Arrival!

Arrived at Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina this morning at 9.30 after setting off from Woking at 6.30 on the 8th,30-odd hours and three flights ago. Even though the travel went smoothly from start to finish, it still felt like quite an ordeal. Finally making it to the trip after the months of waiting and build-up of expectation, the slightest deviation from plan seems like a setback, such as Cim#s ipod going dead. on the way from Gatwick to Madrid, or packing the wrong crossword magazine, or sitting next to someone on the plane to Buenos Aires who was obviously coming down with a cold.

We’ve never been south of the Equator before and I nerdishly watch the grphic on the 747’s TV screen maps. Then you realise there’s still another 6 hours flying to go just to get to BA. We managed to punctuate this with entertainment where we could get it: watching a huge electrical storm over the Amazon basin, seen from the Atlantic coast, Starter for 10, and an laughing at how amazingly bland the sandwich in the in-flight snack was. AR1131 makes you appreciate what a luxury business class is and how next time it will seem like a necessity.

Jo Baxter was our companion for the trip. We met at Money Masters in Augus although we only really caught up at the stopover at BA airport in the wait between 1 am and 3.30 check-in for the 5.30 am connection to Ushuaia. Thoise 2 and a half hours felt like sleep deprivation torture sitting in an airport cafe desperately trying to rehydrate when all you want is a single shot of Ardbeg and a double bed. The screens above the check-in desks flashed their square patterns on and off. I couldn’t finish a train of thought lasting 15 seconds. So, half as long as normal…

I managed to sneak a couple of hours out of the three and a half hours to Ushuaia so the flight time wasn#t wasted. We were awake enough to appreciate sunrise over the clouds and descent over Tierra del Fuego into Ushuaia airport. A very unsettling landing; smooth and safe but uncomfortably close to the Beagle Channel waterway.

Ushuaia is bigger than I expected – I can’t decide if it’s run-down or not finished. Perhaps both. Hotel Los Canelos is a smart B&B but not ready for us to check in when we arrived. We are about 15 minutes from the town centre so we ambled in, dazed if not confused. Hot chocolate at the Cafe Ramos Generales: cappucino milk with a big lump of dark chocolate to drop in was set us straight. Not much reason to look for any other cafes aroun dere. They even have the local Cape Horn artisenal beers on tap and in bottle.

By lunch we#d both picked up a bit of courage to try out our proto-Spanish, so going back for lunch gave us an opportunity to bravely if inelegantly order our Cape Horn negra and rubia tirade (dark and blonde draught). I can’t remember what “half” is but hey – we’re a little sacrifice never hurt anyone. Would Nick smooth things out with his fluent castilliano? Mobile phone works for texts so he could be used in an emergency.

A damp in the air in the morning turned into a fine partly cloudy afternoon (16 degrees?), wandering the shoreline past the port and naval base but still too far from the peaks and countryside that surround the town. It has a scandinavian feel but the mountains are too pointy and the architecture too random. The streets aren’t exactly kempt either; the pavements seemed to be specifically designed to trip you up.

Ushuaia is a strange mix of tourists from cruises and a few trekkers among the native ethinic-descended Argentinians and more Spanish looking types make this both a frontier town and a tourist trap. Maybe we’ll get some king crab tonight and set ourselves up for something more than the four hours sleep we’ve had in the last 40.

We can be contacted by text message, but although we get a signal, we can’t seem to connect to incoming calls.

/Jerry

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