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Ushuaia and Tierra Del Fuego–South America's Southernmost Archipelego

The southernmost tip of South America is shared by both Chile and Argentina. We arrived in Patagonia via the Argentinian side and went to the town of Ushuaia.  When I woke up the morning on the ship, I walked out on deck and this is what I saw.  The clouds were phenomenal and picked up all the light and cast this glow on the snow capped mountains behind.  

Clouds and Mountains, Ushuaia

Clouds and Mountains, Ushuaia

We spent the day in Tierra del Fuego (translated as the land of fire), which some call the end of the world.  There were aboriginal people here originally, who were named the Yahgan, Yamana, or Tequenicia.  Ferdinand Magellan, Charles Darwin, Francis Drake and other encountered these tough people who survived naked in the elements.  There is an amazing story of a young boy Jemmy Button, who was found and purchased by Captain FitzRoy of the HMS Beagle for a single button and taken to Europe where he was taught English and other customs.   Eventually he was returned to Tierra del Fuego, but when he did he shed his clothes and returned to his native customs.  The arrogance of believing that customs taught almost 9,000 miles away would be applicable in such an extremely different geographical location.

Tierra del Fuego Lake

Tierra del Fuego Lake

When we arrived in the park, we went straight to a lake.  The snow capped mountains in the distance, the rocky shoreline, and the windswept trees were all memorable.

Tierra del Fuego Lake with Trees

Tierra del Fuego Lake with Trees

In some places, the trees arched over the water.  Everywhere the water had beautiful emerald colors and interesting rocks.

Rocky Coastline, Tierra del Fuego

Rocky Coastline, Tierra del Fuego

The lake was so spellbinding, I truly could have stayed there all day.  It appeared different from every vantage point.

Schist, Lava and Trunks, Tierra del Fuego

Schist, Lava and Trunks, Tierra del Fuego

When I looked in the direction of the woods, it was equally fascinating.  The schist and lava remnants were dotted with vegetation and glowed in the light.  Somehow, the trunks had figured out how to take purchase.

Growing at Impossibly Odd Angles, Tierra del Fuego

Growing at Impossibly Odd Angles, Tierra del Fuego

There were places that the trees seemed to grow at impossibly strange angles, no doubt from the windswept conditions.  The ground was carpeted with greens and wildflowers.  Life seemed to flourish, though the way it grew bespoke its difficulties and at least the elements were pure if harsh.

Mountain Viewed Through the False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

Mountain Viewed Through the False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

The vegetation was very unusual but lush here, and there was a preponderance of flowering false mistletoe.  I wondered what that could mean.  It was beautiful nonetheless.  

False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

Above is a close-up of false misteltoe, although there is a lot of other vegetation surrounding it.  Darwin must have been ecstatic cataloging all the species of plants here.  Sub Antarctic tundra proliferates.  

Fall Color, Tierra del Fuego

Fall Color, Tierra del Fuego

I was there in March, but of course that is early fall in Patagonia.  When we got the end of our second hike, this is the scene we saw.  One day I am going to go back there and hike for a whole week or more, exploring all the trails.  This was one of the most interesting places we visited in Patagonia in terms of vegetation.

Darwin's Fungus, Tierra del Fuego

Darwin's Fungus, Tierra del Fuego

The golf-ball like fungus above was named in Charles Darwin's honor since he collected it on his voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1832.  It is a highly evolved parasitic fungi that grows on southern beech trees.  Also growing on the tree above is old man's beard lichen

Lake in Tierra Del Fuego4258-2.jpg

Lake in Tierra del Fuego

We picnicked near another lake and I soon set off walking around it.  The waves were crashing, even though it was inland, from the bluster winds, the clouds seemed to funnel angrily towards a point in the distance, while the sunlight simultaneously crept through.  Big pieces of driftwood dotted the shoreline.  This is not an easy territory for any form of life to endure in, but it is dramatic and beautiful and being in the middle of it really made me feel alive.  

Fire-eyed Diucon, Tierra del Fuego

Fire-eyed Diucon, Tierra del Fuego

Just before we left the park, we came upon this fire-eyeddiucon and all the birders went crazy.  This fly catching passerine perched ever so patiently for us, staying on the branch for enough time for everyone to take a portrait.  The fiery eye was very impressive