Wednesday February 11, 2015 (Argentina, Patagonia, South America)
We now find ourselves in Ushuaia. It's the southernmost city in the world. "The End of the World", in fact! It was a 12 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales that involved two bus transfers, a ferry, and a border crossing. We definitely wish the 7:30am to 7:30pm ride was a night bus so we didn't have to pay for a night's accommodation on either end, but such is life. The ride included a quick stop at a panaderia (where they make those tasty empanadas) for a break. The place was called La Union. It was weird. The main dining area had an area wherein you could take your picture within a mock doctor's office. At the table across from you was a statue of a doctor, complete with stethoscope. Just, you know, for those people who want pictures of themselves with doctor statues. Want to wander toward the back of the restaurant? Good idea. There, you'll find a Swedish Chef clone doll passed out amongst his cookware. And encased in glass. In case you wanted to steal it or something, I guess? Regardless, Sandra bought some more cheesebread and we continued on our merry way.
We had planned a couple of nights here on a secret mission, the results of which we are presently awaiting. To fill this void of time, we've been exploring Ushuaia at a very slow pace.
One morning run introduced us to the houses up on the hills. But mostly it just woke up dozens of dogs who barked at us and chased us throughout the run. Some of them leaned toward the cute and amusing part of the doggie spectrum while others were more on the "please don't kill me" side. There are lots of strays here in Argentina, and many dogs who have legitimate owners are also allowed to run free around the town to keep themselves entertained. It can be a bit overwhelming at times!
In our hostel, we met a Dutch journalist by the name of Anna. We befriended her and headed out with her our second evening in Ushuaia. Our destination was an Irish pub called Dublin. They served a funny microbrew by Cape Horn Brewery that was a green beer. Not the kind of food-coloured green beer you see around St. Paddy's day, but an earthier, sea weed-y green. Still no idea how or why it's that colour. Not the worst tasting beer, either! And after an hour or so at the pub, who should walk through the doors but Dave and Jess, our Aussie friends from Buenos Aires! These coincidences are always awesome when travelling. They sat down with us and walked us through their Torres trek while we swapped stories.
A couple of days later, we met Sarah and Jeremy from Portland. They were interested in a hike in Tierra del Fuego National Park, so we joined along for the ride. It was a 130 peso cab ride out there, which we split two ways among the couples. Before commencing the hike, we stopped in at the post office at the end of the world. Inside is an eccentric old man who will stamp your passport with an indicator that you have, indeed, made it to the end of the world. It costs 20 pesos per stamp (about 3 dollars CAD). Both Sandra and myself regretted it immediately as we watched him mash a giant, goofy cartoon stamp in our passports. And then insert a small sticker alongside it containing a picture of a man with a stamp. It's him. So now you've got the stamp itself and a sticker with a picture of the man who stamped it with a stamp in his hand. I guess that means you really get your money's worth?
Although the rain in the park tempered our excitement a bit, we did discover the best stone skipping beach I've ever encountered. Everywhere you looked were smooth, flat rocks that fit perfectly in the palm. The water was calm. The game was afoot. I tried not to inconvenience the rest of the party too much, but I made sure to get in a good number of tosses. Can't get enough!
We tried to return to the city from the park using our same economical taxi approach. After stealthily following a taxi we caught entering the park, we tried to get him to take us home. No dice – he had other customers to bring back. Alas, we were forced to take a shuttle bus back to the city. At a cost of 400 pesos. So we got in for 130 pesos and out for 400. Such is the asymmetry of Argentinian pricing.
The plan was to chat with Dad on his birthday in the evening (Happy Birthday, Dad!). Alas, the Internet had other plans. Upon returning from our hike we discovered that the Internet was no longer functional. Assuming it was some problem local to our hostel, we approached the staff about the issue. It's not just us. The whole city has lost Internet and cell phone service. We must be bad luck for this stuff, because you may recall this happened to us in El Calafate too! It appears that robustness is not part of the game plan for Argentine ISPs. Sorry we missed the Skype chat, dad, but we tried!
If everything goes according to plan, we've got an unexpected destination next!