Date – Friday the 17th of February, 2017. Location – Tierra Del Fuego. Mission – Successfully navigate and explore the desolate and unknown areas of the Land of Fire without significant physical or mental damages to the group.
The expedition that faces our experienced explorative group of three youths and a mother promises to be an extremely challenging and unique mission, plunging deep into the most southerly lands of the world equipped with only a few pairs of pants each, limited supplies of tea, and a truck containing only one tank of fuel and a pack of boiled sweets. The purpose of our venture into the unknown is to discover and learn more about Tierra Del Fuego, and the strange people that have for some reason chosen to live so far away from phone signals and a source of alcohol. We have also been tasked with advertising and researching on behalf of Bluegreen adventures in aid of their new tourism project in the area, making our role a matter of life or death. I can promise you this, it’s going to be one hell of a journey.
Day 1 – The journey begins
It hasn’t been the most significant or successful day of exploring, I won’t lie, but Los Quatros Amigos have certainly made huge inroads into the monstrous journey towards the south, and we’ve began gathering information and research in aid of our challenge. It’s certainly been a tough first day, with little reward, but we can sense we are on the verge of entering the heart of Tierra Del Fuego, and closer to the destination of our expedition.
The first obstacle standing in the way of our squad and the land of fire was the natural blockade of the Earth’s sea, specifically the viciously cold and windy straits of Magellan. Seeing as our legendary, but sadly simple, truck wasn’t equipped to take on the mighty waters, we were left with only one available option in order to carry on with our mission, which was a car ferry that inevitably left at the unnatural hour of ten o’clock in the morning. This forced us to begin the day fuelled by only a few rounds of the smashing buffet breakfast, and an apple I successfully navigated out of the building, but we had no time to complain, as the ferries departure time was looming over us like an evil shadowy, and as our time limit rapidly grew closer, our knowledge of the where the terminal was became no clearer. When we eventually arrived, we were greeted by an array of waving hands, and in the mental confusion of the operation, the team were left with no clue of what we had to do or where we had to be to be granted access to the boat. The drama lasted for a good half an hour, in which time all other vehicles had circumnavigated our truck and found their way on the ferry, whereas we were still waiting for our tickets, but mercifully Lian came charging out of the ticket office with our passes and we were ushered towards the other cargo. We were now officially en route.
The two hour crossing wasn’t the most pleasant journeying I’ve been lucky enough to partake in, however it did strongly resemble the many missions I was involved in as a child when venturing over to the extremely unknown and wild Isle of Wight in the U.K. The initial suffocation that hit me instantly reminded me of the ferry crossings of old, with the mix of desert dry heat and stench of other human beings hitting me in the face like a brick wall, and pushing me back down the steep staircase to the car deck. The horrific reminiscing continued with the continuous thundering drone of the crammed in passengers stabbing my ear drums with no respite in sight. Luckily we managed to put together four chairs in a space fit for one, and could attempt to pass the time as rapidly as possible, so I obviously went for the best technique I had learned over the years, and closed my eyes and prayed I could fall asleep. Thankfully, the early morning had taken its toll, and I just about managed to grab some precious minutes of sleep whilst propped up on my arm and in between the many pushes and shoves I received from behind. This plan worked perfectly, and soon it was time to disembark and continue our journey towards the end of the world.
We vacated the ferry onto the soil of Porvenir, the gateway to Tierra Del Fuego, which gave us an opportunity to finish our final preparations for the expedition, and also begin our consumer research in aid of the future Bluegreen trip. We weren’t spoilt for choice in the small town, but we did find a nice cafe to have a hot chocolate and enjoy last service we would find for miles to come, complete with an 18+ Game of Thrones board game, and a magazine with english translation. With a high rating certified by Los Quatros Amigos, we left the cafe in high spirits as we left the inadequate town of Porvenir, and began the serious exploration of the area. The end of the paved road, a matter of metres down the road, marked the official beginning of our expedition, and signified we were now entering the unknown territories of Tierra Del Fuego. The adventure had begun.
