Wednesday, 1 December 2010

... Patagonia: End Of The Earth

Charles Darwin had exclaimed that the original inhabitants of Ushuaia, the Yaghan (or Yamana), were "the lowest form of humanity on earth". Yet a mission made Ushuaia its first permanent Fuegian outpost and one missionary, Thomas Bridges, even learned the native language proving its complexity. The tribe eventually died out, victims of foreign-brought illnesses and infringement. Today the Alpine-looking-San Franciscan street-mimicking Ushuaia is known more for being a port, an adventure base camp (primarily Antartica-bound travellers) and a former penal colony.  Oh and did I mention it is the End of the Earth??


My quest to find where you would just quite simply drop off into oblivion was to come in the form of sailing the Beagle Channel aboard a boat that resembled something you'd find floating in your bathtub. Would it all just end in a huge waterfall that fell into nothingness?

It had snowed overnight giving a wonderful Christmas feel to Ushuaia & the surrounding peaks but the weather started off nice enough albeit a tad nippy. The waters of the Beagle Channel were quite calm. Nice! My kind of sailing. Close up views of Isla de los Lobos (very cool sea lion colony) and Isla de los Pajaros (extensive cormorant colonies) provided some fantastic wildlife photo opportunities even from the boat.

The boat continued west to a lighthouse and that was when it all started to go a bit pear-shaped. By the time we had come around this small island I felt like I was an extra in the big wave scene that batters HM Frigate Surprise in Master & Commander. My seafaring legs were letting me down miserably. Surely we weren't far from the shore? My stomach was either in my feet or my throat, it kept alternating I think. The problem was there was still another island to visit where you could get off and hike. The thought of stable land and some fresh air sounded appealing but by the time we arrived at Isla Bridges I felt so sick and was practically driven back into the boat by the shards of rain and the wind. No hike for me. I stayed on the boat and drank copious amounts of tea instead. The short hike would've enabled me to look at conchales left by the Yaghan.

My gag reflex believed that we rode every single wave across that Channel whilst the totally unfazed Captain whistled what must've been some Fuegian sea shanty. Arriving back at the wharf in Ushuaia couldn't come quickly enough. Falling-into-oblivion waterfalls? Who cares?!?! I needed to feel like half of my body wasn't following the other half a couple of seconds after the fact.





I suspect that the only reason lunch at the rustic Almacen Ramos Generales was tolerable so soon after was the fact they make chocolate & meringue cakes shaped like Magellanic penguins!

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