Having survived the slightly nuts 14 hour bus journey from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia via the Chilean / Argentinian border, we were ready from some end of the world action.
Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city and everything based here comes with the tagline “el fin del mundo” – tours, streets, boats, beer – anything that you can think of. You can even choose from 4 Fin Del Mundo stamp in the Tourist Office for your passport – so we did. That said we loved every minute of it and it is a stunning place to visit surrounded by snow peaked mountains and grey icy water.
As you will notice from the following entries, the weather is very changeable in this part of the world – well we are only 700 miles from Antarctica.
We intended to start with a nice, leisurely cruise but Sunday was windy and our boat tour of the Beagle Channel was cancelled. So instead we jumped into a cab to the Cerro Martial and hiked up to the Glaciar Martial which sits as the back drop to Ushuaia. It’s a nice easy walk up a ski slope and then a not so easy scramble up a steep slope to the view-point of the glacier behind and a sweeping vista of the bay below. We slid back down on our bums and did the 2 hour potter back into town though the forest via a fairly badly marked pathway (note: if you’re reading this about to do the walk – follow the stones and tree markings in yellow – just so you don’t end up ankle-deep in a bog in the wrong direction).
Monday, the wind had dropped and our tour of the Beagle channel was back on despite grey skies. The grey water of the channel forms the border between Chile in the south and Argentina in the north, in the middle of the channel are a set of islands all adopted by different animals – sea lions on some, cormorant colonies on others, and a final island with a white and red striped lighthouse that directs the ships either side of the channel.
The weather looked like it was closing in just as we neared the light house but as we swung round the sun came out and Wayne nabbed some stunning photos. He’s gonna put them up on a separate post.
Tuesday morning was wet so after a morning of pottering we hired a car and with Steve, an Australian guide fresh back from working on a boat in Antarctica, we headed out of town towards Estancia Harberton. We had some experience of Argentinian road rules in Mendoza, but I was glad Ushuaia is a quiet town as there are no road markings (no idea where you stop on at a red light), and apparently the road to the right has priority – unless… the road joining is up or downhill… I may have run one or 2 red lights in the first 10 minutes and possibly cut up the odd driver coming down one of the joining roads but a quick guide from Lucas at the hostel soon sorted me out.
As soon as we left town the sun came out and the rest of the day was beautiful (weather sure is changeable).
The Estancia Harberton was founded in 1886 by a Brit, Thomas Bridges (an orphan from Scotland found under St Thomas’ Bridge). It’s a lovely 2 hour drive out from Ushuaia past curved bandera trees bent double from the fierce winds that hit this remote part of the coast. Thomas shipped the house in pieces from the UK and it is the oldest structure in Tierra Del Fuego. Justina our guide took us on a tour of the gardens and the work houses. It’s a beautiful house in a picturesque setting which could have been transplanted from Cornwall – but probably only on a nice day. The good weather can lull you into a false sense of the serene, during one bad winter the farm was under 3 meters of snow from April to September and they lost 80% of their sheep.
There was also a mini museum – Museo Acatushun – with skeletons of the local wildlife in front of paintings of the animals. Orcas, sea lions and seabird skeletons including a rare beaked whale show the structure. Most were found at San Sabastian where the tide often leaves animals stranded.
Wednesday morning we only had half a day so we headed into the National Park Tierra Del Fuego to see the main highlights. Only some of the park is open to the public with short easy trails and campsites filled with stunning views and stupidly tame bunnies. We took in the mirror-like Largo Roca, a view-point at Laguna Verde and finally climbed the view-point and took the jetty trail at Muelle Puerto Arias. We headed back into town to say good-bye to the lovely folks at Hostel La Posta, dump the car and check in for our next boat trip – a cruise around Cape Horn.