TIERRA DEL FUEGO - Land of Fire
DIESEL COSTS in Argentina side : 2.594ps a litre
DAYS SPENT - 13. KM’S DRIVEN - 1,150.
Because Tierra Del Fuego is shared by Argentina and Chile we are going to use this page to cover information and diary for both sides of the island.
The native people used fires to keep warm so when this part of the world was first discovered around 1880 - it earned the name Land of Fire. Unfortunately it only took 30 years of “civilization” to reduce the population of native Yamana from 3,000 to 100.
Our good weather continues and the 20 minute ferry crossing is smooth on our legs but rough on our wallets!
We drive south on Route 257, a bone jarring gravel road that forces us to give in midway and stop for the night at a place called Cullen - which is nothing like the seaside Scottish village.
Next day we arrive at Rio Grande and storm the supermarket for food before continuing on to Tolhuin - a very nice lakeside village.
Picture the scene - It’s 7am, we are parked beside a lake with no-one in sight, I’m still in bed and Dave has just got up.
“Nice beaver” said Dave enthusiastically.
I smile coyly - “Thank you”
“Not you, you daft bat - out there!”
And there our furry friend was, strolling along the beach, not a care in the world, whilst two semi clad tourists are standing oohing and aahing in the doorway of a truck. Isn’t he cute?
There has been a fresh fall of snow and driving over the summit to reach Ushuaia was a little nerve racking considering it’s a vertical drop of 1,000 feet to the lake. All was well and we arrived at “The end of the world” in one piece. This place makes Scotland seem balmy with the average SUMMER temperature being 10 degrees- I’d hate to be here in winter! The shops are full of shorts and summer dresses - who in their right mind is going to walk about in a flimsy dress down here?! But we can’t complain as the weather is sunny and dry for us - we make the most of it and drive into the National park to catch the views.
Once again we have to pay FIVE times the entrance fee costs because we are foreigners - you wouldn’t get away with that in Europe. We are very lucky to spend our permitted 48 hours in the park with no rain and clear skies -the shoreline walk was particularly lovely.
Unfortunately Nessie is making rather ominous knocking noises as we drive around the park - the gravel road is full of nasty holes but we shouldn’t be making these noises. When we leave the park we drive straight to a garage, suspecting our shocks have gone, only to discover that our front drop arm bushes have shattered. It’s a common problem if you drive on a lot of ripio (gravel) routes and ours look like the originals! We find a workshop who makes us new nylon ones and have the problem resolved by dinner time - thanks to the very friendly people of Ushuaia.
Punta Delgada to Puerto Espora ferry charges : car, jeep or van - 13,900 CH ; truck up to 6 tonne - 38,280 CH
We managed to get nessie into the small truck category. This cost is for a one-way trip.
San Sebastian - leaving Chile was very simple - no checks in the vehicle. Entering Argentina was also easy - we were issued a 3 month visa for us and a 8 month import stamp for our vehicle. The food check officer only looked in our glove box - not the rear of the truck?!
Radman - west of Rio Grande to Lago Blanco. Involves a river crossing. Argentinean guards only recommend using it between late December and April.
San Sebastian - leaving Argentina was simple. The Chilean side was easy but the SAG officials were very thorough in checking for vegetables and meat- they looked in our bathroom, all our cupboards AND under our seats. They were very, very nice and friendly and only half looked but they didn’t REALLY search hard. Once again - frozen vegetables were allowed. We were issued a 3 month visa and 3 months for the truck.
Route 257 is a bumpy, truck laden, gravel road - best to avoid if at all possible.
Driving north - we crossed at San Sebastian then drove to Onaisin before turning north to Cerro Sombrero - it was a much better standard of ripio and very quiet.
Carrefour - S53.77455 W067.72258 You will also find a LA and a Hiper DIY store nearby.
LA - S54.79797 W068.27847
Carrefour - S54.81515 W068.32657
Mercedes garage - S54.80145 W068.28504 Many thanks to manager Nico for his kindness and help.
