Ruta Del Fin Del Mundo

After a good month in Buenos Aires we are very happy to hit the road in our 4x4 camper. The first part of our journey will take us to the very southern end of the continent. However, this is a long way, more than 3200 KMs according to the map. 4000 KM is what we will have traveled in the end, exploring some interesting sites and visiting our new friends along the way. Here the summary of this trip that took us a bit more than a week.


Our first stop about 400 KMs south of Buenos Aires is Mara Azul. Sunky and Sergio who we met in the apartment building in Bs As have a house here. As both have or will quit their jobs they are planning to use it as a B&B. We are the ones to try this out as they invited us to stay for the weekend. While the weather turned out to be a bit cold, we very much enjoy the weekend with the two of them and India (their cat). They show us around this fantastic place directly located at the sea side with a settlement of houses in a pine forest. We have the opportunity to try Mate the national drink for the first time and learn how to make Empanadas. We hope to meet them again this summer in Vienna! :-)


The road which we are following down south is the Ruta Nacional 3 (RN3). It starts in Buenos Aires and ends in the National Park “Tierra del Fuego” next to Ushuaia. Only interrupted by some 150 KMs which you need to pass through Chile. For the most part we pass through the Pampas, a savanna-like vegetation combined with pretty much straight roads that never seem to end. In the beginning the landscape is really interesting. However, as it does not really change for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers it certainly can get a bit boring. Consider this part of the experience as in Europe you do not find anything that comes close to this.


One of the things that stick out while passing through the Pampa are the small monuments for Gaucho Gil. A legendary and colorful figure who represents many things to many different people. Along all the roads we have traveled you find these little houses and people leave different things including wine, beer, food and cigarettes. Some are really tiny and others are like small villages of red houses. Guess you need to be from this region to really understand the full meaning of this.

A few hundred kilometers further south we make a little detour to one of the attractions along the way: Peninsula Valdes. Famous for the Orca sightings who try to catch some sea lion pups. They say there is a two hour window around high tide where it is most likely that you can see them. We spent quite a bit of time there but did not see them.


However, there are other attractions that make this trip worth while. Penguins, Lamas, sea lions and sea elephants you can see (and smell) from really close. We had never seen Lamas before and so this is really exciting for us.


As you travel further south the wind is something you need to get used to fairly quickly. It varies a lot but on Peninsula Valdes there was a strong wind. (Not the strongest though as we discovered further down the coast.) Look at Michael’s hair and you might be able to imagine what wind means here. We will stop complaining about the light breeze that you get in Vienna sometimes ... ;-)

Our next quick stop on the way is Gaiman. A small town in the lower Chubut valley that was founded by Welsh people. Not only do they still teach Welsh at school they also brought the tradition of tea houses to Argentina. According to our guidebook several of those tea houses are still open. However, when we arrive there all of them are closed. Shame really as they looked very nice. As we were really hungry we just ended up in a small restaurant around the corner. After lunch the tea houses suddenly opened and we could have had something to eat... if we were still hungry that is... because you can’t just have a cup of tea you need to take the whole set menu with bread, marmalade, cookies and cakes. We decide enough is enough and hit the road again.

Oil is a hot topic as you go further south and we pass through a couple of cities that mainly live from the oil industry.  They are not really pretty but the price of petrol or diesel really drops significantly here. In Buenos Aires it was more than 7 Pesos per liter, down south the cheapest we had so far was close to 4 Pesos. Using the official exchange rate that would mean something like 70 EUR Cents for one liter.


Filling up the tank at one of the rare fuel stations is always an event. Keep in mind that you have long distances with no city or anything for several hundred kilometers. So the first possibility to get some petrol is where you stop. Meeting fellow travelers like the ones below in the VW Camper from Buenos Aires (On the road with four people!). The camper itself is from 1987 or something like that but it was painted more recently by one of the cousins of the owner.  This is what they tell us. As we drive further south we continue to see VW campers, even on the more rough roads.

Continue  south we make another side trip. What looks like wood are ... or were trees ... 150 million years ago. Because of an eruption of a volcano, high temperatures and pressure (guess it was a bit more complicated) they turned into stone. Today because of the erosion of the soil they become visible again. We have seen similar things in Namibia but the size of these are just massive. The biggest tree is said to have 3 meters in diameter. With about 50 KMs away from the RN3 not a lot of people find their way to this place. Apart from another couple from Bahia Blanca, we are the only ones.


A few hundred kilometers further down the RN3 we want to visit one of the parks: Monte Leon. It was a recommendation from a fellow traveler we met at the camp site of Peninsula Valdez. A French guy traveling with just a little tent. Asking how much longer he has, he says: “Not sure at the moment. Maybe one year or longer. We will see!”.


The park is home to a penguin and a sea lion colony but most famous for the possibility to walk along the beach and even cross over to one of the islands during low tide. The winds here are even stronger to what we experienced earlier on our trip. You could really lean into the wind without falling.


As so often you need to be flexible with your plans. Initially we had planned to camp in the park for one night. This would have given us enough time to explore everything. Unfortunately when it started to rain a change in plan could not been avoided. The park rangers advised us to leave the park as quickly as possible when the rain starts because the roads would be very slippery very quickly and chances are you get stuck in the park. Despite this we did wait a little while to see if the rain would stop again. As there was no change to expect we hit the road again further south. Here the only place we found is a pretty much abandoned site. That’s what we thought at least given the state of everything. However, with 10 minutes being there a very strange guy comes to tell us we need a permit. Not exactly sure for what, except the power...

After more than 4000 KMs we finally arrive at the most southern city in the world: Ushuaia. That’s what the Argentinians claim at least. There is one more further south, Puerto Williams in Chile, that is just across the Beagle channel. While Ushuaia is the largest city this south, Puerto Williams is the most southern permanently inhabitant place in the world.


After coming a long way down from the North including passing through Chile we are only 1000 KMs away from Antarctica. Crossing boarders is not as easy as in Europe and we expected that this would take a lot of time. In the end, it was not at all a problem and only takes us like 20 minutes or so. In Chile we also had to cross the Magellan straits with a little ferry. While the main road (RN3) was very good we now face a less good gravel road for about 100 KMs. Up to that point the landscape had not really changed much for the last 3000 KMs. With about 150 KMs to go it finally changed into a more end of the world type scenery.


On a grey, wet and cold evening we finally arrive in Ushuaia. Not a very welcoming sight but luckily the following days the weather is changing and it is very nice and beautiful with lots of sunshine.

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