Ushuaia- (U sh why a), Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

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March 2nd 2015
Published: March 2nd 2015
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Ushuaia- (U sh why a), Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Today we awoke after traversing part of the Beagle Channel in the absolutely beautiful city of Ushuaia. It was before dawn and the lights were on in the city with a background of snow covered mountains. There was not a leaf moving. The waters were so still and the air was still. Pristine. It is truly spectacular.

Ushuaia is a modern city on the Grand Island of Tierra del Fuego originally founded as a prison much like Australia. Today it is a bustling town of 70,000 population with no unemployment or crime. The government, in order to encourage people and companies to move here, declared this to be a “no tax” area, so our tour guide, who moved here 7 years ago loves living here and is so glad she left Buenos Aires for Ushuaia. We love the clean air and the fresh feel of the town, although it is quite chilly, and our tour guide reminded us it is only 20 days until the fall season begins here yet the leaves have not turned yet.

The Beagle Channel was named after the ship that brought Charles Darwin here. Unfortunately, along with Darwin, the Europeans (as in many parts of the world), also brought disease. This part of the world has been inhabited for 10,000 years. The Yamana Indians lived here in Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fires). When Magellan came through he saw all the fires of the Yamana and named the area, Tierra del Fuego. The Yamana did not wear clothes and the temperatures here range from 40F-60F. They would cover themselves with sea lion fat to keep themselves warm. They lived in little domed twig houses and moved around in canoes made from bark. They hunted sea lions and harvested mollusks. Later they used sea lion pelts to cover themselves in the winter. Unfortunately these people are totally extinct. Two things happened to them since 1890… they got European diseases they couldn’t fight off; they also were hunted down or poisoned by the early European colonists in order to have easy access to their sea lion colonies. In 1880 there were 3000 Yamanas, 1890, 1000 and by 1920 there were none. Sad. Every country it seems has something like this in their history.

Our tour today was drive to the End of the World, Tierra del Fuego National Park. It was green and lush with mountains on all sides, lakes and rivers (some fresh water, and some sea estuaries from the Beagle Channel). It wasn’t tropical since we aren’t in the tropics but it looked more like a forest you would see in say, North Carolina or the south.

We visited two lakes Lago Roca (also known by its Yamana name, Lago Acigami) and Bahia Lapataia. At one lake we watched some people take off in rubber boats across a lake. It is still really cold here and they were bundled up. Hearty people ;-) We could see sign of beaver, which have multiplied so significantly that they are considered a threat. When they were imported for a good reason, it was discovered the environment here did not produce the quality beaver pelts as in Canada, where they were brought from.

But the most fun was standing at the very end of Argentina Highway 3, better known as the Pan American Highway. This highway runs from Alaska all the way south to this point in Argentina totaling 17,848 km. Now we want to go back to Alaska to find the beginning of the highway thereJ.

Our last stop was the Park Service Museum, Gift Shop and Restaurant where we spotted some type of huge Hawk of some type way up in a tree.

Back in town we took a walk and ended up at Andino Gourmet Restaurant on one of the main streets. We had a fantastic lunch of fresh Argentinean coffee and bruschetta. Loved the coffee, or maybe it was just because it was so much better than on the cruise ship! The town is full of young people, and has good medical facilities, as we discovered when our debarkation was delayed waiting for an ambulance to pick up a patient from the cruise ship. The shops were great, and we really took advantage of this! Paola became great friends with Jean in a lovely shop.

As we started our return to the cruise dock we heard that the tourist center was giving our certificates that said you’d come to the End of The World ;-) so of course we hot footed it over there for one. Georgina was delightful as she wrote our names on the certificates ;-) The day was so beautiful we lingered as long as we could on the dock but alas, eventually we had to board.

Ushuaia (which we now know how to spell and say ;-) is a lovely spot. If you are the kind of person who loves Alaska, you would absolutely love the Land of Fire.

Next Port: Up the Beagle Channel then the Straits of Magellan to Punta Arenas, Chile

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