Hiking in Tierra del Fuego
A guanaco llama seems to find us amusing as it laughs at us with a croaky voice, its belly shaking as it does so. I bet it's never seen a penguin this high up the mountain before! I really do resemble a penguin in my black and white outdoor gear, with my steps getting shorter by the minute at this stage of the hike. Out of all the hikes in Tierra del Fuego’s nature reserve, we boldly chose the most challenging, eight hour one up the mountain.
So far the route has taken us through various types of terrain. At first, the path snaked ever so subtly uphill, through a forest. There were lots of dried up snags, and due to the wind there were plenty of partially felled trees, creaking suspiciously. We saw rugged and steep canyons and listened to the bubbling stream down in the valley. We took some breaks for photography, capturing hawks, caracaras and robins. Then we stomped through a wet swamp, which proved to be quite a challenge. We tried to find bits of solid ground to place our feet on, and aimed for the spots with grass growing on them, in hopes to avoid filling our walking boots with the murky water. The swamp was a great place to photograph some very typical Patagonian flowers though, such as small orchids and primroses.
Now, right about where we first saw the guanaco,, we're facing a steep climb up a rocky mountain face. The summit is hiding behind the clouds. The wind is picking up and it's starting to snow. Despite the chilly weather our vests are drenched in sweat and we have to stop regularly to check our pulse. We ponder whether it's worth continuing on to the summit, especially since visibility from there will be poor due to the clouds. We decide to go for it anyway, after all, one of our favourite Finnish mottos goes: “give your all, but never give in”.
At the top, we're overjoyed and feeling like champions. We're glad we didn't give up, but overcame our limitations instead. After finding a sheltered spot by the rockcliff we dig out our snacks. While we're sat down, the clouds disappear and the sky brightens up. Directly in front of us a spectacular view opens up. We can see the ocean and the worlds most southern city; Ushuaia. The snowy, southern peaks of the Andes become visible too as does the narrow Beagle channel, which they frame.
As I peek through the camera lense, I notice something furry moving in the nearby rocks. At first Pekka thinks I'm winding him up when I tell him there's someone behind him, but then a bushy tailed, skinny fox appears. It doesn't seem bothered by us at all, but stops about ten metres away from us and gnaws at his fur. He scratches his side with his back leg, and judging by his face, it's sheer bliss. We’re glad to film his antics for a little while, until he gets up and disappears behind a boulder, out of the reach of our camera.
If the over 1000m climb up the mountain was hard work, the descend back down is at least equally so. We're having to tense our legs up to the max in order to avoid sliding down the path at the top end of the
mountain and further down our legs take another hit as tree roots crisscross the path and we're trying not to trip over them on our way down. When we finally reach Epeli, our legs are totally knackered. We can just about manage the steps up to our vehicle!
Satisfied with all we've seen and experienced we're ready to steer Epeli towards north. We've reached the furthest point of our trip and from now on, every kilometre is bringing us closer to Finland, Kuopio and home.