Tuesday, September 17, 2013

La Tierra del Fuego, Part II.

Continuing south on Route Y-85 towards Lago Fagnano, crossed La Sierra La Paciencia (Patience).  The name implies just that, since the road was covered with ice and snow, twisting through the various high passes.  The weather changed continuously but the temperatures never rose above freezing.

This road at its southern tip is still under construction by the Chilean military that supposedly plows it regularly to clean the snow.  While there I saw several snow plows that were broken down.  Some of the bridges are still under construction; the last one that crosses the Rio Azopardo was virtually completed. It connects Tierra del Fuego to Caleta Maria.  Other than military personnel who were building the road, we did not see a single tourist the whole time I was in the area. 

This was an “extreme photography” adventure due to the harsh conditions although none of the photographic gear malfunctioned.  A spartan cabin served as shelter with no running water, electricity or adequate heating.  A small wood stove heated the cabin; it required frequent restocking; wood had to be cut and split to feed it.  Fortunately sleeping with clothes on inside a sleeping bag allowed for a pleasant sleep when the stove went out during the night.

There is also lack of wildlife other than gulls, hawks and an occasional condor. This trip mostly produced landscapes images of mountain ranges, winter forests and frozen lakes and rivers.  There are two lakes, one called Deseado and the other Despreciado (Desired and Depreciated) -who knows why.  In the third image below, Lago Deseado can be seen at the right.

Beavers were introduced from Canada in the early 1940’s to create a fur industry.  The environmental conditions created a thriving habitat for them but some reason, the quality of the pelts were poor and the enterprise was abandoned.  The beaver have continued to expand their range creating an ecological catastrophe.  In the image below there is a black mound to the left that is the beaver den; at the bottom right corner, a dam they created can be seen.  The den appears to be of a different construction than that of their cousins in the northern continent.  The black is soil mixed with tree branches, while in the north it is mostly constructed of tree branches and twigs.  The next image shows a larger dam and the one below is that of a partially frozen impoundment created by the dam; as a result, the trees die due to the excess water.

Tierra del Fuego was a new experience and a more appropriate name should be Tierra Escondida (Hidden Land) because only recently tourists have found it.  Next blog will be the return to the real world.  Coincidentally, the image below reminds me of a map of the USA with Florida at the lower left and Mexico at the lower center.