We had our breakfast as soon as the kitchen opened and were able to get the second bus of the day to Tierra del Fuego National Park. The bus stopped at the park entrance so everyone could go in and pay their fee. While we were there, we picked up a park map and after a little bit of studying, came up with a plan. We figured we had the time and energy for anything up to about six miles each way, so we ended up picking the trail to the top of Cerro Guanaco. It was around four and a half miles, but it was pretty steep, so we figured that would do. We had the bus drop us off at the trailhead at Lago Capo.
We started with an easy stroll through the campgrounds by the lake and then along the shore. It was early. The wind hadn't started, so we were treated to a mirror image of the Chilean Andes reflecting from the lake.
After a while, the trail pulled away from the lake and started switchbacking up the hill on our side of the valley. We climbed for hours, making slower than expected progress up the ridiculously steep path. Every now and then, we would see sky poking through the trees. The gradient would decrease a little and we would think we must be near the top. Then we'd come around a corner and see the trail begin to angle upward again. Aughh!
After a particularly steep and slippery segment, we stepped onto a boulder and, wham! We were hit with the view. Our boulder created a treeless space to look out and see across the big glacial valley from our hard-won altitude. Yup, it was worth it. I wasn't so sure I'd think so five minutes ago, but it was totally worth that climb. The mountains down here are an impressive thing to behold. They are so high and so jagged and so steep. The only way to get to most of their summits is with technical climbing gear and a lot of skill. Their inaccessibility makes them seem even more beautiful.
A walk in the National Park
We reentered the trees for a bit more exercise. The trail began to level and then descend slightly as it crossed an intervening ridge and then the next valley. The day's weather had been marvellous. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was the warmest day they had seen since last summer. Typical weather in this region is cold and rainy. We were reminded of this as we entered the poor drainage of the valley. Our nice dry trail started to get wet in spots. A little further along, it eventually deteriorated into full-blown bog. We tried tiptoeing around it on tree roots and rocks to the side. Occasionally, we'd miss a step and end up squishing into the mud with a shoe, which we pulled out with a wet smack. Poor Maryanne got really unlucky and sank in far enough on one occasion to feel the mud run into her shoe. Ewww!
After a few hundred meters of this, Maryanne had had it. There was more bog to go before the path resumed it's nice dry climb to the summit on the other side. She decided to try to find a dryish patch from which to look for wildlife while I pressed on. I was pretty sure I didn't have enough time to get all of the way to the top, but I wanted to get as far as I could.
I climbed fast knowing that time waiting always seems longer. I got to where I could see the patch where Maryanne was seated, but I couldn't make her out any more. I turned around and, wow! I swear I could almost see all the way from one end of the Beagle to the other. I took a thousand quick photos for her enjoyment later and then half walked, half ran back down to her.
On route to the top!
She was having a conversation with a group of younger people who had just made it up that far. One was an Australian woman named Stephanie who wanted to know how far the end of the Pan-American Highway was from the trailhead. Maryanne told her it wasn't far. Soon, the three of us were careening down the hill with the goal of getting Stephanie to the end of the road before the last bus back to Ushuaia. Along the way, we found out she was headed to Antarctica the next day. It looks like we would be seeing a lot more of her then.
While she headed to the end of the road, we took the bus back to town. Once there, we headed for a restaurant Maryanne had seen the day before that she wanted to try out.
We were sat having a really pleasant dinner with a lovely view of the harbour when we noticed a big red ship coming in. A closer examination revealed it to be the G Expedition. Whoo, Hoo! Our ship is here! This is so exciting!
Our boat arriving
As we watched them tie alongside, The anticipation of our upcoming adventure was almost too much to bear. We were all smiles for the rest of the night.