We are the last pickup for our tour this morning,
and Cesar, our guide, sits us up front with the only other English speaking tourists on the 40 seat bus, a young couple from Ireland. We have noticed a distinct lack of English-speaking tourists here in Tierra del Fuego, and together with the Irish couple, we are the youngest people on the bus. Although most of the tourists here are Spanish or Argentinean, the trend is changing and the tour operators and guides are preparing themselves for more English-speaking tourists. Cesar will conduct most of his tour today in Spanish with the odd nod and phrase to the four English-speakers people on the bus. We are heading to the two most important lakes in the area today, Lago Escondido and Lago Fagnano. The day is beautiful, crisp and sunny; a glorious blue sky is a perfect backdrop for photos of the mountains. There are a number of predetermined stops along the way; one is to view a husky farm, another is to view a beaver enclosure where they use the Huskies to drive the beavers, originally imported from Canada, out for tourist viewing. We finally make our way along Ruta Nacional No. 3 and stop high up the mountainside for the view of beautiful Lago Escondido.
We have an option of continuing the bus ride down to the lake for our lunch but nearly everyone takes the opportunity to enjoy the views, the air and stretch their legs by walking the 4 kilometers down to the lake and the small hotel where we will have our lunch. We take this opportunity to introduce ourselves to Nessa and Colm, the other English-speaking couple on our tour. They are Irish, living in Dublin, and are on their honeymoon. Nessa has a warm and lovely Irish drawl that just warms your heart. Colm is less-drawl, but just as warm, growing up with an English dad and a Belgian mother. We spend the 45 minute walk talking about traveling and what we have all seen. The walk down is distinctly Canadian: we could be in the Rockies or outside Banff. The beech trees flutter in the wind, and rolling, roaring streams of clouds cascade off the mountains around us. Although the trees here are not pines (they are southern beech evergreens, of which there are both deciduous and evergreen types), I swear that I can smell the occasional whiff of Canadian pine on the fine spring air. We have our lunch overlooking the lake and the mood again is definitely Canadian: skis over the huge fireplace, pine board motif in the lodge and beautiful views. I am feeling homesick.
The bus picks us all up and we head to the next lake, the bigger of the two, Lago Fagnano. This lake shares its waters with Chile, as the border cuts through the middle of it. Colm and I do something typically Canadian (and obviously Irish too), we spend our time skipping stones across the waves, competing for the most skips, the highest first skip and finally, who can skip stones over the dock. The Argentineans look on and laugh. I’m not sure they have ever seen anything like this before. Finally, an older gentleman joins in the skipping and despite the language barrier, counts out his own skips. We board our bus again for the trip home. The four of us laugh at Cesar’s attempts to include us in his narrative. His Spanish versions go on at length about the scenery or the historical significance of some things. All we get is a short “that’s a peat bog”.
We have decided to join Nessa and Colm for dinner, and we rendezvous back downtown around 9 p.m. for a lovely dinner and a couple of bottles of wine. We toast their honeymoon and their last night in Ushuaia, and then the 4 of us proceed to this ramshackle town’s most ramshackle bar, the Galway, one of the many “Irish” pubs that we have spotted along our round-the-world trip. Nessa and Colm, the experts, both agree that this is not an Irish pub by any means, and we laugh and talk until after 2:30. Ugh.
Tomorrow is a 7:30 AM departure for our next day of touring.