We’re at the end of the world, as far south as possible in South America. In Ushuaia , 55 South 68 West, further south than Australia or New Zealand.
Nestled at the foot of the snow topped-Andes with views stretching out the Beagle Channel,Ushuaia is blessed by geography.
A stunningly beautiful but remote location, the world’s southernmost town is hard to reach and difficult to leave. Buses in and out are infrequent and fill up fast. No sooner had the three of us stepped off our plane, we were planning our departure.
Ushuaia began as an Anglican mission amongst Yaghan Indians who were later wiped out by epidemics brought by the Argentine navy.
Naval presence remains and there is strong evidence of the country’s war with the UK over the Malvinas.
It’s an issue that often came up in Buenos Aires where students sought my opinion, while their parents spoke of many friends lost during the war.
Based on the strong emotions I encountered, I understand why Jeremy Clarkson’s illjudged Top Gear adventure to Ushuaia was so controversial.
The Ushuaia settlement graduated from Naval base to convict station, now a wonderful museum. While the setting is glorious, the town divides opinion. It’s a mix of gritty port town and tourist chic, full of single-story, corrugated iron houses.
A last-century escape from this remote prison would have been an impressive, dramatic feat.
Today Nan has planned our escape, a morning excursion by catamaran in search of penguins.
They had evaded us on our September trip to Puerto Madryn so Nan was determined to capture the critters at first light. With her camera of course!
First light came fast. It was bright up to 11 pm and got bright really early. The birds were singing by 5.
Nan marches us with a steely resolve in her eyes to the port at 8am where we board the boat and head out the Beagle Channel, out over the rim of the world.
The boat is full of well equipped travellers; designer labels must be making a packet with this new navy of eager travellers dressed in multi-zipped and pocketed trousers, expensive hiking boots, buffs, gloves, hats, scarves and sunglasses.
This bottom of the world has always captured the imagination. Here you will find the Patagonian origin of Coldridge’s Ancient Mariner and Darwin’s theory of evolution.
It’s no wonder that this boat load of wanderers seeks the spark that inspired works by Shakespeare, Swift and Verne
Our companions and I jostle for prime positions to snap the beauty and wild life around us.
We adventurers are armed with all the latest cameras, phones and selfie sticks.
The gadgetry is ready, I just hope the penguins turn up!