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Day Four: The End of the World

Posted on December 3rd, 2017

Dave!Because killing an entire day in our hotel room was not an option, last night was spent Googling for things to do in Ushuaia. Four-wheeling around Patagonia seemed like a fun thing to do, but there were no available spots. Then we discovered "Tren del Fin del Mundo" (Train of the End of The World). Originally used to transport prison labor to the countryside to collect timber, it eventually became a tourist attraction that runs into Tierra del Fuego National Park. Not everybody can say they've ridden "the southernmost functioning railway in the world," so plans were made.

We didn't know how many tickets would be available for the limited number of runs that the train makes, so we hired a taxi and got there plenty early. We were, as it turns out, the first ones to arrive at 8:30. You can ride the train one-way or round-trip for 800 pesos "tourist class" or 1400 pesos "First Class." We opted for the latter because the extra $30 US gets you a private compartment with drinks, a croissant sandwich, and souvenirs. Money well-spent...

Train of the End of the World

And when it comes to the Train of the End of the World... you're not just First Class... you're First Class As Fuck. It's engraved right there on your seat...

Train of the End of the World

The train itself is of the narrow-gauge variety, and looks like something you'd ride at Disneyland...

Train of the End of the World

While charming, in its own way, the train ride itself is not overly-spectacular. Other than bragging rights of having ridden the southmost train on the planet, it's kinda slow and boring... despite the narration that tells you about the history of the train as a prison labor transport. On the trip into the park, you do get to stop at La Macarena Station, where you can climb steps up to a small waterfall though...

Train of the End of the World

Train of the End of the World

The main attraction along the way, if you can call it that, is the wild horses that live on the plains of the park. Apparently some of them escaped from local gauchos and started breeding, so now they're everywhere...

Train of the End of the World

Train of the End of the World

Train of the End of the World

The nice thing about us having hired a taxi instead of going on a bus tour is that our driver warned us about the train being a bit boring. So instead of riding it back to the station, we hired him to wait for us at the end and take us further into Tierra del Fuego National Park.

Our first stop was "The Post Office at the End of the World" which sits on Lake Roca. Alas, it was Sunday so the office was closed... no passport stamps or postcards from the southernmost post office... but it was still nifty to look at...

Post Office at the End of The World

Post Office at the End of The World

Post Office at the End of The World

Post Office at the End of The World

Post Office at the End of The World

Our next stop was Lake Acigami, which is so cold, windswept, and choppy that you can't swim in it. All you can really do is look at it...

Lago Acigami

Lago Acigami

The waves off the lake are so strong that they've carved out the area where they reach...

Lago Acigami

Lago Acigami

From there we continued on Route 3 to the literal End of the Road at the End of the World...

End of the Road at the End of the World

If you look at Google Maps, you'll see exactly where the road ends and The End of The World Begins. If you had the time, you could start at the end and drive all the way to the beginning in Alaska, which is 17,848 kilometers (11,090 miles) north...

End of the Road at the End of the World

End of the Road at the End of the World

End of the Road at the End of the World

End of the Road at the End of the World

As you can kinda see in this satellite image, there's a wood-plank pathway that leads out to The End of the World...

End of the Road at the End of the World

There is a large viewing platform where most people walked to, then turned around and walked back to the road. But if you look at the Google Maps satellite image above, you'll see that the large viewing platform is NOT the "End of the Earth"... for that you have to keep walking until you reach a smaller platform...

End of the Road at the End of the World

I won't lie. The view is pretty great, even though our beautiful blue skies were starting to cloud over...

End of the Road at the End of the World

I took a panorama shot of "The End of The World" with my crappy pocket camera... it's cool, but really doesn't do it justice...

End of the Road at the End of the World
Click to embiggen the photo in a new window.

Before heading back into town, our driver wanted us to see two things.

First was a beaver dam. No beavers... just a dam that the parks service keeps around for tourists to look at. The walk to the site is quite nice...

A Beaver Dam!

But the dam area is pretty much gutted...

A Beaver Dam!

A Beaver Dam!

The last thing he wanted us to see was the tiny wild orchids that grow in the area. I'd never seen orchids grow in the wild, so that was actually interesting to me. Turns out they are almost impossible to photograph because the wind is always blowing. I gave it my best shot though, and this is as good as I was able to get...

A Wild Orchid!

And... that was that. Back to Ushuaia we went, where we wait to be whisked away to our expedition orientation dinner.

For tomorrow we set sail...

   

Day Three: Ushuaia

Posted on December 2nd, 2017

Dave!It's pronounced "OOO-SHY-YA"... but not really. There's a subtle accent thing going on somewhere in there which the locals make sound prettier than that.

As to what it is? At 54°56′ South longitude, it's the Southmost city I'll probably ever visit, that's for sure. Further south than Johannesburg in South Africa... even quite a bit further south than Sydney, Australia...

World Map Ushuaia

Flying in amongst the jagged mountain peaks as you land, you can't help but think "Oh, man... I hope that the pilot brakes in time so we don't accidentally go scooting off the end of the world...

