Where mermaids live and rivers made of clouds – hiking in gumboots to Laguna Turquesa and Laguna Esmeralda

The mud was incredible! Up to my knees in some parts and boot sucking, squewlchy (is that a word?), sticky, muddy mud! We were so thankful the hostel, Cruz del Sur, lent us the gumboots, even though our feet ached and complained all day, it saved us a lot of hassle, and kept our feet somewhat dry!

We began as a small group of three, thinking about hitch hiking out to the trail head, but as hostels go, we gathered people until there were 10 of us… all gumbooted up and ready for a day together exploring the outskirts of Ushuaia. We decided to get a bus that would drop us off and then come and pick us up when we wanted, so our grouchy driver collected the group of eager hikers and new friends and deposited us 18kms (roughly) out of town.

So we began our adventure, up the hill, and up and up, like so many hills before have been, somewhat vertical and painful, until it began to open out of the forest and we could see, in the distance, on the other side of the road, Laguna Esmeralda. We didn’t know how much further before Laguna Turquesa, but plodded along, arriving at an incredibly clear, tiny lake in about an hour.

It was beautiful and dramatic. The clouds appeared stormy overhead, threatening to rain, but then the sun would peep through and the colours of this lake glistened wonderfully into our excited eyes. It took all my strength (and the cold wind nipping my exposed wrists), not to strip down to my underwear and jump in! The water was so inviting, so clear, and so turquoise.

We stayed for about 40 minutes, skipping stones and chatting, enjoying the tranquility of the place before we set off back down the hill. Our next destination was across the road (Ruta 3), and up the other side to Laguna Esmeralda (the more popular and more visited Glacier Lake).

We trudged through bogs and mud and over peat moss (they should invest in board walks to save this precious environment from being destroyed by hikers). We came to the strangest coloured beaver dam (beavers were introduced here and are also causing a lot of damage to this environment). The river that had been dammed by the beavers obviously ran from Laguna Esmeralda, it appeared to be a cloudy pale blue, looking bright and icy, contrasting with the green fields and peat bogs.

We followed the river up, and began to really enjoy the mud, until we made it to the large and strangely beautiful, cloudy lake! It looked like a lake full of clouds and ice. The photos didn’t really capture how strange it was.

We all sat down on the beach together facing into the blowing wind. With the wind forming white caps on the lake, blowing down over the snowy mountains and glacier, we were all a tad chilly. It was a great spot for a picnic and lunch was well deserved! It took about 2 hours to walk here from the road, and we had all fallen over at least once, but the reward of the mysterious glacier lake was well worth the struggle.

It was strange to think we were so close to the city, yet out here in this incredible (muddy) wilderness, surrounded, once again, by snow capped mountains and beautiful rivers.

It was a full day of hiking and making new friends and after we arrived back in Ushuaia a few of us went out to Bamboo – an all you can eat seafood and lambs buffet. The red wine – a Malbec from Mendoz, and the slow cooked smokey lamb, Argentinian style, made for a delicious  feast. I even had octopus and calamari, and a lot of ice cream for dessert. It really did feel like Christmas then as I rolled home, full of wine and food.

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