After returning back to Ushuaia from Antarctica yesterday and many hours spent back-blogging for part of the fantastic Antarctic trip, needless to say I found myself more than a little exhausted this morning. Before the Antarctic cruise departed 11 days ago, I had signed up to go diving today and was secretly happy when the Carlos from the dive shop told me to swing in any time between 09:30 and 15:00 which meant that Carlos had no intentions of going diving today either. Yay! So after breakfast and finding a place to do laundry, running a few back to “civilization” errands and visiting Carlos, I decided to do the activity I had planned for Wednesday today instead, a hike to Laguna Esmeralda.
I talked to the front desk of the hotel I am staying in and they said the only way to get to Laguna Esmeralda was by taxi for 200 pesos ($25) each way. Seriously? So I headed down to the unofficial “bus” station in Ushuaia to see what kind of deal I could score down there. But the best I could get was 200 pesos roundtrip on a bus leaving in an hour and that would *maybe* come back to pick me up at around 5:30pm. That meant I would have 4.5 hours to do a seven-mile hike. WTF, am I in a wheelchair people? That’s like alpine climbing, Kilimanjaro “pole pole” at 17k elevation pace. So I decided on my third alternative: Hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking in itself is pretty common in South America, if you don’t remember, I was rescued from imminent semi-truck vs. me-on-bicycle-at-night death by hitchhiking back to Baños, Ecuador a few weeks ago while biking the Ruta De Las Cascadas. I also saw two other groups of backpackers trying to hitchhike this morning 215km out-of-town as buses are full for the next 5 days and every hotel is booked full at the moment. So I figured, what did I have to lose, considering I just needed a lift 10km to get to my trailhead.
What is probably a little shadier, is I’m obviously a woman, traveling sola, and my infantile Spanish skills are waning because I really haven’t practiced, studied, nor had to use them much…. But after an hour and the 10km distance being split between two different cars I had arrived at the Laguna Esmeralda Trailhead:
Well this is the free trailhead I used. Apparently there is another one at La Valle De Los Lobos, and at that one you have to pay 10 pesos and register. So, I liked my trailhead and off I set into the woods to find the enchanting Laguna Esmeralda.
It was a perfect day for hiking. I had on a sleeveless tank with a down jacket over, and after about ten minutes I was warm, so just went sleeveless.
The views were gorgeous and I practically felt transported back to Aspen, hiking the Maroon Bells. The trail was quite boggy and some places quite muddy but there were enough downed trees and side trails to keep you out of the thick of it. After an hour at a good pace, I arrived to my destination, Laguna Esmeralda.
The hike is 11.6 KM or about 7 miles, and then you can also walk around the lake which took another 1/2 hour. The Laguna Esmeralda hike is an out and back, but as all the mountains in the area provided dramatic landscapes, it kind of felt like a different trail with different vistas and interesting panos.
Then it was time for me to go to jail…
Or just doing what I do, hitchhiking back to Ushuaia in black vans with no windows. These are hard times in Patagonia!
What’s on the adventure chopping block for mañana? More hitchhiking!!! Just kidding, Mother (because I know you will read this). A much safer day doing an organized tour in Tierra Del Fuego National Park for some hiking and kayaking