PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Antarctica Journey, Day 2: Ushuaia And Tierra Del Fuego National Park

Our flight from Buenos Aires took us to Ushuaia, a city known as the “End of the World,”  since the town is located at the southernmost tip of South America and therefore is the  southernmost city in the world. The cruise arranged for a tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park (The Land of Fire), at the base of the Patagonia Range. One side faces Argentina and one faces Chile.   

We began our tour going to the “end of the road”  — literally. The road that crosses North America, Central America and South America beginning at Prudhome Bay ends in the park. I traveled the northern part when I was in the Northwest Territories and was tickled to see the other end today.   

The floral and fauna were incredible in the Pantagonia Peninsula of Tierra del Fuego. Our knowledgeable guide explained a great deal and passed around examples of the items we should look for as we walked through the park.  She also talked about the positivity of the lichen on the trees being a good sign of a healthy ecosystem.

Highlights of our tour included the “wildish” horses, which means someone technically “owns” them but they truly run free and reproduce of their own accord.  A fun and unexpected bonus was getting our passports stamped at the southernmost national post office  — there is an international one in Antarctica — where the postmaster reminded me of the sloth in “Zootopia,” truly a charming man who loved Che and had a dog named after him. I also mailed a postcard to my friend who collects them.

We also did some hiking around the Beagle Channel, where I discovered that my ability to skip stones, which I did with quite alacrity as a child, has faded profoundly with age. All things considered, that’s not too dear a loss.

Before heading to our ship, we had a chance to drive through Ushuaia and learn a bit more about the political and socioeconomic situation as well as its ecology. It has three seasons — green, red and white — but even the green stays pretty cold. Mid 50s and sun is an exceedingly nice day. It has the same vibe as a lot of towns I visited in Alaska.

They are growing as Argentina is struggling economically, in a large part because of the lack of crime. One could tell, even in the brief time we were in Buenos Aires, that there were huge issues with poverty and housing insecurity, and I have a hunch from the powerful police presence in the tourist zone, that crime is probably a big issue.

Because of the growth, they are doing a lot of organized development, but it is easy to tell that the growth of the city into the hills that surround it could create potential ecological problems, which our tour guide said they were trying to be aware of. Even so, the conflict between climate change and economic growth is clearly at play.

I didn’t spend enough time there to get a full picture of the situation. But even in the brief time ,it is apparent that those dual forces that impact so much of the word will help to find the future of this lovely community, which is clearly a harbor town.

It was a glorious day in an amazing space with truly fresh air and wild scenery. A great bonus added to this adventure.

Leave a Reply