Posts Tagged 'Ushuaia'
I jumped on the End of the World Train (or in Spanish, El Tren del Fin del Mundo) this morning.
The three-seat-wide train was equipped with a voice recording that provided us with details on all the locations we passed through in Spanish, English and Portuguese; it was a sight-seeing tour, history lesson and language class, all wrapped into a one hour, 4.3 mile ride.
The sun didn’t rise until 10 a.m. and the day started off with heavy fog; heavy fog that never lifted. It created a certain, sort of Transylvanian, effect for the train ride as we passed through areas where prisoners once worked.
Argentina was very close to losing Tierra del Fuego to Chile due to its lack of population during the early 20th century. In order to keep the island, the Argentine government decided to populate it, but because of its isolation and cold temperatures, convincing people to move, would be difficult. The solution, build a maximum security prison and populate it with hard criminals. Its distance from any city and its surrounding waters never rising above 40-degrees Fahrenheit, made the island an ideal prison location.
The End of the World Train was originally built to transport the prisoners from the prison through the forest where they worked and as far as the most south-western tip of Tierra del Fuego, which is where the Pan American Highway begins, or ends, depending on which way you’d like to look at it (the Pan American Highway connects Tierra del Fuego to Alaska). The prisoners’ job was to cut down trees; the timber was used as fire wood, to extend the rail road and build more buildings.
During our ride, we passed through what is known as the “Tree Cemetary,” an area where the prisoners cut down almost all the trees and most never grew back.
The trains’ first stop was at Pipo River. Pipo was a prisoner who tried to escape and couldn’t survive the islands’ weather conditions. He was found dead along a river that is now named after him.
Our second stop was at Roca Lake. It’s named after Julio Argentino Roca, a politician, a General and two-time President.
The trains’ final stop was literally, at the end of the world. It was as far as the rail road stretched and a mere 11,000 miles from Antarctica. Beyond this point, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans converge.
I left chilly Puerto Madryn for FREEZING, three-degree Celsius Ushuaia this morning.
Although I couldn’t tell the difference between those two bodies of water and all the other wide rivers cutting through the mountains, I got into town just in time to hop on a catamaran and sail the Beagle Channel; this channel divides Chile from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Luckily, there was an indoor cabin with the heaters turned on and a full bar that served the most delicious hot chocolates.
The port from which the ship sailed was a short four blocks from our centrally-located hotel. Ushuaia is a big city, but everything a tourist needs is within walking distance from any hotel. It’s perfect.
The two and half hour boat ride made its first stop at a small island where hundreds of cormorants called home.
The next island was my absolute favorite. It was littered with sea lions who were ready to play as soon as the ship got near the island.
We were about 30 yards away from that island when several sea lions perked their adorable little heads with tiny little ears up and dove into the water. It was a wave of sea lions as we sailed towards them and they swam towards us, almost in unison, diving in and out of the water. Once they caught up, they put on a very enjoyable show as the jumped the waves the ship created, popped their heads out of the water to look at us, stick their tales out of the water and wave at us, flip around and even demonstrate their impressive speed as they swam alongside the ship.
The final stop of the trip was an island decorated with a beautiful red and white lighthouse, Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse.
What an amazing boat ride!
For more from Agustina Prigoshin, read her blog at www.agustinaprigoshin.com
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