Joined: Jan 2005
Location: The Badlands (of NJ)
Thanks, guys! As we continue...
Lovely house cats at Tunkelen. Even Lewis, a dog person, found some new friends.
This is the real deal - it's hard to believe that we are now crossing the pampas on the exotic Tierra del Fuego. I read so much about the place in my childhood - it is exciting to finally have arrived.
One of the big industries here (besides oil, of course) is sheep ranching. The roads are lined with fences stretching out for hundreds of miles in the middle of nowhere. I could not believe the distances that were covered by fencing - I am guessing that the labor either is or was very cheap.
The gravel roads have an excellent surface, hard-packed and well drained.
The route of the day will take us from the Hosteria in Cerro Sombrero, across the Chilean-Argentinean border, to the famed city of Ushuaia.
There are very few large wild animals around - aside the seemingly ever-present guanacos. After all, most of the land is fenced off for the sheep 'estancias'.
Guanacos belong to the same camelid family as the domesticated llama. They do roam relatively free, as they are able to jump the sheep fences.
Traveling east, we arrive at the border crossing into Argentina. In a long line of travelers, we spend about an hour processing our papers at the Chilean checkpoint.
Now, we travel a few kilometers over "no-man's land", to cross the actual borderline - entering the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego, Antarctic and Islands of Southern Atlantic.
This is not like the quick check going from US into Canada (or the non-existent frontiers between EU countries). Here, after the lengthy procedure on one side, we go through the same on the other. Personal documentation is checked by the border police - that it the easy part. Afterward, we go through customs, filling out countless forms in order to import our motorcycles.
The Falkland Islands conflict took place almost 30 years ago - a classic case of "wagging the dog", when the Argentine junta in power at the time attempted to rally support and distract the public from the terrible economic and political conditions at home - by engaging in a war in pursuit of some old nostalgic claims.
As we all know, the war was lost, but the feelings are still raw. Islas Malvinas is the Argentine name for the Falklands.
Very soon, we reach Argentine Route 3 following the coast of the Atlantic. A well-paved road, takes us south past oil pumps exploiting the newly important local resource.
Our destination is Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
En route, just below Tolhuin, we stop at the very picturesque lake Fagnano.
A brief break at the local Hosteria. Roberto is trying to score some points with the girl running the bar.
No luck... I think she has seen - and resisted - much better attempts... But she makes some great cappuccino. Of course.
The hosteria is directly on the shore of Lago Fagnano, with some spectacular views. If I ever do this run again, I'll try to stay at this place.
We cross the last mountain range before Ushuaia, passing Lake Escondido. A glance down the cliffs reveals old Route 3. Traveling on that must have been an adventure, for real.
A Route 3 rest area displays the latent patriotic fervor. The graffiti says "Malvinas are Argentine", "The English are Pirates".
Amusingly, with regard to pirates, the Argentine claim to the Falklands is partly based on landings by pirate David Jewett - an American corsair licensed then by Buenos Aires (United Provinces of South America, which in early 1800's gave birth to Argentina) .
The climate and the terrain become beautifully stark. We are nearing Antarctica!
By the evening, we reach the town of Ushuaia. For adventurers, its main claim to fame is the location at World's End, end of Route 3, right at the Beagle Channel - most southern city in the world. Its harbor is an important departure point for Antarctica, handling traffic ranging from major cruise ships to supplies for Antarctic research stations.
It was also a staging point for the invasion of Falklands thirty years ago; memorials of that effort are everywhere.
The Argentinean Tierra del Fuego region is very much like its counterpart in Chile. Initially settled as a prison colony, now it is the doorway to the riches of sub-Antarctic ocean floor, maintained to validate any upcoming claims and support any upcoming conflicts for rights in the area.
The region is so important that - 3 years before the Falklands war - the countries of Chile and Argentina were on a brink of war for ownership of the archipelago. According to official history, the invasion of Chilean territory by the Argentine forces was averted 6 hours before beginning, by a last-minutes appeal from the Pope. Contemporary reports are more clear-headed: apparently, Pope's pleas were a face-saving mission for the junta; in reality the attack was given up by the Argentineans as they realized that their chances were poor.
Still, bad feelings remained. As a result, Chile supported UK against Argentina during the Falklands war - and, on this trip, I have seen mine fields still guarding the border between the two countries.
rdwalker screwed with this post 10-15-2010 at 08:33 PM