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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

It’s the end of the world as we know it (and we feel fine)

ARGENTINA | Saturday, 20 March 2010 | Views [2411] | Comments [5]

We returned to Buenos Aires but having already seen the delights of the Argentine capital we only stayed for a night before starting our journey south, way south. After the short distances in Uruguay it was back to the long hauls. However, as Argentina has the best sleeper buses we’ve been on this wasn’t going to be an issue. That said we had been told to try ’Coche Cama’, a class above our usual fare at least once while in Argentina, so we decided that our journey to Puerto Madryn would be the one in which to try it. With wider seats that recline further and with less passengers onboard it was certainly worth the extra pesos and we both had a great nights sleep.

Puerto Madryn & Peninsula Valdes

The reason for travelling to Puerto Madryn is to visit Peninsula Valdes, a nature reserve famed for the Southern Right Whales that come to the peninsula to mate and give birth in the areas warmer waters. However, we arrived a couple of months too late for the show and the whales had continued their migration south. Thankfully we knew that this would be the case, but the whales are not the only fauna to see on the reserve, as the peninsula is also home to penguins, elephant seals and sea lions.



Not wanting to hire car we were advised that the best way to see the Peninsula was as part of a tour. It turned out to be one of, if not the best tour we’ve been on, with both the guide and the driver genuinely enthused by every siting of local flora and fauna. We managed to catch sight of all the other wildlife the peninsula is known for including Guanacos (llamas), Nandos (emus), Mara (giant hares), Grey Foxes and even one born with no ears. But perhaps our favourite siting was of a cheeky armadillo.



The peninsula is a real haven for nature and animals, but even though it attracts major tourism the protection of the wildlife is the first priority, with signs like this to help keep the wildlife happy.



Welsh Settlements

Although we didn’t get to see any whales, we did get to see a little piece of Wales as Welsh settlers first arrived in Puerto Madryn in 1886 looking to create a ‘little Wales beyond Wales’.  



Rather than trying to subjugate the native Tehuelche people the Welsh left them alone. When they did make contact with the Tehuelche after a year, it was to ask for their help, as many of the settlers were dying as they had been unable to grow crops and raise cattle in the inhospitable conditions. The Tehuelche taught them how to survive in Patagonia and today in return they have given them tea shops and tourists!!

Welsh heritage lives on in Patagonia and being able to speak Welsh carries a certain cachet. Many tourists flock to Trelew (town of Lewis, in Welsh) and Gaiman to see a Wales of yesteryear. If you’re not Welsh it may all be lost on you. If you’re Welsh and thinking of visiting, we’d suggest giving it a miss, I’ve never been to Wales but it has to be more interesting than this! ;)

Thankfully they know how to make a good brew though!



Back on the road

Once you’ve been ‘coche cama’ it’s hard to go back! With another long bus journey ahead of us we again opted for the comfier bus. Our journey again took us through the nothingness that makes up a third of the worlds eighth largest country, that’s not to say that it’s not beautiful in its own way. Most of the land is made up of Estancias (farms) and is flat and barren with the odd sheep, nandu and guanaco roaming around.



Giving me a bottle of wine with dinner isn’t going to help me go back to lower standards either!



After another comfortable night we arrived in Rio Gallegos, which a fellow blogger had warned us wasn’t even worth a nights stopover, so we immediately booked ourselves onto a journey to the end of the world. But not before sitting in the bus station for 6 hours waiting.

Tierra del Fuego

The end of the world is located in Tierra Del Fuego an archipelago shared between Argentina and Chile and our journey would involve a bus, a ferry and 2 border crossings. From Argentina we would have to cross into Chile before crossing to Tierra del Fuego on a ferry



passing a typical traffic jam for the island (this lorry had shed it's load of wool!)



and crossing back into Argentina and down the end of the world. Well maybe. As with in the northern hemisphere the most southerly point in the world is under some dispute. Whether we are at the end of the world depends on your views whether the victor should be a city or merely a settlement, and even then what population classifies a city? Lets just say that both Chile and Argentina lay claims to the monkier ‘the end of the world’ and leave it at that.

Ushuaia

Argentina lays it’s claim to the title with the southern most city in the world of Ushuaia, and the 61,000 locals are very proud of their claim to fame, with all signs, souvenirs and clothing touting Ushuaia as the ’Fin del Mundo’.



The fact that Ushuaia is only as far south as Belfast is north, means that the claim is not as impressive as they would have you believe. At least we know from the demonstrations, protests and statues, where we stand on the issue of the Islas Mavinas, they belong to Argentina!



The issue is at its most fervent in Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego due to their proximity and because the majority of the people who fought in the war were from these regions. However, the people have shown us none of the hostility we had in BA and some even excitedly asking if we are going to visit the Falklands (their choice of words), which we can only do from Chile or the UK.

We managed to do some fun activities in Ushuaia, including a trip on the Beagle channel, where we got to see the 'end of the world lighthouse'.

As well as taking in some more wildlife.



And trekking on the ‘Isle of Bridges’, a small island that used to be the home to the Yamana indigenous people, who wore no clothes and just rubbed oil on their skin before swimming naked in the freezing waters. Here’s a picture of us at the island...



And we were still freezing and suffering despite our many layers! On the island we also got to try the local Calafate berry, which once eaten is said to guarantee a safe return to Patagonia. Back on the boat we were also treated to a local brew, and probably the best beer I’ve had in South America.



Ushuaia like Australia used to be a penal colony, only much much colder and being sent there often meant never returning as repatriation back home after your conviction was not paid for, leaving many stuck on the island with no way home and no means of escape. Today the jail is used as a museum explaining Ushuaia’s past.



Another highlight was the Tierra del Fuego national park, where you could post a letter from the southern most post office in the world. (Please do not expect to receive a letter or postcard from us, as you will be disappointed!)



Before setting out on a scenic hike through the native forests, getting up close to the waters, with views of the Andean range in Chile.

If we thought the cars in Uruguay were ancient, at the end of the world they're still stuck in the stone age!



Until next time

Ryan y Jo

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157623413970640/

Tags: end of the world, puerto madryn, tierra del fuego, ushuaia, welsh settlements

 

Comments

1

all this 'southern most' reminds me of a fav back in Oz - 'biggest in the southern hemisphere'!!!!! wowzers we beat angola, chile and even the kiwis!!!

  doddboy Mar 29, 2010 8:24 PM

2

Loving the musical blog titles - I can just see (and hear) you (well, more likely Jo) busting out the songs at the top of your lungs.

And wine... crumbs, I reckon I'd give my first born for a drop of that sweet elixir about now.

Take care guys
x

  Catie P Mar 29, 2010 8:36 PM

3

Just want to say Happy Birthday Jo - sorry if we are late, but just returned from an Asian Cruise. Keep the blogs coming!

  Jean and Mick Apr 2, 2010 6:16 PM

4

Some nice mountain views there :)
We just got back from NZ and it looks slightly familiar..... no armadillos in Christchurch though.

  James Apr 5, 2010 7:29 PM

5

Hey ryanandjo,

We really like following your blog and decided to feature it this week on the WorldNomads Adventures homepage so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy Travels!
World Nomads

  World Nomads Apr 6, 2010 11:21 AM

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