odd that someone would be using a pneumatic drill at this hour but it was the guy in the room next to us, snoring! Thought about bashing on the wall but then I’d wake Ness up so tried to ignore the drill and succeeded…