Leonard Bernstein and the Fin del Mundo
Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
117Trip End Ongoing
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I've had a few memorable birthdays - and at least one I don't remember at the Green Door - and this one is up there. Following the excitement of the glaciers I spent 16 hours of April 17th on a bus from the rapidly sprawling town of El Calafate (get there before it turns into Disney with Ice) to Ushuaia the southern-most city in the world. I say on a bus, but a good portion of that was waiting at border crossings, because the only way to get to Ushuaia is by driving through the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego. This entails getting off the bus and queuing to get out of Argentina, back on the bus for a few minutes, then back off to queue to get into Chile, wait for a barge to cross the Straits of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego, then go through the same laborious paperwork again to get out of Chile and back into Argentina
As you might expect, it was quite cold and the the smallish town was surrounded by mountains covered in fresh snow. As you might not expect, even though I was at the 'fin del mundo' I was only at latitude 54 degrees south of the equator - about the same as Liverpool is north of the equator (London is 51 degrees north - thank god for the gulf stream). It is from here where all the trendy Antarctic cruise boats leave full of fat old whiteys but the last one for the season left in mid-March (10 days for US$3,500) so unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to stow away - or the need to steal Jo's credit card.
I found a very relaxing hostel to stay in with some good people - including three from the Navimag ferry. There was also young Izzy and Elise a couple of very posh 18 year old London bints travelling on mummy and daddy's money, seemingly inspired by their heriones in The Simple Life. They should be given a bit of credit though as they didn't want to go around Australia and New Zealand with all their posh friends but decided to come to South America instead
There are plenty of things to do in Ushuaia, and one afternoon was spent being thrown around a boat in the Beagle Channel visiting windswept islands and rocks with smelly sealions, as well as Jules Verne's "Lighthouse at the End of the World." My plan for St. George's Day was to wave a Cross of St. George flag down at the Islas Malvinas Memorial Park and send a photo to your super soaraway Sun but I was talked out of it.
After a few days pottering around town, getting followed by packs of stray dogs and having snowball fights on ski slopes it was time to figure out an escape plan. As I couldn't get a bus any further south it meant a torturous journey back the way I came. Helen and Jo wussed out and flew to Rio Gallagos (thus skipping the border crossings) and I took the bus to Punta Arenas in Chile (only two immigration stops).
Remember Wendy the Friendly Aussie I met in Brisbane? As luck would have it she'll be in Buenos Aires on May 5th so I have a week and a half to make my way over 2,000 miles northeast. My Nasdaq-issue windbreaker has held up great on this trip but unfortunately it hasn't been quite warm enough for the fin del mundo. Therefore - and also because I'm losing my tan - I'll be heading somewhere warmer up north, probably Puerto Varas in Chile then back to Bariloche before the long bus trip east to Buenos Aires.