The native Yámana people inhabited this extreme environment successfully for thousands of years, living naked, off the land and in simple thatched shelters with only small fires to keep them warm in the harsh Patagonian winters. That was until British missionaries thought this way of life was completely unacceptable and made it their goal to provide clothes, warmth and shelter to better assimilate these primitive peoples into a “normal” way of life. Although their intentions may have been good, the Yámana had been living this way for centuries, and as soon as the foreigners arrived the foreign diseases that travelled with them practically wiped out the native population in a very short period of time. Those Yámana that managed to survive were further persecuted as the Spaniards, Argentines, and Chileans arrived to settle and exploit the land for personal wealth. The Yámana that obstructed the activities of the new settlers were immediately put to death resulting in the extinction of this once peaceful indigenous society.
Hiking through the park itself was like walking through the botanical gardens. The tracks are well signposted and very easy to accommodate the hoards of tourists that visit the park every day. The scenery was beautiful with the trails mostly following the Beagle Channel, crossing lakes and rivers and wetlands teeming with wildlife. We had arrived in Ushuaia earlier than expected so decided to spend three days in the National Park exploring and making good use of the free camping. We didn’t realise quite how easy the walks would be, the whole park can be done in one to two days, so we had more than enough time to walk slowly and enjoy some down time. It was just a shame the terrible weather followed us here. Camping in the rain is not so comfortable and poor Iain’s night to cook meant he had to do it in the rain. It was a good test for all our weatherproof gear and to see if we would be able to handle the cold in preparation for Antarctica. We handled it like pro’s.
At the advice of Lorena from Rambo Sur we stocked up on wine and snacks to take on board. We knew we would be well fed with a buffet breakfast and three course lunch and dinner everyday, yet some extra cookies and chocolates will never go astray. In terms of clothes we knew we could handle at least zero degrees Celsius with our thermals and insulated jackets and our $20 waterproof pants seem to do wonders with the wind and rain. You can hire gear in Ushuaia at a premium – US$40 for a pair of insulated ski pants, upon learning of the cost we decided to brave the cold by layering as much as we could. We ended up hiring a pair of gloves for Iain at US$15 as he was borrowing Treeny’s which didn’t fit so well. With that we were all stocked up and ready to head even further south for a wonderfully white Christmas on the white continent - the real end of the world.
Click here to see our Tierra del Fuego photos.
Next stop to icebergs and penguins in Antarctica…