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The end of the road (south)

From Torres del Paine we drove back to Puerto Natales, pretty much on fumes, may I add. Once we made it to town, stocked up on food (read, empanadas) and Chilean wine once more, we headed south. We knew it would take us into the next day to get on the ferry so we only needed one more camp spot until we would be on our way to Tierra del Fuego! For the first part of the day our drive was pretty much open, rolling hills. More and more the landscape flattened out and eventually we made it to the coast line. It was windy and idyllic with the waves coming up to the tall grass, blown against the weathered wood of abandoned buildings and fences.

We purposely drove past the road for the ferry knowing that it was too late in the day to cross over with enough time to make it to a camp spot on the island. With a plan for a little backtracking in the morning we drove on to our scouted spot. Driving up to Pali Aike National Park had us asking the same question we had said out loud so many times this year, “should we keep going?” We did, of course, and pulled up to a deserted ranger station. The restrooms, to our surprise, were unlocked, but other than the guanaco herds, no other signs of life. So again, we kept going and drove into the park. We eventually found a small crescent shaped rock inlet that allowed us to somewhat escape the incredible wind and watch the sunset over the volcanic rocks.

The next morning our plan was to wake up early and get on the road for a long drive day with a goal to make it all the way to Ushuaia. We drove out of the park after a quick sink shower back at the ranger station and headed towards the ferry. This would be the sixth boat ride Pedro had the pleasure of, but the first one where we could comfortable sit inside eating PBJ’s while wondering how far the bus or semi-truck next to us would need to rock to tilt over and crush us.

Pulling onto Tierra del Fuego was pretty surreal. We had waited months for this and we were giddy driving away from that ferry. Unfortunately, we ran into long stretches of construction on our way south which quickly halted the light nature of our drive. Back to slow and steady, and bumpy, we pushed on. We took a tiny detour on our way to the Argentinean border on Tierra del Fuego, to Parque Pinguino Rey. There was a small colony of King Penguins on the Chilean side of the island and they were our first penguins to see of the whole trip. It was the time of year that their eggs were still safely tucked under mom or dad so we didn’t get to see any little babies running around. We did get to hear the sounds of a penguin fight, seeing two males poke at each other with their beaks and bump chests in the crowd.

The road all the way to Ushuaia was truly beautiful. There was such a unique mix of coast line, fields of long grasses, lakes, rivers and mountains all part of this small piece of the end of the world. We finally pulled into Ushuaia at dusk, seeing the city light up and glow against the water as we drove through town. We hadn’t planned on arriving this late and rushed around before we found a little B&B up the hill from downtown. We spent the next day catching up on the blog and planning our northern journey. We wandered around downtown, purchased postcards for loved ones (100% testing Eric’s patience level while I chose just the right ones) and spent a ridiculous amount on stamps without realizing it. We celebrated our southern victory that evening by drowning the best pieces of beef in endless chimichurri.

It’s always been a tough question for us on the road of how much time to spend in a place. Our timeline was pretty much set with the distance we had left to travel north, selling the car and getting home. So we drove out of Ushuaia to spend our last evening in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The entrance fee was steep but we sucked it up and settled into a beautiful, quiet spot right by the river, which we had all to ourselves. That next morning we headed over to the most southern point of Tierra del Fuego, the end of Ruta 3 in Argentina. Eric was quite distracted by the beautiful sailboat packing up and leaving for its own trip north. Another trip and another time, Mr. Nelson. While we sat admiring the view, we met a Swiss and Canadian man who had been touring a similar route as us on motorcycles for about 6 months. They were also soaking in the momentous and bittersweet occasion of reaching the end of the road. Having come prepared, they graciously shared some of their champagne with us. On our way back to town we stopped at the most southern post office box to send our pricey postcards. We arrived right before a group of Japanese tourists came in, and while I was stamping and finishing up our cards, they were taking photos of me stepping far past bubble of personal space. Eric and I were dying of laughter when we left the tiny, tourist filled post office. After a quick refuel and empanada stop we started making our way to our last camp spot on Tierra del Fuego.

And from that moment on we were headed a different direction.

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