Exploring the end of the world

19-23 March 2013.

Ushuaia.  The most southerly  town in Argentina. The pretty port looks south over the Beagle channel and the West, North and East are surrounded by imposing snowy peaks and the Martial Glacier and ski runs can be seen looking back from the town.

Ushuaia and Tiera del Fuego, the end of the world, just a few hundred km from Antarctica and showing Malvinas as (Arg) owned

Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego, the end of the world, just a few hundred km from Antarctica and showing Malvinas as (Arg) owned with Pt Argentino as the capital instead of Stanley!

Tierra del Fuego is the most southerly inhabited land and closest place to Antarctica, with exception of  South Orkney with its Argentine naval base, another territory claimed by both Argentina and the UK! Cruises to Antarctica leave from Ushuaia. The museums, shops, trips and restaurants are called Fin del Mundo This or End of the World That. Strictly speaking, the town of Puerto Williams is the most southerly town, across the Beagle channel in Chile but it’s expensive to get there!  In Ushuaia, they don’t split hairs and are happy to claim end of the world fame so we decide that’s good enough for us too!

Day one we spend around town, there’s a wealth of museums to choose from, a bus to book, car to hire, money to change and the chance to book our Chilean (ferry) cruise through the fjords in Argentine pesos and save again if we can find somewhere to change our dollars at the blue rate.

It’s worked out cheapest to hire a car for two days as bus or taxi anywhere is pricy and you can do much more with the car and even getting  from our hotel into town and back  is over $10 in cab fares.

We find an expensive jewellery shop and change the rest of our dollars for 7, then head back to the travel agent and buy tickets at an exchange of 5!

We eat the sandwiches on the waterfront then visit the Museo de Fin del Mundo (history, geology, biology, ecology, stuffed birds, etc) and the amazing Museo Yanama (about indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego) Martin gives Ben and Zoe a quiz in which they can earn pesos for answers about Yanama – it means they must read everything they can about how the Yanama lived – they do well!  Lara decorates the visitors books in both museums and chats up the curators! Zoe makes lovely drawings and commentary on the Museo del Fin del Mundo and them gets upset when Lara messes some of it up! Ben is fascinated by exhibits which Martin spends ages explaining and has me take sneaky pics of lots of stuff. More from him in an upcoming post. It’s a delight to have descriptions in English for a change.

At the museum we pick up free hot chocolate vouchers for a posh chocolate shop in town so manage to find it and have delicious hot chocolate and artisan chocolates for a real treat! And later we decide to head to Kaupe, the No3 restaurant on Trip Advisor, having read their rave reviews and enjoy a delicious supper, the speciality in Ushuaia being King Crab but there are lots of wonderful and creative delights!

A day of marvelous  museums and fabulous food!

A day of marvelous museums and fabulous food!

Next day we drive out to Parque National Tierra del Fuego, stopping to visit the last station and end-of-the-world train! We park up at the very end of National Route 3 and do a couple of lovely treks through magnificent scenery.

The end of he world train and prisoners who built the track, lake and dam in the national park

The end of he world train and prisoners who built the track, lake and dam in the national park

We see active beaver dams, beautiful lakes and birds, find mussels, make friends with a french gap year family and share coffee in their motor home whilst Ben makes friends with a local fisherman and spends a while fishing with him.

Exploring Parque Nationale Tiera del Fuego

Exploring Parque Nationale Tierra del Fuego

Eventually we head out to enjoy a lovely sunset over lake Roca where Zoe bravely takes a dip for a bet! I’ll leave the details for her upcoming blog!

ushuaia fishing friends and sunset the the national park

Then, it’s back to town and head to the super Kalma restaurant which is deservedly No 1 on Trip Advisor – it’s even better than last night and one of our best South American meals…Its probably no surprise that it’s so wonderful – I’ve since read that the chef apparently trained at the famed El Bulli restaurant  in Spain.

Fab food at the end of a lovely day in Kalma Resto, Ushuaia

Fab food at the end of a lovely day in Kalma Resto, Ushuaia

We wake up to a pretty rainy and cold day so abandoning our plans to visit Estancia Hamilton – an original old settlers ranch, we spend the morning at the huge prison/maritime/art museum which is amazing – and we discover how Tierra del Fuego became Argentina’s penal colony styled on Tasmania and Alcatraz! The five wings of the prison now house different sections of the museum, but the cells are still intact and there is a cold and eerie feel to it.

Ushuaia Maritime Museum.

