Waking up in a picture perfect location we are treated to a view that redefines the word, perfection never got so perfect. Orange tent flaps frame our vista of the silent racing river leading to the snow dappled mountain peak. It’s a common catch phrase really; room with a view, that is until you’re in one and it doesn’t seem so common at all, what a way to start the day. The view sets the tone for the day, unbidden smiles turn the corners of our mouths at this sight first of many. A bus comes to pick us up at 3pm today so we’re embracing mountain exploration old lady style and with the egos shelved for a day it’s guilty pleasure all-round.
Quick brekky down we set off with our gloriously light pack, note singular not plural, so much weight left in the tent sees the case for getting old gaining momentum by the minute. We have a small network of trails to make our way around today taking in various views of mountains, lakes and bays along with the local wildlife. First stop on the trail is to go looking for beavers, never thought we’d say that. Introduced pests wreak havoc with their damming and are considered an unwanted pest; one look at the dam leaves no room for objection, beavers are evil. It turns our that beavers prefer to be appreciated early in the morning and in the evening, who knew; so no sighting for us today. Before us we take in the original streams path littered with dead trees due to the now flooded basin. We see the chopped down trees all around giving pause to any designs of getting up close, a good reminder that beavers have big sharp teeth and are best avoided, but I guess we knew that.
The sun is beating down in the crisp air as we transfer from dense forest, to sunny dale and back again in the ambling comfort of casual sightseeing, strategically avoiding tour buses at any opportunity. The furthest our walk takes us today is to a small buoy on Lapataia bay and we take a lesser trodden track to avoid the throngs to strike out in relative solitude once more. The balance of comfort and ease posed against the ideal of experiencing isolation is a challenge we’ve admittedly never been particularly good at, often pushing to greater extremes to achieve that elusive separation. I guess today we are experiencing a different way to see the great outdoors and with a little dose of perspective we are able to make a great day of it in the face of what might usually drive us crazy, people. It definitely doesn’t hurt that the area here is truly beautiful, again a deviation from our normal mode of seeking altitude; we’ve rarely ever hiked at sea level so in itself this is a somewhat new thing for us.
The walk out to the bay reveals more beaver destruction, what a phenomenon. The once small unobtrusive stream is now a sea of former trees now just little stumps mostly about half a metre in height, carved to a sharp points. The scene resembles sombre un-named wartime grave markers, these stakes reach 20-30m either side of the creek and stretch for as far as we can see up and downstream in a lasting tribute to the fallen. Any tree fifteen centimetres in diameter or less is no more and the ones that were too thick are silver skeletons due to the flooded ground. The scene has an abstract beauty in its contrast but there’s no denying, they really are little bastards.
At the Buoy we stop for a lunch in a quiet spot and stare out to the stretch of the Beagle channel, named after Charles Darwin’s ship ‘HMS Beagle’, the juggernaut of modern science a prominent figure in these parts. Fittingly this area so associated with the father of evolution throws up some great wildlife for all those that care to look. Our lunch spot is shared with a red fox making it’s way along the shoreline, as casual as you like. It’s not going terribly close to people but it’s obvious that we’re in it’s territory, not the other way around. There’s ducks and geese galore, one particular white and grey goose poses pompously for a photograph on a small rise just a few metres away from us, all grace and beauty in the sunlight, Darwin himself would be proud.
This days hiking has been different for us, an adventure away from adventure. At our ripe old ages we’re like kids in the sandpit and learning to play with others on the trails, sadly more of a hurdle than it should be. The question remains, are we seeing the light on the more elderly method of seeing the great natural world? Not a chance is the simple answer. The more casual approach to this hike has indeed been fantastic and not without a notable highlight reel. However the achievement of aching muscles, the tacit exchange in the thin air of altitude and the intrinsic gift that is being surrounded and alone simultaneously is a different story all together.
Ushuaia is a bit of an odd duck in a way, we enjoy towns but lasting experiences come as a result of detachment, a plunge into a wilder existence, a former time. In this town we get the inspiring slap in the face by simply soaking up being at the end of the world, striking out into nature has simply been a cherry, not the goal. The uplifting sensation of the wild that buries itself in your belly and lifts you up, carries you away hasn’t been chased to the hills or dominated to reclusive reaches, it runs thick in the streets. In a way just being here is an extraction, Darwin’s eternal nothingness is the etherial crackle in the air that permits the mind to soar, we are at the end of the world after all, there’s nowhere further to separate to.