21 Dec 2008
Where can you watch the sun set at midnight, hike up snowy mountains, and walk within inches of baby penguins?
Why, the southern-most city in the entire world: Ushuaia!
Located on the Argentina side of the island Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia served as a great final stop in our Patagonia tour. It's a small city that still has some local charm, besides serving as a tourist hub and gateway for cruiseships to Antarctica.
We arrived in the late evening Sunday, the 21st of December, after a 14-hour bus ride from Puerto Natales, including a short ferry ride across the Straight of Magellan, where still no bridge spans its length.
After dinner, up at our hostel's top floor which had great panoramic views, there was still natural lighting at the horizons at 11:45pm on this, the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere in the southern-most city in the world.
Our main goal in Ushuaia, since our hopes to make it to Antarctica never came to fruition, was to see penguins. We ended up taking a special tour that allows you to walk with the penguins, taking small groups onto an island about an hour and a half from Ushuaia by bus, and another half hour by boat.
Upon landing on the island, we were surrounded by hundreds of penguins at the shoreline hanging out in the sun or making a dive into the water. Some were curious about us, though all maintained a few feet of distance.
We then headed into the middle of the small island where all the hatcheries were located. The penguins dig holes into the ground where they lay their eggs to protect them from predatory birds flying above. The eggs have all hatched, and each hole had baby penguins peaking up past their parents, their fur a fuzzy grey compared to the black shean of the adults. We were inches from the babies, so cool!
The next day, we went to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where we climbed Cerro Guanaco. It was a little more difficult of a hike than we anticipated, and were annoyed that part of the trail was washed out, forcing us to wade in ankle-deep mud, and my pants finally gave out half way up, ripping from the left pocket lenghtwise down to my knee (thank heavens I was wearing boxers!)... but the views were stunning, looking at the lakes and mountains and even out at Ushuaia in the distance.
We spent Christmas Eve in Ushuaia, and while our hostel was crazy partying upstairs, Tim and I found a quiet spot in our hostel room for a nice Christmas dinner.
Our first intracontinental flight was on Christmas day itself, taking us luxuriously all the way to Buenos Aires, and helping us avoid a 48+ hour bus ride!