Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego (more castellano)

8 Jun

I fly into Ushuaia.  Though often regarded as the southern most city in the world this title is actually held by Puerto Williams though the tourist information from Argentinia still lists it as the southern most city in the world.  It is pretty far south and pretty near the antartic so that is enough for me!  Plane journey into Ushuaia is totally stunning (and no my bag did not get a seatbelt of its own!).  Fly over Lake Fagnano which is wonderful and for some reason brings a tear to my eye.

Google translate provides this in Spanish as ara que una lágrima en el ojo.  That was certainly not one of the phrases I learned during the week of beginner Spanish in Buenos Aires but may come in handy during this trip! Maybe it is just after all the bizz of Buenos Aires that it is nice to see some clear skys and so so so much space!

Flying over Lake Fagnano

Lake Fagnano

Start chatting in my very poor spanish to the guy sitting next to me. He is a local of Ushuaia.  He works as an accountant and he too loves flying into Ushuaia.  Not sure why but the whole scene suddenly reminds me of Kevin Spacey arriving in the Newfoundland shipping village in The Shipping News.  Quite annoying really as everyone I try to say this to has not seen the movie so it does not make much sense to them at all. One of those conversation that starts “hey have you seen the Shipping News”, answer “no” so conversation is over very briefly. He offers me a lift into town with his sister.  I immediately like the feel of this place..

Stay at the Hostel Antartica which at 60 persos a night is expensive (about 10 quid) but which was recommended to me by an Australian guy who was in my room at my hostel at Buenos Aires.  This guy woke me up for my flight (no one ever told me that a mobile phone alarm has two settings – one for during the week and the other for the weekend..never having had to have an alarm at the weekend, I manage to set it for week only and sleep in for the flight save him waking me up!!!Thanks Peter wherever you are now!!!) Hostel is lovely.  They even show you to your room. Wow. Best bit about the place is the common room which has a double expanse ceiling, loads of info on treks and stuff in the local area and good music.

As I am checking in I meet Joe from England.  He is 19 and is travelling before he starts at University.  He has just travelled south with a guy he met in a car they bought which they then just left at another hostel. Sounds pretty cool as they stopped in all sorts of tiny villages and stuff.  Joe is leaving Ushuaia in the early hours of the next morning to go onto Punto Arenas.

Tierra del Fuego National Park

Tierra del Fuego

He has a 5am start but is keen to go on a hike.  So I drop off my bag and we head into town to get some supplies before going to the Tierra del Fuego National Park which was on my list of things to do in the area. Did I just say list? Sorry which sounded a very nice place to go.  Bump into my friend from the plane in town.  I told you this place was just like the Shipping News town “seal flipper pie” anyone?

Park is very beautiful though not that much different from Scotland. In fact some of the photos I take could be a mirror image of Scotland!!!! Still at least I feel at home so very far from home.  My initial fears about Ushuaia being the coldest and windest place on earth quickly dissolve.  It is actually pretty damn warm.  My other worry (got to have at least one good worry at a time) was that it would not be that pretty at this time of year. It is actually totally brill with the autumn colours.  My fear of travelling around the world in search of winter in every place I go is not proving to be so very successful so far!

Tierra del Fuego National Park

Land of fire

Have some mate with lunch which Joe has brought with him. Have tried mate once before but it is always nice to drink it.  I actually thought mate did not contain any caffeine but a quick search on my friend wikipedia explains that it actually does contain caffeine though less than coffee.  Basically it is like having tea with folk but you share a straw, which is called a gourd (which can be made of metal, plastic or wood) with the other folk who are drinking it.  It is somewhat of a social thing to take mate with folk in argentina and later in my travels will lead to me getting the keys to a house, making new friends in a tiny village and chatting to the sub-chief of an indigenous people..but better not jump ahead of myself.  Joe and I laugh over lunch about what he likes doing. He basically likes sitting.  He does not see the need to rush around and just likes to sit.  He does, however, like to go all different places in order to sit.  And by the ripe young age of 19 he is ridiculously well travelled.

