It's the end of the world as we know it....

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jan 20, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

El fin del aņo al fin del mundo. It seems appropriate, somehow. A strange week or so. Travelled to Punta Arenas in Chile on Christmas Eve. Punta Arenas is the most southerly city on mainland South America. It also marks, more or less, the mid-point of Chile, as the Chileans, expansionists that they are, have claimed a stretch of territory from Tierra Del Fuego to the South Pole. Not many people live in it, mind, but it is Chilean.
Christmas Eve was ridiculously quiet. I arrived with Ingo in the evening, we dropped our stuff at the hostel and went off to look for somewhere to eat. Everything was closed. Everything. Or as near to everything as makes no odds. One restaurant was open, but it was packed. No chance of going there. We eventually found a pub. No food, but beer would do. It was, after all, Christmas Eve. But the pub shut at 9.00, too. So we got some carry-outs, and went back to the hostel, for a Christmas feast of beer and crisps. But I was shocked at the heretical nature of these people. Do they not understand the true meaning of Christmas? Excessive consumption - particularly of alcohol on Christmas Eve? Are they heathens? Something needs to be done.
This bad start notwithstanding, though, Punta Arenas is a very pleasant town. Colourful buildings. The Magellan Straits. A cemetary that's reminiscent of the Recolleta in Buenos Aires (albeit smaller). And a penguin colony nearby. Yay - penguins. Everybody loves penguins. Less hilly than Puerto Natales - the drive down was through a landscape becoming progressively flatter, but still bleak and impressive.
Then on to Tierra Del Fuego. Ushuaia. The most southerly city in the world. Well, there is Puerto Williams, just over the Chilean border, but that's little more than a fishing village. This is a city.
Crossing the Magellan straits was easy. Flat. Calm. What's the problem? Thirteen hours on a bus, and we arrive. The landscape reverting to hills, as we get closer. Carved out by glaciers and wind. The city itself looks almost Swiss at times. Surrounded by mountains and water. Chalet-like buildings. It could be a North London jubilee line stop. Or am I getting confused?
Twelve kilometres or so away is Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Lots of easy walks. Only a few hours each. I strolled along by the Beagle Channel. It seemed deserted. Cold, with only the sound of the wind, water and birds (in the forest more audiable than visible). And rabbits. Lots of rabbits. An introduced species that seem to have proliferated there. Much like the beavers. Brought from North America, and now wreaking havoc with the eco-system. I could have told them that. There's a song by those loveable popsters Alien Sex Fiend - "Beavers Destroy Forests". You can learn so much from pop music.
Alien Sex Fiend - whatever happened to them?
Oh well. Feliz Aņo Neuvo...
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