Vern: We almost didn't make it down to the southern tip of Argentina. We didn't book a hostel for the night because our flight was scheduled for 5:15am, so we hung out at the hostel (where we had slept the previous night) into the early hours of the morning using the kitchen and the free internet. We definitely overstayed our welcome, but the lady running the place was on an 18-hour shift and too exhausted to kick us out.
As we were packing our bags, an Argentinian guest informed us that airports in Buenos Aires were in chaos and a few hundred flights were cancelled or delayed. Google Translate's version of a local news site confirmed this: the microphone with which the control tower speaks to the planes was seemingly broken.
We stuck to the plan and stubbornly progressed into the warm night. We found the right intersection for the airport bus, but when it finally arrived, it stopped briefly next to an unmarked street-lamp and then sped off before we could reach it and board. The bus only came half hourly, so we reluctantly hailed a taxi.
The airport was full of people sleeping all over the place and in hopeless queues in front of closed airline ticket counters. When the LAN Airlines check-in desk opened, after sending a few people in front of us away, we were lucky and the clerk checked us in without issue. The flight took off, albeit 45 minutes late, and we slept deeply for most of the 3 hour journey.
Freestyle Hostel in Ushaia is probably the most perfect hostel we've stayed in, with small 4-person dorms, clean bathrooms, a big kitchen and a full entertainment floor with a 360 degree view of the snow-capped mountains surrounding the town. The staff even honoured a 'free welcome beer' voucher in a two year-old dog-eared guidebook Andrea adopted from a Rio hostel's bookshelf.
We slept the whole day we arrived to catch up on the night's missed sleep and the next day woke up early, to get the first bus into the Tierra del Fuego ('land of fire') national park. We set off on the 'Coastal Walk' and did another trail later in the day, which we're not sure was named (or even an actual trail) because el mapa was crapa.
The trails were beautiful. The trees were turning (orange, rather than against us) and were reflected in the glassy lakes. As were the picturesque peaks surrounding the park and the condors soaring overhead. Other bird life included the cuaquene, the steam duck (which sounds like a Chinese dish) and the diving petrel (a new breed out of the Gulf of Mexico?) though with zero ornithology knowledge we may have just misidentified some rural pigeons.
We skimmed stones in the milky green Emerald Lagoon, probably ruining the reflections the amateur photographers were adjusting their giant zooms to capture, but in honesty our careers as rock-skimming Olympians were over before they started.
A tree had fallen over the trail and into a fork in another tree creating photo-worthy archway and Andrea climbed up onto the fallen log and edged across until she was directly above the trail. Round the corner came a guided tour party whose guide didn't miss a beat and pointed out the 'austral monkey' in the tree and the monkey grinned awkwardly as twenty nature-lovers walked underneath her, between her dangling hiking boots.
We reached the bottom of the park, the southern most tip of the southern most city in the world. 3 000km from Buenos Aires and almost 18 000km from Alaska (which seems a bit a low, and definitely not far enough away from Sarah Palin). At least that's what the sign said in the obligatory photo-with-the-sign. Chile was just across a field and Antarctica just a stones throw away. Well a stones throw on a day when one hasn't ruined ones shoulder in pebble-skimming practice sessions.