Monday, March 23, 2009

The end of the world, the beginning of life! Ushuaia, Argentina


Destination: Ushuaia, Argentina

Number of Days: 1

Times we took the: Boat/Ferry - 2 Bus/Minivan - 0 Train/Subway - 0 taxi/car - 0

Where we stayed: Star Princess

Favorite Restaurant: n/a

Best of: Ushuaia provided us with our first glimpse of sea lions in the wild!

Worst of: When you take a cruise you it seems like you never have enough time in port. We were only able to do a few of the many things on our wish list for Ushuaia. We would have loved to have had enough time to take in Tierra del Fuego and the glacier behind town.

The end of the road. Last stop before Antarctica. Or as they say in Ushuaia, "The end of the world, the beginning of life" Although there is the Chilean town of Puerto Williams across the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia belongs to Argentina and currently has the claim as the southernmost city. Given the rivalry of these two neighbors, I can only imagine how many advertisements there are for Chileans to move to Puerto Williams to steal that claim. Despite the debate, there is no disputing that Ushuaia is a tourist Mecca. The city takes full advantage of the novelty of it all, Fin del Mundo (End of the World) souvenirs abound. But that's only the tip of the iceberg, sort of speak. The area boasts a beautiful National Park in Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), arranges nearly all the ice breaker excursions to Antarctica (the boats that cost a minimum of $4000 per person for 10 days) and has a quaint charm of isolation from the rest of the world. There's a scenic train ride, a golf course, and a ski slope; all of course claiming that dubious distinction of the "Southernmost". Oh and did I mention the thousands of sea lions basking in the sun on one of the islands in the picture perfect Beagle Channel? You can even dive here, if you are into that just above freezing, dry suit diving, looking for old ship wrecks, in low visibility sort of thing. The town was once a thriving port serving as a stop on the way to California from New York during the gold rush years. Once the Panama canal opened, the town fell on hard times until the tourism trade put it back on the map. It was also here that Darwin spent several years studying the native tribe here before publishing his book on the origin of man creating the debate that still exists till this day. (All his work in the Galapagos, what he is more well known for, revolved around the evolution of animals; mainly birds. He didn't actually publish his human evolution theory until after coming to Ushuaia.)

We had a tough time trying to decide what to do in Ushuaia. There are so many choices here and we could have spent several days exploring this region. With only one day we decided that we wanted to see more wildlife and so when we arrived in Ushuaia we found a 4 hour catamaran cruise with Canoero Catamarans ($40) into the Beagle Channel that made stops at several islands to see the sea lions, black cormorants and several other types of bird life. The boat also took us around a lighthouse for a very nice photo with the snow covered peaks serving as a backdrop.

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After the catamaran cruise we wandered around town, The town has a quaint little village feel that one might expect given it's remoteness. I would classify it as a Swiss ski resort but with lots of boats. After getting caught up on our email (a whole week without it was pretty tough), we picked up a couple of souvenirs from our trip before heading back to the ship.

Next stop, Puenta Arenas and the first stop in Chile!

To see more photos of Ushuaia please click here!

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