All about Ushuaia – Part 1

I thought I would start the series of articles relating our trip to the end of the world from the end, sort of. Since our goal was to reach Ushuaia by road, the southern-most city in the world, I will tell you what it was like to finally be there.

Even though it is a long way to get there, even for us living in Argentina, it didn’t feel too bad. We took our time to visit many interesting and beautiful places along the way, and we had no mechanical problems. Many of the roads along the mountains are either under construction/repair, or have not been paved yet. Such is the famous or should I say infamous Ruta 40 (ruta cuarenta). Some days we drove more kilometres of gravel than pavement. At least once a day the pavement stops and you are on a section of gravel. Those sections can be from 20 or 30 km, to 100 km-long in some places. 70 km sections are common. That is a lot of rattling, shaking, noise, and dust. Rocks thrown by the tires can hit and damage things under the vehicles, vibrations can loosen things, and rocks projected by other vehicles can damages windshields. Even the largest vehicles are not spared. I read on the blog of a couple we met in El Chalten that their Mercedes Benz heavy-duty ex-military 4×4 truck had a brakes failure due to a ruptured line. Many kilometres in the south of Chile and then on the island of Tierra Del Fuego offer very flat landscapes with very few distractions. The winds can reach a hundred km/h easily.

Ushuaia is not the southern-most habited place in the world, Antartica would be I suppose, but it is the largest city. There are a few estancias and hamlets further south, and a village on the Chilean side of the bay. Ushuaia is a port city of about 60,000 inhabitants, located along the Beagle channel, and capital of the island of Tierra Del Fuego, Antartica and the south-Atlantic islands province. Its economy is fishing, gas and oil extraction, sheep farming, and eco-tourism. Tourism is largely European, some North-Americans, and South-Americans. Chinese also visit Ushuaia from the many cruise ships that arrive almost daily. Ushuaia is also the departure port for cruises to Antartica, as well as tours to go see penguins, whales, etc.

I cannot explain the reason but once in Ushuaia I felt something I had not felt before on the trip, a need to just be there. Maybe because once you have reached the end of the world the only option is to turn around and retrace your steps, sort of. So we stayed a total of five days, which gave us time to visit the city and do some shopping. One day was spent in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Ushuaia has one main street with all the gift shops, mountain equipment stores, and various other shops. There are restaurants, coffee shops, and the oldest general store is now a French-bakery/café. After three days of daily breakfast there, we managed to have enough of the delicious buttery croissants, almond croissants, and chocolate croissants!

We celebrated our arrival in Ushuaia with an excellent meal at Chez Manu, one of the two authentic French restaurants in town. Manu is there to great you and chat, the food is excellent, and the view at night is spectacular.

We booked a tour to estancia Haberton, about 80km south of Ushuaia, to go see penguins. I’ll tell you more about this in a future post. In Tierra Del Fuego National Park we hiked along the coast and camped one night. Again photos will come in the next post. There is no campground at all in Ushuaia. The only one has been closed for some time. So we stayed several nights in a sort of provincial park outside town, but there was no washrooms, no potable water, just a place to wild-camp.

We boondocked one night with a few other camper-trucks on a parking lot near the docks. We didn’t feel unsafe at all in that part of town, since all the tourist tour boats dock there, and there is traffic late in the evening and early in the morning.