Thursday, January 21, 2016

South to the Ushuaia, the Southern most tip of South America.

South to the Ushuaia, the Southern most tip of South America.

The Beast in Calafate getting feed ……  we are on the Truck / Bus diesel side of the “gasolinera”  Each fill- up is about $140 USD and I am filling up every 2 weeks or so.  Mileage is 20 liters / 100 kilometers which is much better than the big overlander vehicles which get ½ this.   Cost of everything else but diesel is $10-$15 / day. 

I hear a loud noise and a bad smell.   I ask The Beast to stop and he does.   I get out and assess the situation.  I determine indeed the tire is flat and would have difficulty holding air.  Pleased with my quick root cause analysis of the problem, I say to myself … ok you can do this…  you have practiced in the campground for this…  now this is the real thing  !!! go for it !!! I am excited !!! …  Just like Wilson (A player for an American foot ball team in Seattle) I don my uniform (put on the legally require orange vest), fad back for the pass (actually with the legally required red warning cone), I see a man open (get the tire off),  I am just about to complete the pass (put the tire on), when I am intercepted by not one but two guys in trucks that stop to help.  I try to tell these them that I am an Overlander dude capable of feats of mechanical magic, but they don’t understand my crappy Spanish and proceed to change the tire while I watch.   Typical Argentine.   Darn ☺

I am soooooo lucky to get a blow out on a flat and straight stretch of road with room to pull off, not much traffic (one car every 15 minutes), sunny, and best of all no wind !!! 

(see map above) To get to the southern most point of the Pan Am Highway (or the point most people think of as the southern most point), one must leave Argentine and enter Chile (1 hour wait in customs where they steal all your fresh food), take a ferry in Chile to an island, then exit Chile (1 hour wait in customs),  then cross back into Argentine (1 hour wait in customs).   The picture below is of the ferry on the famous Magellan straight.  I wonder what it was like for those early explorers to be sucked into the entrance by the 8 + knot current into the unknown.

Unlike the ferries in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, these boats drive up on the beach or cement ramp that extends directly into the water.  The trucks and cars drive on as the boat’s  twin screws struggles against the tide to keep the boat stationary. 

The boat is double ended so the vehicles are not required to back on.

The trip only take 20 minutes but we see dolphins that look like small orcas, sea lions, and a variety of birds.  Cold and windy.

Looking back towards the mainland of South America.

I drive on a bad dirt road then finally get to some pavement and am fortunate enough to meet this very cool family:  Christen, Felipe,  and Mom.   They are from Ushuaia.  I am sorry I didn’t get together with them when I was in Ushuaia but I suppose they were busy with the Christmas holidays.  If I ever go back to Ushuaia I hope to see them again.   Note Cristian has on his official break down vest.

I drive into Ushuaia in a torrential downpour, exhausted, not knowing where the heck I will stay.  The Beast struggles through town on crappy roads and finally finds the famous campground that I have read about and seen pictures of. 

Not knowing what to expect I awake the next day excited to explore a new town.  An absolutely awesome day greets me.  I walk to town in the brisk air and bright sunlight.  I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the setting: sea,  snow capped mountains, harbor, boats big and small, islands, and glaciers.

 I decided to take this tourist boat for a "3 hour tour" (I didn't make that up... it's actually a 3 hour tour) -- so evidently they never watched Gillian's island...  look at the boat ... it's the same boat !!! I was expecting to be greeted by "the skipper", but to my relief it was this nice young Argentine guy).  I want to take the 3:00pm but am advise the weather could change so I take the 10:00am tour … and it did change.

I am bundled up against the sun and apparent wind.  Look at the town nestled up against the mountains.   The ridge right above my left ear is the one I climbed and skied down with Phil, the extraordinary Arctic ski guide from Icebird.

The tourist boat visits this colony of sea lions.  They are all sleeping when the big dude decided he should be on the top rock and pushes everyone out of the way. …. You know someone like this ?….with a big unnecessary ego that feel the need to make it to the top of the hill. 

The boat parks on this rock with tires as fenders.  The fenders are chained to the rock face.

We all have a delightful walk and see the beautiful summer flora.  I am thinking Mom would love this. 

As the boat comes back into the harbor I am scanning the harbor with my binoculars  when I see a boat that looks very familiar.  Red with an Aero rig.  I have seen this boat on yatchworld years ago and am very exited about seeing it up close.  

When the tour boat returns I run down the entire length of town (2 miles) to get to the red boat, only to see the lines being cast off and about ready to leave.  The skipper, Cath, asks me if I want a ride to the yacht club.  I have no idea where the yacht club is but am certain that I want to go there.   I jump on board and the try hard not continue to jump up and down as I am so exited to be on this amazing boat motoring across the Ushuaia harbor !!!!   
Thus begins a wonderful week with the charter boats and cruisers, all docked at the yacht club.  

This is the yacht club dock where the yachts provision for their month long Antarctica ski trips.   They have a skipper, a crew member, and a back country ski guide, and 6-8 guests. 

 Here is another boat whose crew I got to know.  I helped them get Gas canisters for their stove and provision.  There is a "well" in the center of the boat that houses the very heavy centerboard which is can be raised for ice.

Jean Zortman with the cap on is from Alaska.  She drives truck in Alaska. After 30 + years of marriage her husband just up and died.  She didn’t know quite what to do… so she decided to buy a boat and sail around the world… I think this is a very wise decision… but she is smart and is crewing first, and then deciding what boat is best for her.  They will now sail to Antarctica, then onto South Africa.   I think all the crew pays a nominal amount for food… maybe $200 a month.

No this is not a repeat photo below.  See skipper Mike on right… Mike is great.  We talked about the northwest passage and crew, etc.

Notice the white bag under solar panels.  This contains the obligatory dead sheep or maybe it’s a goat. Not sure why this is a requirement in order to sail to Antarctica but it seems to be ???   The wood pole in the foreground is of course used to push the ice away from the boat.

Icebird – The very coolest boat in the harbor with the best skipper and crew.  I will ask Dale and Nancy if they want to spend $18K and one month skiing way way down under.   Notice the aero rig and pilot house.  Very easy to sail and very comfortable out of the weather in the pilot house.

The stern opens into a “garage” in which the ski and dingy are kept.   The two spools of nylon lines are for tying up to the shore.

This is a PT boat (the kind Kennedy was on in WWII) complete with torpedoes and guns.  I can just imagine being on the bow talking to another similar boat, bow to bow, and having a Japanese torpedo go speeding between the two boats.

I was surprised to find out that there is a king crab fishery in Ushuaia.  Must not be much current as they use these little cone shaped pots and not the big cages used in the bearing sea.   I think of Dale Karr and our time in Alaska together.

At the campground this German company with this enormous bus and trailered bunk house rolled in.   All German retired folks.

Christmas eve was at a party at the yacht club.  Also took a delightful hike up to a lake with Fred and Cath and borrowed some skis for a great hike and ski on the local mountain with Fred.  The tree in the picture below was the only indication that it was Christmas in the entire town.  No lights, no advertising, no decorations, nothing.   After a week I am ready to buy a boat and be a captain on an Antarctica skiing charter boat !!!!  Seriously !!!!!

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