El Calafate, Ushuaia and Tierra Del Fuego

Back in El Calafate we returned to the hostel we had stayed at before. We only booked one night because we had figured we would be moving on the next day. However when we were last in El Calafate we had a change of plans and booked a flight to Ushuaia. This now meant we had a few days to relax in Calafate. We had to book another place to stay though for the next few days because this one was booked solid. We booked a place called Nakel Yenu. It turned out to be really fun. We cooked some of our own meals in the kitchen which was a nice treat for us.  

Near our hostel this dog was fending for himself
El Calafate by night
We also got a chance to go to the restaurant that we had tried to go last time we were here but couldn’t. It was a good meal but perhaps not as wonderful as it had been built up to be. After dinner we noticed there was some activity at a nearby venue. When we wandered down it turned out to be some kind of gaucho competition. Unfortunately we had left our camera back at the hostel. It was very entertaining as gauchos rode young wild horses who did everything they could to buck them off. Sometimes the horses won and sometimes the gauchos won.   On another day in El Calafate we went to the bird reserve. It is right in town on the lake. There are mostly waterfowl but there also hundred of other bird species living right in this area. It is about a three kilometre walk around the lake. There are pelicans but they are more on Lago Argentina adjacent to this reserve. There are also black and white swans. We went twice because the first day we went was very cloudy and windy. The second time we went was much sunnier and calmer.

A blue-billed duck

Black-headed Sans
Pink Flamingos


Chad, Ben and Ashley between us
Perhaps the most fun thing we did was eat at the hostel organized asado dinner. For 120 pesos (about $15) it was all you can eat BBQ, salad, and beer or wine. We had a lot of fun with those at our table but man we felt rough the next day. We stayed up with a guy named Ben who was catching a 3am bus to Ushuaia. I cannot imagine a 22 hour bus ride being drunk and hungover all in the same ride. We also met Chad and Ashley from Fort St. John, BC. We realized we are on the same plane as them to Ushuaia.   When we arrived in Ushuaia we shared a taxi into town with Chad and Ashley. Our hostels were close by one another and so it dropped them off first and then dropped us off at the Patagonia Pais Hostel. This was not our first choice of places in Ushuaia but when we were booking this was the only one we could get for four days without having to move.   When we got there however we were informed that there was a problem with our reservation. Specifically, Hostelbookers had shown availability where there was none. This had happened to us in El Calafate as well. I wonder though if the hostel themselves double booked and blamed it on Hostelbookers. No way for us to know. They had a room for us for the last three nights but not for the first night. The lady called a couple of other hostels to find us a place. We then had to walk about fifteen minutes with our packs to Los Lupinos. This was a massive hostel with lower ratings but a high price. I sent an email to Hostelbookers hoping to get our money back. We had one guy in our dorm that smelled terribly of B.O. and two guys who snored terribly. Nicola got no sleep.   In the morning we moved back to the Patagonia Pais with our fingers crossed that it would be better. We could not get into our rooms so we wandered around like zombies killing time until we could. We stopped into Antarctica Turismo to see Daniela. Daniela was the travel agent who helped us book our Antarctica cruise. We had read online how she had helped others get a good deal and she helped us as well. She was lovely and very helpful. I must have sent her a hundred emails asking questions and she was always quick to respond. We sat and chatted with her for quite a while. We would see her again in a few days when we picked up our rented waterproof pants.   Daniela had told us that this was an atypical day for Ushuaia. It i s normally grey, cloudy, and rainy. Today was sunny and beautiful. She encouraged us to go to the glacier or to the National Park. After lunch we decided to walk to the glacier. We had read that if you had been to Perito Moreno in El Calafate this would seem like an ice cube. Daniela told us it would take an hour to walk there. It was much longer. It was all uphill which is why the generally recommended way to get there is by taxi. It was about 7km along a long and winding road that climbed to the base of the hill where the glacier was. That took us more than an hour and a half. Remember we were exhausted from a bad sleep. We looked at the glacier from the bottom and walked up a bit. However we chose not to walk all the way. Then we took a taxi back to the hostel where we crashed.  
Tierra Del Fuego
The next day we spent with Chad and Ashley from Fort St. John, BC. We met at the grocery store at 10am and picked up some stuff for lunch. We took a bus to Tierra Del Fuego National Park. We forgot our camera in the hostel so I ran all the way back to get it and returned before the bus left. The bus dropped us at a beautiful spot overlooking the Beagle Channel. On the far side was Chile. We used this as a starting point to hike a trail along the shoreline. It was about 8km long. About halfway along the trail we found a spot where we hiked up a little and then ate lunch sitting on rocks overlooking the water. It was gorgeous.
Tierra Del Fuego National Park
There are foxes in the park
Snails line the shores
The Forest trail here reminds me of Mountain Portage at home
Ashley and Chad
After the hike we decided we were going to go play 9 holes of golf at the world’s most southern golf course. Ushuaia and Argentina seem to be all about the superlatives… the most southerly the most common in these parts. We got the bus driver to drop us off there. Unfortunately it was quite expensive and while I would have paid it to gold I think I was the only one who would ($85 for club rentals and 18 holes). Instead we sat in the clubhouse and drank some beer. The bus driver came back to pick us up on his last run. After we got back to town we had dinner and then said good-bye to new friends Chad and Ashley. We made plans to visit them in FSJ on our final drive home in August.   Our last full day in Ushuaia was a Sunday. We planned to pick up some odds and ends to be prepared for our cruise. Almost everything was closed though. So instead we went back to the hostel to get some internet time. I looked up whether there were any geocaches nearby. There were two close to the hostels. So a little later in the day we went looking for them. The first one we found within a couple of minutes. The second one was off where my gps watch was telling me it was. That is not uncommon but it means you have to start fanning our a bit. It was in a very busy area so it is challenging to be discreet about it. Nicola is the champ at finding these ones and once again she retained her belt. I get us in the neighbourhood and she finds it. Happens all the time.  
At the Ushuaia Port
We noticed while we were geocaching that our ship was in. It must have had a good crossing if it was in so early. That was optimistic for us leaving the next day. We met a couple of Australians, brother and sister, who seemed also to be interested in the ship. We got chatting with them and they are on our ship too. Daniela had told us that the average ages on the ship would be 40s and 50s. This couple told us based on people they had met in the hotel it might be older.  
The End of the World
On our final day in Ushuaia we had most of a day to kill. Embarkation was at 4pm. We had a list of things to get that we had hoped to do the day before but could not because everything was closed. First and foremost was to see Daniela to get some waterproof pants. We were renting them for $30 for the duration of the cruise. The place we were renting from was attached to her office. We thought they were just rain pants but they turned out to be snow pants. We wandered around Ushuaia looking more than buying. It is fairly expensive here.