FRANCIS GOES ROUND THE WORLD - in search of a more inspired title for this site travel blog


Ok so Ive seen the head of the world at Everest and we visited its navel in Ecuador and arguably ive seen its arse but i'm not going to say which city that is, so it only seems appropriate that we should pay a visit to the world's big toe - down at Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.

Ushuaia is located in the province of Tierra Del fuego which is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan and therefore is in fact an islkand. It lies on the shores of the Beagle Channel on the Southern tip of Argentina and within site of Cape Horn on a clear day and is the capital of the province as well as of Antartica. Thats right, were tantilisingly close to Antartica which is just 1000km away and the south pole itself is only 2,500km.

Some people suggets Port William, a few km further south, is the southernmost city ion teh world but PW has less than 2,000 inhabitants to Ushuaia's 50,000 so Ushuaia would win in a fight anyday and PW better watch it.

There's no option at the small airport other than a taxi and we agree a fee of 8 pesos even though the driver is dead set on 11. We travel the 15km or so and arrive at the hostel we read about in the LP and Rough Guide. Unfortunately, the driver has changed his mind and now wants 11. I give him 8 as agreed. He gets angry insisting on 11 and threatens to call the police. Go ahead then but you're only getting 8 as agreed. Unfortunately he does and Liz is saying to me that for the sake of 60 pence we might as well just pay it but i hate taxi drivers and rather than the price its the principle. Weve only just arrived and were already going to get ripped off - no chance. Besides i dont like being robbed whatever the amount.

Whilst waiting for the cops we go to the hostel but there are no rooms. Bugger we didnt have a plan B. Outside the police have already arrived, i guess there's not much else goes on this far south. They take his statement and then come to us and ask for our documents to check our visa and suggest we pay the taxi driver. Fortunately my Spanish has improved considerably and im able to explain the situation from our point of view. The policeman's compromise is that I pay and register a complaint at the tourist office. No chance. I explain that its the principle rather than the amount which isnt much to me and this is no way to treat tourists that have just arrived. Besides, I expect the police to be impartial. I think weve got a bit of sympathy from them now but were at a bit of stalemate with neither the taxi driver nor I willing to back down and the police are not sure what to do next. Thank God for our Spanish or we would have been turned over quite easily by now.

A large bloke comes out of the hostel and asks what the prolem is. We all explain our own side of the story, even the police. The guy's name is Pasarella and he seems influential with, and prominently involved in, tourism. He tells the police and the driver that the city doesnt need this kind of problem for tourists especially as they are trying to build up winter tourism which is still a main source of income even at this time of year. He takes out a peso and fifty cents and says he will pay half and the taxi driver can pay the other half. The driver looks shamed into accepting the argument but refuses Pasarella's offer of the money. Probably a wise move, this guy looks well connected.

Pasarella takes us to another hostel but unfortunately they are fully booked too so he suggest a further two which are cheap and should have accommodation. He also tells us he runs tours which can be booked through his touts down at the port. They offer the same service as in the shops but far cheaper. We thank him and agree we'll give his guys a chance.

We finally get settled in a double room at the hostel Amanecer de la Bahia and settle a room for 50 pesos a night with shared bathroom but has a very homely feel about it and Tia Bella, who runs the place, tells us were all her children whilst we stay there. I guess that makes us bastards when we leave. From the hostel's position high on the hill at the beginjning of the Tierra Del Fuego share of the Andean mountain range we can see down across the Beagle harbour and the lights of the city. With a layer of snow it looks a beautiful wintery scene.

A lot of the restaurants seem to be closed tonight, but we find a tenedor libre offering a meat buffet. After 2 plates of meet - not cockney rhyme - were stuffed and ask for the bill. The waiter looks shocked 'Arent you going to have some more?'. Looking around, theres a lot of large people here and i can see why. Argentina has done nothing for our waistlines thats for sure.



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