4th - 5th January 2004 - Crossing the border into Argentina on Tierra del Fuego
Getting up early we had a quick breakfast and moved on, keen to get to Ushuaia by late afternoon. It was going to be a long drive and we also had the border crossing to face.
First stop was San Sebastian on the border. From Cerro Sombrero it took about xxxxx. From there we joined the RN3, heading south-east towards Rio Grande, one of the world's top trout-fishing regions. There are lots of luxurious, and accordingly very expensive, fishing lodges in the area, and if you weren't fishing, it didn't look as if there was an awful lot to do here. You need to keep an eye on the road signs to avoid the centre of town as you go over various roundabouts.
Look out for the frequent references to "Las Malvinas": there are various memorials to the Falklands War, roads named "Las Malvinas" and a large sign "Las Malvinas belong to Argentina".
Once past Rio Grande, the next town was Tolhuin. Again we just drove through, passing Lago Fagnano. A short while later we passed through Paso Garibaldi, with fantastic views. There is a parking spot where you can stop and look back down into the valley. Very different to the flat, desolate landscape around Cerro Sombrero.
After xxx hours we finally arrived at Ushuaia. We wanted to camp and after reading the guidebook, decided to head for Camping La Pisa del Andino (Alem 2873), located in the Club Andino's ski area. Keep an eye out for it as you might miss it. It is not too central and is quite a trek into town, with a steep uphill walk on the return! But we would definitely recommend it. There are individual sites with picnic tables, lights and electric points. There is also a restaurant/bar with a kitchen area where you can cook your own food on a proper stove. Be prepared to queue for a gas rings though. You can then sit and eat your food in the cosy warmth of the bar area. The site also caters for large recreational vehicles - there were quite a few there when we arrived - and these are kept in a designated area. The cost was 8 Pesos per person per night (approximately $2.50) and the owners are really friendly. The only drawback to the site is that for the size, they are pretty short on toilets and showers - only 2 showers each for men and women. But don't let that put you off as we would highly recommend it.
After a long sleep, we headed into town to have a look around. Ushuaia sits between the Beagle Channel and glacial peaks behind. Everywhere you go you are reminded of its "End of the World" status, being the southernmost city in the World. Not surprisingly it has the feel of a frontier town, despite the numerous restaurants and shops. Worth a visit is Renata Rafalak on Piedrabuena. They sell a vast array of handmade Yamana and Selk'nam ritual masks. The masks are made of lenga wood and then painted. Each mask represents a different spirit so you can chose one based on the story behind it. They come in various sizes, although the larger masks will easily set you back over $100. An interesting souvenir though. We chose a couple of smaller, slightly cheaper ones!
We dropped off some laundry and stocked up on food for the next few days. We also spent some time in an internet cafe, emailing various shipping companies about the return journey home for the Weasel. It felt strange to think the trip was coming to an end, albeit four weeks from now.