//-->
KRIKA.COM
EXPLORING PATAGONIA
 
   See our   Silver Collections
   See our   Christmas Crafts
   See our Ebook at    GettingCreative.org
   Tour our destination Sites
   Visit our gardens at     GreenGardeningCookingCuring.com

EXPLORING PATAGONIA

USHUAIA -- ANTARCTICA STAGING PORT
 

We set off for Ushuaia from what had been our home in Montserrat in the West Indies islands of the Caribbean. We had returned home there solely to prepare and sell our home and we did so in a very brief four months. Shell shocked at our sale success given the real estate situation on the island, we packed up our most treasured things and shipped them off to Miami. We turned over the keys and were free from what had been largely an unpleasant experience.

That bit of background will give you a sense of how totally unprepared we were for a frosty environment like that of Ushuaia. This is a jumping off point for Antarctic voyages and it was very cold even when we were there in mid March. In winter months it draws skiers who wish to count among their conquests the most southerly mountains in the western hemisphere.

Ushuaia is a small town with a frontier character. It has a brand new large casino and a smaller strip club and those count as the two cultural attractions. It has small hotels and restaurants featuring Argentinean food -- large pieces of meat cooking on hot coals in a big street side windows. We found wonderful local food cooked to perfection at the main street supermarket. The chubby chef there produces her wonders to go for lunch and dinner. Don't miss it. It was some of the very best food we had in all of Argentina.

 

Despite having only sandals to wear, we rode this chair lift up to its highest point. It is extraordinary. The Martial Glacier has retreated substantially over the last decade so an extension of the chair lift is now necessary in the winter skiing months. As is everything we experienced in Argentina, the chair lift was beautifully managed.

For those a little better prepared for this environment hiking to the peak is a wonderful experience.

Below is a photograph of the the view over Ushuaia where the curvature of the earth is so profoundly evident.

Overlooking Ushuaia Harbor

 

As a lover of plants and the outdoors, I found Ushuaia a wonder. Up on the mountain you will see some of the native vegetation in the photographs below and how vibrant very ordinary garden plants become in this exaggerated environment.

 

 

 
 

Aside from a love of exploring the world, I am a devoted gardener and have created a website with all of the plants from our gardens in Taxco, Mexico, and Montserrat in the West Indies. Now I am adding plants and trees from our new home base in Guatemala. And as you'd expect from any plant lover there are lots of photographs taken on our travels. Each plant also has caretaking information and health benefits and now and again there's a recipe I love. Click the link below to take a look,

GreenGardeningCookingCuring.com

The little boat tour kiosks in the photograph below all have substantial stoves keeping them warm even in March when you can see the season is over as there are no more customers. Below as well is a photograph of all the tour boats still docked at mid day that have a thriving business in the southern hemisphere's summer months -- December, January and February. March counts as September in the northern hemisphere and it is a lovely month in all but the extreme northerly countries. It is very cold in Ushuaia!

 

Ushuaia Boat Tours

 

This is a grounded ship left in the harbor.

 

These two birds struck me as in the dove or pigeon family, but just look at the feet! I especially love the green on the rocks as a background.

 
In this photograph and in those below you may get a sense of the environmental setting for this small and bustling frontier town. Even at the end of summer the mountains are covered with snow. The sky is huge and blue and CLEAN. I suspect that many of the people who spend December, January and February working on the tour boats are long gone to an easier climate by mid March. Restaurants and hotels here have a lull in business in spring and fall, but business is good in summer and winter so all of the people that support those businesses are here full time. Hardy souls they must be.
 

This is a terrible photograph, but I couldn't help using it to give you just a little more sense of how very cold it was.

 
I looked at Google to see other folk's photographs of Ushuaia and was surprised to see the harbor generously dotted with sailboats. They had all but one left by the time we got there.

