The end of the world - almost!

A traveller's personal view about the southern-most city on the earth

the end of the worldI had dreamt of this destination for a long time, and finally I was there and the place gave me a feeling of peace and inspiration. The southern-most city in the world - Ushuaia, in Argentina - breathes a special atmosphere; it is everywhere, and yet it is hard to define what it is that makes the place so special. Maybe it is that ultimate 'end of the world' feeling, or the thrill of knowing that when you look out over the water, out there there is only more water, and the ice and snow of Antarctica, the last true wilderness of the world.

We arrived on the airplane from Punta Arena, a thirty minute flight. The landing was quite exciting as the 'plane has to land on a relatively short runway, and comes in flying low over the surface of the Beagle Channel. The airport is fifteen minutes from Ushuaia centre. The hostel where we were staying was charming. The owner told us from the outset that we should check out the dining room on the fourth floor. He was proud of it, and he should be! because the almost 360 degree view was absolutely stunning - from one side the mountains, the 'five brothers' and the Martial glacier, and to the other side the town of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel with its port and sailing boats. At this point, I was convinced of the special atmosphere of this place and knew that the next three days here were going to be great.

The city of Ushuaia itself is, of course, a tourist place with the usual souvenir shops, tourist agencies, restaurants - most of them with great food, especially the seafood, and some of them in truly romantic locations - and even casinos. Walking in the town is a great experience, not only for the fact that this is the southern-most city in the world, but also because as soon as you climb the uphill streets - and they really are uphill! - you can enjoy the silence and beauty of the mountains and the sea.

There are some interesting museums to visit. I visited one about the indigenous Yamana people, and the 'Fin del Mundo' museum which covers the exploration of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. Walking along the docks is pleasant too, with interesting historical buildings, a couple of little churches, but most of all the boats and the views of the Beagle Channel....... This channel is the passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, and is dotted with little islands and rocks. Large boats need to steer through these waters very carefully, but we were using a small boat today as we intended to see the wildlife, and even take a walk on one of the islands.

On the cliffs and side of the rocks the cormorants, a wonderful sea-bird, make their nests and there were thousands of them! They share the rocks with sea-lions in some places. Our little boat sailed very close to the cliffs and gave us fantastic views and a great experience, but we felt that perhaps the birds and sea-lions didn't like our intrusion very much.

After some time we went ashore to do some walking on a small island that had once been inhabited by the Yamana people. There are still signs of their encampment here. The island was a wonderful experience. You can feel the wind and rain, the isolation of being in the middle of the Beagle channel, but I did also feel like something of an intruder in the daily lives of the wildlife that have made these islands their home.



This is an extract from a travel journal compiled in 2005 by a visitor to Argentina.

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