Saturday, February 18, 2012

The End of the World...

Or the beginning...just depends how you want to view it. Its 15,000 km uphill to Alaska from down here!

Easter Island to Santiago, Santiago to Punta Arenas, Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, Puerto Williams to Ushuaia, Ushuaia to Punta Arenas, Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales....The Tierra Del Fuego Tour.

This is the end of the world according to the tourist companies trying to sell a catchy slogan. The bottom of Patagonia and about as close to Antartica as you can get without going. Its summer, but its always winter. I left 90 degree heat in Santiago and showed up to 50 mph winds and below freezing temps. Ive never felt a airliner move in 3 dimensions at once before but 100 feet off the deck on our approach into Punta Arenas we took a massive crosswind and as we barrelled forward at hundreds of miles per hour, dropped down at feet per second to our runway, we ALSO spun around our Z-axis (meaning the front landing gear was no longer in line with the rear landing gear) providing a definite moment of concern...this place is windy...the pilot pulled her straight enough for the landing and all was hunky dorey in the end...

The plan: fly to the end of the world skipping northern and central Patagonia, hike around the most southern trail in the world, head north.

The last 10 days have been a wild little tour. I landed on the Dientes circuit and rallied around Isla Navarino for 5 days, fishing with hand lines, having my hand at bush-whacking through epic Lenga scrub and eating shit into deep peaty mud puddles. After which i jumped on a mini ferry, boated across the Beagle Channel out of Chile and into Argentina (new country for me), had my hand at another trek and then tried out my thumb for some hitch hiking north back to Punta Arenas. No long winded story on this one, just pics with captions to tell about the times...enjoy.

Tent world - kitchen and hot showers included, couldn´t ask for more

Our little puddle jumper from Punta Arenas down to Puerto Williams (Most southern town in the world) on Isla Navarino

A brief glimpse of the edges of the Darwin Range...these are just the friendly foothills, the proper range has endless glaciers and ice fields and is a no mans land lost in clouds and storms most of the year.

So the Dientes Circuit begins...they call it a 5 day. I added a 2 day side trip to the circuit and did the thing in its entirety in 4 days...someones got some slow ass legs to be calling this a 5 day.

The Teeth of Navarino

"Day one" according to the book was pollished off in 2.5 hours, and given it was before noon, the fish weren´t biting (i was later told there were no fish TO bite - oops), i decided to keep on keepin on and head into"day two" over the Dienties Pass and onto the other side of the island. Not much growin up here.

Beautiful lakes with amazingly clear (and delicious) water

Beavers got introduced to this place for hunting 60 years ago. With no natural preditors and an environment identical to their traditional Canadian homeland they have florished and destroyed, and continue to destroy, the local forest and ecosystem. I may or may not have felt inspired to keep the beavers busy --Not only is it hard to build a beaver dam, it also happens to be quite hard to take them down - dam fun though!!!!

Beaver Waste Land!!!!

I have thoroughly managed to strech my stomach out...3/4 pound dried pasta, 2 packets cheese sauce, 1 can tuna

7 minutes later...7 mintues more am usually in a food coma. Im trying to break my over stuffing habit and cut back on the massive meals...this is a serious challenge

Morning Day 2...i had 2 massive storms roll over me during my 4 days but both came at night. This was the calm after the storm with not even a wisper of wind to ripple the many lakes and ponds that dot this wet and boggy land.

90 degree edges...a true testiment to the busy beavers hard work and engineering ways

Looking back on the dientes, heading south towards Lago Windhond

Looking south at the lake with its southern shores nearly nipping the ocean surrounding Cape Horn

There were epic scree runs to be had all over the place, unfortunately this one was left untouched

Lenga Forests kept short and stubby by their proximity to tree line

Early changers...these guys give a glimpse into what this entire places turns into each fall as the hillside change color and drop their leaves. I imagine its spectacular

Off the high land and 2 straight kilometers of peat walking on a massive sponge

wild water

Big foot roaming free and leaving his mark

Looking back toawrds the center of the island

A 50 year old hut all to myself...kinda lonely to be honest. Such an amazing place and no one to share it with.

I reached the hut and the lake early afternoon on a gorgeous day...a browse of the hut book gave word of good fishing on a spit 45 minutes from the hut. I dawned my spool of 50lb test, hooks, and hotdog and started the walk around to my hunting grounds...

Fishing was epic, not 30 seconds after tossing my line in I had hooked a 13 inch rainbow trout...i couldn´t believe it. Dinner was goign to be amazing! I rigged up a second line and soon enough i was reeling in fish after fish. I caught 6 and kept the middle of cleaning the third i realized how much fish i truely had to eat and decided catching a 4 was not needed...the fish had other ideas though and as i was reelingin the line a massive one took hold and ended up completely swalling the hook, leaving me no option but to attempt to eat all 4...yikes

The headless bounty...beautiful rich colors and the meat was an amazing deep pink almost like a blood orange.