USHUAIA TO CALAFATE
 
We loved being in Ushuaia at this time of the year and had we been better prepared we would have stayed longer and explored more. As it was I was considering frost bite on my toes and wanting to spend more and more time inside. Not good for the intrepid traveler so I looked ahead to a slightly warmer place, but arranged to get there by bus so I wouldn't miss anything. The trip to Calafate was going to take a relatively long time and began to give us a visceral appreciation of just how big a country Argentina is. We would spend an 8 or 10 hour day on the bus then over night in Rio Grande then awaken early to get on another bus to Rio Gallegos where we would spend the night. The next day we would get on another bus and at the end of the day be in Calafate. This was a long trip, but I never tired of looking out the window and wondering and being engaged with this extraordinary part of the world called Patagonia. I kept thinking that we had traveled a bit north and it would be getting warmer, but that was only one of those wish fulfillment sorts of things. It was still freezing!
 
Our bus and the other vehicles were in line here awaiting the ferry that would take us across. Meanwhile We got out for a snack at the local restaurant (not recommended) and spied a few llamas in the field across the street.
 
 
 
Patagonia is huge and largely empty of any kind of development. In a ten hour bus ride we maybe saw three ranches. It was simply overwhelming and extraordinary in its simple beauty.
 
 
 
We were on a bus when we saw the fellow below with the thousands of sheep under his and the dogs' care. Do you think he looks cold? Along this ride we saw huge trucks filled with sheep that we were told would be shipped alive to Japan.
 

 

We had set off from Ushuaia on our way to Calafate having not a clue about the real distances involved or the fabulous isolation we would experience along the way.

Border crossings are always tedious, but here things are a little different even if no less tedious. The bus driver collects all passports and turns them in to passport control. They do their bureaucratic wonders and the passports are returned to passengers in a mayonnaise box as you can see on the left. It passes from one passenger to another until all of us are once again properly papered. It makes the whole process of human paperwork sort of goofy doesn't it?
 
The little fox in the photographs below was just steps from our bus as we waited for the border crossing procedures to conclude. We were out wandering from the bus just a hundred feet or so when this little fellow appeared in the high grass. He had no apparent fear of us, nor we of him. We spent a delightful half hour all together with him and a few other passengers waiting along with us.
 

CALAFATE

 
Unlike Ushuaia, Calafate is a chic town reminding me very much of small towns in New Hampshire and Vermont, New England's renowned ski areas. What seemed peculiar to us when we arrived and the next day when we tried to recover from having nearly frozen to death in Ushuaia by walking in the sunshine (still in sandals), was that the town was completely empty. All of its visitors were out on tours exploring this extraordinary part of the world.
 

   

Tourism in Calafate is very well managed and almost completely controlled to protect the envionment. Visiting Glacier National Park has no willy nilly character at all. In Calafate you buy a ticket and are picked up at your hotel in the morning and transported to the site where along with others you board a tour boat and get underway. The tour completed you are whisked safely back to town. You'll have some time for shopping, then dinner and an evening out and be picked up again the next morning to travel to another breathtaking site.

The town itself is very appealing with mid and upper range hotels, very stylish restaurants with menus both Argentinian and European. There truly is something to satisfy the palate of just aout anyone. Wine shops and snack shops are equally upscale and all of it is done in a very low key, but always posh way. It would be hard not to like life in Calafate, unless temperature is a factor in your life.

 

Lavender does just fine in this frigid environment.

Below are photographs of Glacier National Park just to whet your appetite for more. This is not open ocean. It is a huge lake of milky blue glacial water. I saw this park in a National Geographic Film Special years ago and it had been a dream of mine since then to see it in person. The dream didn't come close to experiencing the reality -- miles of baby blue ice flowing down the mountains as if a liquid that is especially slow. Giant pieces of ice floating in isolation as we passed by.

 
 

 

 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
Your visit to Calafate and its extraordianary parks can all be arranged in advance and I would probably recommend that you consider doing that as I suspect in the warmer months of December, January and February the town is crammed full of visitors. March seems a great time for more spontaneous travel, but do come prepared for the cold.

Back to TRAVELS AND OTHER TALES HOME PAGE