In spite of the fact that the mattress on Carolina’s floor was comfortable I could not sleep very well that night… or more exactly morning. I don’t know why but some subconscious uneasiness was bothering my sleep: when would Carolina and the others at her place get up, if I would be able to leave on time… I doubt I would be worried by such thoughts if I were awake – the time when I was troubled about how I would get out of town, when I would leave and how many kilometers I would traverse, had long since passed. Anyway, I expected the upcoming day to be one of the most complicated. I had two frontiers to cross and a Strait of Magellan.

Of course, when I woke up there wasn’t much left of my morning’s agitation – I ate in peace and at about lunch time Carolina and I went down to the center and I continued to the exit on foot. After fifteen minutes of waiting a van with a nice couple in it stopped. They were going at Punta Arenas and that was perfect because I would cross over at least one frontier with them. Plenty of Argentineans go to Arenas, which is at Chile, in order to shop in there. That town as well as Ushuaia is zona franca, that is to say a duty-free zone. The whole Tierra del Fuego is with very benign policy of taxation in order for its population to be helped out since they live so far away from the rest of the world.

Crossing the frontier was a mere formality related to few pieces of paper and to my astonishment just as formal luggage check-up. As a rule it is not allowed to import fruits, vegetables, dairy produce and meat at Chile but my yellow cheese and salami remained untouched at the rucksack.

Even though the ferry was about 15 kilometers out of the way of those people I had a ride with they went out of it in order to drive me there.

The ferry has not arrived yet and only two trucks and a car with tourists were waiting on the coast. I went to the beach and saw a penguin. A real, alive and dressed up in an official tuxedo! Here we are… there was no need for me to go at extremely touristy where you have to pay in order to reach the penguins. Well, it was true that it was only one but that’s how much you get for free. Then I busied myself with finding someone who would take me with them on the ferry and on the other shore as well. There were two trucks with two people at their cabins, the people at one of the cars refused but the guy in the next pick-up agreed to take me with him. Fifteen minutes later the ferry came, everyone at the coast embarked on it and we sailed away. The wind was lashing forcefully and around the ferry appeared something like dolphins jumping to and fro. Only twenty minutes later we were already on the Land of Fire (Tierra del Fuego).

Hooray, I’m already on an island!!

At the beginning the landscape seemed like the one at the continent – wide and slightly tumulous areas covered with low tufts of grass. Gradually there appeared water as well – at first these were a few puddles by the road and then even some brooks. However, the asphalt road ended as soon as we crossed over to the other side. That is a Chilean territory but only the Argentineans use it therefore the Chilean government does not even lift a finger to impregnate that area, long about 120 kilometers, with asphalt.

But we went on a non official and shorter way that had not been asphalted more than the other one. In spite of the gravel the pick-up was rushing along with over 80 kilometers per hour and the dust was being raised by the Patagonian wind. Time and time again the wasteland is altered by the appearance of the wooden buildings of various farms but most of the time one has the feeling that they are at a really isolated place.

Crossing the other frontier went on without any difficulties. The policewoman even was delighted with my blues eyes… after all, they are rare to be met around there.

Towards evening we finally reached one of the three cities on the island – Rio Grande. I had an arranged host from Couchsurfing in here, that’s why I went to the nearest locutorio and I called him.

That was very well but nobody answered.

I called again in ten minutes time – again there was no one.

I checked at the Internet for some hostels and I found one with a price of 50 pesos.

40 minutes later I rang again – there was no answer. Every unsuccessful ring cost me half a peso, that’s why I decided not to make more attempts – it was already nine and a half anyway. That’s how for the first time night overtook me in a big city and I had no place to sleep.

Although the weather was cool, almost cold, and wintry I considered spending the night at hostel only as a last resort. That’s why I took up on plan A – getting out of town.

I don’t know why but I had been left with the impression that the city has been situated along the ocean shore and that it was narrow at the other direction. Therefore I decided to walk crosswise. I’ve been walking, walking, walking about 20 minutes but not only I didn’t see an end of it but there were not even signs of nearing it.

It seemed to me that to the left one of the intersected streets ended up somewhere. Although the place seemed like a poor neighbourhood I decided to check what was in there. There really was something like an edge of town but twenty meters after the last houses I saw the beginnings of something like a lake – a swamp or who knows what… I could not make it out in the darkness. There was a flat space on the bank that was suitable for a tent but it was seething with children running around and that plan failed too.

The hostel remained as my only option. I set out for the centre but on the inside I was revolting agiants such choice, no matter how cnovenient it seemed… these are 50 pesos… 9 EUR… more than my budget for three days.

So I thought of a reserve plan that I didn’t have to try out until that moment – sleeping in someone’s yard.

As I was walking by the houses I looked around for a suitable place and just a few intersections above I found it – a modest house with a wide grassed space and a few run-down buildings behind it. Somehow I couldn’t dare to ask. That’s why I went ahead. Just one intersection away I decided that in any case I didn’t have anything to lose and returned. I reached the door of the house and knocked loudly.

A boy appeared and I explained to him that I was a poor traveller and that I wanted to pitch my tent at his yard. “No problems”, was his answer.

