Gone with the wind

About our constant companion on the last stage southwards.


Here we are in the south of Chile and thus in the midst of the tourists again. But at the moment they cannot be seen, because the weather is bad. Besides rain, storms are forecast, which means something down here, because the Patagonian winds are already notorious. We decide to skip Puerto Natales and the Torres del Paine National Park and drive further south. We will pass by here again on the way up anyway. Since sleeping in the roof tent is out of the question in this weather, we take a room in Punta Arenas, where we wait out the stormy days. There would have been no other way anyway, because the ferry across the Magellan Strait doesn't run like this either. So we fight our way through the windy streets and are glad to be able to use the coworking café of a large bank free of charge. That, too, is part of travelling.

When the wind drops again, which is meant in a very relative way at this point (the cover picture was taken in "normal" conditions), we finally take the ferry across and find ourselves on "Tierra del Fuego". We had high hopes for this island, but at first we are faced with a lot of nothing. Most of it is a wasteland over which the winds howl. At least there is a colony of king penguins here, which we visit, of course. It is, by the way, the only one of its kind on the mainland. So we can console ourselves about the barren landscape.

The first change is crossing the border into Argentina for the next time. And suddenly something stands out. Everywhere, literally everywhere, there are official road signs saying things like "Las Malvinas son Argentinas". This refers to the Falkland Islands, which according to local understanding belong to Argentina. In the cities we then find kilometre-long memorials commemorating this war with the United Kingdom. Apparently, this is still a big topic here, because there are frequently cars, motorhomes or motorbikes painted with similar motifs. We didn't realise how present this conflict still seems to be.

We continue further and further south and finally mountains rise again in front of us. Behind them waits the southernmost point of our journey, Ushaia. We want to celebrate New Year's Eve in this town, which calls itself the end of the world and from which the ships leave for Antarctica. So at the end of the year we are at the end of the world. Somehow fitting. Only the celebration we had imagined was somehow different. Among travellers, word had spread about the plan to celebrate New Year's Eve in the Irish Pub in Ushuaia. We were also taken with the idea and set out to visit this much-praised bar. But then the big disappointment: it is closed. But not only this bar, but also all the other bars and restaurants. What a disappointment. After some time looking, we give up and buy a completely overpriced beer in a bistro, which is full to bursting with other stranded people. With a bit of business sense, one could have become rich that night... So we toast in the car at dusk (yes, it is still that bright here) and review the past year. Our first (and only) full year of travelling. It's unbelievable what we were able to experience. Exactly one year ago, we were standing around a fire in a shelter for the homeless in Bulgaria in freezing temperatures. The temperatures are a little warmer in Ushuaia, but not as much as we would like. Even though it is actually summer here, we have to make do with around 5 degrees. On top of that, there is rain and fog and no improvement in sight. After three days of waiting for better weather, we give up and decide to start the journey northwards.

So we head back to Punta Arenas, where we have a special highlight in store for us. We want to go to "Isla Magdalena", where you can walk among Magellanic penguins. But it almost doesn't happen, because when we turn up at the tour operator's at the agreed time, we are told that the bus has already left. So we were told the wrong time, which is denied at first. However, as we are not the only ones who were left like this, they finally relent and organise two seats for us on the tour of the next day, which is actually already fully booked. Well, at least, because we were really looking forward to seeing the little animals. So we turn up again the next morning and this time we actually get on the bus. The extent of the chaotic organisation becomes visible. We are quite happy when we finally cross over to the island on the boat. For exactly one hour, we are allowed to take a walk around the island, passing hundreds of penguins. We are thrilled and can hardly put our cameras away. But see for yourself...

After the stay on "Isla Magdalena" we drive to a second island, which we do not set foot on. There we can observe lots of sea lions lolling on the rocks, romping in the sea or involved in power struggles. The friendly guides answer any questions and you can tell that they really care about this animal world. Satisfied, we sit in the boat and head back towards the starting point under the humming of the engines. An expensive excursion, but definitely worth it.

But now we want to return to Puerto Natales and the National Park "Torres del Paine" as soon as possible, because there is a good weather window coming up, which we definitely want to use!