Where are we?

Welcome to Terra Del Fuego! Almost at the End of the World!! :)

Tuesday we left El Calafate to head towards the Chilean border crossing. The plan is to stay just a few kms before the border at Laguna Azul.  

I checked the meaning of Patagonia Steppes - which is the area we are actually travelling thru, and it means desert.  No wonder it looks so barren!!  We were in the Pampas for awhile but since just outside of El Bolsón it has been steppes - barren and windy!! 

Again as we leave El Calafate we continue along Ruta 40 and the Patagonia Steppes. At least we get to see lots of guanacos and of course the sheep farms, known as Estacias and each having their own name.  So far we have only had to deal with short distances of gravel before we arrive at Laguna Azul. We also drive thru Rio Gallegos - a really barren looking city and windy and I read that this is where Butch Cassidy and Sundance robbed the bank there in 1905 of 20,000 pesos. Wow didn't think they got this far south in South America. Then supposedly hid near El Calafate before heading north to Bolivia, where they were supposedly killed. 

Lago Argentino in the back and last of the glacier mountains

Now just barren land
As we drive along the road to Laguna Azul there is a lot of strange looking rocks along the side. Later on we find the Laguna Azul is actually a crater lake. And the strange rock is lava.  And there is quite a lot around here.  But what is also strange is that we are at about 450' altitude - how can this have been a volcano??? 

The night continues to be very windy so old Vanna is rocking quite a bit all night!!
With the grey skies the laguna doesn't look very azul (blue)

Another crater but without water

Crater is edged with basaltic rock from the volcano

The rock forms strange forms

The black behind Vanna is more of the volcanic rock

In the morning we pack up early, get rid of any food left that won't be allowed into Chile and head off.  Once at the border both Argentina and Chile customs are in the same building, so again another easy peasy crossing for the paperwork :)  I declare that I have cheese with us, gouda and blue, and they say that's no problem when they come into Vanna to check everything out.  I showed them the fridge and cheese, and they asked about fruits and vegetables - nope. Didn't even ask to check the freezer - even though it was empty, and that was it. They did a quick check outside and had the sniffer dog walk past the side and then we were free to go.  
First glimpse of the Atlantic
Looks like drilling platforms out there

Never get tired of seeing guanacos 
About an hour later we get to the ferry crossing that will take us across the Magellan Narrows on the island which is known as Tierra del Fuego, South America's largest island and where Ushuaia is located at the end of the road on the southend. The ferry crossing is only a 30 minute crossing and the cost is 16,400 Chilean pesos ($28) for vehicle and passengers. When it's to windy the ferry doesn't cross, but guess today we are lucky because we get on quickly and head across. But at the other side it takes the ferry captain at least 15 minutes to get the boat lined up with the exit road. No berths here to guide him in like those going to Vancouver Island.  He has to line up the ramp of the ferry just right using the side thrusters. This takes quite awhile because of the winds! He has quite the job trying to land this ferry! But eventually he does it and we drive off - scrapping the bottom of the hitch on the ramp since it is at such an angle.  There were a few motorcyclists on the ferry and I'm thinking this wind must be awful to be riding in!! Sure not something I would look forward to doing - plus it would be pretty cold! There were about 5 guys riding Harleys from Uruguay and one guy from Santiago, Chile riding a 1000 VStrom. I was talking with him for a bit and he said that the wind is really hard to ride in. But he is still on his way to Ushuaia. 
There is our ferry :) 

Water is pretty rough

Harley guys from Uruguay

Ferry using the side thrusters to try and get docked

Getting close :) 

Then straight in and slide onto the concrete
We drive another 2 hours of barren windy land to once again cross the border from Chile to Argentina. Stamp out of Chile and stamp into Argentina. Give up our TIP in Chile and get another one for Vanna to get into Argentina. No check inside of Vanna as we go into Argentina.  Now we will drive another hour to get to Rio Grande to get some groceries and spend the night.  To far to drive all the way to Ushuaia today - still 200kms.  We end up parking by a gas station hoping to get out of the wind - it must be blowing at least a 60kms/hr!! It's unreal! Just glad I don't have to live here, since this seems to be the norm 😝  At least we can park next to the building and get some protection!  There isn't much for wild camping in the trees here, since there are none outside of the towns. And parking along the beach in Rio Grande is not very appealing either! LOL!!

Atlantic just before getting into Rio Grande

This morning we head to the End of the World - so excited about this part!!  Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire)  is actually a large area of this island. The explorers who came by ship back a few hundred years ago named it this because they could see many small fires that were being used by the indigenous people 

Ruddy necked geese - also known as southern geese 

These are some gnarly looking trees!

Still lots of open fields for sheep grazing 

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