I trudged along at the back, I pitched the tent under shelter and I had a good sleep in the night.

The next morning after I woke up I decided to call Adrian one more time but nobody picked up therefore I headed to the edge of town. My impressions for what was the exit of the town turned out to be completely wrong but I quickly corrected my mistake and went in the right direction. The town turned out to be bigger than I thought. I was walking for quite a long time until I reached a place that seemed suitable for hitch-hiking. The wind was very rough and cold and it even attempted to rain. About fourty minutes later a boy stopped – he was going to the second town – Toluin – exactly on the middle of the road to Ushuaia. He spoke English well and we managed to a carry a normal conversation. The landscape changed sharply about 50 kilometers after Rio Grande – suddenly trees appeared and they themselves grew into dense old lang forests, covered with lichen and moss. Toluin is a very small town – only 6000 citizens and it seems more like a village. It is situated nearly on the shore of the big lake Fagnano. The boy told me there were just three-four kilometers to the lake shore and I decided to go and see it and stay if I liked it.

As far as I understood the town’s population makes their living mainly off wood industry, which is both good and bad. Cutting out great parcels of the lenga forest has changed to a great degree the climate in the recent years, therefore the wind has grown considerably rougher.

After walking a few kilometers on a gravel road I reached the lake that was almost enormous and the sound of waves crashing into the shore was echoing in the distance. The place was very windy and at the beginning I had almost made up my mind to continue my trip to Ushuaia but a few abandoned houses on the shore changed my mind.

Until then it has happened so that I had slept at any sort of places but I had never found a house for myself. Here I had a choice among three! I liked one of them and decided to stay for the night. I guess that once those buildings have been used for touristy purposes since the lake shore is a local attraction. Only 50 meters away there are guest houses, camping sites and other touristy extra-specials, but right then they were just for me.

The window on the ground floor was without glass, the bathroom, naturally, had no water and almost all the wall plugs were pulled out. However, on the second floor the window panes were at their places and the view from them seemed like taken from an advertising pamphlet – the snow-caped mountain peaks were gleaming behind the crystal blue and restless water of the lake. As a last de luxe I also had a bed. Well, it didn’t have a mattress but let’s not get cheeky.

The place was perfect for writing a story, as well as for waiting for the sunset that descended about nine and a half.

In the morning the wind woke me up – it was so rough that it managed to shake the wooden house. Then I saw that it even has succeeded in opening the door I had supported from the inside with a large log. A little bit later I went ahead on the road near the lake shore and I got out on the asphalt road, only that it was a few kilometers after the town. The weather was overcast and every ten minutes a new cloud appeared and it drizzled. The sprinkle was being carried away in every possible direction by the wind. The gloomy weather, the near little town with its small houses among all the forests strongly reminded me of Twin Peaks – the atmosphere was almost the same. That’s why I played the soundtrack of Twin Peaks – to make the sensation stronger.

Even though the place was not very good for hitch-hiking because of the declination a pick-up stopped for me and we headed to Ushuaia. Fifty kilometers later the road enters the mountain range and it ascends to a not high passage and after that it descends again. In spite of the rainy weather the snow-caped peaks that were rising up by the road seemed impressive. Fifty kilometers later we reached Ushuaia – the most southern city on the planet and the only city at Argentina that is located on the other side of The Andes.

Welcome to the End of the World! Well, yeah, not exactly the end because to the south there are plenty of islands but at least they are not inhibited.

According to my concept Ushuaia was a little town, almost a village, located among the woods but the reality revealed a rather big town scattered over the hills by the bank of the Beagle channel. Actually hills is not the exact definition because they are practically the foot of the mountain – at places the city almost reaches the line of the snow. At places the streets are extremely steep and it is hard for me to imagine what an adventure it would be to drive on them at winter. Once the Argentinean government has tried to encourage the settlement by removing the import duty but the times have changed and now the main mean of living of the town is tourism. On the streets tour agencies alternated with equipment shops, souvenir stores, hostels and hotels of all sorts. And since finding a Couchsurfing host in such a touristy town is practically impossible I decided to use a hostel for the first time. I needed to do some laundry and get rest and what was more the weather was rather cold and did not predispose to sleeping at tent.

Naturally I found the cheapest hostel – The end house -35 pesos (12.50 Bulgarian leva) that turned out to be full of Israeli people. I could not believe how it was possible that only at one hostel in such a small town to have stayed almost 15 Israeli and they didn’t even travel together. The only people with different origin were an American, a Brazilian and me. I stayed for two days at this place and on the second I allowed myself the luxury to fry some potatoes and a sausage with which I exceeded my budget a little but anyway I have managed to get by with less than the provisioned while I was on the road.

Usually during their stay in here people take a walk by the channel in order to see the stocks of penguins, sea lions and cormorants but that was way too expensive for me. The weather was gloomy and rainy enough to make a longer mountain trek pointless, that’s why I only walked by the bank of the channel.

On the third day I decided that I had had my fair share of listening to Israeli speech and I left. So much for the hostels - they are certainly a place that offers some kind of rest for the traveler but also definitely not places I like.

Bookmark and Share