Ushuaia – Beagles and the End of the World
And so we proceed: over the cold southern wastes of Argentina to the end, the southern tip and Ushuaia. As the plane edges over Tierra del Fuego and comes into land row upon row of vicious looking, mountainous serrations lining Lago Fagnano loom close. Then we’re over the Beagle channel and down.
Ushuaia was a pointless destination, why did I want to come here: because it is the End, the Continental Nadir and the closest we can get to Antarctica without serious cash and an ex-military plane equipped for landing on ice. Also, Tierra del Fuego is a cool name, it evokes a reaction. It comes from the fires that the explorer Magellan saw on the Islands as he first navigated here. He believed they were a sign the Indians would attack. I think they were just cold. The region is comprised of one large island, home to Ushuaia and many many smaller ones.
At this point I need to do some gentle ribbing of our good friends and sometime fellow travellers Chris and Gayle. They didn’t get this far south, afraid there was too much snow and ice. They’re from London; us double-hard Scottish bampots have arrived as winter has it’s hold on the land. Cold doesn’t scare us, plus we’ve both got super-colourful mittens from Bolivia!
So what’s it like: tin sheds hunkered down against mighty snow drifts, inhabited by a hardy race of wizened, shrivelled, pipe smoking sailors and adventurers? Nope, it’s a modern town full of normal people, supermarkets with vegetarian burgers, decent facilities some resortish looking hotels, fast internet, a large harbour, a naval base and an above average complement of outdoor clothing shops. It’s not even snowing for f***s sake! In fact for our stay the temperature remains between 0C and 10C with clear sunny days and the odd bit of rain. It’s clearly a more civilised and spikier-mountained version of Fort William.
The town is at the base of the vicious mountains and rises steeply from the shore. To the South lies the Beagle Channel, a delineation of the border between Argentina and Chile. There are a couple of small towns on the Chilean side but we won’t let that minor detail get in the way of our claim to be in the most southerly city on the continent.
Our hostel (Martin Fierro) is run by Javier, a very cool ex-lawyer who has moved into a more relaxed phase of life. He installs us into our cosy little apartment and helps us figure out what’s what. Across the road the Dublin Irish Pub starts a racket every night and carries on into the small hours.
Years ago, Alison and I jokingly defined a measure of a place’s civilisation as relying on the presence of an Irish pub and Mexican Restuarant. So Ushuaia is half-civilised! We should name that law …. “Lenton’s Law of Civilisation”.
So we spend our days, taking in the town, sourcing hot chocolate and cooking gourmet meals on our single burner stove.