I should start by saying that Ushuaia has been one of my dream destination for as long as I can remember! As a kid, I always wanted to go and see this magical place. I can’t explain exactly why this particular city out of all the cities in the world. Although my choice of a dream destination as a kid, might have something to do with the shower gel Ushuaia (which smells incredibly nice by the way) or the french TV show of Nicolas Hulot, named “Ushuaia Nature”…. I said might… It’s difficult to say what’s going on in a kid’s head and how associations of words are done?!? Anyway, the name stuck in my head over the years… and now here I was in USHUAIA!
Ushuaia is a small town of 60 000 people, located in Tierra del fuego, at the southern tip of the world (aka South of Argentina). After landing at the airport, I was ready to explore this land. I had 5 whole days to see glaciers, lakes, mountains, llamas and high snowy summits!
On my first day, I did what all tourists do here: take a picture with the huge sign saying “Ushuaia, fin del mundo”, and stamp my passport with “Fin del Mundo”! Well, by now you should understand that people here really embraced the nickname, “End of the World”, even though Puerto Williams (Chile) is a bit Southern than Ushuaia… Go figure!?!
…………………..My first hiking was with Michael (a German guy I met at my hostel) to the Martial glacier located on the heights of Ushuaia! From our hostel, we walked through the city, hiked up to the national park and once there, took a chair lift up the mountain.
…………………………There began all the treks to miradors that gave views of the Martial glacier, the whole city of Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel and the Chilean mountains in the background.
My first day in Tierra del Fuego was picturesque! Sunny and cold, but not freezing. Just perfect!
After our hike, we went for a late lunch to a nearby small, cute, English-style tea house where we had a big “sopa de lentejas” (lentil stew). With my heads still full of amazing panoramas, the lentils were immediately tasting another flavor!
The following day, Michael, Simone & Frank (a German couple met in our hostel) and myself, embarked on a 4-hours boat tour in the Beagle channel; the channel separates not only Argentina and Chile’s southernmost tip, but also the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean!
……………………………We traveled past several sea-lion and cormorants (birds) colonies and the lighthouse named “Les Eclaireurs” (the most photographed point of Ushuaia).
We ended the tour by stepping foot on one of the islands, where we learned more about the fauna, the flora and the Yámanas (were the first nomads to inhabit Ushuaia, about 6,000 years ago).
Interesting story: the Yámanas, who traveled by canoes between islands to collect food, wore little to no clothing despite the cold weather (really cold, trust my word)! They covered themselves in animal grease (sea-lion fat) and apparently they had a higher body temperature than we have today!?! But still, I wasn’t convinced by the explanation (I got more answers while visiting the Yámana museum).
The tour was definitely better than what I had expected, and I loved watching the sea lions jumping and flipping in the waves. They are so cute!
On our fourth day, I went with Michael and Jessy to “Laguna Esmeralda” located about 20km from Ushuaia, and its name comes from the color emerald of the lake! The hike in itself wouldn’t have been difficult if we hadn’t got lost a couple of times (due to little to no markups) and if we weren’t walking most of the time in the mud, literally up to our ankles!
………………….My boots are waterproof, so the hike would have been just fine if I had kept my eyes on the road instead of looking up at the surroundings! And that’s how I stepped my left foot in the muddy water almost up to my knee! Good job, Cristina!!
Regardless of the rain, the mud and being lost, it felt good to spent time in nature. My head was filled with images of beautiful scenery. The autumn colors were incredible. It was so beautiful that it was hard to believe that this was not a dream!! But I pinched myself a few times, and yes, it was real 😉 !
The last day in Ushuaia, as I previously said, I got some of my answers about the intriguing Yámana nomads. I went to visit the Yámana museum along with Simone and Frank.
Even though there were only 3 rooms, I thought the museum was quite educative and thorough. The first room explained how the map of the earth changed with the years. Having visuals really helped to understand it. It was concrete, real!
The second room had paintings and pictures of the 4 different tribes who lived in the Tierra del Fuego: the Kawéskar (Alacaluf), Shelk’nam (Ona), the Mánekenk (Haush) and the Yámana (Yágán). It was so interesting to read about the beliefs, traditions, habits of all these tribes, and what was their daily life back in the days.
………………..But my favorite room was the third and last one about the Yámanas! They did lived almost naked (still can’t understand how they did it when I was inside my hostel and still shivering under 5 blankets!), but got warmer around open fires, hence the name of “Tierra del Fuego” (Land of the Fire), given by the European explorers.
Moreover, Yámanas always kept a fire going inside the canoe! One would think that it’s a really bad idea to have an open fire inside a wood boat, but no. The canoe had so many leaks that it could never burned down in the fire. Besides, the canoe was the most prized possession of a Yámana family, so they took good care of it!
In the tribe, there was no chiefs, women were equal to men, and children lived with their parents until marriage, and only then could they have their own canoe! Men stayed mostly “at home” taking care of the kids and the house, while women went fishing and gathering mussels and crabs! Women were the only ones to know how to swim!
Unfortunately, most of the Yámanas were decimated by diseases brought by Western explorers. The missionaries decided to “civilize the savages”, persuaded them to put some clothes on, and shortly after the Yámanas became sick! [I couldn’t help thinking that evolution screwed up everything!].
“Ushuaia, fin del mundo, principio de todo”.
“Ushuaia, end of the world, beginning of everything”.
” Ushuaia, el fin del mundo, a dream come true for me”.