After a week on the cruise ship, I was ready to get off the boat.
Why hadn’t we gotten off sooner, you ask? I’ll take the blame for this one. The three previous ports — Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacobucco, and Punta Arenas — were all tendered ports, meaning that instead of being able to walk out of the ship onto a gangway and onto a dock, we would have to board tiny, claustrophobic tender boats for a 10-25 minute ride to the dock (depending on the location). I do not like riding in tiny boats. I do not like being trapped in small enclosed spaces that could easily be marooned in the middle of water. I often have trouble working up the nerve to ride in subways or cars that I’m not driving. It’s an issue of control, and in order to avoid panic attacks, I avoid these sorts of things like the plague (but braved a tender boat to see penguins in the Falklands). So when I read that the first two ports weren’t really worth visiting (super touristy, small, reminiscent of the made-for-cruise-ships ports of call from our Alaskan cruise), I didn’t think we’d be missing out on much. We had planned to get off in Punta Arenas, but upon waking up with a massive hangover that morning, which amplified my anxiety, I decided I could not handle a tender boat ride and that I would remain on the ship. No one in my family complained about this decision since it was cold and rainy, and my parents really enjoy hanging out on a near empty ship.
Anyway. Back to when we actually *did* get off the ship. I was NOT going to miss Ushuaia, and thankfully it was not a tendered port. Phew.
Ushuaia, Argentina is the capital of Tierra del Fuego and is considered the southernmost city in the world, hence its nickname “el fin del mundo”, or “the end of the world.” If you ever go on a trip to Antarctica, you’ll likely start your trip in Ushuaia, which is a tiny windswept harbor town made up of primarily three parallel streets tightly packed with gift shops, bars, and eateries catering to the many tourists that find their way south. Few stay for more than a day or two, thinking of other destinations; Ushuaia is just a pitstop on their journeys to elsewhere. Many of the locals are seasonal, as well, just as you’d expect in any resort town. The government can’t persuade people to live there; the weather is harsh, and there’s not much to do. The cost of living in town can be prohibitive since much of the space that might be available for housing goes to hotels and touristic ventures, so many locals live in informal mountainside communities.
The day we had in port was apparently typical for the season: overcast, rainy, windy. Not miserable but not ideal. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold. I was just glad to be off of the ship before cabin fever truly set in.
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Our first stop after passing through customs was to eat. We quickly found a restaurant where we enjoyed incredibly friendly service and enjoyed delicious, juicy seafood – locally sourced fish and king crab. Our waitress didn’t speak English but could understand it, and we don’t speak more than Mexican-menu Spanish, so we communicated through a convoluted Spanglish with much miming and only a little reliance on Google Translate. She and Skyler fell immediately in love, and before the end of our leisurely lunch, she asked if she could take him around the restaurant, where she showed him off to other patrons and to the cooks back in the kitchen.
After lunch, my parents hired a local guide to drive them around, while Skyler, Justin and I walked around town in search of three things: an ornament (or keychain) for our Christmas tree, a magnet for our collection, and a grocery store. Skyler had become obsessed with the Gerber puffs and we were running out, so we needed some sort of baby-safe finger snack. The grocery store happened to be at the far end of the Main Street, so we ended up seeing the entire ‘downtown’ area; we particularly enjoyed the street art. We scoured the shelves of the grocery store many times over but came up empty handed. Afterwards, we walked down along the harbor and eventually found our way back to a tavern so Justin could enjoy a beer at the end of the world. 🙂
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Afterwards, Justin and Skyler headed to the Hard Rock to meet my parents, who were picking up a pin for my mom’s collection, while I searched for my souvenirs at a gift shop. While shopping, I got into a conversation with one of the employees to learn that he lives in Ushuaia half of the year, and Barcelona the other half of the year. From Columbia, he loves to travel, and he fell in love with Ushuaia the first time he visited, so he decided to stick around. I thought that was an interesting perspective because, upon first glance, this does not seem a place that people would easily fall in love with.
All in all, I’m so glad that we go to visit this unique town, interact with some locals, taste the local flavors, view the gorgeous surrounding scenery, and say that I’ve been to the end of the world!