Experiencing the End of the World - Pinguins & Off-road in Ushuaia
My excitement of going to Ushuaia was as high as our plane flying over Argentina getting there. Although it was impossible to see anything but vast land, I was always glued to the airplane window. Every flight is like a first to me!
There is something so magical in Patagonia. Is it the snow in summer time, its proximity to Antarctica with animals we see only in a zoo or its almost never ending days with breathtaking sunsets? Yes, Ushuaia is a one of a lifetime experience. The beauty of the Southernmost city in the World was first unveiled to us from a bird view. And there it was - nestled in between the snowy peak mountains and the deeply blue waters of the Beagle channel. On the other side was me in the plane - anxious and excited to put my feet on the ground and start this adventure.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in Ushuaia and we decided to take the best of it, as it was not even noon yet. Plus, it was still too early to check into our lodging, so we just left the bags there and we exploring. The first thing we did was to chose and book the Beagle channel cruise. Downtown, next to the Tourist Information centre (where you can officialise your visit of "the End of the World" by getting a free stamp on your passport) is where most of the tourist companies are located. There are two types of tours on the Beagle channel, that translated to me were like: seeing pinguins and not seeing pinguins. And I definitely wanted to see them! So, we signed up for a 5-hours afternoon cruise and while onboard we got to see also the End of the World lighthouse and sea lions.
In the end of November the sun in Ushuaia was falling down around 9:30 p.m. Also around that time we arrived back to the city and were able to witness the breathtaking sunset. I was speechless!
Two lovely and very experienced traveling ladies recommended us a place for dinner - El Viejo Marino, a great place for sea food lovers.
For our second day we have booked an off-road safari to visit both lake Escondido and lake Fagnano. The second one is between the largest lakes in the worlds and it is both Argentinian and Chilean. I have to confess - the experience was richer than expected. I mean, at times there was water all over our 4x4 and the landscape was incredibly beautiful and so peaceful.
In the end our tour vehicles even pulled a car stuck in the mud.
When arriving back to town we went for a visit the Maritime and Prison Museum.
History of Ushuaia: In 1870 a British South American Mission sets base in Ushuaia. By that time the tribe of Yahgan (or Yamamá) was living on these lands. This nomadic tribe survived for nearly 6000 years facing the harsh weather conditions almost entirely naked, but also without any contact with other cultures. Because of that Yahgan were extremely vulnerable to the foreign deceases brought by the mission. Unfortunately, nowadays the legacy of the tribe is limited only to souvenirs.
Between 1884 and 1947 the city of Ushuaia is a penal colony for the most dangerous political and criminal prisoners. It is curious that no prisoner wanted or tried to escape the prison, except for the russian Simón Radowitzky who even succeeded. They just wouldn't be able to survive alone the weather conditions.
Since 1950 the city has been an important naval base with a fast growing tourism.
In museum's gardens can be seen world's narrowest-gauge freight train that used to transport the prisoners between town and their working stations.
The museum also has a 1:1 scale model of the famous Lighthouse of the End of the World's interior.
Every time, we seem to enjoy more and more being part of day-touring groups. It is amazing how enriching could be spending a few hours or even an entire day with people from different ages and cultures, people we have nothing in common, except for the will to visit new places. Our first two days in Ushuaia were a set of overwhelming experiences, thanks to all those people we met on the way.