DAYS SEVEN, EIGHT and NINE: El Fin del MundoSitting in the airport in El Calafate waiting for our flight, I feel bad about myself. There are a group of five kids who don't know each other next to us talking about how it's been a dream of theirs to go to Ushuaia. I'd never even heard of Ushuaia until planning this trip, and just learned how to pronounce it about a month ago. And, the main reason we are going there (besides bragging rights)?
It's where the Walking with the Penguins tour is!
We originally had three full days of activities, but just before we left I received an email from Say Hueque, our travel agency, saying our flight on New Year's Eve had changed to an earlier time. So they kindly changed our outings so we could still do everything we planned. Which meant that on Sunday we had TWO tours, the morning Beagle Channel Tour and then 45 minutes later we needed to be on a bus to see the penguins. Glad they had that all figured out.
Upon our arrival in Ushuaia late afternoon we just wandered around a bit.
|View from our hotel room. . . not bad|
|Cute Ushuaia tour bus. Towns so small, you don't really need it, though.|
|What we did until 2 am, at Bar Ideal, Dublin, and El Viejo Bar (go there and meet Nach, he's a good kid!)|
|Ushuaia is the jumping off point for those on Antarctic cruises, and today the National Geographic Explorer just rolled back into town|
|Leaving port into the Beagle Channel|
|First vantage point, Cormorant Island. Note: that discoloration? Is only sort of natural. . . nature's paint. LOL|
|Next stop is the Island of Sea Lions. That's the Big Daddy|
|You just can't take enough pictures of Sea Lions|
|Sea Lion cuddle|
|The Faro (lighthouse), the most iconic landmark in Ushuaia|
|Sea Lions and Cormorants|
|Sea Lion Lovin'|
|So important, I had to show you twice.|
|Quick, cold trek on Island H, where we got an overview of the Yamana People, the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego|
|Razorback Mountain looming over Ushuaia|
|Cold but pretty, looking toward Chile|
|An alternative to Fin del Mundo. . .|
The only tour company allowed to schedule walks with the penguins is Piratours, in collaboration with Harberton and the appropriate government agencies. Only 80 visitors are allowed per day in groups of 20 each. Half our bus goes to the island while the other half visits the "museum". Then you switch. Of course, we went to the museum first, which I thought would be a drag, but actually turned out to be very interesting. There is quite an interesting story here about an Ohio woman named Natalie (Prosser) Goodall who traveled to Venezuela 50 years ago to teach, and ended up married to the grandson of the founder of this very ranch. Who then, with donations from Total Oil and National Geographic, opened and runs the world's most comprehensive museum of marine mammals of the Tierra del Fuego region.
She was inspired to travel to Tierra del Fuego based on the book The Uttermost Part of the Earth, which unfortunately is not available for Kindle. I really want to read this book! We were lucky enough to MEET her and she told us the abbreviated story of her life. A very shy and soft spoken woman born in 1940, she has quite the tale to tell.
|The museum houses over 2700 skeletons of local marine life|
|We didn't see all of them, but it kinda felt like it|
|I WANT TO SEE THEM ALIVE!|
|Not a penguin. In fact, eats baby penguins.|
|The Gentoo penguins have the orange beaks and feet|
|The Kings have the yellow cheeks, are larger, and more gray|
As tempting as it was, I did not smuggle one home. There were no bag checks when we left, however. . . :-)
|Now it looks like the African veldt out here|
|Quick raft trip in the SLEET.|
|The end of the PanAmerican Highway|
|Our view from the museum|
|Southern most post office in the world, in Tierra del Fuego National Park|
|Sunset (at 11:30PM) over the harbor from our room|