Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ushuaia, Argentina (Fin del Mundo) (5 days)

Ushuaia rocks. Argentinians claim that Ushuaia is the most southern- most town in the world, when in fact there is one in Chile that is slightly farther south. We heard from people to skip it as it is just like Vancouver, but it absolutely is not. It´s cold, very windy, very hilly, wonderfully close to wild places and to the always-whitecapped Beagle Channel. The best part of Ushuaia was actually a temporal experience which you can never count on- meeting one great person after the next at the hostel there. Highlight was three guys from Buenos Aires who were travelling around their country. First meeting was them making some extra cash by painting the doors in the hostel´s outdoor courtyard. They rigged up the speakers to be outside and were dancing and singing and not working very hard at all. We had a fun Spanglish sesh getting to know them and were able to communicate a hostel party meeting later that night. Well, they were musicians. Couple hours later, there we were, banging pots and pans in time to their guitar, bongos, someone used the wooden table as rhythm, and another a post-box! People were dancing, it was a really great time.

Ushuaia was also our only experience of Carnival to this point. For three nights there was music, dancing and costumes down in a square by the bay which we could hear from all over town. While we did not find time to go, we did happen to hear some very loud music close by on a walk back to the hostel on the hill. An investigation produced a group of local teens with large drums and whistles practicing for their upcoming performance. The highlight were the women in flashy costumes, also little girls (so cute), who made a point to come out and say hi to our curious faces, and encourage us to go watch and dance with them. We did not, but wondered at how on earth they were going to be warm enough to perform down by the water! Carnival is a universal celebration down here, but the costumes definitely need to be modified for those celebrations away from hot Rio! Fun.

In Ushuaia, we went for a day hike in the national park where we saw an elaborate beaver dam, and lots of Lenga forest. Also saw the famous local woodpeckers, male and female stick together, one with a bright red head, the other black. The hike was beautiful with some grassy knolls covered in clover, hmmm did it smell good. Next day we went for a 5 hour boat cruise down the Beagle Channel to see a funny colony of penguins. On the way we saw lighthouse, albatross, and lots of beautiful mountains complete with sunset. Day after that we hiked up to a glacier which is just up from the town.

Ushuaia must be to Argentinians what Alaska is to Americans- the far reaches of civilization. Working in the hostel was Emilio, a very kind 40ish man. We would later discover that he was a lawyer for several years but decided to give it up to come work in a hostel at the end of the world. He was clearly very happy and excited about his decision, but we joked with him that he had not yet lived through a winter in Ushuaia (guessing somewhat desolate)! In Ushuaia we met a lot of inspirational older couples who told us that travelling and hiking is what has kept them together for so long. Aaahhh...


At 4:16 AM, Anonymous cj said...

Nice to see a photo of you and A! You guys look great. And it sounds like everyone is really friendly!

Carnival (Carnaval as the Dutch call it) is a great time to be in a city, isn't it? We spent the weekend 'celebrating' in Southern Netherlands with the locals...crazy costumes, singing, dancing, parades, and general debauchery. I'm back at work, but the carnival continues for 3 more days! ahhh...to be a local!


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