Tierra del Fuego, or the Land of Fire is an archipelago that rests upon the very southern most portion of South America. It was 'discovered' by European explorers (Portuguese to be exact) who were trying to find a passageway to Asia for trade purposes. The European explorers who discovered the region named it the Land of Fire, because of the many fires that were lit near the shores of this land by the indigenous groups when they first came across the archipelago region.
Tierra del Fuego is a very interesting region which now belongs to both Chile and Argentina. There has been much controversy, arguments, and almost a war that has erupted over which country the island region actually belongs to. The largest island of the cluster of islands is known as Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The archipelago also contains one of the most dangerous and famous sea traveling locations, known as Cape Horn. Cape Horn is notoriously known for being a difficult location to travel by sea due to the strong currents, wind, massive or rogue waves, and icebergs. It is a well known location of hundreds of shipwrecks throughout the past few centuries.
My trip to this region that suffers from volatile and savage weather began in October of 2015. It was an unexpected side trip that took about 3 days all initiated by my desire to see penguins in the wild. They are known to seek refuge from Antarctica in parts of Tierra del Fuego during October and November. And so after returning from Torres del Paine and dropping off a friend at the airport in Punta Arenas, I took off with one other friend in search of the mighty King Penguins.
I'm glad that we decided on making this unexpected adventure to find the penguins. There were quite a few unexpected surprises along our way. The first of these unexpected surprises was driving through
the near ghost town known as San Gregorio. This was a very cool area. According to Wikipedia, the population is slightly under 300 people, but this coastline town felt pretty abandoned of human presence, minus the occasional car traveling through on the highway. Many of the buildings in the area were still intact, but they look like they had seen better days.
Another interesting feat about this abandoned coastline area is that there are two beached ships that rest upon the shores just a short walk from the abandoned buildings. The first of these ships is known as the Ambassador, which is a tea clipper from Europe. It was built in the late 1860's. It reached it's final resting place in San Gregorio in 1899. All that remains of the ship is it's frame. It truly is a remarkable thing to see.
The second ship which is more intact, is a steamship known as the Amadeo. The Amadeo was built in the early 1880's and she found her final resting place on the beaches of San Gregorio, Chile in 1932. When approaching this beach it reminded me of the scene in the original Planet of the Apes when Charleton Heston is walking on the beach and discovers the State of Liberty lodged in the sand.
It is interesting to see the difference in these ship's designs. It is amazing how well preserved they are, especially since the Ambassador has been there for over a century. What makes it even better is there is no admission prices to see any of this! Be careful if you wander around on the Amadeo, rust has taken its toll on the infrastructure of the ship.
After finishing up in San Gregorio we continued east along the coastline until we reached the ferry that would bring us across to Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The ferry runs pretty often as this route sees frequent use by service vehicles, semi trucks, and I assume a good mixture of tourists. It should be noted that there is also a ferry service that departs from Punta Arenas and arrives in the port city of Porvenir which will be discussed later.
After reaching Isla Grande we took off once more exploring this island. It was not long before we came across a flock of Flamingos hanging out in a empty field next to a large pond. This was definitely not in my list of things I expected to see. I had always thought flamingos hung out further north, and not in a region which is known for being cold and windy. I was wrong.