After a long sleep I slowly wake up. The grayish weather is not very inviting so I stay in the warm comforts of my sleeping bag for a while longer. I stretch a bit, make some tea, overcome by a sudden feeling of emptiness. Maybe it is because today will be my last day of hiking to reach Puerto Almanza. I’ve been faster than I ever imagined. I long for a hot shower and warm home, but also feel it’s the end of an adventure, a trek that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. It’s like the adventure is ending too soon.
I pull myself together and start taking off the outer tent to dry a bit from the morning humidity. Sitting in my tent, organizing and packing my stuff, a light drizzle forces me to speed up the process. The tent is down and packed in a few minutes and I’m off for my last stretch of Beagle Channel coast line.
Unfortunately the day remains Ushuaia grey – as we usually say here – but the rain stops luckily. Can’t complain about the weather at all really. The temperatures have been high for this time of the season, both during day and night, the wind has been generally modest, there’s been grey skies and sun, and except for this morning’s drizzle there’s been no precipitation which is a blessing.
I start at about 10 a.m. again, hike a few hundred meters and climb the fence indicating the property of the Armada Argentina. A sign is put up there, saying ‘no pasar’. Coming from estancia Remolinos, also part of the navy’s terrain, I can sincerely claim I didn’t know as there’s no sign whatsoever on that side. One hour later 3 army trucks cross my path.
Just beyond the fence, houses start to pop up. They’re a few hundred meters apart each. Like I said before, on this trek a feeling of civilization is never far away. There is no reason to feel alone as such, although seemingly abandoned outposts and houses might just do that, arouse that feeling of loneliness.
I keep walking mainly along the coast, and am accompanied by an enthusiast dog belonging to one of the houses along the way. The coast line is a bit rocky at times, with pebble beaches and more driftwood. Along side the gravel road stand more and higher trees now. On the other side of the Beagle Channel the sight of Puerto Williams, mainly an army base, becomes clearer.
After passing another few houses, some with gardens of still blooming flowers, my dog friend suddenly disappears and the road starts climbing. I’ve read that from here it’s about 8 more kilometers to Puerto Almanza, mostly climbing up. My legs and back are getting tired from the long kilometers and the weight. I have to make more frequent stops now to regain strength, drink water and keep up the good spirits. I pass a pick-up; the guys look at me with a bit of surprise, looking at my backpack, asking where I came from. Ushuaia, I say. I can tell they don’t run into people daily that claim to have hiked from Ushuaia. Just 7 more kilometers they tell me, and they have some advice for a good meal in Almanza. It’s exactly the place that I’m heading for.
I walk up, slowly, breath, stop and walk some more. It’s not very steep but just slowly keeps going up. After the many open views of these last days I’m now hiking in the forest, large trees along the road, with a rare view of the channel on my right. The road meanders from right to left, going up and down and it’s a long few kilometers before I see the very welcoming canon just at the entrance of the hamlet of
Puerto Almanza. This cannon is aimed at the neighbors of Puerto Williams, although it haven’t been in use for a while now. I take of my backpack on the side of the road, eat some last crackers with cheese and liverwurst, with a sense of postponing my arrival back to civilization. Although that might be a bit of exaggeration referring to this tiny hamlet. As always, Almanza’s road lights are turned on, even during the day. I’ve been running out of camera battery and memory, blessed with many amazing views along the trail, but my last picture I saved for La Mesita de Almanza, a warm and welcoming tiny lunch restaurant offering excellent, home-made dishes fresh from the sea. Although sorry that my trip has ended, there’s no better homecoming than this.