There were 3 ways out of Ushuaia to get to our next destination, El Calafate – by land, air or sea. The land option was a 15 hour daytime bus ride leaving at 3am, the air option was a small plane in high winds (not that keen after Rurrenabaque) and the sea option was a leisurely 4 day cruise. We got a great deal on a last-minute booking so took the cruise option… the main selling point? We got to sail around, and walk on (weather permitting), the legendary Cape Horn.
Cape Horn is the southernmost tip of South America and is where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans collide. It’s on Latitude 56 and less than 515 nautical miles from Antarctica so its freezing cold and open to the elements. There are over 800 ships lying on the ocean floor in this area of the world and countless sailors have lost there lives over the years due to the tempestuous weather and sea conditions.
So, what fate would we face when we arrived at this most dangerous of places? 30 foot waves and a force 9 gale? … no, an almost millpond sea and a little light drizzle! Deep down I was a little disappointed not to be on a rollercoaster of crashing waves (“I wasn’t” says Kate) but on the plus side it did mean that we would be able to leave the boat in Zodiacs and actually walk on Cape Horn itself. (Maybe Pachamama was making it up to us for the Torres del Paine whiteout?)
Despite its remoteness, Cape Horn is populated by a family of 3 who live in the lighthouse. The father works for the Chilean Navy and operates the Lighthouse and the mother is the Park Ranger for the island, but its their 8-year-old son I feel sorry for. He is homeschooled by his mother, has lessons on the internet and it’s almost impossible for friends to visit… but the worse thing is that he has been given a pudding bowl haircut – surely that counts as cruelty?
We returned to the ship and then rounded Cape Horn (we got given a certificate and everything) before continuing our journey Over the next three days we cruised back up to Puerto Arenas, did a few excursions en route to see historic islands, glaciers and penguins; and generally ate and drank far too much – well it was an open bar… hic…