So, stripping the title of the "world southernmost", should one still go all the way to this place people call Tierra del Fuego, meaning “land of fires”, considered its high cost of living and logistically quite out of the way?
If skyscrapers, the thrill of neon lights, the excitements of technology advancement, and man-make beauty are your travel criteria, then Ushuaia is definitely not for you.
Seriously, I went in the name of curiosity and with the love of nature.
As I was planning my itinerary, I struggled to include or not include this city as part of the itinerary. The following reasons convinced me to go.
1.I am extremely intrigued by the history, the physical structure, and the lifestyle of Yaghan (or Yamana) people. They could survive the freezing climate without any layers of clothes. Yes, they were naked. They ate shellfish and sea fish, such as whales and seals. Their “heat” insulations are “to do camp fire” (that was how Europeans first discovered them and how the name “land of fire” derived from), and to “layer” themselves with fish fat/oil. They could catch whales and seals with their innovatively mind-boggling fishing methods and extremely primitive fishing tools. Unfortunately, like most ancient tribes, they were decimated by the colonization, mainly by the introduction of clothing [without proper training knowledge of washing the clothes] to them and the crash of their main meat supplies due to the European and American fleets. The last pure descendant of Yaghan is at her eighties, and currently lives in Puerto Williams. Her interracial marriage disqualifies her children as the pure Yaghan’s descendant.
2.The naturalist, Charles Darwin, through his British captain friend, Robert FitzRoy, had spent a good amount of time in this region. He considered the Yamana people as his missing link of evolution theory between “monkeys” and human. He cited in his book, the Descent of Man, that “man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped”..
3.The history of Ushuaia. Tierra del Fuego was inhabited by Indian 10000 years ago, but not until 1873, the first Argentine citizens, Juan and Clara Lawrence, visited Ushuaia for teaching. In an effort to increase the population of Argentine and to establish Argentine sovereignty over all of Tierra del Fuego, the same year the Argentine President Julio Argentino Roca, following the example of the British in Tasmania and the French in Devil’s Island, promoted the establishment of a penal colony for repeat offenders and serious criminals. The prison was officially announced in 1896. These prisoners thus became forced colonists and spent their time building the town from the forest around the prison. They built also the now highly promoted as “the end of the world train”. The prison operated till 1947, and is now converted to a storage used by Argentine Navy, and as part of Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia.
4.Nature, birds, and sea animal lovers.
5.For practical reason, it is cheaper for me to go to Ushuaia for walking with penguins than to Puerto Mardyn for the same purpose.
6.For practical and proximity reason, most Antarctic cruise ships embark here. And a little part of me fantasizing to get unbelievably low last minute deal. Nope. Even the last minute deals are still in the ball park of $4K USD and up.
Ushuaia is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The 360 degree view is quite spectacular. I did enjoy my time there, slow and relaxing. A good last stop to make before ending the fast-paced 2-week trip where we strolled on San Martin street, savoring King Crabs and Patagonian lambs one last time before flying to my home sweet home.
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