Day 6 – Ushuaia, Fin de Mondo- the end of the world
Everyone was up in the Living Room at the bow of the ship to enjoy the sail up the Beaver Channel into Ushuaia. At the start of the day it was pretty foggy, but as the morning progressed, sunny breaks revealed blue skies. Snow covered peaks were visible in the distance and there were a number of boats and yachts bobbing along the fairly flat water. A couple of Minky whales decided to join us on the starboard bow of the ship – we could see them very clearly from our position on Deck 10.
The wind picked up just as we were approaching Ushuaia, causing Captain Carl to warn those on the outside decks to hold on and keep away from railings.
It also made his job a lot harder as we came in to dock. Fortunately as we got closer, it was more sheltered and we managed to dock a little earlier than scheduled.
This was ideal as it gave us time to have a quick visit ashore to stretch our legs and check out the waterfront of the town before reporting for our shore excursion. So good to be on land!
As we only had the afternoon in town, we had decided to book one of the ship excursions. It also helped that we had been given a fairly large onboard credit – like free money – so we didn’t actually have to fork out the exorbitant amount they charge for these experiences. We ended up really grateful that we hadn’t paid our hard earned dollars for the outing as it turned out to be somewhat disappointing and certainly not what had been advertised.
We hopped on the bus with Norbeto (Norbi for short), our local Argentinian guide and headed for the national park of Tierra del Fuego – the southernmost national park in the world.
The road to get there was the “3”, the approx. 3000km highway that extends from Buenos Aires. After we left town, said highway became a dirt road past the entrance to the park and to “the end of the world”. Norbi was very knowledgeable and entertaining – and his English was excellent! He told us about the deciduous and evergreen Beech trees growing through the park and the Darwin mushrooms sprouting in clumps on the trees (yes, from Charles Darwin). The most interesting story was about the beavers that had been introduced into the area from Canada – and the evidence of how much they had become a menace and destroyed the trees. An example of what can happen when something is introduced to an area where it doesn’t belong and the habitat is not designed to cope with it.
Somewhat ironically, Ushuaia is a town that’s been built on the back of introducing things that were not there. It started with the building of a prison to “attract” people to the vicinity and getting them to work on clearing trees and building railways. As this model became unsustainable, big business was enticed by low tax rates, bringing a lot of industry to the region. The challenge then became how to draw workers for the businesses – so they started paying wages 3-4 times as high as other parts. Ushuaia is undergoing growth again, this time on the back of tourism and the desire of many people such as us to reach Antarctica. Let’s hope that humans don’t do as much damage as the beavers have done!
The promised 2 hour wilderness trek turned out to be a 1km stroll through the forest and across the dales. We took advantage of the 25 minutes of free time to stretch our legs on a 2km hit out to one of the beaver damaged spots. Utter bliss after being at sea for 3 ½ days! Given we’d been off the ship for a couple of hours and this means no food, they couldn’t resist taking us to the visitor centre for tea and cookies – or was it to spend money at the very expensive gift shop?!
The bus dropped us off back at the ship so we hopped on board for a quick dinner at the buffet before stepping out for a wander around the town. Maximising our time ashore before another 5 or 6 days at sea again. Still being in our daggy hiking clothes and boots, we sat at the back of the Cabaret Lounge to watch the onboard singers presenting their show of hits from Broadway.