Monday, March 16, 2015
At the southernmost tip of South America is a sparsely populated region called Patagonia...a territory that spans both Argentina and Chile. It is home to fantastic mountain peaks, vast wind-blown steppes, glaciers and ice-fields and some amazing national parks. The name Patagonia can be traced back to Magellan in 1520.
As we cruised south along the Atlantic coast of Argentina...our first stop in Patagonia was Puerto Madryn.
Puerto Madryn was first settled by 150 Welsh colonists in 1865...after being promised religious freedom by the Argentinean government. It is still retains its Welsh charm...though the Spanish language and customs seem to be the norm these days.
We could have gone whale watching...or penguin observing...but we chose to take a drive out to the country and see how they farmed.
Our destination was the Estancia San Guillermo...a typical Patagonian sheep ranch.
Our hosts welcomed us to their place...and we watched as several of the sheep lost their wooly coats.
Though most of the sheep were in corals...or under the watchful eye of the resident sheep dog...it seemed that a few were the family pets and wandered about at will. While we were being served fresh fried pastries and sipping on Yerba Mate...a wooly sheep wandered about among the tables.
Our next stop was Punta Loma...home to a major sea lion breeding ground. A storm was brewing in the distance...and made for some great photography from our vantage point on the cliffs.
Back on the ship we sailed south to Cape Horn...the spot where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.
The cape lies within Chilean waters...and marks the north edge of the Drake Passage. It is actually situated on an island (Hoorn Island) and we joined the crowd on the upper deck as we sailed around the island. Notice...no trees. The navy maintains the weather station and lighthouse. Because the wind always blows and the seas are often angry...Cape Horn is known as the most dangerous shipping route in the world.
From Cape Horn we traveled up Beagle Channel...offering splendid views of the Patagonian Andes.
Our next port of call was Ushuaia...the world's most southerly city.
This city was a penal colony once upon a time...known as 'the end of the earth'. Prior to the establishment of a penal colony here in 1896...the entire region was occupied by the Yamana Indians and a handful of missionaries. The last of the Yamanas perished at the end of last century...the penal colony existed through 1947.
Today Ushuaia is a tourist town...with an international airport and a cruise port. Population? 50,000 It is also the closest deepwater port to the Antarctic. Parked right next to our cruise ship...was a National Geographic ship...bound for Antarctica.
We walked onshore...cleared Argentine customs once again...and found free wifi outside a coffee shop. Though Cape Horn lies in Chilean territory, the portion of Tierra del Fuego (an archipelago on which Ushuaia is located) belongs to Argentina.
Once we had explored the town on foot...we took an excursion known as the 'Drive to the End of the World'. Our first stop was in Tierra del Fuego National Park...where the World's End post office is located. Some mailed postcards from this location. Remember those? We opted to hike the trails instead.
At Lapatia Bay...we arrived at the last stop on the Pan-American Highway...a connected highway system that stretches about 12,000 miles across two continents...beginning in Alaska and ending right here. What an incredible adventure that would be...to drive it from one end to the other!
As we left Ushuaia...we bade farewell to the snow-capped Andes Mountain range and Tierra del Fuego National Park...our awesome end-of-the-world experience.