Saturday 27 to Wednesday 31 January and Friday 9 February
Arriving on a small turbo prop over the end of the Andes is perhaps one of the most exciting entries to Ushuaia and in fact to the country. The sky had been overcast most of the way but allowed for glimpses of mountains, glaciers, alpine lakes and bays in this rugged countryside.
There were only six passengers on the flight. As we disembarked our bags were taken on a luggage conveyor and we were escorted to immigration and then to customs. It was VIP treatment going through the formalities.
We taxied to the hotel and got settled. It was cool but manageable. We were at 55° 48’ south, the most southern city in the world. It is mild, Wikipedia says the average temperature is between 1°C and 10°C year round.
After checking out the shops and finding some waterproof pants for Bruce and a rain cover for our backpack we checked out dinner options. Ushuaia seems to run on Spanish time with shops closing in the middle of the day and restaurants not opening until 8pm. Even the souvenirs shops seemed to be taking advantage of the siesta closing, perhaps in collusion with the restaurants and cafes that are also open for lunch.
The next day we took a bus to the Tierra del Fuego (land of fires) to ride the prisoner train.
Being Sunday it was quiet. Unfortunately we bought tickets for the bus that takes you to the train, and they sold us entry to the park but no ticket. When we got to the train station we had to buy the real tickets for the National Park. $P350 each (about $AUD13). We don’t often get duped but we were this time.
The train runs on a very narrow gage. The journey is about half the original distance, built by convicts who were sent to the end of the world to ensure a presence here. Their job was to cut down trees to create sleeper tracks and then buildings. It was hard work in the cold climate but we were told the prisoners preferred to get out and work rather than being confined to their cold cells with nothing to do. In fact confinement was a form of punishment.
The scars of the cut down trees was a sad indictment on the legacy of the prison camps. It must take years for them to be replaced as the prison camp was closed in the 1940s and the stumps still dominate the landscape.
It was pretty at ‘the end of the world’. We called into the post office and sent postcards and walked through a beautiful forest.
The next day people started to arrive for the Antarctic adventure. We caught up with Gail, Maggie & John and Alex & Janine as well as a new set of fellow travellers. We had booked our tour through Hampton Travel and Cruise. This is our second tour with them, the first was at the beginning of our nomadic days in 2012, to Egypt.
There is not a great deal to do in Ushuaia, it is a stepping off point to mountain adventures in both summer and winter, as well as embarkation for Antarctic cruises.
There was an interesting memorial to the fallen of the Malvinas Islands War. Argentina was not well prepared for what we know as the Falkland’s war, sending young inexperienced soldiers. They suffered a much higher casualty rate and eventually surrendered to the British.
And we saw our first of what were to many, memorials to Eva Peron. We are in for an interesting into Argentina.
Perhaps the highlight of our time in Ushuaia was visiting the prison museum. In actual fact there were a number of distinct exhibitions with their own titles but all held within the old prison, which was built in the style of the day with radiating wings. In the main wing each cell had its own exhibition telling stories of explorers and other people who had an impact in the region including Antarctica.
Another wing had been left in its original state, cold and dank.
The day finally came to board the SS Expedition for Antarctica. Boarding was at 4, but basically it took most of the afternoon to assemble, shuffle to the bus stop, get loaded into the bus, drive the short distance to the port and then shown onto the ship.
But that’s another story.
We arrived back to Ushuaia after an amazing 9 day cruise, spending our last night on the ship in port amongst calm seas.
We were back in the world of communication and enjoyed a very long coffee and internet catch up. We wanted to ship our jackets home, so we bought a soft case to hold them and the majority of our cold weather clothes.
Another long day of travelling with a mid afternoon flight to Buenos Aires. It was 8pm by the time we arrived at our hotel and were directed to a great Spanish restaurant around the corner, Tankar.