The next marker on our route was a location known to be the home of a colony of magnificent King Penguins that we felt inclined to visit due to our mutual love of Penguinos and the extreme rarity of sightings. To our serious disappointment, it didn’t quite turn out to be quite as special as we had hoped, mainly because other explorers had got to the group first and managed to set up a whole tourist sight before we had even gotten close, complete with hundreds of annoyingly eager visitors, portaloos, and even a little gift shop. Nevertheless, we politely listened to painfully tedious speech that last far too long, and did the quick loop of the penguins. They were certainly as magnificent as I had hoped, but the huge wooden wall in between us and them, as well as the large amount of distance, made for an inevitable feeling of disappointment as we returned to the truck, but there was little time for moping, so we had a typically British explorers lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches in the dry cabin of the vehicle, and set off deeper into the unknown.
The next part of the journey was classic expedition road trip, with numerous stops to chase after flamingos with our cameras, and explore old gold mines, and after a few more hours, we reached a settlement named Russfins, which was planned to be our first stop, and our first real chance to test and review a possible location for Bluegreen’s planned trip to Tierra Del Fuego. However, as we approached the grounds of the village, it began to look distinctly like some sort of industrial factory of some sorts, and certainly not a nice location to be housed in, and definitely not the location that we had seen on photos. We parked up nevertheless, and searched around for a person who looked like they may in control of what had turned out to be a huge wood mill with gigantic warehouses capable of containing huge amounts of logs but probably not beds or a kitchen, or even a tent. We were passed around from person to person, bout eventually we were taken around the back of the complex, which revealed the small group of cabins that were perfectly placed right in front of the fleet of diggers and machinery, with mind blowing views of the whole entire factory. It wasn’t going great for this accommodation, but once we had been shown around one of the cabins we were slightly more optimistic about staying in one. This optimism was quickly wiped out though, as we were told we couldn’t use the living area of the cabins, and somehow there was only one room left, we made a rapid escape for it, and planted a big fat two out of ten review on it, with a possibly of that increasing to four with the availability of petrol, as promised.
This disappointment left us with little other options for the nights accomodation, and with the evenings light rapidly disappearing, and our willingness to camp in the wild completely obliterated, we sped off further down the road towards the next mapped settlement in hope we could find some sort of building that was available to the public. The road was a mysterious one, winding through the dense forest of Tierra Del Fuego, and passing over the famous Rio Grande, as well as gifting us our first sighting of one of the thousands of beaver dams that are supposedly destroying the environment of Southern Chile. It looked pretty harmless to me.
The track soon came to an end, and revealed a truly beautiful reward for our days efforts in the form of the stunning lago blanco and it’s surrounding volcanic looking mountains. I could have taken in the incredible sights all evening, but we had still had work to do before the night could finally come to an end. We did a routine scout of the camping area, and we were extremely pleased with the facilities and location, however a bed was absolutely vital for the team, so we went over to the nearby lodges and requested to rent one for the evening, and despite a reaction of surprise from the owner, we were granted a nights stay in the cabin and shown around. It was so certainly so far, so good for our first accommodation, and Lian soon had a plan in place for Bluegreen and their trip.
We eventually reached the havens of our beds after recharging our bodies with as much carbs as we could muster up and a few restorative glasses of Chile’s finest boxed wine, and we have ended the day with our positive morales intact, and an excitement for what tomorrow has to offer for our incredible expedition.
Day 2. – The End of The World
It has been another elongated day that has felt as stretched out as an elastic band trying to fit around a post box, but it has been an extremely more enjoyable journey of exploration and discovery, compared to yesterday’s drive through nothing. I can also officially say our team have finally reached the desired destination and accomplished our main goal of reaching the heart of Tierra Del Fuego with all four wheels, and all four explorers intact and safe. It’s been one hell of a journey, but now we have set up camp and cemented ourselves deep into the wilderness of Chile, the real exploring can begin.
