Day ten: Ushuaia, Argentine (February 23)

This jumping off point for Antarctica, population 80,000 or so, had a real frontier feel with low lying, utilitarian looking, weather beaten buildings. It’s situated right on the water at the base of beautiful mountains. Some were bald, some snow capped, and others lush green. The tallest is just under a mile high. The weather changed constantly but wind was ever present and luckily the sun popped in and out all day which we were told is rare. The high was in the low 50s.

The city started as a penal colony in 1896 for prisoners who failed to cooperate in prisons up north. Our first stop for the day was at the prison, now a museum, which is smack dab downtown. Ushuaia is remote by today’s standards; back then it was thought to be in outer darkness! The consensus was that a prisoner would be foolish to leave, so a fence or wall was unnecessary. Sure enough, a few prisoners did escape but most were caught or came back on their own accord when finding food and shelter proved a problem.

The Pan-American highway, which runs from the southern end of Argentina all the way to Alaska, has its beginnings near Ushuaia. W&C’s tour took them to the southernmost point of the highway. Our tour drove north for an hour or so which gave us an idea of how beautiful the route is. We especially loved the glacial valleys with steep mountains hovering on both sides. Peat bogs were prevalent in the low-lying places. The guide explained the formation and harvesting of peat, but I must have been dreaming about lunch or something because I basically didn’t understand.

Speaking of lunch, we had a fabulous barbecue lunch of lamb cooked over coals in the traditional way. Potatoes, bread, salad, wine, and coffee rounded out the meal. The meat and potatoes were served on small coal warmers brought to the table and placed on wooden boards. Such a clever idea! The restaurant was in the country in a beautiful setting, so once we had eaten our fill we walked around enjoying the views. On the same property as the restaurant was a sled dog kennel where dogs are trained to pull sleds and wagons in the winter. I’m not sure if this is for sport or for fun or necessary in certain weather.

On the way back to town the guide explained all the felled trees visible from the road. Seems someone had the bright idea a few years ago to import Canadian beaver and get a little fur business going. Seems the fur did not get as lush as expected due to a more temperate climate than in Canada, so the business never got off the ground. With no predators, the beaver have thrived and done a whole lot of damage in Patagonia. We saw some large beaver lodges from the road as well as areas they had dammed up.

Skiing season is four months long and popular. The glacial valleys are ideal for cross country and there are small ski resorts for downhill.

Dan and I roamed the downtown streets once the tour was over until time to return to the ship to shower and get ready to drink at 5:30, per plan, followed by dinner at 6:30. I caved and had two desserts AGAIN. Someone should just slap me. We had a real treat during dinner. The captain came on to say the skies had cleared and visibility was good, so if we cared to take a look off the starboard side, we’d see glaciers. Well yeah! They were beautiful and looked just like rivers of ice. One had a huge waterfall to deal with the summer melt.

Walter was the only one who took in the entertainment, an illusionist. Dan and I enjoyed a piano player before going to bed and the other party animals retired to their rooms right after dinner. And so ended another wonderful day on the high seas …or in our case… a day in the fiords.


3 thoughts on “Day ten: Ushuaia, Argentine (February 23)

  1. I enjoyed every day! The entertainment, the history, the food, the penguins–and I can now connect the pictures to events. The picture of the glacier and waterfall was amazing!

    So sorry about the friends who passed on. Sad news.

    Great job, once again! Thank you!


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