Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Just Snow We'll Have A Good Time


So now that we had reached the end of the world, what were we actually going to do here? We poured over a handful of tour brochures in a bid to find out more about activities in Ushuaia. Agencies in town proffered cruises along the Beagle Channel, mailing a postcard home from the southernmost letter box, trekking in the Tierra del Fuego national park, kayaking in glacial lakes, horseback riding.... SO many things to do out here. We narrowed the list down to 2 choices - both of which we had yet to experience on this trip:

(1) beaver-watching

(2) a full-day tour comprising riding in a 4WD jeep through the forest and into a lake, followed by a traditional Argentinian asado or barbecue on the lakeshore, and then canoeing.

I thought it would be interesting to watch beavers pottering around their dams, gnawing at trees and patting down mud with their flat tails. I've always thought they were cute. A few years back when I first entered university, (okay, so it was more than a decade ago... my math isn't that bad, it's just that time really flies!) ICQ was just gaining popularity and I signed up for an account (for the benefit our really young blog-readers, ICQ is an online chat programme that has since been overtaken by MSN, Gmail and Facebook chats.)

innocently decided on AngryBeaver, the title of my favourite cartoon The Angry Beavers, as my ICQ nickname. It was only after I had added alot of new classmates from school and neighbours from Temasek Hall to my contact list, did someone finally decide to kindly enlighten me on the pornographic and unsavoury meaning of the word "beaver". I don't want to imagine the nature of the thoughts conjured in the minds of my new male friends as they chatted online with the Angry Beaver late into the night.

Well, the tour agent offering beaver-watching was honest enough to warn us that there was a low chance of spotting these creatures at work in the daytime, as beavers are nocturnal and only go about their busy business at *ahem* night. Bummer. I had really wanted to see some giant beavers. The beavers in Ushuaia are reportedly huge - 1.5m long and weighing up to 60kg - double the size of beavers found elsewhere, which average around the size of a microwave oven. Beavers from Canada were introduced to Tierra del Fuego in the 1946 in a bid to breed them for their fur. Unfortunately, the fur provided insufficient protection against the island's harsh climate, turning hard in the freezing temperatures. Without any natural predators, the original founding stock of 25 male and 25 female beavers ballooned into an unmanageable population of close to 100,000. They are considered a pest on the island, cos they dam up the rivers and flood the forest floor, drowning tree roots and killing acres of forests. Beavers apparently taste quite bad, so the island's inhabitants (man and animals alike) are unwilling to hunt them for food.

We accepted that we weren't going to see any beavers in the forests or on the menu and thus signed up for the second option. At 340 Argentinian pesos (USD85 per person), the tour wasn't cheap but it was still immensely popular and almost fully booked. We managed to get the last 2 spots for a tour leaving a day later.

Dan has created a wonderful video documenting the day's activities at the end of this post, so I'm not going to write too much about the tour. Just a few photos to summarise the itinerary:

First up: a visit to the sledding park to kick off the morning. Dog-sledding only takes place in winter when there's lots of snow (really now... then what's all that white stuff around us?) Outside of the ski season, the dogs relax and train. We visited the huskies on their training grounds, where we saw the strong Siberian huskies who haul like trucks and the Alaskan huskies who have the speed of athletes.

This husky was especially big - his ancestors were from the South Pole.

Worming our way through the Andes, we made a stop at the highest point of the snowy road for a glimpse at the lakes we would be driving along and canoeing in.

Could hardly see any lakes out there!

Then we went off the road! Whoo hoo! The snowy forests made the rough muddy experience seem almost magical.


Is he going to make it?

Dashing through the lake


The roaring fire you need to grill that perfect Argentinian steak

Juicy sausages

The perfect steak - medium on the inside, lightly charred on the outside

Tummies full, we donned life-vests, grabbed our paddles and headed for the lake.

I couldn't believe that we were dressed like this for canoeing

Our canoes buried in snow. One of them was named "Bahamas". What a joke.

Out on the water - cold, but magical

Rowing a boat under falling snow

Packing up and getting ready to head back into town

Whatever the weather, I just knew we'd have a good time :)


singaporedream said...

hi Yilin, nice to see u having fun in ushuaia. it had never been warm there. we were there last xmas and it was 4deg cels in the night and we are camping with our singapore type of gear. need any help in argentina let me know, got bunch of friends down there. also in chile or brasil.

Daphne said...

Love the video and the song that goes with it. The sausages and steaks on the outdoor grill looks fantastic, wish I can have some too!

Lint said...

Oh dear, for a 'be-careful-ah-don't-cut-yourself' moment, you snd like someone else I know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yi Lin said...

Singaporedream: Thanks for dropping a note here. Camping in Ushuaia?! Respect! Take care on the road. Shd be nice to be leaving the US now that winter is coming, and heading for sunny Australia!

Daphne: You made your bro sooooo happy with the comment on this vid! Yeah, the quality of the beef here is really good. If only we could grill the same back home!

Lint: you should see him photographing FLOWERS! *gasp*

Tunster said...

whoa! Looks like everyone including the angmos are freezing their socks off....

The shot with the canoe on the water, surrounded by banks full of ice, is just absolutely fantastic! Can almost feel the cold and serenity back here. :)


Dannie said...

Tunster: It was cold... but the winds are not as strong as during the Navimag cruise or at Puerto Natales. We were quite comfy, actually! :)

And now we are in Buenos Aires... 26 degrees and we are feeling hot! Haha...

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