After a one night return trip to El Calafate (and my worst hotel experience ever) we were off to Ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world, also known as the Gateway to Antarctica. I pushed this on our vacation, figuring if going south, might as well go as south as we can aside from boarding a cruise ship for Antarctica. The city has somewhere around 60,000 people – and was very bustling compared to the El C’s, even if far more gray. Well, aside from the bursts of color from lupins, which are all. over. The city had the distinction of being a prison colony in the past, with prison labor building many of the city’s original structures.
Our place was located pretty out of city center, but at least near a supermercado, an odd one, but a supermercado. Our place was pretty new, had a laundry (woo-hoo!) And, being Argentina, the cab ride would run 100 pesos, which sounds a lot, but ultimately translates to about $7.50.
The top of Mount Fitz Roy got cold, the Perito Moreno glacier got cold, but in all Patagonia had been far warmer than I expected. Ushuaia, on the other hand, did not disappoint. The mountain behind our apartment got a light dusting of snow our fir st night there. This was during the height of their summer.
As with the “Glacier Trek”, we got shafted on the “Walk with Penguins” tour. Sold. Out. (Again, book in advance, travel peeps. Better overpay than miss out.) We did manage to book a boat trip that took us out into the bay, and with the location familiarized, we checked out some of the city. Enjoying some time out of the cold and light rain to take in some tea and souvenir hunt.
Next morning we got up early, hiked to the cab stand and off we went to our boat trip. We found a window-side table with an Argentine, and were later joined by Taewon, a Korean taking some time off between school and work to explore South America, and a lady friend he’d been traveling with as their hostels matched. Poor guy was told to pack light, as it was “summer” and his three layers of light windbreakers were no match for the actual COLD once the ship left the immediate harbor and was subjected to unimpeded Antarctic winds. I loaned him my gloves as, even though I’ve been living in Guam, Arizona and Asuncion for the past 30 years, I react much better to cold than heat. (With one look at my near translucent skin and this shouldn’t surprise you.)
The boat trip had us pass close to little islands where cormorants, sea lions, and later, the star attraction, penguins hung out. At this point all the people would pour out of the warmth of the ship and mash into one another snapping pics.
Personally, I preferred and thoroughly enjoyed the other chunk of the trip, when in-between attraction islands. I had the starboard/right side of the upper deck all to myself and embraced the cold while just being mindboggled just looking to the horizon of nothing more than mountains and ocean. The end of the world, pretty much. Was just amazing to contemplate.
(You’ve read enough words. Now penguins.)
After we got back, Taewon had to run, literally, as his flight for his next SA adventure was leaving in 30 minutes. Katie and I had time on our side, found a nice bar/restaurant that served a simply amazing seafood soup.
With our remaining time in Ushuaia we rode the Train at the End Of The World, otherwise known as the convict train that used to transport the convicts from the prison to their backbreaking days chopping wood to build more prison (and town) and back again. Most prisoners opted in to work as it was better than sitting in a cold cell all day.
We also lunched at a well recommended restaurant and “museum” (from the knickknacks they had all over), where I gambled on, and really enjoyed, the daily special – a version of a pot pie with a bread shell, some cheese, gravy and some awesome cordero.
Afterwards, we went to prison, where Katie threatened to leave me. Beyond the horrible, Spartan conditions of the prison, we also got to see an art gallery in a former wing.
We enjoyed Ushuaia, but unless hoping to score a “discount” Antarctic cruise (unfilled cabins can be picked up in town for the dirt-cheap rate of like $5,000) or walk with penguins, this would be the easiest part of the trip to trim in favor of more time at other points. But at least next time I’m on a plane with a random stranger listing off all the places they’ve been, I’ve got the Southernmost City in the World up my sleeve.