Whats on the menu?...Rainbow a la carte con un poco sal. Nothing but fish tonight, i polished off the first 3, they were amazing. I was full though and was faced with a serious challenge, get the last and the largest one in my belly - i had to take a time out before attempting the task so decided to wander around hoping to make some room in my belly...i returned from my wander just in time to watch a red backed hawk swoop down, land on my 4th fish, look over at me and flap hard to lift its new prize to a nearby tree...perfect! I didnt have to eat it and it didn´t go to waste...couldn´t have asked for much more!

Eating easy tonight

Day 3 saw some epic bush whacking...i decided to give my hand at getting off the track and cutting a corner in the goal was the saddle on the left in the foreground..i had a thousand feet of scree, another 500 feet of Beach forest and then a 4 k climb through open boggy peat...walking on trials gets really old after a while and the novelty of picking your own route and enjoying the unmarked landscape really takes your mind off the weight of your pack and the numbing of your legs and shoulders

Looking back from where i came...i dropped off the face of the flat topped mtn in the background, through the woods and then up to where i was, finally reconnecting with ¨the trail¨...

Storm 2 comes to play...

And clears to beautiful views in the morning

Out and back...looking north again to the front side of the island and the last 3 hours towards the Beagle Channel..across is Argentina!

Got to enjoy another 1000 feet of scree running...this stuff was amazing and there is nothing that makes my knees happier than dropping 1000 feet in 5 minutes at a running pace but feeling like you´re floating on some gates and you could have yourself a seriously good sport here!

Not a bad place for a Batch

Back and camping outside of town with a pond to wash up in (although freezing), 1 litre of beer, some meat and a lazy afternoon. In my endless search to gain weight and save money i turned to what i thought was my new golden food - hot dogs - 6 for a dollar, 80 grams of fat, thousands of calories..who could ask for me...after a dozen though i had to tap out...the soft mushy center of a boiled dog just makes me quisey its back to butter as my golden ingredient.

If you´ve read about Shakeltons historic adventure to cross the antartic in the early 1900´s you´ll enjoy this...the bow of the steam ship that rescued the men off Elephant island 2.5 years after being losing their ship to the pressures of pack ice and being forced to live on the ice hunting seals and simply surviving! Amazing story.

Puerto Williams...if you want a horse you just pick it out, you gotta catch it first though!

Quite the intimidating Naval Yard
We waited 9 hours in this ferry for Chile Coast Gaurd to give up clearence to 9:30 pm we pulled out of the harbor and the Capt opened her up...

Twin V8 Yamahas running on all 50 k´s per hour we flattened the wind chop and the bow luanched off the back side of the meter and a half swell that we drove headon epic hour at sea for sure!

Determined to find free camping i wandered the town of Ushuaia until 1 am to finally come to rest at the edge of town in a little nook...perfect dirt bagging!

I intended to just head north hitching all the way back to Punta Arenas and put 4 days of food in my pack..upon leaving Ushuaia and making the turn out of town i was faced with this though...amazing mountains, and decided i had to go for an explore...

an hour from the road i found a hut for the night, woke early and charged the hills hehind it. Summited, crossed to a glacial lake, dropped back to the hut, raced out of the woods, bathed in the river and was back on the road hitching by noon that day...

A nice little hill to summit

With a nice little glacier in the back

Getting to the glacier proved tricky with a dicey decent down a crumbling crack in a cliff face, a open rock contour across and then a final scramble to the glacial basin

Walking out and Looking back on where i had come from...i walked up to the saddle center left, then crossed behind to the glacier

Hitching proved difficult and after 4 rides i had only made only 200 k, not a bad place to hitch from though!

At the end of hitching day 1 i was sitting on the side of the road with 2 italians, it was late, we were stranded for the night...we found shelter behind this church and started off again the next day...

I was up early and on the road again with thumb was cold - high 20´s (F) with a 20 mph wind - I had luck early but it soon ran out at the international board crossing back into Chile, after waiing for 2 hours my italian friends showed up and now there were 3 again, still stranded...after waiting longer i finally decided to flag down a bus and pay for the last 400 ks to Punta Arenas..the italians had a different strategy which ended in a long winded epic...needless to say we are all now just outside Torres Del Paine NP, heading in for 5 days of epic trekking around thousand foot spires. I met a Grand Canyon Guide here who knows people on the Futa and we´re organizing a 6 day float down the Rio Baker...i will get out of my 5 days in Torres, head north for a quick stop at Fitz Roy, rush to the Rio Baker for the river trip, then continue north through the Careterra Austral...

The ferry off Tierra Del Fuego and back to Main Land South America!