The End of the World, Tierra del Fuego
Travelers will go out of their way and take the path less traveled to seek adventure. The most unique places can take a great deal of effort to visit. I am definitely one of those travelers. I’ve been to the far corners of the world, and now, I can tell you I’ve been to the end of the world. During my visit to Patagonia, Chile, I toured the island region of Tierra del Fuego. This island is known as the “end of the world” and it’s the southern tip of the continent of South America. The “flat earth” people thought that if you sail past this island you would fall of the earth. Actually, you would run into Antarctica.
The day tour would be a long one, approximately 14 hours. After picking up all the participants from their Punta Arenas, Chile, hotels, we boarded the ferry which would take us across the Magellan Strait. Make sure you take a copy of your passport as they will check for ID when you board. The ferry will take about 2.5 hours before you reach the town of Provenir.
The town is very small and there isn’t much to do or see. This stop will touch upon the history of the region including how it got its name. When Ferdinand Magellan crossed the strait, now called the Magellan Strait, he saw multiple large bonfires on the island and named it Tierra del Fuego (land of fire). The tour also includes a visit to the small local Provenir Museum where you can learn about the local animals and the indigenous tribes of the area.
I was fascinated by the Selk’nam people who would roam this cold and unforgiving region naked with only animal lard covering their body. They also have some unique ceremonial masks. As luck would have it, our mini-tour bus had a flat tire that needed tending to so we had to walk a mile to our local restaurant.
After visiting a viewpoint overlooking the bay, we were on our way to see the king penguins. The drive would take about 90 minutes through a dirt highway before we got to a beach where the penguins called home.
This is the only colony living outside of Antarctica. King penguins are smaller cousins of the famed emperor penguins. Unfortunately you can’t walk freely here, you have to stay on the designated path and view the penguins from a wooden blind.
They sometimes make there way near the paths and you can get a closer look at them. It was the time of year that they were picking there mates so they weren’t leaving there beach. Being so far south, it was cold and I would have to say it was about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the start of Spring and I can only imagine what the weather would be like in winter. I didn’t bring any gloves so my hands were freezing and after about 40 minutes of admiring the penguins it was time to leave and warm up in the bus. I love penguins and I usually would want to watch them all day but the temperature was to cold and the penguins didn’t move very much. I think they were sun bathing and taking in the warmth. The tour pressed on to the next stop, a community created for oil drillers and their families. I don’t know why this is even part of the tour. It’s uninteresting and a waist of time.
We made our way north to cross the Magellan strait again but this time we would do it in the narrowest part at Primera Angostura.
The ferry ride would only take 20 minutes and we were blessed with a pod of commerson’s dolphins, the panda of the sea. It’s a smaller dolphin with a distinct color patter reminiscent of a panda. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to find my camera, they were gone so I included a photo from animalia.bio. With another 90 minute drive to Punta Arenas, I was finally back to my hotel. It was now 9:30 pm and the longest day of my two week trip to South America.
Visiting the king penguins was a treat for me, and hopefully, a prequal to seeing the emperor penguins of Antarctica. This island was so close to the only continent I haven’t visited and one I desperately would love to see. So, I can now say I’ve traveled to the end of the world. And, that boast would not be a lie.
Wow. Not many people can say they’ve been to Tierra del Fuego. Very cool.
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