Argentina’s government is opening a new path to Tierra del Fuego that will give travellers, who once had to pass through Chile to reach the southernmost tip of the continent, the option of skipping Chile altogether.
Currently, the movement of people between Argentina and Chile’s shared Tierra del Fuego is a steady 39,000 people per month throughout the summer. Almost 100 trucks cross the Argentina-Chile border and must drive the 150 miles it takes to reach the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego.
Argentines grew nervous last January when Punta Arenas, the southern city with the closest airport to the famous Torres del Paine national park, virtually shut down following massive strikes against hikes in gas prices.
The strike halted the flow of goods between mainland Argentina and its two southernmost cities, Rio Grande and Ushuaia, both in Tierra del Fuego. Argentine trucks were not able to make it through Punta Arenas and were unable to deliver their products.
The Argentine government worries that scenes such as January’s strike are too common, creating delay and inconvenience for visitors and inhabitants to its side of Tierra el Fuego. As a result, the government plans to work with coastal shipping runners and open a new route to Tierra del Fuego.
The new route involves embarking by boat from the city of Punta Loyola, in the province of Santa Cruz, and arriving in San Sebastian, Tierra del Fuego. The boat ride will take six hours and will only cover Argentinean territory.
Ricardo Olea, mayor of Primavera in Tierra del Fuego, assured that the new route would not affect Chilean tourism, explaining that many travellers who decide to take the boat are the same travellers who before were merely in transit and had no plans to visit Chile.
Argentine Senator José Martin, who was behind the new proposal, celebrated the unanimous decision by Congress to introduce the new route.
“Connecting Argentina through its own waters is consistent with the national Constitution, which states that all people should be able to circulate freely throughout their national territory,” said Martin.
By Amanda Reynoso-Palley – Santiago Times