Ushuaia

Departing Ushuaia on the sightseeing boat

Situated on the southern side of the island of Tierra del Fuego along the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Argentina is the southernmost city in the world (although the town Puerto Williams Chile across the channel is further south). We arrived from Punta Arenas, Chile on an evening with heavy clouds, which made it appear much darker than normal still relatively early in the evening around 7:00 pm. The bus terminal is along the coast whereas our hotel, Hotel Ushuaia, was located up the hill several blocks north of downtown, so a taxi was in order.

Ushuaia

By the time we'd settled in to our rooms it had largely stopped raining save for a few occasional drops. It was a fair but not difficult walk to the downtown area from the hotel, and that night we had dinner at a restaurant on the eastern side of town, but I can't recall the name or what I had. The next morning the clouds and rain were gone, and we were presented with mountains freshly covered in snow and the incredible landscape surrounding the city.


First up for the day was a one-hour sightseeing flight around Tierra del Fuego with Aeroclub Ushuaia. We boarded a Piper PA-32RT-300 Lance II aircraft, took off, circled around over the Beagle Channel to gain elevation, and turned in towards the mountain valleys. The entire flight was spectacular, but I particularly enjoyed flying through the peaks. We continued on over Lago Fagnano, before turning east over more mountains and turning to fly back west to Ushuaia along the Beagle Channel. Much of this last section of the flight was over the same path that we would take a boat along the following day. As we approached the runway, our plane circled over the city, allowing us to get a great view of the it and the route for the day's hike.

Lago Fagnano

Flying over Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel

Our transport back to the hotel was waiting for us when we landed, so once back at the hotel we got what we needed for the hike and walked into town to stop at an ATM. We got a taxi from there up to the base of the chairlift (not operating) below the Martial Glacier. It was a steep hike up the hill to the top of the chairlift, but the view out across the city and the Beagle Channel gradually improved. From there we began encountering snowfields and walked on actual hiking trails before emerging above the treeline into the mountain valley below the glacier. It was a steep hike up the mountain and across snowfields to reach the top of the trail at the Martial Glacier viewpoint. The view was great, but it was nearly impossible to make out what the glacier looked like thanks to all the recent snow (it really is just a small ice field and nothing like the other glacier we saw during the trip).


The hike back to the base of the chairlift took maybe a half an hour, and we stopped at a restaurant for lunch at top of the road. We had plenty of time left in the day and the weather was great, so we walked back to the hotel on sidewalks (perhaps and hour's walk). After we changed and showered, we set back out again to explore the city for the afternoon before one of the best dinners of the trip at Kaupe. I had carpaccio for an appetizer and sea bass in sage and lemon as my main course as we sat and watched as the sun slowly set over the channel. Ushuaia is far enough south that the sun didn't set until after 10:00 pm, and any time we looked at the sky at night, even well after midnight, there was still a faint glow in the sky.

Below the Martial Glacier
Along the road to the Martial Glacier above Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel

We spent about half of our final full day in Ushuaia (December 24) on a sightseeing cruise in the Beagle Channel. Soon after we departed Ushuaia we arrived at a few rocky islands home to many seabirds and some sea lions. Some of these islands were nearly completely covered in birds, and the backdrop of the surrounding mountains was amazing. We continued on to Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, which is known as the lighthouse on the cover of Jules Vernes' book The Lighthouse at the End of the World. However, the actual lighthouse within the book is much further east.


Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse
The destination everyone on the boat was really waiting for was Isla Martllo, a small island towards the eastern end of the channel home to a colony of Magellanic penguins. The beaches of the island were covered in hundreds of these penguins, but slightly inland there were several gentoo penguins and three king penguins. The return trip was mostly just a ride straight back to Ushuaia, but we did go past the wreck of the Sarmiento from 1912. Back in town, we walked from the boat to a few of the stores that were open and found a place that had empanadas for lunch. Most places were closed for dinner, and the few that were open were charging very high prices for a special holiday dinner. A supermarket was open, so we grabbed snacks and bottles of wine before walking back to the hotel. Most of the hotel staff were off for the evening as well, so we gathered with a few of the other guests in the lounge for our Christmas Eve.

Sarmiento shipwreck


Christmas day began with a flight scheduled from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, but due to a medical emergency, we had to land in Bahia Blanca, delaying our arrival by over an hour. Once back in Buenos Aires, we went from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery to the same hotel we stayed at when our trip began and checked in (Hotel Dazzler San Telmo). For the afternoon and evening we took a taxi to the Palermo neighborhood, explored, and had one last fantastic diner in Argentina. I slept perhaps two hours that night before we were picked up for transfer to the airport (Ezeiza) at 2:30 am for an early morning departure. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, until we reached the immigration line, which was very long, barely moving, and in an uncomfortably hot room.


Nevertheless the Copa Airlines flight didn't leave without everyone on board and then began the ~7 hour flight to Panama City. The moment I stepped off the plane and onto the jetbridge in Panama I felt the extreme heat and humidity of the tropics hit me. With a five-hour layer, I considered getting a taxi into the city for a while, but the heat convinced me to just walk around outside and then inside the airport for a while before having lunch. After another pair of flights into and out of Houston I found that the journey had ended around 1:00 am on December 27.

My photo albums related to this post:
Over the Gulf of Mexico


© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.





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