Ushuaia, Argentina is a relatively small city, located about as far south as one can go without swimming or living on Antartica. This is the southernmost city in the world and the capital of Tierra del Fuego. Known as “The End of the World”, it sits on a U-shaped harbor in the Beagle Channel, where many an arctic explorer has departed from. Originally populated as a penal colony, today the town is home to over 70,000 full-time residents.
I’m including a few maps to try to orient you to where we are. Tierra del Fuego is in black on the second map, all the way to the south of Argentina.
Not docking today until noon, we were instructed to wait for our scheduled tour in the Princess Theater. Not quite as efficient as normal, it took us an hour before we managed to get off the ship and into our waiting bus for our half-day excursion entitled “Maritime Museum and Mountain Drive”. I was mainly interested in seeing more of the scenery, especially the gorgeous mountains, and this tour included the Tierra Mayor Valley, and views of Lago Escondido/Lago Fagnano.
I have found the excursions on this cruise to be especially expensive – even more than normal. But they do have us rather at their mercy, as having traveled this far, we do not want to miss seeing some of the wonderful sights we have traveled so far to witness. This five-hour tour was $205.95 per person. Gulp!!!
Driving through town, I got a kick from how they managed to embrace their penal colony origins with fanciful characters hanging from the windows as if escaping from custody.
Another stop at a roadside cafe, where we spotted dozens of dogs, each chained to his/her own dog house. They were enthusiastically waiting their turn to be harnessed to pull an all terrain vehicle during the summer, or a sled during the winter.
One of our first vista photo stops was at Valle Carbajal with the snow-capped mountain peaks in the background.
On to Lake Escondido, also called “Hidden Lake”, for both close up and hillside views.
While at the overlook, one of the guides spotted two enormous condors soaring high overhead. These amazing birds have an impressive TEN FOOT wingspan. They appear so tiny in my picture, but I was still thrilled at having seen them in the wild.
Moving on down the road, our guide spotted a local mushroom growing as a parasite and stopped to pick up three so that we could examine them. They are edible, but supposedly have no flavor.
The red looking ground is a peat bog. They do not use the peat for burning or heat here as we witnessed in Ireland. Instead it is used to fertilize their gardens. Heat is provided by very inexpensive natural gas.
Stopping once again at the same roadside cafe, Las Cotorras refuge (a winter sports area), where we had earlier seen the dogs, we were treated to a small feast of local beef empanadas, a mixture of sandwiches were offered, as well as a variety of sweet pastries. Wine, coffee (served from a 50-year old jug), juice or a mug of the BEST hot chocolate were also included.
The final stop on our tour was for a 45-minute wander through the museum. Four sections were available for us to explore. The first section told about the penal colony and how the prisoners were housed/fed/treated (or mistreated).
Section two was an art exhibition.
Section three was the empty jail section which honestly gave me the creeps. The energy in there was oppressive, as if the ghosts of former prisoners still lingered, trapped in their agony. I could not get out of there fast enough.
Section four, included a gift shop, painted penguin statues plus an adorable five-minute looped video on penguins which certainly helped lighten the mood.
Back on board, we enjoyed viewing the beauty of the harbor town from our balcony, relaxed a while in our cabin and ate a late dinner in the Horizon Court Buffet.
Tomorrow will be a day at sea, with us passing by Cape Horn in the morning.
FUN FACT: Charles Darwin spent five years exploring the tip of South America in his ship, “HMS Beagle” and the Beagle Channel was named as a tribute to his vessel.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that we got to get outside of the city and see more of the stunning countryside, lakes and snow-capped Andes mountains.