On The Road to The End of The World.... / by Mark Boyd

Okay, so 'Road to the End of the World' is an exaggeration, but it sounds impressive, so they whack it on huge road signs all the way down.  We discovered at Avis Car Rental, that we we wanted to cross in to Argentina, which we would be doing, we'd need to pay another £35 per day.... Or £110 for anything over 3 days.  We opted for the later, which markedly increased our costs, but hey-ho, we were in Patagonia.  Petrol here in both and Chile and Argentina is around £1.00 per litre, and we would be going through plenty of juice.... Even if we took the most direct route (which we wouldn't be, because Karukinka is in the arse of nowhere, and I like to explore) the return journey would be 800 miles, including a 45 minute ferry crossing..... I'll guess-timate nearer 1,200 miles.... minimum.

With a car loaded up with a decent supply of camping nutrition we hit the road..... Two hours later we were driving on to a ferry being held in place by it's forward engines.... Interesting! 

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The weather was cold.... Very cold.  Colder than I'd expected... Colder than Patagonia expected right now apparently.  Our white, 1.6 litre Renault Symbol (The car formerly known as the Renault Prince???) was going to get a real working over.... I prayed it would return unharmed.  These unsurfaced roads had a tendency to be unkind to paint work.... I'd decided to decline the 'turning the car on to it's roof' insurance, but after a few hours driving wondered how wise that had been!

Angela wanted to see penguins.... my girlfriend (wow that sounds weird.... but I have one.... here name is Hema (and she's pretty damn wonderful) ((has to be doesn't she?)), wants me to bring one home.... girls and penguins... weird.  Any way back to the point.  There's a small colony of King Penguins on the way to the back end of nowhere - where I was wanting to go, so we decided to crunch, rattle, bang and slide our way on the unsurfaced road.... First stop, the penguin colony.

Having driven for quite some time.... we spotted a converted transit van and car parked up near a gateway that lead to a wooden hut.  We parked up, put on warm clobber and headed straight across the land towards the sea where the penguins would be waddling around.   We were shouted back, redirected and funneled back inside the fencing, on to the boardwalk and towards the hut.  Other than the fencing, the little boardwalk and the hut there was nothing..... Nothing!  We went inside where a woman informed us it would cost the equivalent of £18 each to go look at the flightless black and white birds...... What????  WHAT!!!???  Angela was furious.... and I'd seen penguins in the wild, not King Penguins, but I'd see them at some point... We about turned and headed back to the car.  The driving continued towards and in to Karukinka National Park.... 

The trees, the landscape, the birds.... Things were falling in to place.... We searched for a suitable piece of flat land amongst the gnarled and wind broken enchanted forest.  It would be dark in another half hour.... Angela was fearful of camping within the gnarled fairytale trees.  Maybe they'd come to life during the night.... and what?  Good heavens, hahahahaha!

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I found a beautiful spot, right on the edge of the trees.  The air was already icy.  The tent was up within five minutes... next I would prepare dinner. 

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Angela tried to help, but when it comes to camping and sorting everything out I have a 'system'.  I know where everything is, where everything goes and what order it goes in.  She wanted to help, but once I explained she took a backseat and relaxed, grabbing items as and when I needed them.  There was the makings of a team, but it may take a day or two.  After a meal of ravioli, broccoli and cheese sauce it was time to retire to the tent.  It was bitterly cold already.  

Angela's sleeping bag would have been suitable to sleeping in on a beach in the Caribbean, nor did she have a sleeping mat.... This wouldn't work... She attempted sleeping on a mat made from excess clothes (I was wearing pretty much all I'd brought with me) but within half an hour she retired to the back seat of the car.  I heard the engine start and the heating go on for around 15 minutes.  I slept on and off, waking early.... 

The morning was crisp and icy, as was the exterior of the tent.  I looked in to the back window of the car, there was condensation, which was a good sign.  It meant Angela was still alive and breathing.  I gave her a knock, then began making quinoa, honey and apple porridge, with good strong (instant) coffee.  We allowed the sun to rise before any firm movements were made.  I could hear a woodpecker and was keen to see it..... I grabbed my binocs. and headed in to the woods.  Angela sat in the cold morning sun and attempted getting warm.

The woods were amazing.... and the little birds that flitted around were stunning.... a flock of five rowdy parakeets scooted overhead.... whilst a guanaco (like a llama) looked at me through the trees before bounding off in to the cover..... knock, knock, knock.... the woodpecker thumped again.  I continued to scour the trees, then there it was.... Big!  Bigger than the British green woodpecker, but the most impressive thing was it's bright red crested head!  It was only Woody Woodpecker!  Just lacking the electric blue..... Amazing bird.

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I returned to take the tent down and let the fly sheet dry in the quickly warming sun....  At 10am we hit the road.... 

 Big skull.... Long Winter.....

Big skull.... Long Winter.....

I literally crawled along.... searching for birds and animals.... there was no shortage of guanacos!

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Then I spotted a Patagonian grey fox, and another and another!  Three of them!  Beautiful! 

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There were stunning pairs of upland geese dotted from place to place, unsociable except for their life partners..... birds of prey/scavengers called Karakara were frequent.

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So we were back on the road..... Heading towards somewhere.... Probably get there at some time soonish....

 A Crested Caracara takes advantage of a free meal.... 

A Crested Caracara takes advantage of a free meal.... 

There are many miles between here and Ushuaia.... Better hit the road!