Upon awakening, prepping (eating) and then re-packing the truck in the closest way possible to replicating the expertise of Panchi back at the Bluegreen headquarters, Los Quatros Amigos were back on the road and the truck was soon motoring back onto the unknown miles of dirt track that the mapped stated would take us to our planned destination. However, it wasn’t long before our one vehicle convoy was grinding to a halt once again, as we quickly had more research work to carry out at the next settlement we came across. This area in particular was the gateway to the Karukinka park, a privately ran space that desperately needed exploring and checking out before Lian and Bluegreen can confidently send tourists to the location as part of the itinerary. We received a tour of the domes and camping areas they offered, the cabins that could be hired in return for an extortionate amount of money, and a dead beaver hanging from a ceiling that could have been eaten if one was absolutely mad. This gave us a reasonable understanding of the accommodation on offer, but seeing as the day was still young, and we had barely progressed ten km, we couldn’t justify settling in for the night under the roof of one of the lovely cabins, so after catching a glimpse of the English football on the only television within a 100 miles radius, and of course dishing out the relevant contact details and promoting for our expedition managers, Bluegreen adventures, we were back on the very unbeaten track and heading further south.
The journey carried on for a few uneventful and unexciting hours, but as we gradually drove higher, the scenery began bursting out with beauty and our eyes were quickly bursting out of their sockets and fixed on the incredible views that were appearing. The sights soon got to mind blowing for all of us, forcing us to pull over, leap out of the truck and take in the endless views through the medium of our phone cameras. As it turned out, we had just about chosen the best place to look upon the landscape of glistening lakes and perfect mountains, as well as the miles and miles of empty space beyond, even bettering the mirador that we then found five minutes down the road. It was a dramatic development between the antagonistic landscapes of the desertous flats to the gorgeous mountains, and in such a small space of time, which made the whole experience and the entire views even more impossible to take in, but I certainly didn’t let that take away any valuable picture time from the cliff edges we were parked on. I felt inclined to find the perfect position, even scaling the dodgy ground behind us in order to get a decent shot of the magnificent truck in front of the almost as magnificent land. It was incredible, and well worth the damages I received to my garments as a result of my quick desecration from the cliff edge.
We reluctantly got back into the truck minutes later, and sped off down the road in hope that we could make it more than a few measly miles before we stopped again. As is inevitable when driving through this incredible place though, the Toyota was once again called to a halt a small way along the road. On this occasion, we had parked up by a not so rare, but still quite unbelievable sight of what we thought was classified as a huge and unique beaver dam, that spanned as many metres as I am capable of running (about 30) and created a remarkable blockade that created an image that we thought closely resembled a luxury infinity pool, an image that really was a sight to behold. However, as environmental explorers, we have a duty to wage the war against the beavers that are apparently destroying the environment with there thousands of invasive dams, so we did just that, and began using all of our available effort to take apart the incredible masterpiece of construction that the rodents had created. This turned out to be much harder than we had anticipated, and in frantically trying top pull out the logs that were so expertly engineered, my feet soon become completely drenched, and my enthusiasm completely abolished. After a few holes had thankfully appeared, we judged that was job done, and retreated back to the truck to complete the next one km part of our journey before we would probably want to stop again.
Our next pit stop coincided with lunch, and took us to an incredible location on the shores of Lago Deseado, gifting us a beautiful view across the gigantic lake to relax and eat our makeshift ham and cheese sandwiches. It was so astonishing in fact, that we judged it to have merited the consummation of a beer, which possibly marked one of the most amazing locations I have had and will ever have an alcoholic beverage. That’s a very serious and impressive accolade to have, especially when compared to the incredible parks, pubs and public facilities that I have explored, conquered, and had a drink in during my vast experience of exploration and alcoholism. On a more serious note, it was genuinely a perfect place to unwind and recharge, and a brilliant find by the crew.
With lunch ticked off the task list, and the dishes washed up with lake water and grass, we rejoined the track and carried on further towards the unknown. As it happened, the unknown turned out to be at the end of a perfect ribbon of road that wound itself down through an equally perfect valley and towards the faint blue sight of a pot of gold in the form of a lake. If this little stretch of road were to be paved, and Jeremy Clarkson weren’t to have punched his producer, Top Gear would be down here in an instant and would probably label it as ‘the best road in the world’. Of course this isn’t a title we would want being slapped on by three monstrous super cars and their equally as monstrous drivers, but I hope this hypothetical example might give you the best idea of just how jaw-dropping this road was. I also took a picture though, which ,despite my awful photography skills, probably will give you a pretty good image of the valley. Nevertheless, this called for some serious road music, so I put in my headphones, cranked up a bit of ‘Don’t stop believing’, and enjoyed the unbelievable scenery as it passed on by.
