Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego was discovered in 1520. The name,
Land of Fire, came from the fact that the natives carried
fire with them everywhere. They used the fire to keep
warm and were generally close to naked, even though
the climate here is colder and windier than Port Angeles.
Ironically, when the Europeans and missionaries
persuaded the natives to adopt western clothing and
western style housing, disease and death increased as
they natives did not have it in their culture to wash their
clothes or clean their houses.
Tierra del Fuego is the largest island in South America.
The city of Ushuaia on the south part of the island is the
most southern city in the world. Ironically, the most
northern point on the Antarctic Peninsula is due south,
so this is the closest water crossing to Antarctica and
makes Ushuaia a popular place to take Antarctic cruise.
When Jackie and I came to Ushuaia three years ago, a professional travel company arranged our visit in Ushuaia.
We took the standard group tour of the park and the usual voyage in the Beagle Channel. This time we stayed with
a local family and rented a car for four days. What an improvement this made in experience!
Above, the end of Argentina Ruta No. 3, the furthest south an
automobile can be driven on a public road in the world.
Our hosts were Raul and Cristina, the owners of Tango B&B.
They are political science professors at the local university.
What terrific hosts they were! Our first night we were treated
to an accordion concert and lecture on the history of Tango.
This was followed by an hour's lesson on doing the Tango.
Their philsophy is to treat their guests like their own children
and they do a terrific job.
OK, those of you who know me are wondering, Elston
dancing? There were two other guest couples and they
took the lessons, but I could not resist the photo op.
Raul speaks good English. We usually spent an hour or two
each day conversing with them and learning about the
area. Raul also gave us lots of advice on where to go.
While there are now many planes and tourists to Ushuaia,
the nice thing about our stay is that we were usually off
away from the tourist hordes moving in packs on the two
Driving in a foreign country is quite an experience, but one worth taking. One day we drove half way across the island
and discovered how much the geography, plants, and wildlife change at the other side of the island. Our first day it
was snowing. The rental car guy took the car back to give us "nails" or studs. For an hour we drove a windy road
and then another hour in snow and slush on a muddy road for 45 kilometers to a historic ranch. At the ranch there
was a world class museum with whale, dolphin, and seal bones. A woman who is a working on her doctorate at
University of La Plata gave us a personal tour of this museum in the middle of nowhere. We saw virtually no one on
the drive but we had great wildlife viewing including a condor that did not give us time for his photo.
Our third day we hiked east of Ushuaia. While there are hundreds of tourists touring and hiking the small national
park on the west side of Ushaia, we were by ourselves hiking along the Beagle Channel. As one might expect of a
beef and sheep country, we encountered cows as we hiked along this part of the channel.
Below is a picture of Ushuaia with the
Beagle Channel and an island in Chile in
the background. Yesterday the Channel
was fairly calm, but as I write this, the wind
has picked up and there are many white
caps whipping up on the channel. Tomorrow
we board our ship from Ushuaia for our
voyage to the Falklands, South Georgia
and the Antarctic Penninsula.
One last comment. If you visit Ushuaia, go the prison. This prison
was built in 1902 and modeled after other countries such as
England that sent its bad people off to remote areas like Australia.
Prisoners built this prison from a local rock quarry and here were
jailed Argentina's most notorious criminals. During the 1930s the
prison was also used to hold political prisoners--those who had
dared to speak out against the military dictatorship. No escape
from this prison was ever successful.. The prison was finally
closed in 1947.
What makes the prison a must see is the exhibits on the early
discovers, Maritime history, the prison, and Antarctica. These
exhibits are world class museum exhibits and more than justify the
$10 US admission.