Ushuaia Maritime Museum.

Then we head to Martial glacier which is deserted, chairlift closed, but at least a twee and open tea room to grab coffee and cake!

Refreshed and warmed up, we head back to town to find the Malvinas (Falklands) Museum  – we have been looking forward to this, hoping to learn more about Argentina’s claim to the Falklands. We’ve noticed maps simply show the Falklands as Malvinas with an Argentine flag beside it! There are quite a few signs and car stickers showing the Falklands, coloured blue sad white as the Argentina flag with the slogan ‘Siempre Argentina’ (Always Argentina) . We’ve also spotted a big sign at the port banning all British pirates!  But we are out of luck with the museum. Its been vandalised and broken windows swing back and forth while the wind tears through the building and papers and exhibits fly around the floors!  I wonder who did this!?

The Malvinas museo, the sign reads ''always was, is and will be Argentina's' and the sign at the port banning all British pirates!

The Malvinas museo, the sign reads ”always was, is and will be Argentina’s’ and the sign at the port banning all British pirates!

So we pop into two smaller museums just next door with not that much to offer but some interesting art exhibits and a very interesting family tree of an Ushuaia family!

Rainbow at the end of the world

Rainbow at the end of the world

This evening we grab our things from the Hotel de Rocodo and check into Hostel Refugio – rather basic but a cheap and central backpackers close enough to the bus stop for our early departure in the morning. We pop out for pizza and get an earlyish night!

It was difficult to capitalise on the planned early night as the other hostel visitors were enjoying a camp fire and a few beers right outside our window but nevertheless the kids do a sterling job getting up at 4am and carrying bags down the steep hill to catch a 5am bus.

Leaving Ushuaia at 5am

Leaving Ushuaia at 5am

It has to be said, there is an air of excitement! We are headed to Punta Arenas, in Chile  and tomorrow we’re flying to the Falklands. Its a 12 hour journey to Punta Arenas – we retrace steps back up to the Magellan straits, make the same ferry crossing north again then turn left to Punta Arenas!

Magelan Straits return and Ben with teen fans he met on the ferry!

Magelan Straits return and Ben with teen fans he met on the ferry!

We finally arrive in Punta Arenas and after a quick look around, take a cab to Cabañas Capitan Ravelo – oh dear!

Its miles out of town, the lady cab driver is puzzled and stops to ask several people for help to find it!  Its definitely not as on the Booking.com map but we eventually get there!  The taxi driver asks if we’re sure we want her to leave us?!?  It feels like we are in the middle of nowhere! There are a bunch of ferocious looking dogs behind a barbed wire, and a few tired looking cabins around a patch of grass. No-one answers the door. We find a gardener and he disappears to find someone and eventually a young girl appears and casually finds us a cabin! Its actually quite smart but without wifi, nowhere to get food, no key (it doesn’t need a key she reassures us!)

The kids are begging to stay and trying to talk to the ferrocious dogs who look like they might jump the electric fence and eat Lara! Martin and I are wondering what the hell to do and decide to leave and head back to town – we  the girl to call another cab and agree with her we won’t be charged  for the night. Back in town, we’re lucky to find a lovely family cabin at the Fitzroy Hostel right in the centre for about $40. We have a super supper at the San Telmo restaurant and after the initial hostel hiccough, feel very welcome and happy at last being back in Chile!

A big fat steak to welcome us back to Chile at the end of another long travelling day. At San Telmo restaurant, Punta Arenas

A big fat steak to welcome us back to Chile at the end of another long travelling day. At San Telmo restaurant, Punta Arenas

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bill Cook
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 19:07:14

    That is one thumping big steak Mo. I love the photo of you asleep (?) in the cafe.

    Reply

    • Mo
      Jun 24, 2013 @ 21:24:55

      Hi Bill,
      For the record, I did share that steak 🙂 In the sleeping picture, yep, at least two were officially asleep, Ben may have been faking it!
      Typical end to a busy day, lots of fresh air, good food, kids fall asleep an we get to enjoy coffee & desert! Mo x

      Reply

  2. Tracey - Life Changing Year
    Jun 27, 2013 @ 03:08:06

    Gees – that steak is ENORMOUS!!!! Hope you shared it after you ate the good bits! lol

    Reply

    • Mo
      Jun 27, 2013 @ 07:01:36

      Hey Tracey, I had to! That’s actually my slightly daunted look… I was probably feeling relieved that were four gannets crying out for their share! I think I did get the best bits though! x

      Reply

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