I don’t know about most people, but I find penguins extremely amusing. A bird that can’t fly, waddles about on land and swims like a fish. Ushuaia was as good as it gets to see penguins live and in the flesh. We made the tour out to the Estancia Haberton, the oldest estancia, or farm, on Tierra del Fuego. By bus from Ushuaia it took about an hour, passing trees bent to the prevailing winds from the east. Bleak and desolate it reminded me of areas around Oban in Scotland, a harsh, cold and desperate place to live.
Arriving at the estancia at just before lunch we settled with a cup of tea and waited for the boat. Looking at the family history on the walls the family from England who had chosen this end of the world to settle had kept exact records of the births, deaths and marriages over the years and made interesting reading.
We took a large rigid hulled inflatable, of the kind that the RNLI use. Notably similar the one that saved my life at 19 years old sailing in Carmathen Bay. We speeded out into the Beagle chanel towards the “penguinera”, essentially a nature reserve where the penguins come to nest and rear their young. The trip we had chosen was expensive by Argentine standards, costing 170 pesos (over 30 GBP), but was one of the few that took us onto to the nature reserve and allowed us to walk around, although severely controlled. We had a really nice guide, a local girl who was studying German in Cordoba. Her English was excellent and explained a great deal to us about the natural cycle for the penguins. We hadn’t arrived at the best time, most of the chicks having being born late last year and having left already for the north near Puerto Madryn, but there was still plenty to see. The wind is a constant reminder of how close you are to Cape Horn, and the many wrecks that lie there as a result of the consistently bad weather. We spent 45 minutes on the island and I got some great photos, until the rain started to belt it at 30 degrees to the horizontal and most of the tourists gave up and headed back to the boat.
Tim and would have loved to have dressed a penguin up in Groucho Marx glasses and a funny hat (since all animals in hats are funny) but I’m afraid our guide wouldn’t permit it. Maybe another time!