This route came to an incredible climax a few miles later, revealing the stunning Lago Fagnano and the Cordillera Darwin mountain range that surrounded it. All I can say about that place to justify it with the description it deserves, is that we stopped beside it for almost hour, during which we failed to taken in the breathtaking surroundings, but successfully captured hundreds of photos in order to save the moment. It was incredible, but it got better. After we had checked out a mysterious road that was believed to be unfinished, and had been stopped by the army trying to drive along it, we turned back and headed for another road we knew of that led to the planned destination that we knew absolutely nothing about. We posed for some more photos along the way, but we were quickly onto the new track and heading straight through another gigantic valley until we could drive no more. This only added a minor amount of time compared to the huge two days of touring it had taken us to get to that point, and thankfully for the story and the team’s fragile morale, it would have been worth 100 of those journeys, and a big fat kick in the balls at the end. Yes, it was that good.
The end of the road brought us to the beach of the Pacific fjords, and what could only be described as the end of the world. It may not have been the furthest south one can drive, or the most remote one can go, but the hand made marker signifying the end of the road, the small house that perched by the side of the road, the vast stretch of sea that sat as still as a pond, the towering mountains that sandwiched the truck and made it look so insignificant, and the miles of road that headed back the way we came, all combined to create an undeniable sense in the minds of all the team that this is what the end of the world would look like if such a place really existed. It was and still is mind blowing.
However, we still had the problem of accommodation for the night, and we were left with only one option of begging the residents of the house if we could camp on their land. This was a tense moment, but in true Chilean fashion, the landlord was an incredibly nice guy, and in fact had a little set up on his land for campers that he had set up in case anyone like us ever came across his farm, but once a German lady came and introduced herself as a fellow camper, we started to realise we weren’t the only ones that discovered this place. However, we are part of a tiny portion of the world that has laid eyes on this replica of heaven, making it a true hidden gem. All that was left to do was set up camp, leave something and our numbers in the drop box at the end of the road, and then tuck in for a well deserved night’s sleep at the end of the world.
Day 3 – Sea Elephants
Valuable research has been carried out in the last 12 or so hours, as despite spending way too much time ‘living’, the team have explored the territories of an undiscovered species of elephant, entered the home of the resident recluse that resides secretly in the little houses situated at the end of the world, and negotiated trade links between the north and the south, with the desired hope that the two areas of southern Chile will be linked for years to come. Mission successful.
The morning was a very insignificant one, and was just spent lounging around in our camping area, and watching the day pass by in the sky of our beautiful location. Our lack of action and actual work was due to the impending promise of a boat ride we had received late last night from the estancia owner, Julio, which had been set for around ten or eleven o’clock. However, this being Chile, noon was quickly upon us but we were still nowhere near any form of water transport, meaning we had now sacrificed many valuable minutes of exploration time, as well as 120,000 peso’s that we didn’t/don’t have. We managed to pass the nervous wait by making the most of the Chilean generosity, and enjoying some incredible sopaipillas with a resident of the house, as well as receiving a grand tour of the new lodges that were being built on the land. This activity called for some more fine fodder to keep us sharp and motivated, but typically, as soon as I had the bacon in the pan, the call for the boat was made, so we quickly wolfed down the half cooked rashers, chucked on anything waterproof we could find, and headed over to the shore to get on the boat. The vessel in question wasn’t quite as grand as Christopher Columbus’ galleon, or Neil Armstrong’s space ship, but our little dinghy, powered by a few little horsepowers, was perfect for the task in hand; to find and study the nearby colony of sea elephants.
Once we had safely negotiated the boarding and embarking process with our clothes and bodies dry, we were tactically positioned around the boat and then sped off into the distance in search of the beats. This didn’t take quite as long as we had thought, and probably hoped, as the short 20 minute journey was undoubtedly the most incredible way one could possibly travel from A to B. From on top of the icy fjords, the panoramic view of the area reached new levels of insanity, with the mountains towering over us like never before, and the horizon becoming more extreme and vast by the second. The route took us closer to the distant glaciers and waterfalls, giving us possibly the best sight of the expedition yet. But it was about to get better.
