Bottom side up

Ushuaia, Argentina


Much bus travel later and we’re in evocative, misty Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego – ‘el fin del mundo’ as they like to tell you (and preferably sell you, on hats, tea towels, fluffy toy penguins etc). It’s a great little place – Argentina to a tee, a bit wild west.

The population density down here is, lets say, low, so there’s remarkably little public transport in and out of places. We had to go from El Calafate in Argentina down to Punta Arenas in Chile and then from there to Ushuaia in Argentina. In all, about 24 hours on buses, plus a couple of days hanging around waiting for buses, and a lot of standing in queues at border posts. Got to practice my bored traveller expression on lots of immigration officials.

I’m a firm believer in looking miserable in your passport photo, after all, you’re unlikely to be smiling when anyone looks at it. However, in my new passport I seem to have surpassed myself, and even if I try quite hard I can’t match it. It’s a Lurch-meets-Mr-Burns kind of effect.

The terrain here is the by now familiar mix of wide windswept arid plains and mad mountains. We spent a few days camping in Tierra del Fuego National Park. Did a bit of walking but nothing too strenuous.

You have to be quite careful because if you walk too far you wander over the border back into Chile, which, apparently, is a very naughty thing to do, despite the fact that there isn’t a single sign of human habitation on the Chilean side for hundreds of miles. What do they think you’re going to do? Steal a lake? Start your own town?

But it’s phenomenally beautiful. The mountains aren’t that high, but the wildness makes it look a whole lot more dramatic – the vegetation here gives up completely at only 600m above sea level.

Lots of fabulous wildlife, including ‘Woody’ woodpeckers (with bright red heads) amongst others.

On the ferry over here we saw a whole pod of beautiful dolphins (called Commersons dolphins) which bodes very well for the next leg of our trip – we set sail for Antarctica this afternoon.

I think a lot of travellers come to Ushuaia only to tick the box, and find that the main occupation here is trying to book your ticket out again on one of the infrequent and overbooked buses. You meet quite a few people who seem to be stuck here! So its good to be going south (and we’ve already bought bus tickets for when we get back!!!).

Met up with my parents yesterday at Ushuaia airport. Not a coincidence – we planned it that way. It’s really lovely to see them, and will be brilliant to spend the next 10 days together spotting icebergs.

Must dash – going to go show them the local glacier.

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