The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

Tierra del Fuego
November 6, 2008, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Argentina


Tierra del Fuego — “Land of Fire,” my ass.  This place is, for lack of a better description, fucking freezing.  Literally.  There’s snow, frost, ice, and face-chapping coldness everywhere.

After spending the last three months in weather varying from “sweltering” to “terrifically sweat-inducing” in Northern South America, I decided to hop on a plane with my brother and his wife, from Buenos Aires to the bottom tip of the continent — Ushuaia, Argentina.  

Ushuaia, Argentina -- The End of the World

Ushuaia, Argentina -- The End of the World

As we landed in Ushuaia, the snow was apparent, but it really didn’t seem to be that cold.  That is, it didn’t seem cold until we walked outside and my butt cheeks froze together.  This made my general reaction to cold (or fright, or nervousness, or basically any slightly startling situation) — that reaction of course being pooping my pants — pretty difficult.  Once we checked into our hotel, we decided to take a cab into the nearby mountains to see a glacier.  After taking a chair lift to the base of the glacier, we noticed many signs stating “do not climb the glacier without an experienced guide.”  This seemed to be pretty solid advice that, considering our lack of hiking gear, we would absolutely heed.

Or so we thought.
Thus, donning my hiking jeans, kind-of-waterproof jacket, Kleenex-thickness gloves, and snazzy new “Ushuaia” tourist hat, we began a self-guided tour to view the bottom of the glacier.  While this would generally be a fairly unstrenuous hike, the wind was whipping, the snow was whirling, and it was about as cold as you would expect for the southernmost city on Earth. 
Oh, so the Glacier is just right up that snowy hill?

Oh, so the Glacier is just right up that snowy hill?

So, since none of us had seen any up-close-and-personal glaciers before, we continued hiking in two and three foot snow drifts for half an hour, and our spirits remained high.  We then encountered a sign stating “Glacier” with an arrow pointing left, we figured that we should follow this sign and ascend the snow-covered mountain to see this natural phenomenon.  Up we went.

This is when it started getting tiring.  Mainly because I have now learned the difficult life that is led by an ice cube, an otter pop, or a mouthwatering Dairy Queen Blizzard with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup pieces.  In other words, it started getting really, really fucking cold.  But, we continued upward.
As the Arctic winds continued freezing our faces, we continued climbing to see this glacier that the sign so clearly stated was to the left.  The higher and higher we got, the less and less we saw other than pure white snow.  But, as we had permanent brain freeze, we kept going up.  “It must be just above this next crest,” I kept muttering while contemplating warming my frozen thighs with my own urine.  
Finally, after about two hours of straight uphill climbing, we started to piece together the painful truth: there’s no clear view of the glacier, there’s no one else climbing anywhere near as high as us, and it’s so cold that I can’t even come up with any clever curse words to describe my current hatred of Mother Nature.  Normally, I’d shriek something clever like “Bitch tickler, it’s cold!” or “Fuck waffle!” in order to explain my current feelings towards the weather.  Alas, the cold stopped this, and I could only cleverly decry “Ffffffffffttttt.”
Oops, I accidentally just climbed a glacier.

Oops, I accidentally just climbed a glacier.

However, it was at this point that we realized we had missed the subtle innuendo of the sign with the arrow pointing left: we had already climbed halfway up the glacier.  And as far as my frozen brain could remember, neither my brother, his wife, nor myself were glacier climbing guides.  

Oh well, at least I had my glacier hiking jeans on.
So, at this realization, we decided to stop going upward or we’d end up like Sylvester Stallone in that one movie where he’s climbing mountains: nope, not “buff and short” (although I already have one of those covered…and it sadly ain’t the former), but we’d be trapped in a constant struggle between man and mountain, between love and honor, between not really speaking English and being a kinda buff midget.  And, we also realized there was a decent chance we were going to plummet into a hidden ice crevasse, thus ruining my best pair of hiking jeans, and maybe breaking my legs and dying.  But the hiking jeans were really all I could really focus on.
Thus, we decided to descend in the fastest way possible: on our asses.  This was interesting.  I volunteered as the guinea pig for this expedition.  I thought it would be fun to slide down a snow-covered glacier.  I was right…until I started picking up speed and surpassed 75mph and careened into the rock formation 100 feet down the hill. 
After we had all reached the bottom of the glacier alive, we marched back home with frozen toes and fingers, and declared our contempt for glaciers and Argentine warning signs.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park

The rest of our trip went far smoother than the glacier expedition.  We hiked in the Tierra del Fuego National Park amongst giant glacial mountains, ice-cold bays and ocean inlets, and all the way to Chile, where we illegally immigrated, then spat upon this fine country as most proud Argentines would do.  We also took a boat trip through the Beagle channel where long ago Darwin infuriated the Lord by denying the fact that all animals and man (even Mormons) were not created, but rather evolved from earlier species.  Yeah, right.  How do you explain George Bush then, Mr. Darwin?  On this boat trip we were able to see a colony of Lobos del Mar (“Sea Wolves”), which disappiontingly only turned out to be sea lions, not actual web-footed wolves that terrorized the Arctic seas.

All in all, Tierra del Fuego was an amazing trip to the End of the World, which lessened my sympathy for glaciers and their feet freezing ways.  Global Warming, do your worst.  I mean, even if the glaciers melt, we’ll always have ice-machines in our hotels to make up for them.  I mean, it’s like someone saying animals in the wild are more spectacular than those in a zoo. 
I’ve seen them both.  Same diff.  So give up your pro-glacier stance, liberals, it’s just a big ass ice cube.
Lago Escondido

Lago Escondido


2 Comments so far
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Just for the record, if I were you, I might add a comma in between “wife” and “from Buenos Aires to the bottom tip of the continent” just so everybody knows Matt is still married to me and hasn’t found some porteña with whom to tie the knot. Or you could leave it and see if he gets a flood of congratulatory emails on his Buenos Aires babe. Actually, I should be quiet – Matt is the editor after all.

Comment by Rachel

I caught the same non-comma, Rachel. Glad you’re still it! And thankfully we don’t need to worry much longer about that one exception that proves Mr. Darwin’s rule — Tuesday night gave us the best of the species. Yeff, Yex and Jeff, I guess you’re saying you don’t want to spend Christmas in blustery Alaska where we can freeze while worshipping at the shrine of Sarah Palin? Great, now to undo all those reservations.

Comment by Mom

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