The deep South, Ushuaia and El Calafate
Our travels turned a little bit cooler once we landed in Ushuaia, we went from 24° in Buenos Aires to a chilly 4° in Ushuaia. Unfortunately all Antarctic cruises had left for the season which was a pity as although we weren’t intending on each forking out $5K plus on another cruise to the icy continent, it would have been pleasingly nostalgic seeing the boats leaving the port and heading South just as we ourselves had done 14 months prior from the other side of the world.
Ushuaia wasn’t exactly what I expected and as we had arrived at the end of the season it was remarkably quiet, but that tends to happen in these tourist towns that draw visitors for their natural attractions and not high street shopping and dining. Most people spend their days out trekking or exploring, however when you have chosen a day of downtime siesta usually ruins your plans with most businesses being closed from 1pm – 4pm regardless. Apart from the supermarket and some eateries staying open over siesta, it can be a pain as being a tourist in a city where you want to maximize your time, spending it resting is not ideal, but as they say ‘when in Rome’. The plus side of siesta is that most businesses, (once aroused from rest) are open later into the evening, which can be an advantage for some.
Our flight landed at 7.30pm in Ushuaia and after I had to open my pack to prove to customs my flowery smelling washing powder was in fact washing powder and not a masking agent we made our way to our hostel in quick succession. We weren’t mucking around, landing in Ushuaia had been a long time coming and we wanted to hit the town, which basically means for us not cooking a healthy meal in the hostel kitchen and also ordering wine instead of bringing our own water bottle to the table. We ended up sharing a taxi into town (location of this hostel was a little lack luster, and required a 30 minute walk or taxi ride to get anywhere) with an English couple who we ended up having dinner and drinks with at the Dublin Pub. It was fantastic to chat with fellow travelers and hear of their trials and tribulations on the road, to be honest it can get lonely in our current Spanish speaking world, we often hear no English for days and seldom spot travelers in a similar demographic to us.
We took a four hour boat trip out onto the Beagle Channel as our one activity at this stop, there are so many options and you really can’t do them all when you are traveling for so long without an endless supply of money. It was only a small boat with 10 passengers and was a nice way to spend the afternoon spotting seals and birds, however it’s hard to feel overwhelmed by a boat trip like this after what we have seen in the past. It was a little pricey too, and after multiple attempts with our Visa credit card we had to use cash to pay for it which is frustrating as getting cash isn’t all that easy in Argentina (more to come on that), all in all perhaps we should have given it a miss.
We had originally intended on making our way to El Calafate by road but with only one bus leaving at 5am and arriving later that day at 5pm on offer, and all for a tidy sum we decided to (cheekily) fly our way up. The airport is about 30km town and with no public transport on offer we took the VES airport transfer for AU$120 return. Once again after a couple of hostel cooked healthy dinners in we were keen to make our way into town to treat ourselves. We decided on the charming Libro-Bar which was a fantastic choice, the food wasn’t amazing, but we did choose cheaply, but the house wine was reasonable and they played some great music. We sat amongst the bookshelves and I ordered my first glass of red wine ever in my wine-drinking career.
The major draw card to the town of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno glacier which did not disappoint, we took a day tour with a company called BAFT which cost AR$280, plus the AR$215 park entrance fee. There is also a boat you can take for AR$120, which after much deliberation we decided not to do and were satisfied we did not miss much when the boat goers who got back on the bus didn’t have many oo’s and ahh’s about it.
There is so much more on offer in this town, horse riding out to the glacier, trekking on the glacier itself and even taking a full day trip out to El Chalten to see additional glaciers like the Fitzroy glacier. However although we do have the time we don’t have the funds to indulge, but this is one instance that photos are priceless as the glacier is truly magical and it was a pity we couldn’t return a 2nd day to wait, watch and listen to the thundering cracks as enormous pieces of the ancient glacier break away from its incalculable foundation.