Day 27 of 68 — Ushuaia, Argentina

February 2, 2018 Paul Groves

Ushuaia is a surprisingly large and modern city and proudly calls itself the End of the World (fin del Mundo). It has a population of 80,000 and is constantly growing. We arrived early in the morning and looking out at the colorful city, we could see a rainbow. This cruise is scheduled so we visit these cities during their summer. Even so, we have been amazingly fortunate in our weather. More than once, the locals have remarked that we have brought beautiful weather with us. Our day in Ushuaia was sunny, with blue skies. The air temperature was about 50 degrees F, which is picnic weather for these guys. Besides tourism, the industry in Ushuaia includes manufacture of electronics and other products. Ushuaia was declared a Duty Free zone in the 1980’s to encourage people and industries to move here. It worked. This port is one of the gateways to Antarctica. Next to our ship was a smaller cruise ship specifically designed to cruise in Antarctica. We could see several small inflatable watercraft, called Zodiacs, on the deck of the ship.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention is the change in sunset time. The sunset is generally around 9:30 p.m., however, looking out our window at 10:30 p.m. still seems like twilight. The sunrise is around 6:00 a.m. These long days are very strange for us. I can’t imagine living in this part of the world in the winter when the day is incredibly short. Our guide told us that the houses and buildings in Ushuaia are painted bright colors to counteract the depression that sets in when most of the days are grey and overcast. While the weather today is sunny, we were told to wait five minutes and the weather will completely change. During the day, we experienced wind and short showers, but mostly beautiful sun.

Today’s excursion was a bus ride through the town continuing to their national park and concluding with a ride through the Beagle Channel on a large catamaran. We have been watching for large wildlife such as deer and elk. We were told that what we will mostly see are birds. In this cold climate, there are few cold-blooded creatures such as snakes and lizards. During the bus ride, the guide excitedly pointed out two playful red foxes but we did not see them. There are also beavers and rabbits which are not original to the area, but have been introduced over time as a possible useful source of fur. Not surprisingly, these animals have harmed the ecological balance and caused damage. The beavers dam up waterways and drown the indigenous trees. Beavers are hunted by the park rangers to keep their numbers under control.

The catamaran turned out to be a large boat with three levels of seating. It was very comfortable and only two bus loads of cruise tourists were on the boat that could hold many more tourists. We could go out on the deck to take pictures. Moving down the Beagle channel, the guide explained the history of the channel and we came up close to islands of cormorants, nesting sea birds called petrels, a sea lion colony, and finally a lighthouse that some call the lighthouse at the end of the world.

When we arrived back at the dock after the 5 hour tour, there was still plenty of time to walk into the town, do a little shopping, and find a pizza restaurant with fast internet and tasty pizza. We ate and had a chance to do some badly needed updates on the computer. We saw a statue and several plaques talking about Eva Perón, Evita, and the post office had a special stamp commemorating her.