Written by Brian Burnham of Cirque Productions, Creators of TREK – A Journey on the Appalachian Trail
If I claimed that the meal we had in town that night was the best I’d ever tasted, it would be a lie. Make no mistake, the local cuisine was nothing to scoff at, but, it doesn’t quite compare to the calorie deprived food frenzy moods of the Appalachian Trail Thru Hike from years past. I can however say that I did eat the best sandwich of my life. Fresh Argentine beef, thinly sliced, seasoned and grilled, added to fresh focaccia bread with local cheese melted on both sides. All of this combined with sliced avocado fresh from the local farm, and of course some ripe tomatoes. Wash all this down with a coke out of an old school glass bottle, and you’ve got a backpacker meal-fantasy come true. And if a cold coke isn’t quite your bag, you could always get your hands on a bottle of fine Chilean wine, made in the town only a few miles away, for the reasonable price of 3US.
Heat and food fueled our passion to press ever onward. Our next stop was geographically required to be our last stop, Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world. Getting there was no easy task in itself, given that the city is located on the Tierra Del Fuego island, and is nestled between the sea and a craggy set of mountains. The bus ride included 6 hours on a pothole filled dirt road, crammed into an impossibly small seat. Not fun. We then arrive at a bridge that had been washed out, so our journey is paused for another day. Patagonia is definitely not the place to go if you’re on a tight time budget, since getting from one place to another can easily and unexpectedly take a few days. I brought and read many books in anticipation of this.
History oozes from every corner of Ushuaia. The town was founded years ago as a penal colony, and the prison is now a museum that makes you grateful to not be a convict in previous centuries. The Beagle channel extends from the southern ports of the city, and tells the stories of Charles Darwin and his research for Origin of Species. With Antarctica only 1200 km away, Ushuaia is a great jumping off point for the ultimate explorations, and the city abounds with epic tales of Antarctic adventure, including the dazzling tale of Shackleton’s expedition a century before.
Capitalizing on the great conversion between the Argentine Peso and US dollar, we spent our days chartering boat rides. This way we could visit remote islands, once populated by natives, or cruise along banks packed by sea lions, or walk on rocks jutting out of the sea covered with penguin type birds. While at the end of the world, we made sure to leave time to trek to the official end of ‘earth’ in Tierra Del Fuego National Park. While walking down the dirt road to the point where it empties off the South American continent into the ocean at one single point, we took note of a humbling sign. Pointed north was a sign guiding the way to Alaska, only 17,000 km away on this one continuous road, Route 3. For me it will have to be an adventure for another time, for others it has been their adventure of a lifetime.
A bit more hiking along the shores of Tierra del Fuego brought the southern portion of our journey to an end, and we hopped on a bus and rode the one and only Route 3 north. Not to Alaska mind you. The journey to Buenos Aires alone took 51 hours of bus time, which was plenty for me. The stark reality of sprawl and magnitude of Buenos Aires brought to mind just how remote and pristine our journey in Patagonia really was. On the long flight home I was left with time to contemplate whether Torres Del Paine and Patagonia really has THE best trek in the world. Only one way to find out.