January 2023- Argentina
Okay, maybe not the end of the earth, but certainly the end of the continent. We had reached the Southernmost point of the Americas. South Americas roads end in Ushuaia, Argentina – and we drove there! This is a photo of Ushuaia at night and in the morning. Due to the location, there are not many hours of darkness, but the lights come on anyway. The days are long and cold, even in summer.
Once we had our emotions under control, we settled on a plan to spend some time in the area. There are several things to see and do, and we wanted to bask in our completion for a while. So we went to a local restaurant to enjoy grilled cordero (lamb) over a slow, hot fire followed by hot, whisky-spiked coffee poured from a metal pot that is probably older than us!
One of the most interesting museums in Ushuaia is the one in the old prison facility. This includes many floors and branches which cover some military history, art history and prison history. This was the ultimate banishment for the country of Argentina. Being sent here to prison was reserved for the most incorrigible prisoners, and there was no shortage of stories about them. Long, dismal hallways, drafty unpleasant restrooms and concrete tables for sharing coffee were notable. One section of the hallway displayed information about the notorious prisons and jails around the world. There was a display on prison camps in Germany during the war, political prisons in Cuba, the island prison in French Guiana and even the USA. But the featured prison in the USA was a little startling- relocation camps! Below you can see text in both Spanish and English discussing the Japanese Relocation Camps of the war era in the 40’s. Certainly interesting to see this situation on display in a faraway location with an different viewpoint.
As we wandered down a brighter, more fun looking hallway we encountered an artist and his display of recent works. We were both quite smitten with the unique message in his art. We spent a great deal of time talking with him, and ultimately chose to purchase his piece on American Capitalism: Elvis.
He spoke of acid rain, pink algae, the penguins, Elvis representing the vision of perfect America, and the musical score at the top representing so much. The score is “Jailhouse Rock”, a nod to the USA record of most incarcerations of any country, and the place where he is commissioned to display his art. An interesting man, with a fun artistic style. Elvis will look terrific on display in our kitchen in Pie Town. Plan to stop by to visit Elvis some day.
We camped near the city of Ushuaia and we also drove down some secluded dirt roads to find peaceful camp sites. We found many great views of the city and the surrounding mountain peaks, ocean bays and flower filled fields. We even found a small fox outside our window one morning. Poor creature was scared away by the infamous Pacha-defense-sound-system!
The views across the bay towards Ushuaia are beautiful. The mountains are steep and treeless. In the background you can see glaciers and snow on the further peaks. It truly feels like the cold, windswept, end of the earth.
We made a trip into the city for dinner at a special restaurant. Centolla crab is famous in the area, and the place we ate had a 45 minute wait on a breezy sidewalk. It was good, but maybe not worth the cold wait! Then we visited one last museum. This one showed us information about the native people of the area, as well as the settlement by the English, the prisoners and the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica. There is a great deal of history based in this region, as shipping routes were forged to grow international trade. Perhaps you have heard of the Strait of Magellan…… yup….. right there in the photos! This is where it all happened.
As we wrapped up our time there, we began to review the map for places north of us. It felt odd to say, but it was finally time for us to face northward. And from here that meant criss-crossing Chile and Argentina again. Grab an atlas, look at a globe, open a map app and check out the way these two countries have divided up the many islands of Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. We had some careful planning, ferry rides and border hassles ahead of us. Are you coming along?