Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tierra del Fuego Park and Beagle Channel Hike

For our second day in Ushuaia, we opted to go out to the Tierra del Fuego National Park and hike along the famous Beagle Channel. Unfortunately, Ushuaia, like at least one other Argentinian tourist town we know of (El Calafate), doesn't have a 'local bus' system. The options to get anywhere are taxis, tourist shuttle buses, and the long distance buses.

So, to get out to the park from town, about a 30 mile drive on gravel roads, we had to pay $15 USD per person for the r/t shuttle bus, and another $15 per person for the park entry fee. This is pretty outrageous for a 3 hour non-guided hike. They are really milking the tourist trade.

However, the park was 'improved'... a maintained path, with some markers, and some small bridges over the marshy areas.

It was a really nice hike... we barely made the '3 hour trip' in 4 1/2 hours, and almost missed our 5:30pm bus back into town. We stopped for lunch in a little glade (out of the wind) along the Beagle Channel, and took lots of pictures.

And then there were 'knee stops'. Though the trail was mostly level along the shore, there were some ups and downs. My old knees, punished by years of jogging and triathlons, and genetically inclined to arthritis, complain a bit when I do a lot of ups and downs.

The only major tourist thing we didn't do was a boat trip out on Beagle Channel. Though we would have like to do it, the combination of outrageous prices and expensive meals in town, we just decided to skip it and move on.

So we booked a one-way flight on Aerolineas Argentina from Ushuaia to El Calafate (about $140 per person). The distance to Calafate is about double the distance from Punta Arenas, so we figured we'd be paying close to $100 per person and in for a 24 hour bus trip if we did it by bus.

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