Fabrication - S54.79334 W068.27518 This man welds aluminium, makes bushes and is very useful to know.
Sartini - S54.79016 W068.22912 Charge 30 pesos to fill a 10 kg bottle that is not their own.
Lake Tolhuin - S54.53455 W067.22814 bush camping on lake shore. (YPF in village has FREE hot showers)
La Pista - S54.811248 W068.35038 Hot showers and electric - 50 pesos per night. Leave La Pista and drive down to the road, turn right 50 metres and park outside the wooden building to pick up wifi.
Rio Pipo - SS54.82780 W068.36138 Hot showers, electric and wifi - 60 pesos per night.
Tierra del Fuego NP
Both sites are free camping and have chemical toilets with soap and water nearby.
Redonda Pier - S54.84676 W068.48055 We parked outside the post office for one night. Senda costera is a lovely shoreline and wood walk that starts from here.
Laguna Verde - S54.84534 W068.57994 By a river and lake, can be busy.
Lago Roca - is the only paying campsite - they want 30ps for your vehicle AND 18ps per person - we were told there were no hot showers available at that time. We drove away.
Puerto Almanza - S54.85922 W067.51540 Very nice area by sea and sheltered by trees. Lots of places to choose from on the drive down to here.
In November 2009 a last minute ‘bargain’ 10 day cruise on the Antarctic Dream cost £237 per person per day. This included all meals and several trips ashore. Would be nice if it included a Caribbean cruise for that price!
Be aware that this is the 42% discounted rate for LAST minute bookings and does not include the cost of renting specialist clothing required for the trip.
BUDGET NEWS ; £30.76 a day. This includes the new bushes for Nessie (£37), a camera cleaning set, ferry costs (£85) and 7 nights in campsites. Not a cheap place to visit quickly.
Beaver at Tolhuin Ice under a thin layer of snow Ushuaia post office
TIERRA del FUEGO NATIONAL PARK -
Dave putting our sticker on the post office window and us standing at the end of Route 3.
We can’t believe our luck - we’ve actually met another British overlander couple - rarer than hen’s teeth! Gill and Ash have a rather lovely Land Rover ambulance conversion and are on a one year trip. It’s grand to have some company from home. We spend a week stalking each other from one camping area to another having a good laugh and sharing stories along the way - we really miss British humour. We really enjoyed their company and are sorry to say goodbye to them - the lucky devils are off on a antarctic cruise.
CAMPING at LA PISTA in USHUAIA -
A VERY BRITISH AFFAIR.
CAR SECURITY - USHUAIA STYLE!
Glacier Martial skiing and Puerto Almanza sights - where we have a VERY strange night camping!
We decide to drive to Puerto Almanza to camp and find ourselves spoilt for choice for bush camping areas. In the end we choose one by a stream, overlooking the sea and sheltered by trees - lovely.
It’s at 2am when we awaken to the sound of screaming, really, really LOUD screaming. This is followed by some other strange unidentifiable sounds. We get back to sleep but Dave is woken much later with the truck being rocked. The next morning we try to work out what on earth happened during the night - our best guess is that a puma caught and ate some large animal during the night, but the rocking remains a mystery. We checked around Nessie in search of horse or cattle prints, thinking they may have used us as a scratching post, but we find none.
The weather remains cold and dull so we leave and drive to Tolhuin where it’s still cold and dull, so we ask if the Radman border is open and decide to drive over to Lago Blanco on the Chilean side. For 50 miles we bump along a gravel road before reaching the border only to be told it’s closed. Now, we know that this border is seasonal but we thought that this was due to snow - not a big bloody river. The border is open BUT it involves a river crossing and not only is it waist deep but a large hole has opened up on the ‘exit point’ making a crossing impossible. Not only that - even if we could ford the river and the big hole - the Chilean side doesn’t open until December at the earliest! We have a good laugh with the Argentinean guards about it all then bump our way back 50 miles. We drove straight to the San Sebastian border and caught the ferry the next day.
We are FULL of gravel roads and cold weather now!