This past spring The Clymb Adventures very own Mike Cooke traveled south to Tierra del Fuego to explore the burgeoning adventure travel destination at the very southern tip of the South American continent. This windswept archipelago sits at the bottom of the modern world, inviting adventurers to come and explore its incredible landscape and culture.
Despite being such a remote location, Tierra del Fuego is still very accessible for travelers from all over, especially if you’re coming from the Argentinean side, which is far more developed. Along their trip, Mike traveled with fellow adventure travel industry professionals on a guided expedition through this remote destination. To offer some insight into this new frontier for adventure travel, we’ve shared an excerpt from an article written by adventure and travel photographer Frits Meyst, who was a part of the journey.
Frits is a Dutch adventure and travel photographer who earned his spurs in black & white documentary photojournalism in Middle East conflicts. In 2004, he made a total transition to travel and adventure photography. Frits wants to inspire people to travel and experience other cultures. That is why he founded 4ever.travel, a mixed media platform for adventurous people who love travel and ‘the great outdoors’.
Beyond the end of the world
“The man in the pilot seat looks over his shoulder and says to us, “Welcome onboard of DAP airlines to Ushuaia. Today will be a bumpy ride and you will hear all sorts of alarms go off. Do not be alarmed, it warns us of terrain, ice in the engine, and stalling.” With this encouraging message I check the emergency exit, noticing the knob looked more like VW van doorknob than the lever to an exit door. Outside the window, a moderate storm rages just below. The twin propellors roar and the Twin Otter moves into the wind, getting lifted up by an invisible hand. Every once in a while the bottom falls out from underneath us. After one hour we drop out of the clouds and I watch nervously as the pilot maneuvers our plane toward its landing. “Welcome to Ushuaia!” he exclaims, “This flight terminates here and so does the American continent.”
“Many explorers with a lust for adventure came before us. Magellan, Darwin, Shackleton were all searching for Terra Incognita, the unknown lands. Instead they found Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire, the southernmost part of Argentina.” – Frits Meyst
“Originally named by early British missionaries using the native Yamana name for the area, Ushuaia is the capital of the Argentine Province of Tierra del Fuego and commonly coined as the southernmost city on Earth. With a rapidly growing population of about 64,000 people, Ushuaia is a flourishing duty free port with a fishing industry particularly famous for its king crab. Nowadays, Ushuaia is the jump off point for Antarctic expeditions and also a major stop for cruise ships.”
“The Beagle Channel is a strait in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. It was named after Robert Fitzroy’s ship, whose second voyage here brought along one solitary paying passenger, a young man who would revolutionize the way we view the world – Charles Darwin. The Channel was also defined as the southern border between Chile and Argentina during the 1881 boundary treaty. However, the treaty did not solve the problem of three uninhabited islands (Picton, Lenox and Nueva) at the eastern mouth of the channel, and for many years the trio was claimed by both countries.”
“It was the Yamana fires that gave name to Tierra del Fuego. The Yamana people were highly mobile and in their bark canoes they traveled the channels and waterways, hunting with harpoons for Marine mammals as well as fish. Despite the extreme weather they went through life mostly naked, so it was vital that wherever they went, a fire travelled with them, hence the name ‘Land of Fire’. When encountering the Yamana, Charles Darwin wrote in his diary: “these people going about naked and barefoot on the snow.”
“All over Tierra del Fuego one can find traces of settlements and it is no different here. Once upon a time the refuge belonged to a thriving estancia, sheep farm, but now the farm is nothing more than derelict and overgrown memory of the past. A faint hiking trail runs through the high yellow grass past gnarly trees that have grown sideways in the dominant wind direction. The forest thickens into a mix of dense bush that would be impenetrable if it wasn’t for the old trail. A condor soars overhead looking for a cadaver as we hike through the bush that abruptly ends on the edge of a cliff with splendid views over the Beagle Channel. I can see why Darwin was thrilled by the wildness of this strange land.”