Chile - Parque Pingunio Rey

Tierra del Fuego

Shared by Chile and Argentina, Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America. The Argentinian port town of Ushuaia lies in southern Tierra del Fuego, making it the world’s southernmost city. The “end-of-the-world city” felt like a fitting place to end my six-week journey.

After boarding a ferry and crossing the Straight of Magellan, I arrived at the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego. Tierra del Fuego is Patagonia at its most remote, with a landscape of windswept plains, subpolar forests, and slate-gray seascapes. We drove on a desolate dirt road to Bahia Inutil to see the King Penguins at Parque Pinguino Rey.

The King Penguin is the second-largest penguin after the Emperor. Native to Antarctica, the colony of King Penguins at Parque Pinguino Rey arrived in 2010. This South American park is the only place to see the birds in the wild without paying for an expensive cruise to Antarctica. We quietly observed the penguins from a distance so as not to disturb their habitat. While I’m not a bird-watching enthusiast, there’s something about penguins that makes them irresistible.

While talking with others at Parque Pinguino Rey, I learned that there’s a tour in Ushuaia where you can walk with Magellanic penguins. I tried booking the excursion immediately after arriving in Ushuaia but discovered that it sells out weeks in advance. I then tried booking a Beagle Channel boat trip, but the operators canceled the tours because of unsafe weather conditions. I spent my final day in South America walking around Ushuaia, a cross between an Alpine ski village and a depressed factory town. It was overcast and rainy, which matched my gloomy mood. How had six weeks passed by so quickly?! I didn’t want to return home! If only I could keep heading further south on an Antarctica cruise departing from Ushuaia.

The next day, I departed “the city at the end of the world” on a plane for home. I returned home with six more pages of stamps in my passport, over 3000 photos, and marvelous memories of an adventure-packed six weeks of South American travel.