Sitting at “el fin del mundo” – the „end of the world“ with a good bottle of Argentinean Syrah, overlooking the Beagle channel and its islands from a rooftop-terrace in Ushuaia is definitely an impressive and moving experience. After my first 2 days which in Buenos Aires(interesting and very lively and cool city) I spent the last 2.5 days in Ushuaia, the southernmost town of Argentina. Landing literally between the mountains and the ocean, seeing little Ushuaia perched against a snow-peaked mountain range was really a beautiful arrival.
On my fist day in Ushuaia I went to prison for a few hours. Quite an interesting experience. Good thing I didn’t have to stay in the original unheated section but instead absorbed an overview of the region’s history in the museum which is housed in the former prison where Spain sent its most dangerous convicts around 1900.
When I got back to the hostel I met a bunch of nice people and within a few minutes we ended up spending a fun dinner together in a little restaurant. Not only did I enjoy my first Argentinean steak (yuuumie!) and a good bottle of Syrah there, I also loved the mix of different nationalities (French, Canadian, Dutch, American and myself)and how everyone was able to communicate with each other in at least one language – and it was NOT always English. Everyone here seems to study or at least try out their Spanish and during the course of that dinner we switched between 5 languages non-stop.
I realized one thing again since I started my trip (and this is also something for the mathematicians among you, since I believe I have a significant sample after adding up all my experiences from my trips over the past few years now) that when you travel as a backpacker you ALWAYS meat amazing, friendly, open and interesting people. Many of them left everything they had at home and are travelling for a year or more and each one of these people has interesting stories to tell and enjoys sharing those experiences with others. And this is why doing “it” the “backpacker-way” gives travelling an additional and valuable perspective.
My first full day I visited Tierra del Fuego National Park where I enjoyed a beautiful 4 hour walk along the coastline, walking through forests with a Flora very new to me and admiring the many islands and mountains and the Beagle Channel in between. Today I did an excursion with a few hours of rafting on a river which is 90 km long( ok, we only did 2 km via raft!) and which flows right into the Beagle channel, followed by a nice hike and theeeen – the highlight of the day – visiting a PENGUIN COLONY on a little island. There were about 300-400 Magellan penguins, hanging out on the beach, relaxing in the sun, talking a stroll along the beach or staring back at us tourists and maybe thinking “what the hell is wrong with them – why are they staring at us like kids in front of a Christmas tree??”Because that must have been the way we looked like when we saw those cute, irresistible tiny creatures. Talking of penguins: if you think that Austria heavily markets Mozart then you are wrong. Because HERE at Ushuaia it is serious PENGUIN time. Pretty much EVERYTHING is branded with or in the shape of penguins: penguin souvenirs, penguin Mannequins (!!) , penguin-shaped sweets and many other things. I have a real blast watching this phenomenon!:)
Right now I am sitting in a very cozy wooden café (yesss, I admit I had penguin-shaped meringue pie)next to the harbor where all the ships going to Antarctica (only 1.000 km away!) are located –and I am letting the surrounding and the many impressions I have already had sink in.
Tomorrow I am heading to El Calafate which will be the base to visit the biggest highlight of Patagonia on Wednesday: the Perito Moreno Glacier. But that will be another blog posting:)
And last but not least here are a few useful and unuseful (but nevertheless interesting to me) pieces of information that I learned in the past 2 days:
- In 1880 British Christian settlers set foot on Ushuaia and encountered the Yamanas –the tribal people who lived here from 6000 years ago until the middle of the 20th century. They were nomads and due to the harsh weather conditions they wore no clothing because they didn’t have a permanent shelter to keep wet clothes dry, so they realized that staying naked and using animal fat ( from whales, etc..) to rub onto their skin to stay warm was a much better way to cope with the bad weather rather than wearing wet and cold clothes . My learning: if you want to stay healthy, go naked. ( unfortunately this tribe became extinct within less than a decade after the British arrived because they forced them to wear clothes due to religious reasons and they brought yellow fewer and smallpox to the tribes who weren’t used to being exposed to any diseases like that)
- The weather reports here in Patagonia are even WORSE than in Austria! You can have all 4 seasons in one day, and realistically you can only predict the weather 2 hours ahead because anything longer than that just can’t be predicted! My learning: never complain about the poor quality of Austria’s weather forecast anymore. Just take your raincoat with you. Because there is no such thing like bad weather. There is only bad equipment.
- I was wondering why all the hostels and restaurants are STEAMING hot inside because you almost feel like in a sauna (floor heating in a HOSTEL!!). I first thought that they worry so much about the tourists being cold that they pump up the heat enormously but then I learned that since electricity is extremely cheap in Southern Patagonia and people only pay ~ 10 Euros/month flat fee (!!) for all the electricity they want they use it ridiculously wasteful. And the crazy thing is that because of that Ushuaia city stays “snowless”all year because there is so much heat in the air!