That is how the town Ushuaia describes itself. Our gateway to the Antarctic, it reminded us of the television series Northern Exposure. We travelled here via Buenos Aires’ domestic airport which is situated alongside the Plat River which has the biggest estuary in the world. Looks like an ocean. Uruguay is on the other side of the water in this picture.
Ushuaia is very pretty. A beautiful bay, as seen from our hotel room. It is from here that cruises to Antarctica depart, including some really big cruise ships. This Norwegian one was about to depart when we arrived. It is too big for the channels of the peninsula and travellers on these big vessels don’t get to land.
We unpacked our puffy jackets on arrival, much colder here than in Buenos Aires, and walked around the town. It is built along a hillside and so there are steep roads and footpaths to traverse. All leading down to the port which is also very busy with loads of containers bound for all the major ports in the world. Post the Falklands (Maldives) war the Argentinian Government has been trying to attract industries to locate here. We didn’t see them, but apparently there are a lot of factories here.
There was a prison here a long time ago. Brutal conditions you would think – for both prisoners and the gaolers. We visited the museum which also included maritime artifacts and history. There were maps of historical voyages and replics of the ships used. Also, a rather garish exhibit, devoted to the English pirate Francis Drake (Sir to you and me!) The prison part reminded me of Port Arthur, although in what was a gallery of infamous prisons they included Pentridge from Australia, which I think would hardly have been the worst. The prison cells were mini galleries illustrating some story from the prison. About notorious prisoners, what they wore, ‘a day in the life’, the histories of the different prison commandants etc. There were a lot of cells and plenty of room, so they also included Antarctic history as well. They had the actual clothing worn by the early explorers. Amazing. So cumbersome, and nowhere near as warm as our stuff. One wing of the prison had been left in its original state. Terrible. It must have been so cold! There was a Thematic Gallery about the prison in the main street, pictured below. I didn’t take any photos in the prison; too awful. But an old boat outside was benign. As is Eleanor waiting outside. I bought Joe and Patrick beanies and neck warmers, and myself a beanie, in the museum shop.
The township is surrounded by the Martial Mountains and the Glacier Martial is a brooding presence. Hiking up to the glacier is one of the tourist attractions here. I thought it was pretty spectacular glacier and spent some time trying to get a good picture. But, when I boarded the ship to Antarctica, the ship’s doctor, Geoff, said I would think this glacier puny after seeing those in Antarctica. Which is sort of true. But I still think this one, overlooking Ushuaia, is pretty good.
We found two other things of note in Ushuaia. First a memorial to Eva Peron. Confirming her legendary status in Argentina. As at her family’s mausoleum in the Recoleto cemetery, there are a whole lot of plaques from different organisations affixed to this, pretty unattractive statue. There were other memorials here that we didn’t get to see, except on the bus on our way back to the airport after disembarking from the ship. They were along the waterfront and included one relating to the Maldives. We did get up close to a statue of the Irishman, Joseph Brown, here known as Don Guillermo Brown, commander of La Armada Argentina. I’d been intrigued by him since seeing his very exotic memorial in the Recoleta cemetery.
Ushuaia is famous for its King crabs. There were lots of restaurants trying to attract our custom to taste this local delicacy and on our second day we did so with the children. But on our first day, they retired to the motel before dinner. Twilight over the water was beautiful.
This left Joe and I to try one of the restaurants recommended in our itinerary booklet. We had a wonderful meal in the family owned and run Kaupe Restaurant. Beautifully cooked food. We were offered a barely cooked egg in a cocktail glass for starters. No doubt it had lots of other things with it, because it was delicious. I had king crab au natural while Joe had it cooked. Tastes a little like lobster. But my piece de resistance was a wonderfully, lightly, cooked fish. We had a lovely conversation with the owner. Her husband was the cook, having initially been an electrician in one of the factories established here. He came out briefly but his English was not as good as his wife’s. And we had no Spanish! She was lovely, telling us all about her family, what living in Ushuaia was like, and Buenos Aires which is where they were from originally – impossible to live in, good to visit! The restaurant stays open all year as skiers come during the winter months, from Europe, wanting to continue training during the European summer. Joe brought out our booklet and showed her what was said about the restaurant, as she had never seen it. A glowing review so she was pleased. A lovely night.
The next day we finally got to see our ship from afar. And were excited to finally get on board, at about 3pm after mustering at a hotel near the port. There seemed to be lots of police officers on the streets near the port, and in fact one or two of the roads leading down to it were blocked off. And we were not able to walk onto the jetty. Obviously for security reasons. So we were all loaded into two buses for the very short trip to the ship. Here is the family on board waiting to head out on our Antarctic adventure.