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Argentina: Buenos Aires, Iguazu, Ushuaia
Ushuaia, Argentina: End of the world
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Ushuaia is a quiet little town at the end of the world. The southern tip to be precise. The town thrives on tourism. It's a ski destination in the winters and, of course, the boarding destination to cruise The Antarctica in the summers.
We arrived at the Ushuaia airport in the evening. It was 5 hour flying from Iguazu (with a change of plane in Buenos Aires). For the night we checked into Hotel Los Acebos, situated on the edge of the mountain about 20 minutes drive from the airport. The hotel gives an excellent view of Ushuaia town and the Beagle channel. A taxi ride from downtown Ushuaia would cost just about Argentine $15 (at the time of writing, US $1 fetched Argentine Peso 3.80).
We were scheduled to board our ship 'The Ushuaia' at 6 PM the next evening. Since we had to report at 4 in the afternoon, we had the morning to explore the Tierra del Fuego National Park the entrance of which is about 15 kms from Ushuaia. This 63,000 hectares park borders with Chile. The main island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago was first occupied by man some 10,000 years ago. The various tribal groups which occupied the area integrated well with the environment which may definitely look hostile to the modern man.
The park was once occupied by the Yamana. This tribe lived naked on the shores of the beagle channel and Lake Roca. They moved around in canoes made from sheets of bark hunting sea lions. However, the tribe became extinct after the arrival of the European explorers since 1890. The tribe was in perfect harmony with nature with sunshine and rain delivering necessary hygiene. Clothes offered by the explorers were the cause of disease - looks like having nothing on is better than moving around with dirty linen!
The entrance to the National Park is Peso 50. Tarred road allow you to drive within the zone open to public. Many camping sites & walking trails dot the park. While we drove most of the time, we opted for a 3 kms trail that took us through thick forest with many species of flora. We were lucky to cross hares and some native birds. The trail took us up a little mountain. A platform atop, gave us spectacular view of Lake Roca below. We walked down and hopped in our van which was waiting for us at the lake to take us to the world's last post office (on the southern tip) on the edge of Ensenada Bay. Overlooking Chile, we mailed a few postcards back home. Just opposite to the post office was an area occupied by the Yamana tribe.
We moved around a bit stopping for pictures. We left the park at 2 and were at the Ushuaia pier at 3 all excited to cruise the Antarctica - 10 days away from it all. No newspapers, no TV, no internet. Only bliss.
The Antarctica expedition worked for us as planned. Weather was favourable. Whilst in Antarctica, the clock doesn't decide your schedule. The weather plans it for you. And sure enough, on our last day, a major earthquake 300 kms from Ushuaia, falling on our route, struck. The shake on the Drake (I urge you to check my note on Antarctica Expedition) was more dramatized. Anyway, all's well that ends well. After 10 days of amazement on the islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula, we docked on the Ushuaia pier at 7 in the morning. By the time we got off the boat, it was 8:30. Our flight to Buenos Aires would leave at 2 PM. We had time on hand to return our hired gear (parkas & water resistant pants) and explore Ushuaia on foot.
At the end on San Martin Avenue is the Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia. The museum is a must see. The entry fee is Peso 50 per head and is valid for all the sections of the museum which consists of history, maritime, old jail and a couple of art galleries. The visit was an eye-opener. The lives and times of the Yamana tribe, the struggle of civil & political prisoners of the pre independence era, about explorers and their Antarctica Expeditions, intricate models of ships of the era gone by and modern art ensured that the few hours we had on hand were very well spent.
The spirit of Ushuaia could be well soaked in by walking the entire stretch of the town's main road - Avenida San Martin. San Martin was a national hero. Almost all towns and cities in Argentina would have a major street named after him. In Ushuaia, the road has boutique stores, shopping malls, curio shops, bistros, restaurants, the tourist office and a casino. Little homes with little gardens with colourful flowers added to the town's beauty. Our lunch was pizza and coke at one of the restaurants out there.
At a designated place, opposite the Ushuaia pier, our agent picked us up at 1 PM. Off to the little airport to board our flight to tango in Buenos Aires.
Ushuaia Image Gallery Photo viewer
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