After just about mustering up the courage to bring my phone and get capture this unbelievable moment, the boat began to slow which signified the elephants were near. The beach that they were believed to be located on was now in sight, but all that my measly human eyes could catch a glimpse of was numerous huge rocks. They were impressive rocks, and in a brilliant location, but this isn’t what we had come to study. All four of us were desperately searching around as we edged closer to the beach, but to no avail, until suddenly one of the huge rocks began to move and shuffle along the beach. These were no rocks, they were the sea elephants! They were absolutely huge, and got bigger and bigger as we cautiously floated to the very edge of the sand that they had taken over, being careful not to disrupt their territory and upset the alpha male, who could apparently burst into action in milliseconds and be sinking the boat moments later. This was hard to believe when watching nearly twenty of the huge animals soaking up the sunshine like a bunch of beach babes as they snored away the afternoon, however we were taking no risks, and took in the incredible spectacle from a safe distance. As if this wasn’t enough, several condors joined the party and began circling around the cliffs above us. It was a shame I couldn’t fit all of the nature and geography into one picture, so I just videoed it all instead.
Once we had gathered enough evidence to write about, and boast about, the whole experience, we headed back to base, which gave us a good opportunity to use the slow motion feature on our phones, which Lian managed to perfect with a dramatic clip of me and my overgrown hair standing proud in the winds and in front of the incredible scenery. It was a painfully short journey back, but this amazing opportunity we were gifted will never be forgotten in the history of Bluegreen adventures and our team, despite only lasting a quick hour.
Although we were back on land in time for the afternoon, our latest adventure had well and truly finished us off for the day, and in truth, anything else we could have done today would have looked horrifically average compared to what we had witnessed at lunchtime. Therefore, I am left with nothing else to log for the day, other than to describe the brilliant moment I enjoyed for a brief few minutes on my own. It was as I stood in front of the fjords and the still incomprehensible views ahead, accompanied by a mug of Chile’s least finest wine, that I really began to take in the enormity, beauty and significance of the place that I was stood in the middle of, and truly understand quite how lucky the team and I are to be in such an outstanding place. This also topped the beverage we enjoyed at the lake yesterday, and therefore took top spot and my prestigious award.
Day 4 – We’re off to see the sea elephants
Not much to report from camp tonight, only that my toes are about to be sacrificied to the freezing temperatures of Tierra Del Fuego, and my bladder is about to implode under the strain of being imprisoned in the safety and warmth of my sleeping bag. In other news, we successfully made it out of the end of the world, with all four tires intact, a little bit petrol left in the tank, and just about enough charge on my ipad to write up today’s report. Luckily, it hasn’t been a busy day in terms of exploring and researching, meaning there isn’t a great deal of information to write up, however, we have discovered some crucial information for Bluegreen Adventures in regard to the highly disappointing accommodation we have landed ourselves in for the night at the campsite Vicuña that we had rated so highly on our first visit. This information will be pivotal to the route planning of the tourist trip to the Land of Fire.
The most challenging part of the day came quickly after the sun had risen, as once we were awake and had consumed enough coffee to prepare us for the day ahead, the impending task of packing up our camp finally dawned upon us, and eventually we had to give in and tackle the mission head on. The team was split into two teams, with me and El beginning to destroy the huge pile of washing up, and Lian and Benj sorting out all of the excess food, and determining between ‘salvageable’ and ‘completely destroyed’. This took up a large proportion of the morning, mainly because of the lack of hot water, but also because of the severe leakages that had plagued all but one of our food boxes, but once it was complete, we were left with the fairly easy task of taking down our living quarters of two tents and the ‘Noah’s tarp’ that we had used as a roof over our kitchen area. This step of deconstruction wasn’t a problem, however when it came to packing all of the equipment into bags, we ultimately failed, as in the end we settled for stuffing everything into bin bags and burying at the bottom of the huge pile of stuff in the truck, and then said good riddance and went off for a lunch time session of exploration.
