Close Encounters of the Penguins Kind...
30/11/2013 - 04/12/2013
That's it, the journey in South America was almost over when I finally reached Ushuaia, dubbed the End of the World city, in Argentina. After travelling thousands of kilometres from Mexico, I had finally set foot on the most southern city in the world, the closest from Antarctica. I could have carried on a little bit as there is also this village called Puerto Williams, in the Chilean part, at only a 15 minutes boat ride from Ushuaia, but technically this is only a village hosting no more than 2500 inhabitants and besides that this 15 minutes boat ride costs 125$, one-way! So let's say Ushuaia is the most southern point in America.
The first impression when you arrive in Ushuaia is that this town seems to only benefit from tourism. There are tons of souvenirs shops, hostels, restaurants but always at a higher price than the rest of Argentina. Everything here is dedicated to "El Fin del Mundo" and after a while your wallet starts to feel it...
Unfortunately when we were there the weather wasn't at its best and it prevented us to visit and hike in the national park Tierra del Fuego which is supposed to offer some very nice views. However I managed to realised one of my childhood's dream, to see penguins in their real habitat! There are lots of marine wildlife around Ushuaia and it is common to spot whales, dolphins, seals, orcas, penguins, it just depends of the time of the year as most of these species are only passing by to migrate between different oceans.
But one common attraction here is as I said, to visit one of the several penguin colonies around Ushuaia. Magellanic and Gentoo penguins can be seen almost all year round, with the odd King penguin making an appearance as well. But to see Emperor penguins, one would have to hop on onto one of the cruise boats to Antarctica and spend around 15 days navigating the glacial waters, for a "small" cost of minimum 3000 US$... I guess this must also be the experience of a lifetime but that is not really an option when travelling on a budget... Well whatever, it will be for a next trip!
And after a few days spent in Ushuaia, I felt that it was now time to go back up to Chile as my flight to New Zealand was only a week away. I would then hop off on a bus, through snow and strong winds in direction of Punta Arenas (Chile), only to find out that all the ferries which make the crossing in the Magellan Strait were not running because of the strong winds blowing off that day. Fortunately after a 6 hours wait, the wind decreased and we could finish our journey to Punta Arenas.