Parque Pingüino Rey

February 20, 2016

I left Punta Arenas on the 1pm ferry to Porvenir and Tierra del Fuego. While waiting on the ferry, the weather constantly danced between light drizzle and sunshine. The wind was ever-present of course, but not terrible, at probably 20 to 25 mph. 

Mauricio and Mama at Casa La Escondida. This was a superb place to stay just slightly outside of Punta Arenas, and a big part of the reason was the hospitality, although the accommodation and food was excellent as well.


While waiting in line at the ferry dock, I met this couple from israel traveling Patagonia in a rented Wicked camper van (same type van as the Austrian couple I met earlier). They’re just getting started on their camping journey, and I’m pretty sure I’ll see them again in Ushuaia.

The ferry ride is about two hours. As soon as I rode off the ferry and into Porvenir it began raining, sleeting, and the winds suddenly increased to about 50 mph. I set off out of town only to find that the pavement immediately stopped. It was mostly gravel, but in a few places there was no gravel, and it turned to slick, snotty mud. I slipped and slid and managed not to crash somehow but my tires balled up with mud so bad that the bike wouldn’t steer at all. Eventually the rain let up, the wind increased even more, and the mud came off my tires in the gravel and rock road.

I stopped at a place on the side of the road with some big trees thinking it would offer some wind break, but the trees were too far apart. As I stood there, I dropped one of my gloves. The wind caught it and it took off faster than I could run with my bad ankle. After about a hundred yards I managed to catch it just before it blew under the fence and out to sea. My physical therapy for the day complete, I remounted and continued toward the Penguin Park.

My GPS coordinates were for a place I found on iOverlander that just said “grassy spot” and was about a mile past the penguin park. I was hoping there would be a hill or dune or something to hide behind with my tent. When I got to the penguin park there was a guy on a loaded motorcycle there so I pulled up next to him, noticing the German license plate. Ernest was on a beautiful late ’80s BMW R100GS, and had just finished the tour of the penguins. He said the park ranger told him he could sleep in a small “house” up the road and I was welcome to join him. The park was closing soon, and I had planned to visit the King penguins in the morning, so I followed Ernest up the road.

When we got there, it was a tiny building about 7 feet wide by 10 feet long in the middle of the grassy field I was planning to camp in. Inside the building was a metal bunk bed frame (no mattresses), a table, and a stove made out of a cut-down 55 gallon drum. 

We started a fire in the stove, put the air mattresses and sleeping bags on the bunks, and Ernest cooked dinner. It was actually pretty comfortable. Just before dark another couple showed up: a German brother and sister hitchhiking/backpacking to Ushuaia from Punta Arenas. They set up their tent on the less windy side of the building and slept there. 

Nothing for many, many miles to block the wind. Except this great little hut with a stove, table and beds in it. It’s actually for the sheep herders here, but they let others use it when they aren’t. And the employees at the Penguin Park show their appreciation by keeping it clean. If you could see the bikes better, you’d see that Ernest’s BMW is spotless, while mine is covered in mud. He left Porvenir before the rains.

Ernest cooking dinner in the nice, warm hut. Cut-down 55 gallon drum wood-burning stove in the bottom right corner of photo.

The wind finally dropped to probably 30 mph or so this morning. The King Penguin Park doesn’t officially open until 11am, but when I rode up around 9:30, the ranger was very friendly and invited me in early. I spent about an hour walking around watching the penguins. The size and color of these guys is amazing. I wished I had binoculars. In the photos, if you look closely, you can see several young penguins, who aren’t old enough to have the orange markings yet.

After visiting the penguins it was another 30 miles or so of gravel road to the border crossing into the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego. 

The ghost town of Onaisin. This looked like the school or community center.


The entire remains of the town were fairly intact but fenced off. The town was established by English sheep herders in the 1890s, but apparently didn’t last. It sits on the shore of Bahia Inutil (Useless Bay).


You see a number of abandoned wrecked cars sitting where they met their demise on the side of the road. This one says “Better Cycling” on the side of it.

As I finished up my paperwork and was just leaving the border crossing, Ian rode up. He’s been to Ushuaia and is on his way to Buenos Aires to ship home. 

It was good to see Ian again. He’s headed to Buenos Aires and home. I hope to see him again in a few months.

