- Wake up super early to catch a plane from Chile to Argentina.
- Tour Ushuaia through Tierra Del Fuego National Park and take a catamaran tour of Lapatia Bay.
- Board the National Geographic Endeavour and get used to life at sea.
Wow! I thought yesterday was action-packed, but today has been incredible! I could do without the 4:15 AM wake-up call, but it was worth it to have the time we had in Ushuaia. Now the trip has really begun! The temperature has dropped, the wind is kicking, and every mountain top is covered in snow.
Apparently Ushuaia has some of the worst weather on earth, but we got lucky and had sun all day. I’ve been told this only happens a few days out of the summer. Flying into Ushuaia is an experience because the approach is well below the Andes Mountain tops, so looking out both sides of the plane is quite scenic. It is like seeing a huge chunk of Patagonia with climate control.
Ushuaia is surrounded by the Andes, like Santiago, but with more impressive peaks. This part of the Andes is very young, so the formations are shear and extremely pointed. They look like a serious challenge for the most experienced mountain climbers. They also make for some great photos, and I feel like I got my fair share against the rare sunny skies.
After landing, we boarded buses to tour Tierra del Fuego National Park. After the park tour we boarded a ship to sail the channel. I was told to bring my longest lens, so I don’t have any photos from the bus tour (I can explain those technicalities another time). I definitely want to spend some time in Tierra del Fuego – it is a very special place. The wildlife is surprisingly lush. The one photo I wish I had gotten was of a falcon sitting by the road. There were lots of colorful ibis and South American species of duck and geese. There are some very noticeable variations in these Southern species compared to our Northern ones.
The most exciting part of the day was visiting a few Blue-Eyed Shag (Cormorant) colonies and a Sea Lion colony. I have seen huge numbers of Cormorants around Virginia, but the Blue-Eyed Shag is a prettier bird. Our Cormorants are brown with distinctive feather patterns, and certainly a good looking bird. The cormorants here have blue around their eyes, a pronounced head feather, and a golden protrusion just above the beak. If they had the feathering of their Northern cousins, this would be one of nature’s best creations.
On another island we encountered a group of sleeping Sea Lions. As we are here when all animals are racing to breed in the warmer weather, we got to witness some sparring between the males. It wasn’t anything super spectacular – it looked like they were too tired to really get into it. I’m sure we’ll see some Elephant Seals really going at it on South Georgia.
The only lesson I can give you about approaching animal colonies of this size is hold your nose. There’s a lot of poo around and man is it foul.
After heavily breathing some of the cleanest air on the planet to cleanse my nostrils we were headed for our new home: the National Geographic Endeavour. This ship has already exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be smaller than it is. There are plenty of places to socialize and a few quiet places to get away from the hustle. Dinner was great, and I grabbed a few cups of evening coffee with one of my shipmates in the library afterward. I did run out of dinner early to photograph the sunset, and am glad I did because I hear those don’t happen too often in Ushuaia.
It is almost 11:00 PM here, and I’m beat. I have to write these articles in Word now because the Internet connection is worse than dial-up and very expensive. I’m going to try to upload some images, but I hear it is rough.
Tomorrow we’re at sea all day and the captain said tonight’s cruise is going to be rough. Maybe I’ll wake up on the floor!