Hiking, day 2: Rio Encajonado to lonely antenna

I had a bit of trouble warming up in my sleeping back, most probably because of cold feet due to some river crossing. For autumn the temperatures are surprisingly high at 12 to 14 degrees C at daytime. In fact, in summer we didn’t reach those temperatures on many days. That’s Tierra del Fuego. Unpredictable weather, if not just cold, grey and humid.

Waking up with the soft light of a new day

Waking up with the soft light of a new day

Sunrise now is around 8 a.m., so there’s no need to get an early start. I wake up slowly and peek through the broken zipper of the outer tent. The early sun shines a warm light on the top of the mountains along the channel, fragile and pure. Still in my sleeping back I cook water for a cup of tea and prepare a breakfast of yoghurt and nuts. It is a tranquil start of the day. Later, crawling out of my sleeping back I notice my muscles are quite stiff and strained. Over the years minor accidents, mishaps and unfortunate incidents caused my overall physic to decline. Knees, ankles, hips and back silently complain, but as long as the rest still functions well and nothing breaks beyond repair, I will continue hiking. In fact this trekking is a bit of a trial to see what I’m capable of.

It’s just after 10 a.m. when everything is packed and my muscles are stretched enough to start climbing up on the trail. By now the sky is grey again and the wind has increased. I walk up on a trail frequented by horses and cows, which explains the deep mud. Up on the hill I walk through small bushes and trees until I reach the woods. Here the trail is less visible as it meanders through the trees, over roots and under fallen trees. These typical Fuegian forests are beautiful and wild and something special. Evidently a herd of cows patrols the forest, creating mud poles stretching a couple of meters. I don’t mind getting my hiking boots dirty, but it takes some involuntary sliding and tree acrobatics to keep my feet dry. After over 2 hours of hiking the forest opens up just like the sky, and the sun lights a beautiful coast line with windblown trees, grasses and lots of driftwood.

Welcomed by a sunlit beach coming from the dense forest

Welcomed by a sunlit beach coming from the dense forest

I’m not too much of a beachcomber, but there’s plenty to explore. Happily I walk down to the beach, take pictures and enjoy the scenery while eating a snack. On my right I can still see the Les Eclaireurs light house, a local landmark headlining many postcards.

Near the end of the beach I go around the broken fence of an estancia and follow a path going up. This brings me to a steppe valley, with low bushes, grasses and mountain views. I follow the steppe for a while on a trail that seems to be meandering left and right, rather aimless. At times the trail seems to be man-made, but most likely it is created by cows looking for an easy route through the vegetation. I follow in their steps, wondering how a big, round cow maneuvers through the thick, thorny, typical steppe shrubs on a small path. Most probably they won’t notice. I do, and so does my tent. I walk these rolling hills, wind in my back, a view of short, colored trees and an estancia ahead. The trail continues straight but another one takes me up to the coast again. A mix of dark grey sky, swelling winds creating white wash on the dark grey sea and a glimpse of sun make for dramatic scenery. A herd of cows is unpleasantly surprised by my unannounced visit. They create some distance, group together while mooing, and turn their big, impressive heads to me. I never understand why they would be frightened by me, or at least get nervous at my appearance. I assume they are not very familiar with the concept of humans. I talk to them slowly and encouraging, and continue my walk.

I reach estancia Punta Segunda through a forest of low, twirled trees. A roaring river separates me from the estancia. I go up, looking for an easy crossing but find none. The estancia is no more than some small wooden buildings in white and red and a corral. Alarmed by the estancia’s dogs, someone comes out and looks at me rather expressionless. He waves a finger sideways; not a very welcoming guy I guess. Over the river I shout ‘Almanza’ and he keeps waving this finger, than pointing back to Ushuaia. I rephrase my intention to go to Puerto Almanza. I am certainly not planning to go back to Ushuaia. I point out if I should cross the river at the coastline, his finger keeps saying ‘no’, but then is indicating something which I take as an advice to follow the river to where it ends in the channel, and cross there. I give him a thumbs-up and retrace my steps through the woods and to the coast, not very amused by the idea to cross another river.

Many rivers to cross

Many rivers to cross

The current is pretty strong, the stones too far out to jump (which I’m not very successful at anyway) and though in places the river is pretty shallow, I don’t dare to take the risk of wetting my boots and worse, my feet. Silently swearing I take of my backpack, look for my little trekkers towel, take of my boots and socks and breath deeply as to pluck up courage. It’s freaking cold. The water is very clear, the stones are slippery, the current pushes at my legs. I go slow but secure. On the other side a green bank awaits me. The carpet is made of short grasses with some rough little plant creatures. I sit down and clean my feet from sand and gravel, than put on my socks and boots again. I notice I have a few blisters on my toes, which is not a good sign.

It’s about time to start looking for a camping spot. My backpack weights heavy on my back and hips. I walk along the coastline, pass a lonely and seemingly abandoned cement building and antenna, pass behind a stationed truck – still no sign of people. This time of the year the sun, which breaks through the clouds at times, glows a soft light late in the afternoon, changing the landscape in golden steppes, mystic trees hanged with old man’s beard and long beaches with beautiful lines of greens, colored peddles and wood. I’m always amazed how the scenery is miraculously changed by the sun. It’s mesmerizing. I find my spot on a little beach between short shrubs and along wild woods and long coastlines. Again the sky turns grey and the wind is chilly. Just before sunset once again the sun does its magic.

 

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