Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ushuaia after Antarctica

Coming back to Ushuaia, after our trip to Antarctica was a surreal experience. Somehow modern life in Ushuaia seemed to get in my way. My modern life in general seemed too complicated after my Antarctic visit. Yet it felt comforting to know every conceivable modern convenience was available in Ushuaia. For some days I felt like a split personality. Antarctica did impress me, the idea that I visited a Continent, still in a fairly natural state,
unchanged for millennia, left its mark on me. If I had been blessed by Nature with a suitable physical make-up, living in Antarctica would mean only survival. Here, back in Ushuaia just surviving is not enough.

We are here for seven more days then we will fly back to Toronto. The word ‘flying’ does not seem natural, it feels out of context. Man is not made to fly, right?
For the rest of my remaining life I need to stay in touch with the world around me, do things that seem a lot more complicated than just survival. This is my modern reality.
The way I visited Nature in Antarctica made life seem harsh but somehow simpler.The creatures there lived the life they were designed for.
Whales did not fly.

I am searching for words to describe the feelings I had, yet words fail me. Antarctica is Nature. Ushuaia is 2012.

It seems a long time to stay in a city I do not really love. Ushuaia is all business without beauty.
Amid shambled buildings are palaces with the latest of the latest. Ushuaia is a city with ugliness and
beauty living side by side. I needed to force myself to look at the beauty part of it. My natural tendency is to look at the missing pieces, at the broken parts. I always have a hard time looking at what works, I look too much at what does not work and needs fixing.
I get fixated on the things that need doing instead of on the stuff that is great as is.

We knew we were going to be in Ushuaia for a week and had arranged to stay in a one bedroom apartment right after we docked with the Antarctic Dream.
This place, Bahia Serena, worked great for us. We met some people from the ship while shopping at La Anonima, the only big Supermarket in town. We were invited for a drink to meet others, too. We chose instead to have Ursula Schulz and Hannelore, gals we met on the ship, over for a glass of wine and some dinner later on. Yes, Carol and I bummed around town doing this, doing that. It was nice to be at the end of our trip, just hanging out, not having to go anyplace unless we felt like it.

To understand Ushuaia better we visited the old Jail (Carcel de Ushuaia).
Ushuaia was not much of a town before WW2 and became somewhat infamous because the British built this Prison in the form of a starfish. From 1902 until 1947 men and women were incarcerated here and worked as lumber jacks until their time was served.
The prison had no surrounding walls. There was just nowhere to run. Surrounded by the icy waters of the Beagle Cannel on one side and the towering heights of the Andes Mountains on the other, there is even today, no place to go. The ships bringing supplies and picking up the cut wood were few and far between. Ushuaia was a ghost of a town, a penal colony mostly.
After 1947 the first Scientist and Explorers came to town and Ushuaia was set up as a supply spot for anything going to Antarctica. Today Ushuaia is a stop for Cruise ships, both for ships going to Antarctica or for ships going from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean or vise versa. Ushuaia is a Sea Port city, along with all the seediness of it. The former jail, now restored to a
tourist attraction with conference and meeting halls, as well as a museum and art gallery,
shows the history of Ushuaia. It shows in great detail the way of life for immigrants, seafarers and indigenous people years ago.

Naturally, being so close to the end of Ruta 3, we had to take the trip to the literal ‘End of the World’.
This Route starts in Buenos Aires and runs just past Ushuaia until it ends inside the National Park called ‘Fin del Mundo’. We took a taxi to visit, it was that close.
Argentina built two monster highways, the most westerly, Ruta 40 and the most easterly, Ruta 3. Both highways run the length of the county and are a feat of civil engineering. How could we not travel to the end of the southernmost road on this Earth?
Besides this famous road, the National Park gave us an insight into how the Indigenous People lived here for centuries.
The state of preservation of the area was perfect. Argentina does a great job keeping the landscape pristine, limiting access, and letting Nature be Nature.
And would you believe it? Carol and I ran into three of the women that were stationed at Port Lockroy on Antarctica!

Sometimes it is a small world; you meet people you know in the most unlikely places. I have wondered often if these chance meetings far away from what one would expect have a special meaning. Is it a cosmic sign? A sign to do what?
And what did it mean that we again met the leaders of the Australian Compass Motorcycle Tours in Ushuaia?

We were stopped for a cup of coffee when those guys walked in, just to shake hands with us. After finishing up with the BMW group we met all along our travels, those leaders are now set to meet new clients here in Ushuaia and guide them back to Santiago de Chile. It is a tough job given what I know about this area and Argentina now; tough for both the riders and the guides to travel by bike to the end of the world and back again.

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