You can’t win them all, especially at the end of the world.
Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world is a pleasant enough place to walk around in itself and marvel at the spectacular setting right on the water surrounded by mountains on three sides, while realizing you are truly at the end of the earth.
At the same time, there is an abundance of wildlife in the area, including penguins and beavers. By the time we arrived in mid-April, many a penguins were heading north to warmer climates for the incoming winter (giving me brief pause as to why we had gone in the opposition direction . . . ) so they were out. That left us just mano y mano with the beavers, nature’s weirdly shaped and furry engineers
Beavers are apparently nocturnal animals, working hard to build their dams at night. They hang out at a spot a little out of town, which also doubles as a hike to a lake in the mountains. Seemed like a nice enough way to spend the afternoon, trying to time our return from the four-hour hike with sunset to catch a glimpse of the beavers in action.
Part of the appeal was that these particular beavers have been prolific in building their dams, and by default destroying the local habitat, as they have no natural predators down in Tierra del Fuego. Whatever the actual environmental implications of such a situation, none of that has stopped it from becoming a fashionable Ushuaia tourist attraction.
We were told it’d be a little bit wet out there, but that was “part of the fun.” After just walking over creeks and streams in Chilean Patagonia with our proudly recently-bought water proof hiking shoes, we were prepared for the possibility for a ‘little mud.’
A little bit of mud was a little bit of a understatement. Much of the area was covered in peat bog, making it quite squishy to walk on, kind of like the marshmallow land I used to always dream of. That was the fun part – the other part of the hike was a complete mudfest, the likes of which I had not seen since partaking in South Korea’s annual mud fest (an odd event held in Boryeong every summer). The problem was that a good amount of the mud hid amongst the squishy peat bog, making it difficult to be truly confident on where you were walking – to the point where a two-foot mud hole could be anywhere.
And they were! I was the first us of to become a victim, slipping early on to the point where I nearly lost my shoe in the muddy abyss, with the remaining area between my sock and sole subsequently filled with mud. BUT Christine took the (mud) cake, stepping in a sink hole up to her knee at one point.
At any rate, we made it up to the lake amidst the mountains, which under any other circumstances would’ve been sublime. Unfortunately we were there days removed from the Chilean Patagonia Torres del Paine National Park, and everything in life is relative. Thus a pretty view, but not one we had been lacking in recent days (perhaps we had become a bit spoiled by Patagonia, happens to the best of us).
To top it off, we got back to the area where beavers apparently hang out and work, with much evidence of their presence. It was another 20 minutes through the woods back to our pick up point, but unfortunately we had forgotten our headlamp, so couldn’t wait too much after sunset for the fuzzy, wet creatures.
Plus it was freezing cold – it was the end of the world after all. We waited for about 30 minutes, as long as we could until it was getting quite dark, with no signs of any beavers in sight. Perhaps it was national beaver holiday we were unaware of, perhaps they hate trudging to work in mud as much as we do (and took a ‘mud day’, as we should have).
So we froze, doused our in mud as part of an emerging fashion trend that no none-homeless individuals seem to be following us on, and unwittingly did another hike after promising to take it easy for a while – the best part being that we had just paid and arm and leg to get all our laundry done (literally, good thing I always pack some extra limbs when traveling). All that for some dam-builders who were too lazy to even show up. The beavers of Tierra del Fuego may not have any natural predators in the area, but they sure have two unnatural ones now!