As we gathered up our belongings, said goodbyes to our fellow companions for the last 10 days, and made our way down the gangplank, we realised that the weather in Ushuaia was nearly tropical - after the Antarctic!Before we sailed, we'd made arrangements to hire a car for our 2 remaining days in here. We'd also planned to send a parcel home with some of our wet/cold weather gear, old guide books, etc which would lighten our loads for the final few weeks travel. We found out when we checked in to Aves del Sur that the customs officer only worked that morning at the post office so we needed to gather up some stuff and get down there quickly.Chuck and Jinny were flying out that afternoon and as we had offered to take them out to the National Park before their flight they had to wait until this was completed. It was nice spending a few hours with them before saying cheerio at the airport. Everywhere we went there were friends from the Orlova: we found Frank from Belgium sitting with another couple beside Lago Roca in the NP, Ditte from Denmark trying to flag down a taxi in town, Raj staying in our guest house, and others sitting in cafes or bars. Eventually we made our way back to the guest house where we'd planned to spend a couple of lazy nights relaxing after 10 days at sea. When Alejandro opened the door to greet us, M said Hola to what she thought was another guest standing inside. Very soon she did a double-take when she realised it wasn't - it was Jerry who we'd last seen in Listvyanka on Lake Baikal where we'd stopped on our Trans Siberian railway journey in September 2006. It was a real surprise and pleasure to see him after all this time. Jerry & Catrine were on an extended holiday travelling around Argentina and by co-incidence their time in Ushuaia overlapped with our return. Jerry told us that he'd been down at the wharf-side that morning to confront us as we disembarked but as we had been boarded onto buses, he hadn't been able to spot us. They were heading off to Punta Arenas the following morning so we would meet that evening for drinks and a parilla. During the afternoon we called into Tante Sara for a coffee and who should be sitting at the next booth - Elliott and Angharad from our Amazon trip a couple of months ago.They'd been doing amazing things and were here in Ushuaia for Christmas. They agreed to meet up too that evening.Jerry hadn't told Catrine that he'd managed to meet up with us so it was great to see the surprise on her face when she saw us in the bar that evening.Tanya, Raj and Michael from the Orlova were also in the same bar and as the evening drew on loads of others also came in for a beer and a bite.When Elliot and Angharad joined us our circle of mates was complete and a very merry timewas had by all - it felt as if we were in our local in our home town, so many people did we know.We have decided that Ushuaia is the hub of the earth, the best place for meeting old friends and making new ones.We wanted to make good use of the car and also felt in need of some fresh air and a bit of exercise, so after a long lie in and a leisurely breakfast we drove east to Valle de Lobos.This is an outdoor centre for husky drawn sled racing, and the start of a three hour walk through forest and across burns and bogs to Lago Esmerelda.It is a very lovely and peaceful valley but as we neared the Lago, which was still 30 or so minutes walk away, down came heavy driving sleet.In the circumstances with the need to keep ourselves dry for our flights the following day, we decided to turn back stepping as carefully as possible through the peaty wet bogs. It was a refreshing day after the previous night's exertions and we stopped at a supermarket for some food to cook and enjoy that evening. By the time were back at Aves del Sur it was a foul, wet and windy night.But inside it was warm and cozy and it was great to be able to stay in and put our feet up!Next morning we awoke to a white landscape.The mountains were covered in snow even well below the tree line. With the sky clearing we packed and drove up the mountains behind Ushuaia to Glacier Martial. This is a very scenic and popular area and with just enough time before our flight we managed to take the chairlift up the mountain to a walk through Southern Beech woods and thick snow nearly, but not quite, to the face of the glacier.It was a beautiful sunny day with winds catching the soft drifting snow and the ideal way to spend our last few hours in Tierra del Fuego.
Lots of love
Eric & Margaret xxxxx