Ushuaia. About as far south as you can get. Or perhaps not…

30 Nov

Aaagh, ooh, aaaghhh. This, bloody, hurts. Am painfully tottering through B.A´s domestic airport, in women´s shoes, as you do, and I´m beginning to wonder whether this really was such a good idea…

…1 week in and Kelly´s hi-tech, gore-tech, hiking shoes are on their last warning. Threatening to bin them for a replacement pair that won´t rub with every step (at a changeover cost equivalent to a couple of nights board and lodging) I´m attempting to break them in and stretch them for my girl, currently I´d say the shoes are winning.

Unusually, for us, we´re at the airport early – time enough to email and enjoy un cafe solo y un jamon y queso tostado – we slowly (as one of us is now limping) head up to our Gate, no. 8 and are unsurprised to see our fellow travellers (mostly Argentines, queuing before the flight is ready to board), a reflection perhaps of the liberal hand-luggage allowance which sees more than most lugging on a pair of cases – if you´re not on quick there aint much space left.

A muffled missed announcement is greeted with a disaffected grumble and the queue begins to dissipate, seems the flight is delayed and no-one is quite sure when it will be going, the departure board still shows it as boarding, not uncommon. Kelly goes for one last glance as I head for another coffee…. the reason it is showing as boarding is because it is, at gate 12, at the other end of terminal, and has been for the last 25 minutes, Kelly dashes off, I limp along behind, we are the last ones on, a bit more like it.

The 3 hour flight is bumpy, as we break cloud cover coming in to land in Ushuaia with mountains towering above us, the Aerolineas Argentinas engines are wound up and we start to climb, steeply…. the inflight magazine (see pic) is not helping our confidence…. strangely for a company bio, it draws attention to “the aim of turning around the technological backwardness and state of abandonment generated by over 10 years of private administration when not a single cent had been invested” hmmm… hope at least some of the instruments are working today.

Thump – we´re down and in one piece, no-one is clapping this time.

So we´re here to stay in the La Posta hostel, billed as being ´The Hostel at the end of the World´. (Ushuaia is the world´s most southerly city). It might as well bill itself as being ´The Hostel at the end of the runway´ – we have just put our seatbelts on when the taxi stops, we´re here, can’t have been 2 k’s, we could´ve walked.

So after locking our key in our room within the first 10 minutes, we head into town to the supermarket, 2k’s from the hostel, we are joined by Rex the mutt who follows us all the way back to the hostel, camps out on the front doorstep and salivates. The dog catcher is called and we begin throwing together a beef stew of sorts in the shared kitchen, preparations take a little longer than usual using a peeler from I think the late 80’s, it was 10.30pm when we sat down to eat in the failing light of a long summer´s night.

Ushuaia Day 2

9.30am and the eyelids are heavier than Kelly´s backpack at Gatwick, 2 coffees later and plans of a days walking are pushed back to something that might happen this afternoon. Kelly works on the Blog, I settle into Peter James´ latest offering, set in Brighton “Dead Man´s Grip” – as much of a page turner as the rest of the series.

We have a late afternoon stroll into town, musing the next leg of the trip – in essence we have the option of sticking to the plan (and budget) by heading north in a few days time to El Calafate & El Chalten or throwing caution to the cold winds of Antarctica….. the hostel notice board grabbed our attention this morning with a flyer for an 11 day Antarctic cruise, being advertised at US$4kpp for a twin cabin with a porthole (some don´t have them) and private bathroom, It is good value, a couple of grand cheaper than would be available from the UK, but it seems crazy – especially for one of the party who moved from Melbourne in part because of the cold weather (and of who´s appearance today of 2 woolly hats, a scarf wrapped round her face and 2 pairs of gloves are drawing giggles from school girls on the high street) and we are, after all, just 1 week into the trip. We go for a wine and a chat – we agree to sleep on it, which we do after locking our key in our room, again.

Ushuaia Day 3

We seize the day (it´s been light for 5 hours) with gusto and by 10am we are exiting a taxi at the top of town – from here it´s a 50 peso chairflift and then an hour´s walk up to the little Glaciar Martial with the big views over town, the Beagle channel and the peninsular beyond. We walk back to town through the woods – Kelly inexplicably does the birdy song for most of the way down; could be the altitude, could be the cold air, who´s complaining – at least she´s chirpy. boom tish.

In between verses we agree to go to the tourist agency and book the Antarctic trip for Saturday the 3rd – we have agreed to sacrifice 3 destinations (including a planned NYE in Valparaiso) and take the bus out of Ushuaia to Bariloche rather than fly (36 hours and significantly cheaper – we reckon all up it´ll cost us US$2k over what we had planned to spend – it feels totally like the right decision.

All smiles we enter the tourist office – “dos billetes a Antarctica por Sabado por favor”, “I´m sorry” the lady behind the desk says “The trip has sold out”.

“But you can go tomorrow if you like”.

We do, we are, the Amex gets a workout – just think of the points Kel, just think of the points….

Back to the Hostel for a last shower on dry land for a while and Kelly shorts out the power to the hostel with her hairdryer, time to leave….

Cheers for now

Matt x

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5 Responses to “Ushuaia. About as far south as you can get. Or perhaps not…”

  1. father bear November 30, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    I expect Kelly is now appreciating the tropical heat in Somerford Keynes.
    Keep on truckin’

  2. Dan December 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    I’m sure you’ll love the Antarctica trip, you would have regretted not going when you were so close!

  3. Ginge December 2, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Er Mat, Kelly,

    It may have escaped your notice but if you want an extra piece of ice in your G&T, you can just ask the bar-man. There is no need to go to such extremes as going to the Antarctic! Were are you going for the pea-nuts to go with the drink?

  4. father bear December 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    I watched a David Attenborough programme “Frozen Planet” the day you set off for Antarctica.
    Amongst other things it showed tourists going by ship and transferring to the ice by helicopter to see Emperor penguins. Did you do the same?
    Don’t forget– extra gin stops the tonic freezing.

  5. Lucio Dias Ribeiro December 17, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Good to follow your big holidays 🙂

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