A Travellerspoint blog

Argentina

The end of the world

Winenuts go nuts in Argentina


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

The bus ride south from Rio Gallegos took forever. The fact that we had to do two border crossings didn’t make it easier either. After crossing the Strait of Magellan the landscape was just endlessly flat so it felt like we were driving and driving but not getting anywhere. Oh my goodness the isolation of this faraway location, we could really feel that we were going to the end of the world. After an eternity the landscape started to change and suddenly we were driving up in the mountains. The air was now colder and we could even see spots of snow along the road. After a long drive in the mountains the bus started descending towards the sea.

And then finally we were here: Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire, the uttermost part of the earth, the end of the world. Here the Yamaná people used to paddle about and dive for oysters naked with only sea lion fat as their clothing. Here the Selk’nam people used to paint their bodies with black carbon and red and white clay and leap over the fire into the air wearing masks made from bark of trees. Here FitzRoy and Darwin sailed aboard the Beagle exploring this remarkable piece of land.

The Yamaná people always had a fire going in their campsites and in their boats to keep them warm. They also used fires for messaging. E.g. when a whale had stranded on a beach they lit a fire in order to tell everybody else there was some food available for everyone. Passing ships spotted these fires on the shorelines and gave this place its name: Tierra del Fuego – land of fire.

I guess it won’t be hard for you to guess why there aren’t any of these indigenous people left here. Yup, the white man came and decided that these subhuman beings should live the European way. So they put clothes on them, which resulted in various diseases caused by the never drying cloth, and they brought some nice European diseases that the Yamaná were not resistant to. That wiped out most of them. Cool beans.

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We are staying in Ushuaia, which claims to be the southernmost city in the world. The scenery here is dramatic. In front of the town lies the beautiful Beagle channel on the other side of which some beautiful mountains decorate the horizon. Behind the city there are some spectacular Andean mountain peaks one of which hosts the Martial glacier. Our hostel sits up on the hill, which makes the views from here fantastic. We eat breakfast every morning overlooking the city, the Beagle channel and the mountains on the Chilean side. The first day we sat down to eat breakfast we were struck by déjà vu: jam, toffee, butter and bread. Oh right, this was the country where they eat extra healthy breakfast.

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Just before crossing the Strait of Magellan

Ushuaia was established to be a penal colony, so from the late 19th century to the middle of the nineteen hundreds a lot of criminals were sent here to serve their sentence. The prisoners did a lot of labour here, including building the southernmost railway in the world. Now the prison is a museum.

One of the best things you can do here is hiking, so that’s mostly what we’ve been busy with. We did a stroll up to Glaciar Martial high up on a mountain from where the view is just beyond belief. It was like looking down on a postcard. The glacier itself wasn’t so surprising; I don’t think any glacier will be after seeing Perito Moreno.

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Climbing up the mountain

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Climbing up the mountain

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View from the mountain

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Walking down from the mountain

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We also did a full day hike in the Tierra del Fuego National park which was a memorable one. The landscape was really beautiful, but the thing that will stick best in our minds are the woodpeckers. We were walking in the forest when we suddenly heard this knocking sound. Suddenly we noticed a couple of woodpeckers banging the trees quite close to us. And they weren’t that shy; they let us come quite close to look at their pecking. Funny little fellows.

Here's some pictures from the national park:

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Yesterday we did a boat tour in the Beagle channel. It was fantastic. We saw loads of sea lions. They come to the channel to give birth and hang out on a couple of cliffs in the water. So there they laid on the cliff, the parents and the little ones, gaping into the air and making funny noises. Many of them came out to our boat to play with the waves that formed behind the motor. They jumped high up in the air and then surfed on the waves. It was really funny to watch. Those little buggers know how to enjoy the small things in life.

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The woodpecker pecked on the outhouse door. It pecked and it pecked until its pecker was sore.

Posted by AnnaMickus 15:31 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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