Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ushuaia - The End of the World

In an earlier post I had written about Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago at the southern tip of South America. Even just a hundred years ago, this region was untouched and exactly as it has been over centuries. But now it is completely transformed and the ancient people have almost completely died out or mixed in with the European people who settled here in the 20th century.

Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego is a modern city now and holds the title "Fin del Mundo" or "End of the World". There is one Chilean city even south of Ushuaia, called Punta Arenas. But Ushuaia in Argentina claimed the title first.


Arriving in Ushuaia is an experience in itself, because of the dramatic approach to the city. Flights from the mainland skim low over the southern tip of the Andes before dipping down into the cluster of islands, landing on a tiny airstrip that runs from tip to tip across a small island!

This landing is often rough due to the constant strong winds in this area, and I was quite nervous. So I left my camera in the overhead bin fully expecting to be jostled about. But the landing turned out to be perfect, and absolutely smooth. Others we met who landed the very next day said they didn't have such a smooth landing, and so we were pretty lucky.

The plane almost skimmed the water's surface on its gentle approach, and just as I thought we would be landing in water, we touched down on the tip of the island on a bright and sunny day. Since I couldn't get up to get my camera, I have no pictures, but here's one from our take-off, when we left Ushuaia.



The city is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and has variable weather always. It can go from sunny and warm to breezy, cold and rainy in hours, and one has to be prepared.

Lupins were in bloom everywhere when we visited in January, and the city was absolutely beautiful. Lupins are not native to this region though, and were introduced by European settlers.



We stayed at a little bed & breakfast which was a 15 minute walk from the main downtown area of the city. These red lupins were on either side of our door.



Here are some more pictures of the bursts of color we saw all over the town as we walked around. I couldn't resist taking pictures of them!




We walked several miles every day getting to and from the downtown area, because we got almost all our meals from the only ALL vegetarian take-out place in Ushiaia - called El Bambu.



We found it really hard to find vegetarian food that I could trust in Argentina. The only pasta dish we would find in the restaurants in Patagonia would usually smell odd, but I would eat it quickly without delving into details about the ingredients, because I didn't have many other options. Then we took to cooking our meals at our hostel, but after a long day's hiking, cooking isn't the easiest chore!

So we really appreciated the delicious, affordably priced food at El Bambu!



Most Antarctic cruises start from Ushuaia, and the port is stunning at night. I took my tripod out there one night and took some pictures of the night lights at the port. More of that in the next post.

Here's one more lupin picture before I end this post!


18 comments:

Jude said...

Thank you so much for these posts of an area that I find so interesting and I know will never visit.
Everything is so, well, stunning, the climate, the area! I love those lupins, yes, they do remind me of an old English country garden.Do they live from mainly tourism now? Do they do any farming, fishing?

Blu said...

Hello Bindu, I hate landings when all around is sea!!..It was like that when I went to Venice. Ushuaia is the name of one of my favorite French tv programmes where they take you to far off places. Just like you do!

Lovely pictures, best wishes Blu x

Phoenix said...

Absolutely spectacular... my list of places to go to keeps on increasing by the day :) I do hope I'm able to make it there someday...

T and S said...

Beautiful series of images and going by the images it looks like you enjoyed your stay in Ushuaia

ArtSparker said...

Fascinating combination, the ends of the earth in combination with the sweet town. What do they do in Tierra del Fuego?

Indrani said...

Something like Jude said... and that is what keeps me blogging. The virtual tours are fascinating. Those lupins are so beautiful.

Mridula said...

Such a pretty place and the meal looks yummy!

bb mcclain said...

A unique place to see. I didn't know the Andes reached all the way down to the southern tip of SA. Great pics! I felt I was there. Looking forward to the night pics.

pink dogwood said...

Wow - the last picture is absolutely gorgeous. Can't wait for your next post with night pictures.

LadyFi said...

Fascinating - and what a dramatic city! The landing strip reminds me of landing in Gibraltar or Hong Kong.

Vamsee said...

Hey Bindu,
I was traveling and didn't have a chance to check out my favorite blogs. Will do so in leisure.

Loved the pictures of the lupines. I am hoping you will have more information on Ushuaia in your next post.

Jude said...

Hello, me again, I can't find an email address so thought I'd just leave a quick message here.
They, the dolls, are in a restaurant called Masala Zone off Covent Garden. It's a chain of restaurants we enjoy going to as they have a variety of thali to choose from and very reasonably priced. My son has also got some dolls he brought back from his trip.

meb said...

Oh Wow bindu... the pictures are beautiful. Such an array of colors bursting out.

Looking forward to the next post.

3rdEyeMuse said...

I think I would have taken a trillion photo's of the lupins - their colors are so vibrant! ... and I would have taken as many meals at El Bambu ... I'm not a vegetarian, but their dished look so yummy and fresh!

dolphin said...

each time i read your blog, there's something informative. i again begin to explore beautiful cultures worldwide lost in our history textbooks through your blog.

keep posting!

GMG said...

Hi Bindu!
Great post. I've been dreaming with Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego for years, but unfortunately never found the time suficient to stroll there in shape... But one day I will and will take your tips with...

Now, one week working without coming here and you don’t even remember that
Blogtrotter still exists. But it’s there, even if India 2008 has come to an end… ;)). Have a great weekend!

Cuckoo said...

So lovely colourful place it is. Thanks for taking us there.

And the lupin shots are so tempting.

~vagabond~ said...

The lupines look so pretty! Did not know you were vegetarian...the food from el bambu looks yummy...what are the triangles?