Christmas & New Year at "the end of the world"
22.12.2007 - 02.01.2008 12 °C
Yet another gruelling 13 hour bus journey was endured by the Bruntons. We weren't going a great distance from Rio Gallegos to Ushuaia, but the trip meant a few hours travelling through Chile, so we had the pleasure of 4 border crossings (1 out of Argentina, 1 into Chile, 1 out of Chile and 1 back into Argentina). Lisab was very naughty and tried to smuggle contraband through the border. She was marched into the Chilean customs and interrogated until she handed over her lentils, kidney beans, cardamon pods and cumin seeds. To add insult to injury, she then had to watch as the foodstuff was thrown into a bin and sprayed with disinfectant. The customs lady kindly informed us however, that were we to bring in "broken" dried kidney beans, that would be acceptable, so we now know for future reference.
Beautifully situated on the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia was our destination for Christmas. It had a festive feel, as the mountains were snow topped and the wind was blowing as cold as it does in Rossendale. A trip on the Beagle Channel was one highlight of our stay - particularly because the small boat we sailed on was able to get quite close to the marine life. It also included a walk on Bridges Island to see the wild flowers and archaelogical sites of the Yamana Indians (one of four indigenous groups of natives who once inhabited Tierra del Fuego), and a sail past the lighthouse at the end of the world.
Bridges Island on the Beagle Channel
The lighthouse at the "end of the world"
Sea lions and Cormorants
On boxing day, we went to Estancia Harberton. This is the oldest building on the Island and run by the descendents of the British missionary, Thomas Bridges, who protected the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego and began to understand their culture and language. During some of the first encounters white men had with the natives, the Yamana were asked what they called the bay upon which they were situated. The natives replied "Tekenika" and thus the white men named it so. Years later, after Thomas Bridges had translated thousands of Yamana words into English, it was discovered that the bay's name actually translates to "I don't understand what you say".
Distance sign in Ushuaia
We headed to the bustling port of Punta Arenas, in Chile, for New Year. This time, Lisa sailed through customs, as the lentil police were off duty (she could have smuggled anything through). The streets are very wide and in times past were used for moving the sheep through the town. The buildings here are opulent, a sign of the port's wealthy past and was a base used by many Antarctic explorers (such as Scott and Shackleton). There is also the omnipresence of the South American street dogs, who are disinterested in people (unless you are feeding them) and are quite happy chasing the local cars and bikes up and down the streets. Unfortunately, the bustling port turned into a ghost town come New Years Eve; the Bruntons couldn't even find a pub open! Happy bloody New Year (actually we had a good time in our fab hostel with big flat screen telly, and Andyb's chilean chillie!) As always, we checked out where the locals drink and Lisa was very flattered to be called a "princess" by a local. However, she was less flattered when he called Andyb a "princess" too. It should have been a warning sign, as the man opened the door to the pub, said "welcam en", showed us to a table, then sat down next to us, that we had been befriended by the local drunk.
Re pictures: there will be no photo's of Andyb for the forseeable future. This is due to a (frankly brave) visit to a Chilean hairdresser. Nothing shall be said on the matter, except, "Run Forrest, Run".