When Erwin and I got married we vowed never to exit our union, to go to the end of the world to save our marriage when things get tough. Little did I know that we would go to the end of the world so soon into our marriage. Don’t get bad ideas here, our holy matrimony was not in trouble, on the contrary this end of the world was marvelous and it had a name: Ushuaia.
Ushuaia is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world hence the use of “Ushuaia, end of the world, beginning of everything” slogan. While there are settlements farther south, the only one of any notable size is Puerto Williams, a Chilean community of 3,000 residents. A 1998 article in the newspaper Clarín reported that the designation “Southernmost city in the world” had been transferred to Puerto Williams by a joint committee from Argentina and Chile, but this was denied by Argentine authorities, and the Secretariat of Tourism of Argentina continues to use the slogan in official documentation and websites. Ushuaia is seen as a center of population, commerce, and culture, and as a town of significant size and importance, which qualifies it as a city. On the other hand Puerto Williams(3,000 residents) has been classified as an urban entity by Chile’s National Statistics Institute, although the department generally classifies a city as an urban entity with more than 5,000 residents!
I couldn’t care less about this dispute because I was in wonderland. Most southernmost or not, this beautiful, fairyland, magical, heavenly place on earth has forever shifted my travel destination preferences: B.U ( Before Ushuaia) I craved for sunshine, sandy beaches with crystal seen through water. A.U (after Ushuaia) my new must do destinations are Alaska, Antarctica, Iceland, Norway etc etc….
In fact, our initial honeymoon plan was a Western Caribbean Cruise from Orlando ( Port Canaveral) to Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, George Town Grand Cayman, Cozumel Mexico. Unfortunately, a week before sailing day we had to cancel the trip for unforeseen reasons. The Royal Caribbean customer service were very understanding and gave us back 75% of what we paid as a voucher to be used in a year. The initial destination was no longer an option for us so we had to come up with another. We were bouncing back and forth between a cruise to the Far East right after our wedding ceremony in September and a South America cruise in March, 6 months after! We ended up doing a mini honeymoon in the beautiful Krakow(Poland) and opted for the Cape Horn cruise which was heading to my mother’s homeland: South America/Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Best decision ever!
The cruise started in Buenos Aires/Argentina to Montevideo/Uruguay then Punta del Este/Uruguay, Puerto Madryn/Argentina, Cape Horn/Chile(cruising), Ushuaia/Argentina, Punta Arenas/Chile, Strait of Magellan/Chile(cruising) Chilean Fjords (Cruising), Puerto Montt (Chile), Valparaiso(Chile)
As exhilarating as it was to actually be able to go around the Cape Horn-we even got a certificate for it- the highlight of our trip was Ushuaia.
The few hours were quite enough to make the both of us utterly, irrevocably under a spell: we booked a canoeing excursion in the Lapataia River at the Tierra del Fuego National Park. I fiercely believe our choice of excursion is what made Ushuaia even more fascinating. I would highly recommend it if you are ever there. Canoeing trumps hiking or going by bus .
Our group was picked up by our amazing guide Flores and her team. The bus drive was 45 minutes from the Port to the Park during which we witnessed a four seasons change from hail to sunshine. It was not promising at all, we worried we would be soaked in rain or even worth we were scared our canoeing would be cancelled. Luckily for us the famous unpredictable weather in Ushuaia was in our favor: the sun was shining bright when we arrived to the Park, temperature was 2 Celsius though…brr! The scenery however was drop-dead gorgeous and it made up for the breathtakingly cold weather.
From the Park, you could see the snow capped Andes mountains of both Argentina and Chile because The Tierra del Fuego Park is shared by both countries.
Across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia is my beloved Chile.
The canoeing trip was about an hour and a half, it was pretty cold and windy for a while. I was afraid my hands would become blue and fall off of my body. However, the more I rafted the less blue likely they became! Word of advice, bring a warm hat, a warm coat and gloves.
Personally I found the difference between this Park and the Keukenhof Park, while canoeing in particular, is enormous. Although kayaking is a very moderate activity, your instincts become hard-wired. There is bond you establish with this majestic nature around you: you become the mountain, the river, the ducks, geese, plovers…Your mind is empty, away from the noise, from the buzz, in sync, egoless in the midst of this grandiose piece of art. You are present with no past and no future. Time is a faraway concept. You are a part of the history of this river, the history of the indigenous inhabitants of this land who used this river exactly like we use a supermarket and a highway nowadays. Most importantly, you fiercely part of a NOW, a present that is so essential that all religions have tried to teach us and that we somehow lost along the way with all the stress, and the worries, the planning, and the dying clock. If the kingdom of God is here now, then it is in Ushuaia.
Unfortunately, as timeless as this trip was, the canoeing trip had to end at the Lapataia Bay. This remote bay, nestled amid snow-capped mountains, is a great place for spotting ducks, geese and plovers which inhabit this region.
The bay and the fact that it is where the road ends at the end of the world is pretty cool concept. I consider it another must-see in Ushuaia.
The tour lead up to the Pan American Highway which connects Ushuaia to the rest of the American continents. Talking about our love for road trips, we should have driven to Alaska Erwin! It is only 17,848 Km after all! Maybe next time???
The only thing missing in this excursion was more time to explore the Park. It would have been better it we were doing both hiking and canoeing for example. Darn, two hours in the Park were definitely not enough: we hardly scratched the surface of what Ushuaia is, and it is still a mystery to me. I am longing for the day we come back and spend multiple days quietly exploring on our own.
Even if my love story with Ushuaia was short, it forever changed me. I could never forget it this aw moment I had the first time I layed my eyes on Ushuaia, unless for some reason beyond my control I got Alzheimer’s or some sort of Dementia. If that happens, Erwin darling, please read me this post and show me the pictures again and again and again. Dont you give up on us in Ushuaia!