Beaver dams, glaciation and struggles with Spanish


Laguna Esmeralda, Tierra del Fuego

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Returning from the National Park on Saturday and keen to get in another outdoor activity on Sunday, I walk into a recommended Tour Operator. I wanted kayaking but no-one seemed to be running trips at present. I walk away having taken a full day hiking trip to Laguna Esmeralda – just over the Martial Range – with guides, packed lunch and the promise of a lovely walk.

“Too late” was the cry, as I discover at Sunday breakfast, you can take a regular (and much cheaper) bus to the Esmeralda trail car park – and simply follow the track.

I quickly discover that 1) while the trail crosses peat bogs and creeks I should have worn my hiking boots rather than the rubber boots (Wellies) they supplied – it wasn’t that wet or muddy; 2) the group was of very mixed ability and experience, made more interesting (dangerous) when they were provided with walking sticks (and no instructions); 3) there were three guides, two very knowledgeable about glaciation, the local flora and the negative impact of beavers. They didn’t speak English. The third guide did his best with translations but seemed to lose interest after the first hour – he got lumbered with job of sweeper: supporting the two slowest walkers, and me, the English speaker.

While frustrated at not being able to understand the two advanced guides it was a lesson on patience and listening practice for words I knew, some I just guessed at, and then trying to piece together a story.

It was a lovely walk, and interesting, if a little slow. Huge sections of peat bogs, the now familiar forests of arctic beach, and above us a collection of sharp and rounded peaks. Along the way with equal amounts of translation and Spanish guesswork, I learnt about the impact of ancient glaciation on the nearby mountains and valleys, as well as the impact that introduced beaver have had on the local ecosystem. We walked past massive beaver dams, trees felled with tell tale chisel marks at their bases and huge dens. 

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The beavers were introduced from Canada and Russia so their pelts could be sold for a profit. However the warmer climate meant poor fur quality, so the trapping ceased and with few natural predators to keep them under control their population grew and they’re now considered pests.

The lake itself, typical milky blue was small, pretty and surrounded by wintery looking summits, it hung delicately above the nearby peat bogs and forests.

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And being Sunday, it was busy with locals and tourists alike. Enjoying a walk, a Sunday picnic on the shores of Esmeralda, spending time with friends or family. They’d driven, or taken the local bus. Next time…I’ll find a bus. Yet it was still good to get out of town, get in a hike and find an opportunity (even by accident) to develop my Spanish vocab, even if just ‘in poco’.

Está todo bien (it’s all good).

Categories: Adventure, Argentina, Hiking, Mountains, Patagonia, Travel, Uncategorized

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