Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Saturday, December 17, 2005

59. The End of the World (Ushuaia, Argentina)

My next destination from Punto Arenas in Chile's far south was Ushuaia, in Argentina's far south, in fact the southern-most city in the world. Unfortunately, there's only 2 buses a day to Ushuaia and they were already booked in advance, so I had to wait 3 days in Punto Arenas.

Traveller's note: Although it should be a short journey from Punto Arenas to Ushuaia across the Strait of Magellen, it's not, in fact the route goes north up to Punto Delgada and then all the way back down again to Ushuaia, 12 hours in total. This final 12 hour journey meant I'd pretty much come through Chile for nothing, as I could have gone direct from El Calafate to Ushuaia in about the same time and for about the same cost.

Ushuaia sits at 54 degrees south on the massive island of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) at the very bottom of South America, as close as you can get to Antarctica. Back in the old days Argentina followed Britain's example of Australia by shipping their worst convicts off to Ushuaia, since being a remote island, escape from a prison on Tierra del Fuego would have been impossible.

Antarctica
Antarctica, with South America at right

Despite being at the end of the world, Ushuaia was very nice. Surrounded by mountains and sea, it sits on the Beagle channel, through which came Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s. It's also usually the last stop for cruise ships on their way to Antarctica, thus it's possible to pick up a last minute return ticket to Ushuaia for around US$2500. That's a 10 day excursion everyone would love to do, but out of my budget. There's plenty of tourist activities to do in Ushuaia, but I already had my flight booked so I only had 2 days there.
Because we're so far south and it's nearly summer, it gets dark really late and light really early. Sunset is at about 10pm (although it's not dark until 11) and sunrise is at about 5am. And Argentina doesn't have daylight saving time either!

Ushuaia - 07 - Sunrise
Sunrise over the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia

The first day me and an Argentinian guy Mauricio walked up what is a skifield in winter (dry now in summer) to see the Martial Glacier. After 2 hours of walking I don't know if that glacier exists, if there's one there it must be covered with snow because we couldn't see anything. Nevermind, the views of Ushuaia from the top were worth the walk.

Ushuaia - 08 - Park axe
The trail up to the glacier

Ushuaia - 10 - View
Looking down on Ushuaia

The next day a group of us decided to check out the National Park there in Ushuaia. Most of the trails can be covered in a long day of walking, so that's what we did. The walk covered all sorts of forest as well as nice coastal views.

Ushuaia - 21 - Beagle channel
Beagle channel again

Years ago they released Canadian beavers into the wild here, I was hoping to see one as I've never seen them except in a cartoon, but I'm told you'll only find them when no one's around, in the early morning or late at night. I did see their handywork though, which was dam impressive (heh). The mountain of sticks they'd created was holding back a wall of water about a meter high and 30m long.

Ushuaia - 17 - Beaver dam
Beaver dam

And that was it for my 2 days in Ushuaia. It was dissapointing to have come all that way to the end of the world and only spend 2 days there, but I'd wasted 2 days waiting for a bus in Punto Arenas. And I was looking forward to taking a flight for a change as I'd been bussing everywhere so I figured I deserved a plane ride. Flying is usually about twice the price of the buses, but then you have to add in the cost of airport taxes and taxis to and from the airport which dent the budget some more. But you get some good views:

Ushuaia - 25 - Town view
Ushuaia's airport, with the city in background at the foot of the mountains

2 Comments:

  • I'm very jealous - have always wanted to go to Tierra del Fuego. Even the name is cool!

    You didn't say where you flew to. BA again?

    By Blogger Nasty McFly, at 8:38 AM  

  • I flew to El Calafate, then on to Bariloche. More soon...

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 9:02 AM  

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