Trekking through Torres del Paine and Penguins in Ushuaia...next stop: HOME!
04.12.2010 - 15.12.2010 23 °F
It is hard for us to believe, but this is to be our last post from the southern hemisphere. We end our journey in Ushuaia, Argentina - claim to fame being that it is 'the southernmost city in the world'. Truth be told, that little title does quite a bit to lure folks like us down so that we can perform the obligatory "check" off our list of spots we've hit in South America. However, besides the title, Ushuaia is not a trip highlight (except, of course, for the penguins (see below)). Still, we are finding the fierce winds and rain, sleet, and snow to be excellent motivators to stay inside our cozy hostel and organize photos, update the blog, and search craigslist and westside rentals for a place to live when we get home!
When we parted ways with my parents and brother 10 days ago we headed to Puerto Natales to catch our next bus to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. We did the W trek of Torres del Paine from Monday to Thursday. Monday we trekked up to the Torres (the Towers) which are the main draw of the park and we almost didn't make it! We had been hiking for about 2 hours uphill when we hit the "pasa de vientos" (windy pass) and let's just say that a more appropriate name would be "pasa de LOCO F#$&!%@ VIENTO" (I'll let you translate). Seriously, the winds were so strong that our legs were being knocked from under us...frightening given that we were hiking alongside the edge of a cliff. A group of three reached the pass just ahead of us and the girl began hyperventilating and they had to turn back. We spent 20 minutes psyching ourselves up for it and once we reached the other side the winds only were fierce for about another minute and then relatively calm again. We are so glad God gave us the courage to keep going because we were extremely fortunate to arrive at the Torres (another 2.5 hours later) and see them on a clear blue sky afternoon (a rarity in the unpredictable austral climate).
We camped that night back at the base camp and again, we were very lucky, that the night winds were much calmer and we were not stuck in rain or snow. We spent the next 2.5 days hiking the national park huffing and puffing and braving the winds, but being in constant awe of the gorgeous surroundings.
We finished the W pleased with our efforts, but sadly I took a bit of a cold-cough-sore throat with me as a souvenir (which I have since generously passed along to Tim). We spent one more night in Puerto Natales before catching our early morning bus ride to Ushuaia (where we are now). A 13 hour bus ride passed surprisingly well, we played our "Spot the Guanaco" game (a cousin of the llama). Tim won (129 to 97).
Ushuaia is definitely a tourist town with, we're sure, a very pretty national park nearby and plenty of outdoor activities....but, we're tired, cold, and ready to just chill out. We did make it to see the Penguins yesterday and they were awesome. Cute little guys who were not the least bit perturbed by our presence on their island. Thousands of Magellanic Penguins live on this island about 6 months a year, the rest of the year (i.e., winter) they spend swimming around the arctic...crazy little dudes. Gentoo Penguins also live on the island (the one with the orange beak pictured below with Tim), but there are only 30 pairs of them on the island.
We're inside today drinking Hot Toddies and mentally preparing for our reverse culture shock (haha, not really, we have managed to see college football, watch E! television (Kate, not Tim), and see "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" more times than we would like to admit). We have even met more people from LA than we might otherwise have done in our day to day lives in Santa Monica. That being said, we are very ready and very excited to be home! We cannot wait to see our family and friends in Newport (16th - 20th, 29th - 15th), Ohio (21st - 29th), and LA (15th...) in the next couple weeks!!!!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!!!!!
Todo nuestro amor,
Tim & Kate