Monday, November 8, 2010

Ushuaia, Argentina: THE END OF THE WORLD

We arrived in Ushuaia yesterday, after waking up at 2:30 a.m. to catch our 5:50 a.m. flight.  Not only did our airline move our flight up by seven hour to the ass crack of dawn the day before we were to leave, but we didn't find out until late the night before our departure that the airport we were supposed to fly out of had closed.  When I asked the lady who ran our hostel why?  She responded, "Agghh, it's just Argentina." in a thick accident.  So, instead of a 15 minute ride, we would have to pay 150 pesos to have a taxi pick us up as most Argentines clubs were just opening their doors.  Agghh, Argentina.  We arrived to a scene of relatively organized chaos at the airport. The closing of the domestic airport had left the larger airport overwhelmed and unable to deal with the sudden influx of passengers. As we walked through the sliding doors we were greeted to the sight of about 200 passengers waiting to check in to our airline.  In broken spanish, I asked the gentleman tending the entrance to the check in if this was the correct line for Ushuaia.  He pointed to the back of the line, where Christina slumped over our luggage cart, tired and discouraged.  Luckily, we had arrived to the airport nearly two hours early because when we found our way to that same gentleman nearly an hour later he, with emphatic gestures, pointed to the end of the line.  At that moment, Christina and I looked and saw a dimly lit sign for "Domestic Departures" hanging from the cieling.  We hauled ass to the check in desk and quickly realized that we were amongst a growing contingent of passengers that had fallen victim to the chaos.  We made our flight, thank god.  I felt terrible for Christina, who was suffering from a head cold and a very poor start to her 26th birthday. 

Arriving in Ushuaia after spending the past five days in the insanity that is Buenos Aires, we were in for a bit of a shock.  Imagine going 100 m.p.h. and then hitting the breaks and stopping, nearly completely.  This is what it's like going from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires.  Ushuaia is a town of about 60,000 people and the southern most city in the world.  Civilization south of Ushuaia consists of outposts for scientists and tourists visiting Antarctica.  We are about 1000K from Antarctica now.  It is 9:00p.m. and the sun is still shining.  This is a change that Christina and I both welcomed.  We left Chicago because we wanted to escape the madness of the city.  Arriving in Ushuaia, we both exhaled with a sigh of relief and although tired and travel weary, were excited to explore this sleepy seaside mountain town in the Tierra Del Fuego.

After getting our lodging situated, we headed into town to grab some stiff coffee (not hard to find here, espresso is the only form of coffee in S. America) and get on with our day.  We booked a tour of the beagle channel, where we would visit islands inhabited by seals, arctic birds and other wildlife.  Sitting atop the boat as we departed the dock, Christina and I both looked at each other and smiled.  Neither of us said a word, but as I sat tight with my arm around her and we took in the views of the Beagle Channel, the town of Ushuaia and the jagged snow capped mountains of Chile and Argentina, our thoughts were the same.  This is why we left, this is the experience we were looking for and had worked so hard to get to.  Life at the end of the world is a beautiful thing.

The end of the world, ain't it great!
Local wildlife.

Can you spot Waldo?

Our ride to the Island where we hiked for an hour.

Trekking on the Island.

Thankfully, Christina and I both popped some motion sickness pills before leaving.  The wind whipped up into a frenzy and the boat was pitching rather badly.  We had to skip one of the islands on the tour, because our ship could not handle the waves without sea-sickness spreading rapidly amongst our group of foreigners.  Inspite of the bitter cold and the waves, it was a story book day.  We spent roughly an hour on an uninhabited island, looking at the archeological remians of the natives that used to inhabit it and examining some of the local flora and fauna.  I even tried some berries that the natives used to eat.  No wonder they resigned themselves to seal blubber, they were so bitter I spent the next hour spitting out the acrid taste.

Later that night, Christina and I headed out for her birthday dinner.  We stopped in at a Chilean seafood restaurant and both battled exhaust from the never-ending day.  We stared across the table at each other, wishing our food would just eat itself so we could go home and go to bed. After engulfing an entire bowl of local crab meat, we crawled home and settled in for roughly 12 hours of sleep.

Today we woke up and decided to hike the Martial Glacier.  We took a taxi to the bottom and because the chair lift was not operating at the time we decided to hike to the top.  After roughly fifteen minutes of hiking up the steep incline, we were peeling off clothes like a stripper in Las Vegas.  Christina, an avid runner who recently trained for a half marathon was winded, but doing fine.  My beer gut and I, however, were having more trouble.  Towards the top, boot prints became scarce and it was clear that we were amongst only a handful of people who decided to venture all the way to the glacier.  Martial Glacier is like an ice cube compared to most of the glaciers in Patagonia.  And, hiking up a 45 degree angle for the last fifty minutes of the hike is enough to deter most people.  Determined, however, that we needed to make it to the top to prove to ourselves we were indeed fit enough for our five day hike of the "W" circuit in Torres Del Paine National Park, we eventually made it.  I'll be honest, the glacier is nothing spectacular.  In fact, when covered in snow as it was, it looks more an oversized ski hill in the Mid-West.  Regardless, the views from the top were spectacular. And, having the piece of mind that we hiked from nearly sea level, to nearly the top of a mountain, we were happy.  We popped a squat for fifteen minutes to enjoy the view, before spending another hour walking to the base.  After a cup of coffee at the base, we called a cab and headed to Ushuaia Prison.

Maybe the best view all day.  Ushuaia is in the background, at the bottom.

I had to squeeze a smile out for this pic.  I was hurting.

This is Christina kicking my ass.  She did not realize the slowest person sets the pace.

Look at me!  I am stoic mountain man!!!!

Ushuaia Prison.  Or, as the translated sign read: Is Ushuaia Prison, you in.

 The U.S. sent their worst prisoners to Alcatraz, the British to Austraila and the Argentines to Ushuaia.  We spent about an hour touring the prison turned make-shift museum learning both about Ushuaia as a hub of Antarctic exploration and its reputation as the last stop for many Argentine Convicts.  The Spanish to English translations were laughable, so was the spelling.  But given my broken Spanish, I certainly can't point the finger.  Exhausted, my dogs barking and legs burning, we headed back to our hostel after gathering some goodies for our 12 hour bus ride tomorrow through the mountains, to Punta Arenas, Chile.  Have to wake up at 4.a.m. to catch our bus and currently waiting for a pizza that I hopefully ordered correctly.  We will spend roughly the next two weeks hopping around Patagonia, so we need to prepare.  Ciao for now.  Thanks for following our Adventure.


1 comment:

  1. Clay! I cant believe the amazing journey you are having. Your blog has become my morning read with my coffee, one of the best parts of my day. Hope you both are having a great time!