Ushuaia, the bottom of the world

Trip Start Jan 07, 2013
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18
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Trip End Aug 01, 2013


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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ushuaia is the most southern town in the world, as Patagonia stretches closer to Antarctica than either South Africa or the islands off of Australia. It is a pioneer town, the surrounding wilderness still largely untamed. The rustic houses and old fishing boats are surrounded by jagged peaks covered with snow year round. As our plane touched down I made the prediction that we will be spending much more than the originally planned month in this amazing place.

Although we had been warned, we were instantly surprised about how expensive it is here. Apparently due to inflation and rising tourism patagonia has become almost three times expensive in the last few years, and it's not going to get any better. The one thing that is cheaper is king crab, even out of season. Needless to say that was my first meal. Here there are a mix of rugged backpackers as well as more relaxed tourists traveling by cruise ship. You can tell the cruise ship "honeymooners" influence on the tourist goods market by all the lingerie shops. No way backpackers or locals need that..

As we collected our bags we met a Canadian named Connor, due to the fact that he has the same tent as each of us. He also has no plan and plenty of time to wander the continent, we became instant friends. Connors original plan, like many others, was to book one of the last minute spots on an Antarctica cruise/expedition. Greg and I were also interested in this, but doubtful of prices. Sure enough, the cheapest thing was between 4-5 grand and obviously out of reach. Something I'll have to do when I have a job, along with the Galapagos and carnival in Rio.

The first day was unusually wet. Greg and I became all too aware that although we were set for cold weather, we were severely underprepared for wet conditions. The Main Street of Ushuaia is lined with camping stores and we spend a few hours shopping for our overpriced goods. A pair of waterproof boots, snowboard pants, and gloves completed our set of "survive anywhere gear". I don't know many with a backpack fit for glaciers and the jungle. I'm excited to finally use all the dead weight I've been lugging around.

We took two day hikes from Ushuaia. The first was to martial glacier, just outside of town. The day was very foggy and we might as well been hiking in the middle of nowhere. We could see maybe 40 feet in either direction, and with foggy skies and a snowy ground vertigo almost set in. Climbing around the glacier and surrounding cliffs was an amazing experience. We were virtually alone except for 4 other people who passed in the opposite direction. We ended up hiking way past the recommended stopping point, had to break in the new boots! The fog would quickly disappear and reappear, giving us short glimpses of the impassible ice and cliffs above as well as the ocean shores below. Hiking down was pretty scary with the ice, steep cliffs, and skree. On the way up we tried to minimize walking on the glacier, as to reduce any further man-induced erosion to an already dwindling natural landmark. However on the way down we found it much safer, faster, and well.. more fun to ski down the slopes on our boots. At the bottom the rain started to pour, perfect timing. We took refuge in an oddly decorated tea house until our taxi arrived.

Our second day hike was through the hills and meadows just above the town. The green grass, wild flowers, and semi-wild horses were a stark contrast to the bleak tundra a day before. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the grass with a view of the town, reading, and playing hacky sack. On the walk back we cut through the "real" parts of Ushuaia, not influenced by the touristy hostels, restaurants, and stores. We found an orange Chevy pickup for sale.. We all really want to drive the rest of the way. You can't beat the freedom of the open road. We won't give up on that one too easily. Going to make some calls..

Our hostel here is great. It has a giant upstairs lounge with a pool/ping pong table and views of the entire town. The best part however, is the giant asada grill in the back patio just outside our room. Each afternoon we cooked my favorite meal: steak, refilled bell peppers, and sweet potato. A few dogs noticed our meal and i couldn't help but share a little with them. Cooking over an open wood stove with views of the water and playing songs from the 180 degrees south soundtrack is exactly how I envisioned Patagonia.
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