We were taken to the Eze Airport, the domestic Airport for our flight to the much awaited ‘Fin Del Mundo’ or the ‘End of the World’.
Ushuaia, was a city which during its penitentiary past housed some of the region’s most dangerous criminals. Today, it stood before us as a city that allured tourists from round the globe, a lot of whom venture further south into the Antarctic waters. The city, huddled at the waters edge had the most surreal and tranquil skies.
We were fetched by our guide, Augustus who took us to our guest house, the Hosteria Linares. We were warmly welcomed by the staff, though they spoke minimal words of English. We were escorted to our room that was relatively small. However, the guest house’s elevated location and its mesmerizing views from our bedroom window of the very talked about ‘reflections’ on the lake more than compensated for the size of the room. The guest house was conveniently located within walking distance to the main avenue which was a hub of cafes and restaurants.
We quickly unpacked wanting to make the most of our free day in the town. Augustus had suggested we go up to the Martial Glacier and so we headed there all stocked up on our woolies and gloves. This would be our first opportunity to use our newly acquired winter gear. All bundled up, we boarded the chair- lift that took us to the base of the glacier. The entire ride was panoramic with hypnotic views of brooks, birch trees and the snow capped Andes. Once on top, there was a three hour hiking path to the glacier. But Nanita and I, not feeling too adventurous, decided to give that a miss.
Instead we strolled around grasping the solitude of the place and savoring every echo of nature. On our way down the chair lift, we spotted an endearing tea house where we grabbed a quick bite. It was amazing to just picture how these valleys could transform themselves into the world’s southernmost ski-runs in the cold months of Winter.
So Close And Yet So Far
All energized for our evening adventure, we were soon at Austral Harbor, or rather the gateway to the ‘White Continent’- the Antarctic. This was the port from where all the catamarans and cruise liners departed. All we could see before us were innumerable globe trotters. The atmosphere was invigorating and the only thought running through my mind was that “we were so close and yet so far.” The Antarctic has been my dream destination but with a shortfall of leave from work, another ten days were impossible to squeeze in.
We scurried through the spirited crowds till we found ‘Elizabeth’ our catamaran. As our cruise started, Nanita and I rushed for the ‘upper deck’ enjoying the icy winds of the Antarctic while others shivered away. Our three layers of clothing kept us comfortably cozy. Once again feeling thankful that we followed the packing guidelines to the tee.
The marvelous 360° views of the horizon and the Chilean and Argentinean ranges adorning the town were simply overwhelming. The incredible sunset tinted the entire sky and we felt like we were transported to nothing short of heaven. Just the thought of having come such a long way to “The End of the World” brought a sense of satisfaction and thankfulness from within.
Captivated by the Curious and Chubby Sea Lions
We could soon hear a combination of sounds-several growling, grunting and trumpet like noises. A smile on our faces, we knew we had arrived at the Sea Lion Colony. The sight of several floppy mammals, all cuddled up on top of each other, gazing curiously at you with their big black eyes left us so captivated. Some gave out lazy yawns, while others were engaged in playful fights. The high-pitched squeals of the young ones and the awful stench we got, made this whole experience a one of a kind. We were most amused on finding out the male sea lion gathered harems during the mating season. “Wow!”
We scurried past an island that housed what looked like a club of gentlemen all “suited up” in tuxedos having a tea party. They were the innumerable Rock Cormorants. Every minute aboard provided several fascinating photo opportunities for us, especially as we passed the ‘Les Eclaireurs.’- the light house that marked the End of the World. This was the first time our pictures didn’t do justice to the actual beauty of the place.
We ended the day strolling along the main avenue that housed several souvenir stores. I found Ushuaia to be rather over priced. Everything sold in this city was marketed with the tag line being “End of the World.” The streets were swarming with tourists and youngsters from the town. That was sure to arouse our curiosity and we were later told that in the 90’s the government tried to encourage settlers in Ushuaia. They made a push for youngsters and offered elevated salaries for jobs. However people never stayed for over a span of ten years due to the extreme weather conditions.