The End of the World as we Know it

Trip Start May 03, 2005
Trip End Oct 31, 2005

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, September 19, 2005

"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!" Well, at least I did when the plane landed. It was a rather scary landing through high winds. It was like the pilot was driving in first gear the whole time. Phew!

I really couldn't help singing the REM song to myself as I was walking around Ushuaia, "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!". For those of you who do not know where this is, it is at the very southern tip of Argentina (officially the most southerly city in the world) and only 17km from Antartica.

Ushuaia has a lovely setting on the Beagle Canal and surrounding by snow capped mountains. I was actually surprised by the size of it until I heard that the Argentinian government had been trying to attract multi-national companies to the area using tax incentives. It must be working as I didn't see any old bangers and the place was generally well maintained and clean.

The first day I took a boat trip along the Beagle Canal in the freezing cold wind. Everyone on the boat literally ran outside to take photos and came straight back in again. We saw some seals on an island, a rather uninteresting lighthouse and then had a brisk walk around a very mundane island where there were some archaelogical finds of native indian activity - harpoons, pools of shellfish shells etc. etc. For me, the mountains on both the Chilean and Argentian side were fabulous, inspite of the weather closing in. I'm sure it is absolutely stunning in the summer. There is concern in the area that global warming has reduced the snow levels to such an extent that the skiing season here that normally runs until mid October has just ended, over 3 weeks early.

My favourite part of the Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) was its National Park - imagine being surrounded by lakes and snow capped mountains and you have a pretty good picture in your mind. They looked particularly stunning when the sun was shining. Needless to say that I walked my socks off and really enjoyed the feeling of complete isolation in the world (apart from the odd person walking or driving past).

Stayed in a lovely B&B, which was super expensive compared to my other 'homes' here. It was 14 pounds per night (as opposed to about 4 pounds in a dorm). For the first time in as long as I can remember (probably Ilha do Mel) that I didn't need to wear ear plugs to go to sleep. Heaven! There was also a stunning view from my window.

Had a day out with the blue rinse brigade on my last day and headed up to a huskie 'farm' and then the Hidden Lake. I have to say that the dogs rather upset me as they were all tied up and lying on muddy ground and looking seriously bored out of their heads. I paid 2 pesos to go in to give some of them a bit of affection. They didn't seem to be maltreated (apart from the obvious tethering) but they were virtually lining up to be stroked. I had to get out of there before I ended up kidnapping some of them. I really don't have the space in my rucksack.

The Hidden Lake (Lagua Escondido) was, true to its name, hidden in a freezing cold mist when we arrived at the viewpoint. We scurried down the dirt path to get out of the cold and I was amazed to see a condor literally 5 metres in front of me. Wow! This time I had my camera to hand but, of course, it moved off a little before I got a photo. Still rather pleased with myself. The people I was with were more concerned with getting out of the cold to notice it. You'd think it was something you saw everyday to them. I'm pleased to say that the sun gradually broke through the mist as we reached the lake. It was very pretty but I personally prefered Lagua Roca in the National Park.

Met up with some spanish girls who I had met briefly in Puerto Madryn and at the airport on the way to Ushuaia and we went for a few, but rather strong drinks. I don't know whether they were slurring or speaking slowly but I was rather impressed that I pretty much followed the whole conversation (in spanish, or should I say, Casteliano of course). Wow!!!
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