‘Bienvenidos a la fin del mundo’ – welcome to the end of the world – is what you hear a lot in Ushuaia, it being the most Southerly city in the world and where all roads end.
Calling Ushuaia a city seems a bit of a stretch. It’s a relatively small place, not El Chalten tiny or anything, but the town consists mostly of one long road, a port and residential housing.
It’s a kind of eerie place. I don’t know why I say this. Perhaps it’s the bitter cold, the moody, thrashing sea that gnaws at the town’s edges, the looming mountains in the distance or the overall bleakness of the City. Ushuaia is the sort of place mystery novels are set; just by the menacing description of the town you know something untoward is going to happen.
It was the end of summer when we visited and it was COLD! The unrelenting wind at night kept us awake as it thrashed against our bedroom balcony doors.
We came to Ushuaia, which is the capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province, mostly for the penguins on Martillo Island. Only one operator does a trips that allows you to walk on the island, however, and the trip is really expensive – around £85 per person. So we decided to see them on a cheaper boat tour (£50) that also navigated the Beagle Channel.
I was a good trip. However, it was bloody cold outside the boat (I may be English but I really don’t like the cold!) It was definitely worth seeing the penguins, though, they don’t actually do much, bless them. They’re a bit like little statues until they get in the water where they swim fast. The whole time I was watching the penguins I just kept thinking of that scene in Mary Poppins where Dick Van Dyke dances with the cartoon penguins. Don’t ask me why.
That’s penguins ticked off the list at least!
It was a long time back to the shore and once we reached dry land we spent the best part of an hour trying every cash machine in Ushuaia because none would give us any money and we only had a little on us. Desperate, we went into a hotel and asked the receptionist where we might be able to withdraw some money using international cards. She informed us that cash machines were generally just empty on a Sunday and tomorrow they’d be filled back up. She was dead right.
This didn’t help us much for our next day tour of the national park.
The tour took on the Fin Del Mundo Train, which goes through the national park to see where convicts, who used to inhabit and work in the park, worked.
I’m going to be honest with you, besides the novelty of going on an old-fashioned train and seeing all the old black and white photos at the train station, the train is a bit naff. The most exciting thing to see is tree stumps left by the convict loggers. Perhaps after the spectacle of El Chalten the scenery just didn’t live up to expectation.
After the train we drove around to some view points, but, to be quite honest, I was reluctant to get out the car and brave the gale force winds to have a look. I think what someone told us before we came to Ushuaia is true, that the scenery is very similar to other places in Argentina, but not as good.
The final stop on the tour was the correo de officina (post office), where? At the end of the word, of course! It was possible to get your passport stamped to show you had been to the end of the world and send a post card from the last post office in the world. I quite liked this novelty – but having no goddamn money we couldn’t do either!!
Tips for fellow travellers:
What to do: The main reason to come to Ushuaia, as I’m sure most people know, is to get on a boat to the Antarctic. We saw last minute boats going for US$5,000. The trip looks amazing but it was out of our budget, unfortunately. There are also other, longer national park tours you can do. We booked both our tours with Info de Ushuaia which can be found on the main strip. The man who worked there was very pushy but did give us a 150 pesos discount on the two tours we booked. They cost around £50 each.
Travel: We flew in and out of Ushuaia from El Calafate with Areolinas Argentinas. Our flight going out was delayed by two hours living up to Aerolinas Argentinas bad reputation for scheduling delays.
Food: We ate mostly in our Cabana so can’t make any recommendations, really. We did eat at El Gustino by the port but it was pricey and nothing special.
Accommodation: We stayed at Cabanas Candelas de Ushuaia. They’re a bit worn and you have to get a taxi or bus to town, but spacious and comfortable enough. They have a parrilla and ESPN 1 & 2 (important when the most important north London derby in decades is approaching and your husband is a die-hard Spurs fan). The flush on our toilet was prone to breaking and Francesco, who runs the place, told me, much to my amusement, that I had to punch the cistern to get it working again. It worked a treat.
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