Chris' (Previous) Daily Journal
February 13, Ushuaia, Argentina
We had such a delightful morning as we cruised the Canal O’Brien and Brazo del Noroeste where we were able to see several small glaciers. One has to wonder who named them – the first one was Romanche, then Francia, Italia and Holland. One of them had a beautiful waterfall cascading from the center of the glacier right into the sea. We then entered the Beagle Channel near Punta Divide, crossed the border into Argentina and arrived in Ushuaia.
We originally planned to take a catamaran boat to spot more penguins. But, after the many thousands we saw yesterday, we knew we didn’t need more penguin pictures. And, pulling into port, the city of Ushuaia was breathtaking – tucked under the snow-capped mountain peaks. It looked like a little hamlet in the Swiss Alps.
Now, we have to determine who is right. Yesterday we learned that Punta Arenas claims to be the world’s southernmost city. Today, we learned that Ushuaia claims to be the “southernmost city in the world”. Here are the facts: Puerto Williams on the Chilean island of Navarino is further south, but only has 2400 residents. Punta Arenas is much larger, but further north. There are some other settlements further south of Ushuaia, but they’re too small to be considered cities.
Ushuaia was mainly a destination for serious criminals who were sentenced to prison during the first half of the 20th century. The prisoners cut wood in the forest around the prison and virtually built the town. They also built a railway, which is a major tourist attraction – the Tren del Fin del Mundo (Train at the End of the World).
Obviously, Ushuaia receives many visitors every year as most establishments had signs posted of the exchange rate for dollars and Euros. And, most of them took dollars, Euros or Argentinean pesos. The exchange rate today was about 3.5 pesos to 1 U.S. dollar.
It was extremely nice to be able to walk off the ship and be right in the heart of the city. Within five minutes, we were in the city center. The main street was filled with restaurants and shops. As we walked by some of the restaurants, I was really sorry we had eaten on the ship as the food looked wonderful.
I took the ship’s advice about layering clothing very seriously – and believe me, I was not cold. Tights, thick socks, jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, cotton long- sleeved blouse, sweatshirt, lined jacket, scarf and hat plus gloves. When we were in some of the stores, I could hardly breathe! Since it’s summer, the temperatures were “warmer”….today was in the low 40’s F and damp. Sometimes the sun would peek out, then disappear and a rain shower would pass through. In the winter (July through September), temperatures are well below 0 and the sunshine is very brief each day. Our Captain announced this morning that only in Ushuaia could one experience all four seasons in one hour!
We found the people in the stores and restaurants to be very friendly and all spoke English.
We celebrated Valentine’s Day tonight on board the ship with a special dinner and the Sweetheart Ball. It was originally scheduled for tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, but because we are crossing Drake’s Passage tomorrow, there was concern about whether or not we would have a smooth ride. So, tonight was formal attire and the Ball. A good time was had by all (or at least everyone we saw was having fun).