Ushuaia, Argentina – I MADE IT!!

18 February – 22 February 2005

I Made It!!

My long – 3:40 hour – flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia started at 6 a.m., so I was up and out of bed at 4 a.m., taxi at 4:30 and checkin at 5. On my flight from Lima to Cusco, I had some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen, looking at the mountain which were oh so close. On this flight, mainly I got clouds. But landing in Ushuaia was beautiful, if a little bit turbulent. The sky was clear and you could see the mountains in the distance. Very nice. I get a taxi into the city, and the first hotel I picked is full. I notice they had wifi access, so I asked if I could check my e-mail and they obliged. I walked to another hotel, which ended up being rather nice. However they only have rooms for two nights, but it’s good for now.

It is a lovely city – very prosperous, and pretty touristy. Not as bad as Paratai in Brazil, but touristy. Even though it is on the opposite ends of the earth, it reminds me of Alaska. The weather is similar, the people are similar (if better looking and better dressed) and the infrastructure is approximately the same (which I would expect, given the similar weather.) It’s a small town, but with most of the things you would want – electronics (cheaper than Brazil), internet access, banking, good restaurants, plenty of hotels, etc.

My first day I didn’t do too much – I was operating on about four hours of sleep. One of the first things I did see was a couple of guys on Dual Sport bikes, including the manliest of motorcycles – the 1150 GS. They were doing exactly what I had hoped to do – but then again they had Argentinean plates, so it’s a lot easier. Bastards. I resisted my urge to start a fight (not speaking spanish finally came in handy.) I found a tourist office, and mapped out the things I want to do while I am here – see the National Park, go on a boat and see some seals, find an angry management class, etc. I had a late lunch at an Argentinean steak house and then back to the hotel for a short nap. For dinner I went to the restaurant next door to the hotel with wifi, and was able to get online. I had a small, not very good salad, a great half bottle of wine (they generally don’t sell wine by the glass anywhere I have been, but instead sell half bottles of wine – 375ml) and a great slice of chocolate cake. This was a frilly, pink restaurant with lots of salads and fish on the menu, and I was the only guy there.

The next day I got up and went hiking. The national park is close – 12 KM, so I took a taxi to the entrance. It was expensive at 39 Pesos, but I got there quick, and didn’t have to figure out where to get a bus. The trail was quite nice, and very well marked. Luckily I didn’t run into any other people while I was on the trail, but when I got to the top, there were two german girls talking loudly. German is such a beautiful language, at least compared to Klingon. The views were great, but I hate to say it, but it reminded me of Alaska, but without the constant threat of being eaten by a bear.

On my way down, away from the Germans, I saw a really cool beaver dam. I have seem beavers try and make a dam next to my office in Bothell, but the city always removed the trees. This time the beavers had full run of the place. There were dams that were five or six fee high, holding up a lot of water. It was very very interesting, at least to me. Regretfully I’ve actually never seen a beaver in the wild, but I’m getting closer. I went back to the main road, and waited for a bus to pick me up. It was substantially cheaper at 8 pesos to get back.

That night I was looking for a place for dinner, and ran into the couple (Mac and Kathleen) I sat next to on the plane. They invited me to sit with them, and we had a very nice conversation, and an average dinner. Apparently Mac has a huge love of statistics, and among his other talents, can name the heights of most larger peaks in the world. He had Mount Rainer pegged at 14,000 ft, which is almost exactly correct. I was impressed, especially since Rainer is pretty far down the list of largest peaks. As I have a lot of useless knowledge too, we had a lot to talk about. The next day they invited me to go sailing with them. Since it was something I had been wanting to do, I said “sure.”

The next day I had to change hotel rooms, so I got up pretty early and packed, and went back to the first hotel I tried to stay in – the one with wifi. I’m glad I didn’t stay there the entire time, since it is somewhat expensive, but it was supposed to be nice. However, it is nowhere near as nice as the cheaper hotel I was staying in. Everything is just a small bit worse. Nothing is horrible, but it’s all just slightly different in a bad way. With internet access, I will forgive them. Oddly enough, as I have gotten further south, the hotels have gotten more expensive. I think the most interesting part is that it’s an almost linear progression.

After getting moved, I was supposed to meet my new friends at 8:50 a.m., and the boat was to leave at 9 a.m. (so I thought, and so the woman selling me the tickets said.) At 9 a.m., they weren’t there, but I wanted to go sailing, so I got a ticket on another boat. Of course, the boats didn’t leave until 9:30, and by then, they showed up, but I had a different boat. Oh well. The cruise was nice, and we saw some pretty cools stuff. We saw two different types of seals, and some cormorants, but no penguins. One of the seal colonies (?) we went to, the seals followed our boat for quite a while, jumping out of the water often. It was beautiful, and luckily I got a video of it. I tried to get pictures, but it’s hard to anticipate when they jump, and there is shutter lag on most non-SLR digital cameras. The view of the city, and of the mountains from the sound was beautiful. The day was clear and just a little bit chilly (I think the weather is approximately the same as it is in Seattle now.) At the cormorant nesting site, we saw one of the baby cormorants being eaten by another, larger bird. It wasn’t pretty, but I did get a picture. We then went to another, more boring, seal colony, walked for a while on an island, and headed back to the city. It was a very nice time, and a bargain at 90 pesos ($34.)

Now that I’m here, at the end of my journey, it dawned on me. I made it – I fucking made it to the end of the world. There was a great satisfaction walking the streets of this town and enjoying the thought I was here. Even now, three days in Ushuaia, I get a smile on my face when I think about it. There are some things I would like to be different (more photos and my SLR), and a lot of stuff I still want to see (Santiago, more of Argentina, more Brazilian Bikinis, and more hiking in Patagonia), but I made it.

The flip side to that is that now I need to start thinking about going back. You know the cliche “this is the first day of the rest of your life.” Well, I guess it’s always true, but never more so than here and now. It’s over – on Thursday I’ll be back in Seattle, looking for a place to live, and a job, and all the other things that I want out of life. It’s a pretty big change over the last year of my life, and even over the last couple of years. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Financially I have set myself back quite a bit (I’m glad that Grandma Redd isn’t here to see it – my spending this much money, and not working for a year might have killed her), and I’m going to have to work really hard to get back to where I was, and even harder to get back to where I want to be. I’ve got relationships to figure out, stomachs to flatten, houses to buy, tenants to deal with, cholesterol to lower, motorcycles to sell, and more. Whew!!