The walk was only meant to be a short trip down the beach, but as we began meandering down the shores, we rapidly became addicted to a little game of ‘who can find the most mussels’, which of course Benj won, but in scraping around every last little pebble by the water’s edge and wedging as many of the little sea creatures in one hand as humanly possible, the walk took quite a lot longer than planned, and soon we had lost Lian to the horizon and had a huge bag of mussels to carry. We therefore decided it was probably time to head back to the truck and start making our way out of this beautiful place, but once we found Lian again, we also found two odd looking men in the forest. It initially felt like we were straying into a murder mystery by Agatha Christie, but thankfully Lian revealed that they were here to build some cabins, which was when I noticed the three huge buildings a matter of metres away from us. This discovery allowed for some unplanned expedition work, as Lian quickly began gathering information on who was funding the infrastructure, and if they were planning to rent them out to companies such as Bluegreen Adventures. As it happened, the carpenters defied the stereotypical British builder by knowing a lot about their project, and so we left for the truck armed with another precious number and our reputation enhanced even more. Once we were back at the truck, the hardest part of the day appeared in front of ours, as we now had to carry out the horrible task of leaving the beautiful Caleta Maria behind us, knowing that we wouldn’t see anything or anyone as beautiful unless we return again sometime in the future, or if an alien race take over the world and they happen to be the most attractive species in the galaxy. It was a tough drive, but we knew it had to be done if we ever wanted phone signal again.
The road back to civilisation felt much longer this time, and other than our quick stop to check out some cabins that were in progress, and a lunch break at the same spot as three days ago, the journey was fairly boring and uneventful, which helped to create a fairly poor mood within the team, and made worse by the horrific rain and Eliot’s little mishap with the leftover curry that was supposed to be for lunch. We battled on through, and eventually reached the Vicuña campsite in mediocre spirits, but the fact that we didn’t have the daunting task of setting up a tent for the night, and the thought of finally lighting a massive great fire to go with our marshmallows and squirty cream, lifted the mood of the squad greatly, and we were soon huddled around the flames and preparing our mussels.
Although our freshly caught dinner of ‘Mussels con arroz’ was slightly ruined by the discovery that the seafood in Tierra Del Fuego had a disease called Red Tide and that if we ate it we would be exploding from all bodily orifices for months to come, the night was a really lovely one, spent staring up into the incredible clear night sky and the thousands of stars on show, whilst shovelling down a mixture of marshmallows, cream, biscuits and chocolate. Unfortunately, our fire in the Land of Fire couldn’t last forever, so we eventually retired to our pod, which brings me to the present, and my initial review of the camping. It’s shite. I know that is not the most professional opinion, but the rock solid floor and the shocking insulation have made for a seriously uncomfortable place, despite our high quality mats and sleeping bags. I’m predicting a nights sleep of the lowest of standards, and my standards are pretty low.
Day 5 – Goodbye Tierra Del Fuego
It hasn’t been a notable day for the team and our expedition, mainly due to most of the day being spent inside the confines of the truck, in a desperate attempt to make it over the fjords to avoid having to stay another night in the lesser part of Tierra Del Fuego, and be reunited with wifi and technology. We did make it though, which means the squad have left the Land of Fire in one piece and with no major mishaps, which can be seen as a brilliant achievement for Los Quatros Amigos.
We awoke this morning in a freezing cauldron of the harsh southern temperatures, which our dome had done absolutely jack shit to fight against, and had arguably made even worse by providing a floor that has mastered the art of breaking backs. This made releasing ourselves from the warmth of our sleeping bags near impossible, but we eventually had to vacate the dome in order to refuel, so we fled to the fire pit and shelter as quickly and efficiently as we could. As if the weather gods had looked down on us with some sympathy after their poor showing yesterday, the fire just about still smoking from last night, so Benj soon had flames once again and we could be warm once again. With our cereal eaten, and a formal review of this campsite swiftly agreed on, showers all round, and a begrudging payment, we made a fast exit to the truck and set off on the last leg of our amazing journey.