World Map Ushuaia

The city itself is small, as you'd expect... but, at the same time, it's also much larger than the tiny village I was picturing in my head. I mean, it's big enough to have a Hard Rock Cafe (bringing my total Hard Rocks visited to 169)...

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

It's a fairly recent property, so it's one of the newer "hipster lounge style" cafes (which I hate) but at least they tried to work in more memorabilia than some of the latest Hard Rocks...

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

Hard Rock Cafe Ushuaia

The surrounding mountains make the city a pretty one, and there's two jagged peaks in particular that keep popping up when you look eastward from anywhere in town...

Ushuaia Peaks

Ushuaia Peaks

The skies, as you see, are a deep blue. The local church in town decided to paint their building to play off the color beautifully...

Ushuaia Peaks

Since the expedition boat to Antarctica leaves on Monday whether you are here or not... whether your luggage is here or not... I decided to play it very safe and arrive two days early (hey, when you're spending this much money to get here and equip yourself, better early than the alternative). This means we have an entire day to fill up tomorrow. And since we've pretty much seen all there is to see in Ushuaia, I guess that means we're heading out into the Tierra del Fuego region of Patagonia. Maybe. It's going to be Sunday, and I have no idea what that means in this part of the world.

   

Day Two: Buenos Aires

Posted on December 1st, 2017

Dave!So here I am for a single day in Buenos Aires... what to do, what to do, what to do?

After surviving an insane taxi ride into the city, my soon-to-be-cabinmate and I decided to walk around the neighborhood while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.

Coincidentally enough... La Recoleta Cemetery, which happens to be one of the biggest attractions in the city, is directly across from the hotel.

The reason it's famous is not only because it's eclectic and beautiful... but a lot of famous Argentinian people are buried there. Like Evita herself, Eva Perón (the real version, not the Madonna version). And, sure enough, there she was...

Eva Peron Gravesite

Eva Peron Gravesite

The cemetery itself is quite large (spanning several city blocks) and, as I said, is eclectic. A variety of architectural styles fill the place and something gothic and ornate can sit right next door to something stark and modern. You could spend a day wandering around the place. We breezed through in about an hour...

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery

Found a pretty cemetery cat...

Recoleta Cemetery Cat

Then it was time for a walk around the corner to Hard Rock Cafe No. 167 for me...

Hard Rock Cafe Buenos Aires

Hard Rock Cafe Buenos Aires

Before we knew it, 2:00 had rolled around and the hotel was ready to receive us. And I wasn't kidding about the cemetery being right across the street... as this view from our balcony will attest...

La Recoleta Cemetery View
To see a more detailed view, click on the image to embiggen.

Recoleta Cemetery View

When the dinner hour arrived, we opted to take the hotel desk advice and eat Argentinian empanadas at a local restaurant. I opted for cheese and onion and corn and onion, both of which were delicious...

Empanadas Buenos Aires

Wish I could say the same for our dinner companion, which was right above my head...

Empanadas Companion Buenos Aires

And that's pretty much the extent of my day in Buenos Aires. Which isn't a lot, but probably to be expected after traveling for the better part of 20 hours on no sleep.

   

Day One: SEA -> ATL -> EZE

Posted on November 30th, 2017

Dave!A long, long, very long day of travel. First a horrific one-hour-and-forty-minute drive to the airport in the rain, which was only 32 miles away. Then a four-and-one-half-hour flight from Seattle to Atlanta. Capped off by a ten-hour flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. Blergh.

The first flight out of Seattle was a little nerve-wracking because they changed the departure to 20 minutes later than originally planned. THEN after leaving the gate, we had to drive back to a gate to remove a passenger for additional security screening (whom we subsequently left behind). Then they kept saying "We should arrive close to our original arrival time" which wasn't true, because they kept referring to the revised arrival time, which was already 20 minutes late.

Ultimately we landed in Atlanta and I made my way from the A Gates to the F Gates just as they were boarding my flight to Buenos Aires.

That flight was not so great (even though my bag made it to the plane with time to spare).

First of all, there were at least six people on the plane coughing and sneezing their heads off. Travel while sick if you must... but at least have the decency to dope up so you're not coughing and sneezing on a plane-load of people making them sick. Heaven only knows what plague I'm going to end up with thanks to these assholes.

Second of all, the flight was plagued with mishaps. At one point a flight attendant dumped an entire cart full of First Class glass dishware, busting everything to shit. Luckily it was all dirty dishes, but still. As if that wasn't enough damage, a flight attendant later dropped an entire tray of glassware in the same galley section. But the highlight had to be when we heard "Is there a medical doctor onboard?" announced over the intercom. Yikes.

And yet... overall... all things considered... a pretty uneventful flight.

The most eventful incident was blowing by Lake Titicaca...

Flight Map... Lake Titicaca

And then... at 9:00am tomorrow morning... we landed safe and sound.

Only time will tell if I've caught some kind of disease from the flight.

   

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