Two days in Ushuaia gave us the perfect opportunity to test our trekking legs, limber up our limbs and practice our paddling, ready for our kayaking adventures in Antarctica.
First stop the snowcapped Cerro Martial and Glacier Martial that rise majestically above the town and well within reach of mortal man – a short taxi ride took us to the chairlift that shaves a couple of hours off the climb to the glacier. We both giggled as we waited between the painted lines ready to be transported further up the ski area to the trailhead….Neither of us have been on a wooden slatted chairlift before, and chances are, we won’t again.
The panoramic views over Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel were well worth the walk, far more so than the glacier itself, but after three days of solid rain, none of us, penguins included, really minded as it was just good to be outside… like we wouldn’t get the opportunity to see glaciers galore on the rest of our travels!
Our first paddle in these parts was infinitely more successful. We set out with Valentine & Esteban from Canal Fun through the lush southern forests of Parque National Tierra del Fuego to Punta Luij, the starting point of our 22km paddle. Thankfully we were joined by Belgians, Sofie and Philippe, as the mosies that were lying in wait for us favoured him over the pair of us!
As we layered up under our dry/wet suits and eyed our fibreglass kayaks, we listened to the safety brief keenly. Not having kayaked together since Marlborough Sound some eight years ago, we were both conscious of the fact we had over egged our experience to the crew of the Polar Pioneer. Not so much how much sea kayaking we had done, but how recently.
A soft breeze and gentle current was welcome as we recalled all the tips we had been taught previously; push don’t pull, wiggle don’t wobble, dip don’t dunk… Like muscle memory, it all came back to us in a flash.
We paddled through the calm waters of Bahai Lapataia with steamer ducks and cormorants keeping us company as we perfected our synchronised paddle strokes. A pit stop and refuel with a fabulous lunch of Milanesa carne, a local fave of breaded beef in a huge roll, was welcome as we still had two hours of paddling to get back to Ushuaia and our rendezvous with our ship.
As we neared Bahai Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel the waters turned to a perfectly tranquil and glassy millpond. As we rounded the bay the serenity was broken only by the sounds of construction; the expansion of ‘Hollywood Hills’ as the bay area is known. We had reached civilisation and the end of our epic first paddle.