Though we had made it to Ushuaia we weren't quite finished, as the actual end of the road is in Bahia Lapataia National Park just south of town. It's not advisable to go there without the necessary supplies... of champagne.
We thanked her for the information and headed back toward Ushuaia to find a place to stay. That too, would be more difficult and expensive than we had anticipated. Private hostel rooms were going for $90 a night! We tried every place we could find, but they were all the same. It seemed that the hoteliers of Ushuaia had (wisely) formed a sort of cartel, and agreed to charge around three times the going rate for similar lodging elsewhere in Patagonia. Frustrated with the situation we decided to head back to the park, as it was now around 7:00 and the park would be closed (open). At that point in the day we were both in pretty low spirits; money anxiety had been with us for a while, and between the park fees and the lodging prices our "end of the rainbow" dreams of Ushuaia were crashing back to reality.
An unmentioned subtext of this entire trip is my intention to strand Jill in a remote region of South America and thereby force her to marry me. The reasoning behind this shouldn't be a big shock to anyone who has been reading along and watching her super-human ability put up with all of the insanity this trip dished out. I loved Jill the first time I saw her, and seeing her smile and laugh as we rumbled through South America for seven months, living out of a box smaller than a carry on bag (!) convinced me all the more. All along I had been planning, and had actually settled on proposing to her San Carlos de Bariloche... until we arrive and it looked like this:
Instead of this:
When we arrived at 7:15 the park gate was abandoned, as promised. We headed in and made our way to the end of the road. Shortly after we arrived a park ranger rolled up in a pick up with two passengers. For a minute I thought we were about to get busted, but he smiled and waved as he walked over to us, and offered to take our picture with the sign.
He then took a photo of his two guests with the sign and headed off in another direction... it seems that after hours visits were not as criminal as we had feared. From then on we had the place to ourselves, so we popped our champagne and settled on a small hilltop to celebrate our arrival.
Between those two photos, looking out on the bay toward Antarctica, Jill accepted my proposal! It was an amazing feeling that I'm not really able to do justice in writing, sorry! We laughed giddily and drank another bottle of champagne as the sun went down and then rode back to town, where we happily paid the very reasonable $90 for a private room.