Ushuaia: End of the World

January 12, 2010 - 5:47 pm No Comments

The clouds over Ushuaia (oo-shoo-WHY-ah) were thick. Didn’t see anything until we were touching down, and even then, just runway and airport. The forecast for the next few days is for clouds and rain, but we’re hoping for the best. The soggy roads and overflowing streams all around Ushuaia are evidence that it’s already been raining for a few days.

Our hotel, the comfortable but difficult to pronounce Los Ñieres, is just outside of town, so we dropped off our stuff and headed back into town to get some dinner. We chose a seafood place on the water called Volver and had an enormous dinner with a couple of King crabs watching us from their tank.

Being the southernmost city at the height of summer, the sun stays up in the sky much later. I confirmed sunset as having occurred at precisely 10:07pm, probably the latest sunset I’m ever going to see. There’s actually a hint of light in the sky all the way up to midnight.

We stopped at an Irish Bar called Dublin, recommended to us by one of our drivers, for a quick drink. While it was the closest thing to a bar that we’ve seen in South America, there weren’t many people, and the best-looking girl in the place looked like Gheorghe Mure?an. So we called it a night.

Woke up early this morning to find clouds in the sky but no rain. Lucky. We were picked up by a guy named Frasco and joined a small group for a canoe trip through Beagle Channel and trek through the forests of Tierra del Fuego. Frasco’s tour was conducted almost entirely in English, which was wonderful.

Despite the strong currents, the canoe ride was peaceful and scenic. The older Austrian couple we shared our boat with were good paddlers and good conversationalists.

Doug in the Canoe

Paddling Over Kelp

Orange Lichen on the Beach

We visited Hammer Island, also known as Penguin Island, one of the only places in South America where Magellanic and Gentoo penguins have nesting grounds. We weren’t allowed to get to scratch their bellies or anything, but it was pretty cool seeing them in the wild. A stiff, rainy breeze make things pretty chilly for us humans.

On Penguin Island

Our trek through the forest took us over moist, squishy ground that sounded hollow when you stomped on it. The rugged wilderness, with its varied landscape of snow-capped mountains, thick forest, rocky shores, and crystal clear water, reminds me a lot of New Zealand. I imagine it’s what Alaska is like, too.

Rain on the Barn

Broken Fence

Stopping at streams that had been dammed by beavers, Frasco explained how they are an invasive species, destroying forest and growing uncontrollably due to the absence of natural predators.

Dam Beavers

Considering how far south we are, I’m really surprised with how lush and green everything is. Looking at where this place is on a map, I figured we’d be wearing five layers of clothing to keep warm and tramping through snow, but it’s actually pretty warm when the sun comes out, and the only snow is on top of mountains in the distance.

Back at the hotel now, dirty and hungry. Not sure if it’s the ozone hole overhead, but the redness on our faces that was just starting to fade away is back again after today’s hike. We only have five hours of daylight left, so we better get a move and find some dinner.

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