Yesterday, I checked out of my hotel in Buenos Aries and managed to time my departure right in the middle of rush hour. Just as I was trying to leave, a whole cruise ship load of people were arriving. After thirty minutes in the queue at reception (even the post office moves faster) I had managed to settle my account and my transport tot the airport was waiting.
This time I was leaving from the George Newbury Airport, the domestic terminal, by the River Plate. There is some contention as to whether this is the wide mouth of the river that forms the border between Uruguay and Argentina (it”s 270 km wide) or whether it is perhaps really a wide bay. For us old folks, we might remember it for the battle of the Graf Spey when the German pocket battle ship of the same name was sunk by the British in WW2.
I had a three hour wait after check in and filled in time by watching one of the David Attenborough documentaries on my iPad that Cathy and Chris had given me Christmas. It was very interesting and filled in the time very pleasantly. My flight to Ushuaia was a little over 3 1/2 hours. Fortunately, I had been given an emergency row seat with some extra leg room when I had checked in for the flight.
This time my next door neighbour was an Argentinian lawyer. He was travelling south to Ushuaia to have some papers signed. He had excellent English and a wide knowledge of the world and had been to Australia twice. We spent a lot of time talking about the similarities and differences between Australia and Argentine. I actually ran into him int the street in Ushuaia today around lunchtime, just before he was due to catch a plane back to Buenos Aries. We had a quick chat and wished each other well for our ongoing travels.
Ushuaia bills itself as the most southerly city in the world. However, just across the Beagle Channel in Chile is a tiny town (Port Williams) in which most of its population of 1200 people belong to, or are associated with, the Chilean Navy. With a population of over 12,000 people however, I guess that Ushuaia probably wins in the city stakes!
When I arrived here, the weather was cold and windy. It was about 8 degrees C with a wind of over 40 km per hour. In some open areas, it was really difficult to stand up. Today, however, it has been fine and 13 C with only a little drizzle in the evening.
I spent the morning today, walking around the town and along the harbour taking photos. I came across the same scuttled tug as I remember from my last visit, but this time, I found, at the far end of town, a large memorial to all those who served in the Argentine forces in the Falkland Islands war of 1982. The Argentinians are a very nationalistic lot. I then spent a few hours in the Prison Museum – the old gaol that is very similar to Pentridge in Melbourne, and in fact it has a display making that makes comparison. Ushuuaia was once a penal colony and was set up along the lines of Port Arthur in Tasmania for housing repeat offenders. Most of the prisoner’s work here was cutting timber in the forest.
This afternoon, I took up a tour of the Beagle Channel. This is the waterway leading to the Drake Passage to Antarctica and is named after the ship The Beagle, which was later made famous by Charles Darwin and captained by Fitzroy. A major peak that I visited on my previous trip to the Andes is named after him. Our tour went down the channel to the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse.
On our return, we stopped at some little islands which are the breeding grounds of the Royal Cormorant and a some with a colony of sea lions. We had some great views over the channel and the surrounding mountains which form the bottom end of the Andes.
Dinner tonight was at an Argentinean steakhouse. In this type of restaurant, the cook meat on iron frames in front of an open fire. I had seven types of meat for $20 and far more than I could ever eat. I’m sorry to say that I left the black pudding sausage and the sheep’s intestine. I ddi try to balance my meal with something green but the mixed salad that I ordered turned out to be just lettuce and tomato. However, very tender meat and some nice wine made a superb meal.