The journey to Ushuaia was vast. We drove for 2 whole days down the same perfectly straight, endlessly long road. The scenery stayed the same too. Flat barron landscape, with barely any vegetation apart from the odd low, lying bush that had managed to find shelter from the relentless patagonian wind. It was only for the last 1 1/2 hrs that the snow capped mountains and lakes finally appeared. we left Puerto Madryn in baking sunshine, wearing t-shirts and flip-flops. What a shock whan we stepped off the bus in Ushuaia - It was freezing. i guess it kind of makes sense, seen as its the most southerly city in the world,`the end of the world,`they call it (although I wish they`d come up with something a bit more optomistic) and not far from Antarctica. And i guess it did make us feel a bit more christmassy.
We met our friends Craig and Katherine. It was great to see some familiar faces. We started to plan our time here. There was one thing that jumped out the page and spurred the same excited reaction in all of us..........Beaver watching! And just like that the seed of obsession was planted. We began to sniff out the best undercover beaver information. Armed with an `inside info beaver hotspot`we packed the tents, rented a car and headed into the national park - Tierra del fuego. We were told to avoid the places everyone goes, although they happened to be a 5 minute walk, our secret damn was 2hrs up a mountain, but it would be worth it.
When we finally reached the damn we set up our stake out. We sat and watched, and sat and watched, and sat and watched and not one of the little w***s made an appearance. Disheartened, but not defeated we headed back to camp. It doesnt get dark here until about midnight, which really messes up your timings, and it gets light really early too. It was so nice to camp. There was no-one else around. we collected firewood and made a fire, cooked on a little camping stove with river water and squeezed three of us into Craigs two man tent - there was no room for Craig - he slept outside!
The next day we woke up with a new sense of determination. Three more damns - No beavers. by this point we were beginning to go off them anyway, having witness the levels of destruction caused - flooding forests and gnawing down trees. We headed back to Ushuaia. In an attempt to get into the festive spirit we organised a secret santa and found the recipe for mulled wine -sadly not a mince pie in sight. We also arranged a sailing trip on the Beagle Channel for the next day - A guy who worked organising the `official`excursions had a mate with a sail boat that would take us out - sounded like far more fun.
I put on every piece of warm clothing I had today. the wind was freezing cold and we were going to be totally exposed to the elements, boy was I glad I did! Armed with only the captains name and not having a clue what to expect we headed to the dock. Hidden amongst all the beautiful big yatchs and racing boats was our tiny sail boat, smaller than most of the waves I could see on the Channel! we were given full, bright yellow waterproof kit, proper fisherman style - `the water always splashes in,`we were told. we soon realised this wasnt going to be just a pleasant ride- we were here to work. we helped with the sails, steered and changed sides of the boat depending on which way it was leaning - and boy did it lean, it was so choppy. We were almost at ninety degrees! we spent a lot of time focusing in the horizon, but had an amazing day. And yes the water did splash in, and the captain miraculously seemed to know exactly when to duck - I was sat behind him!
So it turns out that christmas eve is the big night here. Thats when they have their christmas dinner and when they open their presents. We struggled to find somewhere to have a dinner on christmas day. And when we did, we were the only ones there which was so bizaar. Didnt have a particularly christmassy day. By the afternoon the shops were open and things were back to normal. We did however manage to find the recipe and ingredients for mulled wine, which over the next few days we perfected.