That day started in Madrid. It was endless. My journey to the End of the World has begun one beautiful serene Spanish morning. I got a cup of coffee with a piece of almond cake in a small street cafe before spending a few hours walking around the city. I visited The Royal Palace and some gardens, listened to the most bizarre street music – Vivaldi played with the wine glasses, snooped around all the corners of the Las Ventas -spent the usual “tourist” day in Madrid, enjoying the bright winter Spanish sun.
Then was the flight to Buenos-Aires. It was rather long and I got some sleep on the plane. I had to change airports in Buenos-Aires – it’s a very long way by bus, with nothing but Acacia trees in the window, and then few long hours near small airport for internal flights. Buenos-Aires smells like mix of the sea fish, rotting vegetables, urine and coffee. Everywhere not exactly dressed people, fishing, resting, listening to tango on the cheap old fashioned radio, children, screaming and shouting, and life as it is.
And the next flight. Buenos-Aires – Ushuaia. And you feel like a squeezed sponge, used in the shower by a fat Argentinian lady, and, finally, you get out. And then you feel it. THE WIND. The Wind at the End of the World. Wind and wind again and nothing but the wind. Wind everywhere. Always. And you know for sure – this is it. Nothing behind the horizon. And this wind will last forever.
Ushuaia is a small city in the very south of Argentina, sandwiched between mountains and sea. Life in the summer here is in its full swing. This is a sea gate to Antarctica. Every day hundreds of tourists coming here to start their adventurous journey to the White Continent. So the city consists of tiny hotels, cafes and souvenir shops. The architecture here is quite special – very Patagonian I would say – you feel a bit like inside a Jules Verne’s story “In Search of the Castaways” ( Les Enfants du capitaine Grant). Souvenirs are also quite special – penguins, penguins and some more penguins. All of the kinds. Wooden, stone, plastic, rubber, on the post cards and note books, bags and jackets, shoes and hats – everywhere. You can also buy all the necessary things for your journey and some books about Antarctica. Besides, Ushuaia is a shopping paradise for fishermen. You can find anything you could ever dream of here. Spinnings, nets, spoons and everything to make your own bait: feathers, fur, threads and fishing hooks of various colours and shapes. Apart from that, the city has a big Casino (I have never visited!), a few museums and the Visit Centre of Tierra del Fuego region.
WHAT TO DO?
Well, if one day you find yourself in Ushuaia, you probably have a booked trip to Antarctica. If so, you are too excited to be bored – you are most likely to spend your free time buying postcards and trying to find WiFi. You might be surprised, but it is a real issue here for some reason.
However, there is a lot you can do in Ushuaia even if it is your actual destination. There are plenty places you can sail to from Ushuaia i.e. Cape Horn, Porto Williams, Faro Les Eclaireurs (the most southern lighthouse in the world) and more. Hire a boat and explore the area. Don’t forget – fishing is always an option if you want to have some quiet time. Visit the very cozy marina – look at the yachts, talk to the people. You might be able to join one of the yachts for a spontaneous trip – so keep your eyes open! You can spent some time in the museums – there is a museum of old local jail, nature and historical museums and few old war ships. Another nice thing to do is to hire a car and visit The ‘Tierra del Fuego’ National Park. It is a very beautiful place with forests, lakes and mountains. The park is huge, so you can take tent and canoes and easily spend a few days there. You can also explore this park by bike, but for that you should be in a very good shape. ‘Tierra del Fuego’ also has a souvenir shop with very intresting books on Antarctica exploration (such as Ernest Shackleton’s or Robert Scott’s diaries) and a cafe in a big empty building, with a mountain view, that even can be used for celebrations. Also Ushuaia is a hiking centre, alpinists come here from all over the world. There are a lot of companies which provide hiking or combined tours for visitors. To sum up, if you like nature and sport activities, and not very fond of heat and palm trees, Ushuaia is definitely a place to go. Birdwatchers will also find this place very exiting, with so many different birds everywhere. Seagulls, cormorants, ducks and many others (even penguins). You can meet some sea mammals – seals and dolphins – while exploring the area. There is a huge mountain ski resort “Сomplejo Cerro Castor Ushuaia” located not far from Ushuaia, opened during winter period. The Glacier Martial is a must if you are into extreme tourism. This glacier is one of the main tourist attractions in Ushuaia and a source of all fresh water in the city. If you not that daring and prefer to come back home alive you can reach it by an elevator.
What to eat?
In the city you can find a lot of cafes with usual Argentinian kitchen. Nothing very special. But local fishermen can sell you some fresh fish or crab meat which is absolutely delicious! It shoud be a bit boiled and sprinkled with lemon juice. I can assure you – it is the best taste in the world! And of course there is plenty of other seafood – shrimps, mussels and other, chocolate, homemade jams and other nice things.
Entering this small town nuzzling close to the mountains, trying to hide from the wind, you will get a small simple stamp in your passport. Fin del Mundo. End of the World.