End of the year at the “End of the world”

I woke up without remembering that it was December 31st. I didn’t have a fixed plan and Alejandro suggested that I join a group that was about to leave for Témpanos Lagoon but, since I wasn’t ready yet,  I don’t said anything and I continued entertained with my breakfast. Later, I asked Marcelo how to get to the start of the path. He consulted Alejandro, who told him that I didn’t to go alone.

“I told you to go with the boys”, the owner of Cruz del Sur reminded me when I inquired about the reasons for his recommendation. Then, he took me to the map stuck in front of the reception so I could take it a picture and he told me to take a taxi in La Anónima to the gate of Andorra. “Ask if anyone goes to Témpanos Lagoon. Don’t send yourself alone”, he insisted. I put on my backpack and left.

The taxi ride was short. I reached the gate and, instead of waiting, I started walking. After taking a second look at the map, I noticed the peat zone and I was in doubt. Remembering the experience of the previous morning and seeing that there weren’t many people making the trip, made me think that it would be best to find a companion for that adventure.

I retraced my steps and on the way I found four boys. I asked them if they spoke Spanish and one of them answered me “a little bit”, so I dusted the English that I didn’t use since high school. They told me that they were going to Témpanos Lagoon and I asked if I could join them, to which they answered yes. That’s how I met Niv, Daniel, Ofir and Tamir, four Israelis who had finished the army two years ago and were beginning a six-month trip through Latin America.

While Ofir was humming songs in Hebrew, Daniel and Tamir consulted me about the names of Argentine foods and how to count from one to ten in Spanish. “How do you said …”, they asked me one after the other. For my part, I learned that at the end of school the Israelis enter the army, the men for three years and the women for two. After, many work to save money and travel.

With Niv at the head, we skirt Grande stream by the left margin until we reach the bridge that crosses it and we begin the ascent through the forest of lengas and ñires. When the mud became a companion, I understood the reason for Alexander’s warning. The terrain was difficult to do the trek alone. On more than one occasion, the boys helped me in the slippery parts and gave me a hand to cross trunks that were bridges. On one occasion, Niv, Ofir, Tamir and I walked on a fallen tree. When it was Daniel’s turn, he walked quietly on one side and, when he arrived, he laughed at us. “But that’s more fun”, agreed the other three.

The forest ended and we go out to a valley of height. After a few minutes, it started to rain and then snow. Happiness was painted on the face of the four Israelis. On the other side of the stream that crossed the valley, my hostel companions appeared and, from that margin, they held the trunks that made the bridge to help us cross. “The most difficult part begins”, Tomás warned me before leaving.

We started the ascent, always with Niv at the head, and on the way we met a group of cyclists who came down the mountain slope. Finally, we arrive at the Témpanos Lagoon. It was snowing and that made the landscape even more spectacular. I thought about the weather in Ushuaia, which changes every 20 minutes, and I was grateful that it was that way, because it allowed us to live wonderful experiences like that. We passed the stream that was born in the lagoon and we walked to the right by an open path in the ice to the caves of the Vinciguerra Glacier. As we climbed, we sank in the fresh snow and that made everything even more fun.

Between snowball wars, towering mountains and sunlight that filtered through the clouds, we began the descent. Looking back and seeing the caves, Tamir said: “It looks like a movie.” I agreed, it was one of the most beautiful views of Ushuaia.

The descent through the forest wasn’t simpler than the climb. Niv went ahead in search of the marks that confirmed us that we were on the right track and Daniel closed the retinue. We crossed the bridge again and sat in front of the stream. Then, Ofir put music and Daniel distributed his lunch, which consisted of bread and tuna, between the five. Niv opted only for the bread and I asked him why. He replied that he had eaten a lot of tuna in the army and he couldn´t prove it now.

We had lunch in that little paradise, between jokes and anecdotes, with Israeli music in the background. We went back to the center together, in a taxi that they didn’t let me pay, and we agreed that maybe we would see later.

I arrived at Cruz del Sur quite muddy, to the point that Marcelo had me enter through the carport and leave the boots and the removable part of the pants next to the laundry. After showering, cleaning the boots and leaving clothes in the laundry, I came across Alejandra, an Argentine translator, and asked her what plans she had for that night. I joined her preparations for the New Year, along with Tomás, the soccer referee of La Plata; Gianluiggi, the Italian diving instructor; the Danish girl and the German boy.

While Alejandra and Gianluiggi prepared the stuffing of the empanadas, the rest we took care of the picada. Then, between the translator, the referee, the dive instructor and I closed the empanadas. They were the first empanadas of meat that Alejandra cooked, because she is vegetarian, and the first ones prepared by Gianluiggi. It was a night of new experiences.

Text and photos of  Gabriela Naso.

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