Sunday, March 13, 2016

The End of the Road

[Kyle]We would have slept in after our exhausting day driving to and from Rio Grande, But we had a rental car and Maryanne had a plan:

She wanted to get up early and drive to the terminus of the Pan American Highway, known to Argentinians as Ruta Nacional 3 and to Ushuaians as "The Road". Not only that, but she wanted to do it for sunrise.

{Maryanne: The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads that stretch from Prudhoe Bay, in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina (with a road-less gap through the Darien jungle) - it ends in the national park just to a few miles west of Ushuia and is one of the world's classic road journeys for motorcycles and jeeps}

Well, we were definitely the first car in the park. We had the whole place to ourselves as the sun rose gloriously out of the Beagle Channel. We did a few short hikes to take in various views and then returned to where we started. There is supposedly a population of transplanted North American Beavers living at the water's edge at the end of the trail at the end of the road. Maryanne has never seen beavers and was keen to take a look.

An early start to enjoy the sunrise a the end of the Pan-American highway

It seemed that it had been too dry for them for a while and they have apparently moved off a bit. As a consolation, Maryanne spotted a cute little bird. At first, we thought it was a baby owl, but it turned out the South American Pygmy Owl. It was no bigger than a robin.

Hanging out at the Park before our flight

On the drive out, we saw the wall of tourist busses going the other way. You're gonna have to get up earlier than that!

We returned the car at the airport, where we boarded our flight to our next destination: El Calafate, near Los Glaciares Nacional Park.

For some reason, I had expected a place nestled right up to the Andes to be forested, or at least very lush. It was a surprise to break out of the clouds and see dry, rolling hills.

We collected our bags and headed to the taxi stand where we were assigned a driver. As soon as the guy was paired with us, he took our bags and weaved through the crowds as fast as we could walk. We alternated between thinking he was in a hurry and thinking he might actually be trying to lose us and take our stuff.

Once we were in the car, he mashed the pedal to the floor and pretty much left it there until we made it to our hotel twenty minutes later. Argentinian law seems to require a speed alarm in commercial vehicles and he had that thing going off most of the time. When we got into town, where the speed limit dropped from 110kph to 50, and then 35, he kept going 120 except for when he was going around corners. There are only a few busy times of day at the airport and he was clearly trying to make it back in time to catch another fare, no matter who he had to kill to do it.

After screeching to a stop at our hotel and then dumping our bags on the street, Maryanne tried telling him in Spanish that he drove way too fast. He seemed to take it as a compliment and responded, "Oh, yes! VERY fast!" He then screeched away.

Leaving Tierra Del Fuego for Mainland Patagonia

Once we got our breaths back, we went out to have a look at El Calafate. I'm pleased to say that it is a very pleasant little town with lots of trees, median strips filled with flowers and little caf├ęs with shaded tables out on sidewalks interrupted with potted plants. What a difference a day makes.

1 comment:

Mommy Dearest said...

Your photos are absolutely breathtaking. I have to remind myself to close my gaping mouth when I see them. Love the little pygmy owl too and I'll never know how you got such a good shot of him, but he's a beauty!