At last we arrived in Ushuaia, a goal achieved. We had driven over 3,200 km from Buenos Aires stopping off on the way to taste the flavors of the Pampas and Patagonia. Ushuaia sprawls along the Beagle Channel and to the foot of snow topped mountains. It’s a 100,000 strong city, with a lot of marine industry and tourist activities center round the water, local estancias, wildlife and the mountains. In every direction snow clad mountains stand like sentinels over and around the city.
A frontier town at the end of the world is how this city could be described. It has all the essential services you would expect for a city of 100,000 people but with decaying and failing infrastructure. You have to keep your wits about you when you go walking lest you succumb to potholed or suddenly absent sidewalks, motorists that may or may not stop for pedestrians and of course the ever present dog poo. Even in their state of disrepair many buildings are garishly painted and along with magnificent lupin blooms and other annuals in home gardens and public places around the city.
Ushuaia is a bright spot on what could be a gloomy place. Three hours of sunshine per day in the winter and cloudy, drizzly with sunny patches alternating hourly during the summer. Average summer maximum temp of 11deg C. While we were there most days were 5-6 deg C but on days with little wind that temp is quite tolerable if you dress in layers. Living in Tasmania for 6 years prepared us for that!
There is no shortage of museums in the city and the Old Prison and Maritime Museum was worth-while visiting.
The Mountains! There is no disputing it. Picture postcard mountain scenery envelopes Ushuaia. In every direction there is jaw-dropping beauty. Overnight snows and mists on higher slopes and sunshine change the scenery hourly.
The Beagle Channel - So named after the name of the ship that carried Charles Darwin when he arrived in Ushuaia in the 1830’s. The Beagle Channel is the waterway situated at Ushuaia’s doorstep. We went on an excursion by boat that took us about 90 km east up the Channel to Harberton Estancia. On the way we observed a cormorant rookery, a sea lion colony along with attendant turkey vultures, and a penguin rookery. There were three different types of penguins and we were enthralled at their antics……chasing one another, surfing, sleeping, preening one another and seemingly kissing one another. It was molting time for them and you could see feathers flying in all directions as they preened and shook themselves.
Harberton Estancia - was the first ranch/estancia on Tierra del Fuego. …circa 1888. The homestead, built out of corrugated iron was prefabricated in Devon in England, shipped and assembled on its present site. The owner of the estancia, Rev Thomas Bridges was from England and lived his formative years in the Falkland Islands where his adoptive father was an Anglican minister/missionary. Sheep farming was once the lifeblood of the estancia but after a disastrous winter in the 1990’s when all the sheep died it now runs a few beef cattle and relies on tourism to survive. There is an extensive vegetable garden, fruit trees and an impressive display of annual flowers. The old shed and barn house memorabilia and there is a whaling museum as well.