The next part of the journey was arguably the longest yet, and the several hours that it took to make it back to any form of life was spent on some horrific roads, with potholes the size of craters and gigantic trucks bombing past as if they are in a manic rush to get somewhere, but in reality I don’t think they even knew where they were going. This made our progress extremely slow and painful, and with our lunch buried way too far underneath our pile of living equipment, the team were desperate to reach the next settlement, which for all we knew could be another hundred miles away. Nevertheless, we soldiered on as normal towards the ferry crossing and civilisation, and soon we were gifted a reward from the God of Tierra Del Fuego, in the form of a fantastic little diner, which completely matched the image in my head of a road side cafe in the middle of nowhere and nothing. Apparently the truckers had come in useful, as the are the main users of the restaurant, so we owe a big thank you to them for providing us with four incredible burgers with fries not included, and a luke-warm beer, and for not driving straight over our truck and killing us all, which they could pretty easily. It wasn’t the best fodder in the world, but it was the perfect pick up we needed to motivate us towards the finish line.
The last few fries had barely reached our stomachs by the time we had settled the bill, so after receiving some useful tips and top class entertainment from three Aussie motorbike riders, we were back on the road, with Benj trying to keep a steady place of 60 mph on the hideous roads to try out the bikers suggestion. Of course they were wrong, meaning we were not skipping over the potholes like they didn’t exist, but luckily once we turned off onto a quieter road, the surface smoothened out and it was a nice cruise to the ferry port. I say ferry port, but the jetty was pretty much just the end of the road, which made for an interesting queuing system and method of embarking, but we were soon parked up and heading out into the fjords once again. This marked the end of Tierra Del Fuego, which left us with a genuinely sad feeling, as I know I can speak for the whole team in believing that the Land of Fire is a truly incredible place, but more on that tomorrow.
The ferry journey was very short, only just giving me enough time to explore all three floors of the tiny boat, which left us with only one task to do for the day, which was to find a bed for the night, a task that was absolutely crucial for the survival of the team. Thankfully, this was much easier than we anticipated, and in fact we found something of a hidden gem, which was a hostel complete with small outbuildings complete with a living room, TV and a bathroom, and we had it all to ourselves. This was a fantastic reward at the end of a long day of driving, and the cooked dinner was a bonus, and so was Jurassic park in spanish that was on the box. The internet wasn’t so great, but we’ve learnt one really can’t be fussy when in Southern Chile, and especially after a challenging day trying to navigate around Tierra Del Fuego. Therefore, we all slammed into our pillows in a happy mood, and I’m currently struggling to console my excitement for finally going to sleep. I can’t resist any longer.
Day 6 – The Last Hoorah
Today was supposed to be an simple and easy day of slowly meandering back to base in Puerto Natales, seeing the average (in comparison to Tierra Del Fuego) sights of Southern Patagonia, and enjoying the easy ride that comes with civilisation and infrastructure. As is obvious by my tone and choice of language, this was not to be the case, and somehow our impeccable squadron of experienced explorers, that had perfectly overcome the extreme challenges that the Land of Fire throws at anyone that tries to conquer it, somehow managed to make a supposedly easy journey back, a massive mission that has left us all absolutely amazed and very relieved. It has taught us a key lesson in exploration though, which is to never get complacent, and we will carry that on our shoulders for years to come.
The morning began as it should, with a nice cooked breakfast, and a coffee to go with it, and all felt well and normal in the group, and we were all certainly looking forward to getting back to Puerto Natales and looking back on the expedition from the comfort of wifi and civilisation. We set off about an hour later, once the usual shower routines had been carried out, and headed onto the cross country route back to Natales, which promised to be a good looking but very easy cruise back to town. The problems began to slowly emerge via the fuel indicator on the dashboard that we hadn’t realised was now dangerously low to the bottom, and despite us being much nearer to large infrastructure than ever before on our expedition, a petrol station now seemed to be much further away from us than we wanted and probably needed. With very few options available to the team, other than panic and scream until petrol magically begins to fall from the sky, the truck kept rolling on at the steadiest pace possible, with Lian using her experience of economic driving and avoiding slowing down for anything or anyone. This seemed to be working perfectly, and although the needle was flirting with the empty line, we seemed to have stemmed the loss of fuel which kept the indicator on a reasonable level. Of course this plan was too good to be true, but surprisingly it wasn’t the fuel or our idiocy that caused the next problem, but in fact it was the last car to come along this road that had hurt the squad, and a poor sheep. Despite our desperation to stay at a steady speed and not stop for anything, we couldn’t leave a dying sheep to suffer in pain, so we put it in the back of the truck, along with a harness in the form of Benj, and kept on driving to ding the next estancia along that could kill it humanely and put it out of its misery.
