Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Isla Tierra del Fuego

There is odd border delineation between Argentina and Chile to get to Ushuaia which means crossing the borders twice. We had been told that Chile was strict regarding anything brought into the country in the way of meats, fruits and vegetables and could be sticklers with regard to Winston but things went well. With Winston we decided to hold off offering the now out of date Argentina health certificate that we had gotten in Buenos Aires unless asked for it. We just gave them our 2 year old USDA form, transportation of animals certificate and proof of rabies vaccination. That was approved and stamped and the officials marveled that we had been on the road for almost 2 years and with a dog. The motorhome inspection was thorough and more extensive than we had anticipated. I put Winston on a leash and walked him, whilst they brought in a dog to sniff for food, drugs, who knows what. They left our vacuum sealed deli meats alone but took some open salami and some old carrots. We had frozen fish and prawns that were ok but they took all of the vegetables including potatoes, onions and garlic which we thought were ok to bring into Chile but apparently not. Since we had not tried to use it up they got quite a lot of garlic from us. Oh well, live and learn. From there it is only about 30 mile (50 kilometers) to catch the ferry across the Straits of Magellan onto the island of Tierra del Fuego. On the way we passed a lake that had the largest flock of Austral (Chilean) flamingoes we have seen to date. At the ferry dock we were lucky. The boat runs every 90 minutes or so and when we pulled up there were some cars, a few motorcycles and a bus already in line. Ten minutes later the ferry arrived. It did not take long before our line was moving and we were aboard. As the bus and a few trucks were situated, we grabbed the camera to get some photos of the crossing. Suddenly a huge wave washed over the deck that sent people running for cover. I scrambled back into the motorhome. “Can you please get some photos?” I asked Tom. “Sure, let me be the one to get wet, but I have to get the tickets so ok”. The crossing was wet and the water rough. The huge ferry lurched and ploughed its way through the water, as waves kept coming over the deck. Thank God none of us gets motion sickness! When we drove off the ferry there was the sign. Bienviedos a Isla Tierra del Fuego. To get to San Sebastian and the Chilean/Argentina border crossing involved driving, once again on a dirt and gravel road. After 150 kilometers (100 miles) of bumping and jarring we were glad to see the Customs and Immigration building for exiting Chile. Paperwork completed, it was another 15 kilometers to the Argentinean side. They simply re-used the paperwork from before and stamped our passports. We need gas and yet again the YFP station is out of gas. It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon. “Not until tomorrow” the gas attendant told us. Shoot, not only tomorrow but late in the evening. So, it was 2 nights at the gas station waiting. Finally, on the morning of the third day we were on our way. Fearful that we might have additional gas problems, we filled up in Rio Grande and again in Tolhuin but our goal is Ushuaia before dark. The Andes are in sight and to get to Ushuaia involves climbing over a mountain pass. The rain has brought snow to the higher elevations and the sight is beautiful. We stop at a mirador (lookout) to take in the views. With Lake Fagnano shimmering a deep, dark blue in the distance and the snow capped peaks in front of us; the views were picture postcard magnificent. Then, Ushuaia. The stone pillars at the edge of town greet us. Welcome to the southernmost town in the world, the sign proclaimed. We got out and asked a family taking photos if they would mind taking ours with Winston of course. We had made it. It has been 23 months since leaving the United States and we have driven almost 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) but we have reached our destination. We will find the campgrounds and stay a week, maybe more.

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