Frigata Sarmiento (Kenneth Nelson)
Guide Pablo picks us up at Hotel Reino del Plata and drives us to the EZE Aeropuerto to catch our domestic airplane, and we fly 1800 miles south to the "end of the world" (El Fin del Mundo) in Ushuaia. There is a weight limit on domestic airplanes of 33 lbs. (15 kilos) per bag which we just sneak under and luckily avoid paying a surcharge. In the late 1800's Ushuaia was settled as a penal colony for Argentina's worst criminals. It was in operation up until 1947, when President Juan Peron closed the prison for good. We are picked up at the airport by our guide, Atu, and we meet our 6th tour member, Geraldine. Atu drives our completed friendly group of six to the Hosteria Linares, which is a lovely small hotel in the middle of town. Atu suggests we could climb to the Martial Glaciar just outside of town, and so, after a quick unpack, we spend the afternoon doing just that. It's a lot of work, (a mountain climber would love this challenge) and the three of us achieve different levels of success. Kathy peters out first, and waits for the others while sitting on a large, flat, cold rock. I decide to call it quits next, but Bert, our fit friend, keeps climbing. She stops just short of the glacier and could have made it all the way (she says), except for the fact that it was already getting late. But wherever we find ourselves, we marvel at the breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains and the city and the Beagle Channel below. On the way down we stop for a well deserved snack at the Casa de Te (teahouse) at the base of the chairlift that serves the mountain for skiing in the winter. Today there are many sport equipment shops and clothing shops lining the main street of Ushuaia for trekkers and other outdoor enthusiasts. At the docks, cruise ships come and go carrying those tourists who are going even further on to Antarctica. Perhaps on our next trip we can go there too, to see the Emperor penguins and whales amidst the ice floes and pack ice. But for now, we eat dinner in Ushuaia at El Turco Pizzeria, thoroughly enjoying the food, the ambience and the realization that we are here!
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