3rd January 2004
First thing in the morning we stocked up on food and updated overlandy.com with our finished diary and gallery pages. It took longer than expected so we didn't end up leaving Punta Arenas until lunchtime.
There are two options for getting across to Tierra del Fuego. You can get a ferry from just outside Punta Arenas (Tres Puentes Terminal just north of town). This is operated by Transbordadora Austral Broom (www.tabsa.cl) and they sail to Porvenir. This route takes up to four hours. We decided to take the quicker ferry crossing (of just 20 minutes), Punta Delgada/Bahia Azul, northeast of Punta Arenas. These ferries leave every hour or so.
It didn't take too long to get to Punta Delgada (160km and about 2½ hours from Punta Arenas). Once there you just join the queue. There were quite a few lorries and cars waiting already when we arrived, and we weren't sure whether there would be enough room for us all. If we didn't get on this one, we would have to wait for the next one an hour and half later.
The weather was pretty windy and the water incredibly choppy. We watched the ferry trying to dock and were amazed it actually managed to do so. It kept trying to come in, only to be pulled out again by the waves. Eventually it docked, no such thing as mooring here, the engines held in up against the beach, the door drops and the vehicles on board just drive off. Barely had the last vehicle left, than the waiting vehicles started to embark. Luckily we did get on. They pack the vehicles in really tightly and it does seem to be an art as they direct different vehicles to different parts of the ferry to keep it blanced. Once on you have to go up some stairs to the side to pay a man in a little kiosk. Easier said than done. Sue had to walk past quite a few vehicles before she found a gap between bumpers big enough to walk through. They take US Dollars, Chilean currency and Argentinian. For a car and two passengers, it was 10,000 Chilean Pesos.
Twenty minutes later we arrived on Tierra del Fuego and headed off into the desolate landscape. It was completely flat for miles - not a particularly interesting drive to say the least!
The road that started as good paved road soon became a much less smooth gravel road. Our map wasn't brilliant - all we knew was that we were trying to head in the rough direction of San Sebastian at the Chilean/Argentinian border. We weren't even sure whether or not we would camp as we didn't know what to expect. We soon realised that camping was not going to be a possibility as there seemed to be nowhere to pull off and more importantly nowhere to go without being in full view. Eventually we came across a town, Cerro Sombrero, just over 40km south of the ferry crossing, and decided to stop here for the night.
Cerro Sombrero belongs to ENAP, Chile's National Petroleum Company. It is literally in the middle of nowhere and if ENAP were to close their business, it would probably become a ghost town. Driving around we tried to find a campsite to no avail and ended up returning to the first hotel - well, the only hotel - we saw on the edge of town (right by the Police station). The rooms were very clean and modern, but at $40 a night, a little on the expensive side. We were so tired though, we didn't care, and pretty much went straight to bed. (Try and pay in Chilean Pesos rather than US $ as the rate is far better.)