Cresting the Paso Garibaldi some 45km out of Ushuaia, the RN-3 descends towards Lago Escondido, the first of the lowland lakes, accessible via a 4km branch road to the north, before heading alongside the southern shore of LAGO FAGNANO. This impressive lake, also called Lago Kami from its Selk’nam name, is flanked by ranges of hills, and straddles the Chilean border at its western end. Most of its 105km are inaccessible to visitors, apart from dedicated anglers who can afford to rent a good launch. Travelling along the RN-3 as it parallels the lake, you’ll see several sawmills, denoted by their squat, conical brick chimneys, used for burning bark.
Near the eastern end of Lago Fagnano, the road splits: the left fork is the more scenic, old, unsealed RN-3 route, which cuts north across the lake along a splendid causeway; the right is the RN-3 bypass, the more direct route to TOLHUIN, the region’s oddest little town. Created in the 1970s, Tolhuin was designed to provide a focus for the heartland of Isla Grande – indeed, the name means “heart-shaped” in Selk’nam – but as a place of unassuming houses that hangs together with little focus, it has an artificial commune-like feel. It does, however, make a useful halfway point to break the journey – as most buses do – between Ushuaia and Río Grande.