Do some cool walks round the park and learn a really very useful spanish word “turbale” which means peat bog.  I am really sure this will come in very useful in the future!!! Somewhere and in some circumstance I am so going to be glad to know this word!

Me not too far from a turbal in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Turbals are cool

Have a nice night in the hostel chilling and drinking beer.  Grab some food at the supermarket with Joe.  When he walks in he says he needs to find some “speed” to keep him awake.  Am a little confused as did not think that supermarkets sold stuff like that.  Soon discover that speed is an energy drink in South America, a bit like red bull.

Meet some others in the hostel, a Swiss couple who have just done the “W” in Torres del Paine and Jenna, from England, Jonathan, from Australia and Ard-Jan from Holland.  Decide to go on a boat trip up the Beagle Channel the next day with Jenna and Jonathan.  Eat my body weight in steak.  After all it is Argentina.  Argentinians have the highest consumption of red meat in the world and with good reason.  This meat is amazing,tasty and super cheap.  Accompanied with some avocado (or palta in Spanish – man I am an expert in this language, resolve to self to try to use the words palta and turbale in the same sentence) which actually tastes of something, bizarre at home they are harder than concrete, making the making of guacomole like an industrial task involving power tools.

Boat trip is lovely. There is definitely something about being at the end of the world. Whether this is psychological or just the sheer beauty of the place, the freshness of the air, the wind from the sea, I don’t know but I definitely feel at home in Ushuaia.  It just seems to suck you in unhealthy from the city and spit you back out in top health.  You want to eat well, you want to trek, you want to feel the wind in your air.  I take to calling this the “Ushuaia effect” in the hostel.

Manage to fit in a small glacier.  The difficulty with seeing the biggest, highest, fastest growing, biggest drop, widest of things is that once you see smaller things they just don’t seem quite so impressive.  So, as I am writing this blog so late, and outwith target, I have now seen the damn Perito Moreno glacier which is totally and utterly huge (almost like a movie set actually it seems so unreal) so this has now made the Ushuaia glacier seem like a toy glacier for me. But still it was the first of many glaciers I encountered in my time in Patagonia (which is basically the southernmost part of south america and which is shared between Argentina and Chile which does, of course, mean constant currency changes and for me a pocketfull of loose change – the book my brother bought me to help me along on my travels “The Rough Guide to First Time Around the World” did warn me about this suggesting that you spend all loose change before leaving but with my usual chaotic style I fail to do that of course and am currently sitting with 953 chilean pesos in my pocket all in change- am not a millionaire – this actually equates to about one pound fifty!!!).

A tiny glacier at the end of the world

A baby glacier

Do another small trek in Ushuaia in training for Torres del Paine National Park.  Decided that if the Austrian couple who did not look fit as fiddles could manage it (though they did stay in refugios and not camp) that I can certainly do the trek so it is a 5 am bus to Punta Arenas, no “speed” needed as decided to just pay for a night in the hostel so could have a decent sleep.  What a funny journey. We are on and off the bus a hundred times to pass borders.  They feed us the world’s neatest sandwich – am unsure how they manage to make a cheese and ham sandwich have edges so sharp they could almost cut you! Also think the cheese and ham must be specially produced in triangles – no one could cut it that neatly.

Punta Arenas is quite a cool place.  Only have a short time there so just some time to walk along the harbour which was seemingly one of the most important harbours in Chile before construction of the Panama Canal because it was used as a coaling station by steamships travelling between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The Cementerio Municipal is amazing. Grave stones with inscriptions from all over the world, British, Spanish, Italian. The graves of the rich are hidden behind the most amazing bushes.  Also first time have seen crosses on their sides instead of straight up.

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas

Cementario Municipal, Punta Arenas

Cementario Municipal, Punta Arenas

Gravestones, Cementario Municipal, Punta Arenas

Gravestones, Cementario Municipal, Punta Arenas

Enough of Punta Arenas time to take on the challenge of the Torres….hasta luego….

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One Response to “Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego (more castellano)”

  1. 1cruzdelsur December 1, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Very good statement of your trip for Argentina, lei several very interesting post. Good luck in your trips for the world.
    Adiós…

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