The pavement begins with Argentina Ruta 3 at the border crossing, and it’s a smooth, beautiful road all the way to my hosteria tonight in Tolhuin. I’m only sixty miles from Ushuaia, but this hotel on the shore of Lago Fagnano was just too nice and relaxing not to stop at for a night. 

South of Rio Grande on the Atlantic coast: When the tide goes out here, it REALLY goes out. Like about a quarter of a mile.


My hotel for the night, overlooking the lake.

13 thoughts on “Parque Pingüino Rey

  1. 👍
    Great stuff Pat. That big smile on your face speaks volumes !
    Thanks for sharing & motor on !✌

  2. Pat, my 8 year old daughter (the one with a touch of autism) just loves penguins. She was almost doing happy back flips when she found out you could actually “drive” somewhere to see penguins that beautiful in the wild. Heretofore she thought you had to go to Antarctica. Thanks for sharing. We looked at even more photos on the parque’s website.
    Glad you made it through that mud. I have been wondering about your ankle. You have great perspective. Love reading these.
    Les Miller, from Victoria who had the 85 FJ1100, his son was messing around on his R1 and crashed badly in Las Vegas. It was really bad. He is now able to recognize people in his hospital room. He was adopted as a child, became an eagle scout, and then made it thru Air Force Academy. He’s 27 and we are all praying for him.

    • Glad I could bring a smile to your daughter with the penguins. I hope to visit an island with Magellanic (smaller) penguins in the next day or two.
      Sorry to hear about Les’ son. I’ve been away from Victoria so long I didn’t even know he had a son. Hopefully he will continue to recover well.

  3. Got Penguins!!!!!! Sandy will be happy now – square checked.

    I saw the little hut on the satellite view and wondered what it was about – now you provide the “rest of the story”.

    Thought you might take that coast road all the way to the end but perhaps not.

    • Hope to see the smaller Magellanic penguins in a day or two.
      I considered taking that little coast road all the way to the end, but it looked like I’d have to turn around and go the way I went eventually. I think Ernest went that way.
      I’ve passed a few of those little huts — “refugios” — and now will definitely consider stopping at more. There was one at the intersection of the two major roads about six miles north of the penguin park, but it was already full. There were bicycles parked outside of it.

  4. Great everything Pat!! 🙂 I like following you via your “Where am I now” mode!! I saw whew you stopped for the Fabulous Penguins & figured you’d head North, , then East to N3!! When you stopped today I zoomed in & looked at the SAT view & the place looked beautiful from 200 miles straight up!! Your Photos confirmed the Spot was special from the ground as well!! Can’t wait to see that you’d made it to Ushuaia, , , & then to Puerto Williams!!

    • My Delorme InReach GPS tracker has been a great piece of equipment. Works exactly as advertised. I’m enjoying zooming out and looking at the entire distance traveled and thinking, “Man, that was a long way on a 250…”.

  5. I love this. So glad you saw them. I totally figured it would be a whiteout down there, so it was a bit weird watching penguins walking around on grass.

    The tides in Ushuaia are 2.2m right now. The heights in Bay of Fundy can be up to 16m. And ours are about 6.5 ft. So yeah, they would definitely go WAY out when they ebb.

  6. Think that penguin at the end of the group with hands on hips and nose in air is your grandmother—looks just like her.

  7. Absolutely awesome trip, Pat. Just spent the last couple hours getting caught up. Appreciate you sharing as you go. Really looking forward to seeing Africa. Interesting that you’ve met so many other travellers. Must be kinda cool when you see them again, days later, in another place. Wasn’t expecting hang gliding lessons either. You’re living the dream man. Anyway, on with the show. Be safe, but not too safe.


    One more thing, really loved the pics of the Land Cruisers. Probably more in Africa. Hint, hint.

  8. Pat, funny with da penguins, I was thinkin about that text I sent u 2 weeks ago makin fun that maybe a few penguins might swim across from Antarctica and to keep an eye out for them, and to my surprise, they do, my 8 yr old boy was going crazy with that surprise too cuz in school he was taught last yr that the only penguins in da wild were only found in Antarctica and no where else, now thanks to u, he can school his teacher, and if u get a chance, look across the bay south from Ushuaia and take a pic of island Martinez, post it please, that would be nice to show my dad that our last name is found in da most unlikely of places, be safe, take care, and heal that ankle so take it easy for a few days, u made it.

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