By the time we reached the island, it was getting dark and a fog was decending. It was very flat and treeless so the headlights of cars driving appeared as ships passing in the night.
We stopped at Cerro Sombrero which is a company town half an hour from the ferry landing. We had read that the huge hosteria was quite expensive so we drove the streets until we found a cheaper hostal which again was like staying in someone’s spare room.
Kitchen usage was not included in the price so we went out into the cold in search for some dinner. We came across a government office cafe that was still opened and we asked the owner whether there was somewhere for dinner nearby. He made a phone call and then told us to get into his car. He drove us a couple of blocks and we were greated by the owner of a small empty restaurant.
She told us the set menu would be a little while so we watched the tv (everywhere in Chile has a tv) and suddenly we realised that the room was now full of tired looking men. I think this was maybe part of the deal for working for the company, that you could get a meal if you did not have someone to cook for you.
Our meal came out and was Valdivian soup for entree, Fried meat empanadas for main and coffee flan (which is the typical dessert in fixed menu meals in Chile - sort of like a creme caramel). The only part I didn’t like was the accompanying beverage - a cordial that was very similar to watermelon hubba bubba flavour. Ick.
Although the menu was incredibly light on the vegetable side, it was only $7 each and we were soon snug in bed trying to find something to watch on the twenty channels of cable rubbish.
The next day we drove further south toward the border. Tierra del Fuego is divided in half, and the north belongs to Chile while the South belongs to Argentina. There has been much past bickering about who owns what land in the south, with some decisions being finalised by the English or the Pope.
It is called Land of Fire as Magellan noticed smoke coming from many fires as he passed the land in his ship. Unbeknowst to him, it belonged to one of three original peoples, the Yaghan or Yamana who lived mostly naked and therefore often had fire nearby. They would grease their skin with sealion fat to repel water and had the added bonus of a higher body temperature than the average person (it is thought to be because of the amount of sealion meat ingested.) They even had a way of keeping a fire in their boats so that they would not grow cold while fishing.
When the missionaries came to save these ‘wretched souls’, they were given clothing which became wet quickly and many died from pneumonia. Most of the others perished from white man diseases.
There is still one Yamana woman who is 84 and can speak the original language, although since her sister died, she has no one to speak it with.