The next farm along wasn’t far away, and we were greeted by a decent looking gaucho who we trusted would tend to the ewe appropriately and enjoy it for his dinner over the next week. His method in grabbing the poor sheep by its two broken legs was extremely hard to watch, and did suggest he may not be quite as nice to the animals as we had first thought, but by this time the animal was already in the pen and ready to be eaten, so we hesitantly got back into the truck and set off for what we hoped would be a smooth and sheep-less journey back.
We quickly rejoined the main road, but the signs weren’t as promising as we had prayed for, both on the side of the road and on the dashboard, as the pin was now firmly indicating empty, and the distance to Puerto Natales was still over 100 km. We bravely came to the conclusion that we were definitely going to fail in our quest and run out of fuel, but Los Quatros Amigos agreed to go down fighting, and kept on motoring along the route to home. We figured the closer we got to Natales and the source of fuel, the less time we would have to sit in the car wallowing in our failures whilst waiting to be rescued. The next load of kilometres passed fairly easily, with pretty much no inclines and very little traffic, but as we nervously waited in anticipation for the engine to meet its fate, the truck just carried on battling along the road and ever closer to home. However, the hills soon got bigger and we were pushed further onto the edge of our seats every minute that the hero of a vehicle kept on going. It was incredible what was happening, but the Toyota was clearly in no mood for sitting in a lay by for hours and wanted to get home and get washed just as much as us, and so after a horrifically painful but absolutely remarkable few hours, the incredible truck rolled into the Natales petrol station, containing a cabin full of celebrations and relief. We had made it.
With the ‘slayer’ truck fed and watered, we headed over to the Bluegreen HQ and walked through the door to a hero’s welcome. It was then time for our debrief, and so we began pouring out all of the stories we had, and chucking our photos at the eager audience of officials, who could be nothing but delighted with our successful trade mission. Unfortunately, our celebrations couldn’t last for ever, as a truck full of our equipment and leftover food sat waiting to be cleared out, which was a huge job of cleaning, sorting and binning, but we didn’t mind, it was worth every bit of hard work, grit and determination, and cleaning that we had done just to enter the realms of Tierra Del Fuego.
It didn’t always seem possible, both today and at times throughout the expedition, that our team would make it back in relatively the same condition as we left, and in some ways we didn’t due to the most incredible sights we have now seen with our very own eyes that can never be taken away or be forgotten for as long as we live. However, we did eventually make it back to mission control in Puerto Natales, safe and sound, despite our best efforts to make the last day of our expedition the hardest of them all, and I can confidently say our trade mission was a huge success, and so Bluegreen Adventures can now broaden their territories over to the deep south, and help to safely send more people into the unknown of Tierra Del Fuego.
As for the Land of Fire itself, I know of few words in the english dictionary that can sum up the incredible place we have been exploring, the mind blowing scenery we were lucky enough to lay our eyes and cameras on, and the amazing places that we managed to find and seek refuge in. I know the whole team feel so privileged to have been gifted the opportunity to explore, live and discover such an incredible place on earth. If I can tell you one thing about Tierra Del Fuego that you probably won’t already know, it’s that you HAVE to go, otherwise you will be doomed for all eternity and haunted in the afterlife (if there is one). It’s the most different place one could possible go to when coming from somewhere like England, with consumerism yet to get anywhere near it, and remaining so untouched by the rest of the world. Even compared to Puerto Natales and Patagonia, this area is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before, and that’s why I loved it so much, and that’s why it gets the shoutout for the whole expedition, as nothing would have been possible without it. FYI, we discovered it is an extremely difficult, challenging and stressful place to explore, and I would seriously recommend doing a lot of planning before entering the realms of the end of the world.
However, the trip also wouldn’t have been possible to Lian, who organised, funded and looked after the whole trade mission, and I hope we have succeeded in our challenge in order to make it even more worth while to her. The team leader deserves such huge gratitude. As does Panchi’s truck, Slayer, who defied all the odds to made it into the heart of Tierra Del Fuego and back on two tanks of petrol, the four tires it began with, and with all four occupants in one piece. What a machine!