19 November 2009

Antarctica? Not This Time

How far are two people willing to go to find the best hot chocolate? Well, for us, we went to the end of the world. We also found a very cool city, big mountains, lots of snow, and an opportunity for further exploration.

K. and I had a month between our arrival and our parents' respective arrivals in Santiago, Chile. We decided to fly down to Southern Patagonia for some pre-season trekking. This area of the world is so far south that it's really only good for hiking during a few months. By coming early, we avoid the "crowds" and the higher prices. Additionally, it's sooooo far south that it'd take 60+ hours by bus from Santiago. While we will use buses for most of our South American adventure, a few choice flights will save us a lot of time and can actually save us money. Win, win, win.

To get to Southern Patagonia, we flew into Punta Arenas, Chile. Then we took a 12 hour bus-ride to Ushuaia, Argentina. This is the most southern city in the world. If you want to be picky, there is a small village slightly further south on an island. However, there is also a bar much further south at a Ukrainian Antarctic research station. Most importantly, there are a lot of great parks in this area of the world and we plan to do a bit of hiking in several of them.

First off, however, was a day of talking to travel agents. There had been two spots left on an 11-day cruise to Antarctica for $3000. That's a ton of money, yes, but they usually go for $6-8k. The next-best "last-minute" price is $4k. Well, we didn't get the super deal of $3k, so we decided forget about Antarctica for now. That's a lot of money that could see us through several months of more travelling. It is something we could do when we are older. And why is coming to Argentina a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like many people advised us? It was easy to get here, it wasn't that expensive, it's safe, it's cheaper than the US, and it's fun. So why wouldn't we come back?

That being said, Ushuaia is a fun town. It is sandwiched between giant snow-covered mountains and the ocean. It reminds me very much of other extreme-cold port towns that I've seen in Alaska, Finland, and Russia: a backbone of shipping, the new look of tourist pursuits, a few crazy outdoorsy types, and a lot of normal people providing services for them all.

The hostels here are a bit more expensive than we've seen elsewhere, but the market is reasonable and people are friendly. Most importantly, we have found a great bakery and the best chocolatier. I'm talking about two crepes (chocolate and dulce de leche), a handful of homemade chocolates, and delightful hot chocolate for a few bucks. Now let's go find ourselves some mountains.

 Ushuaia's port, where fishing ships, Antarctic cruises, and cargo boats hang out.

 A normal view from town. It's only 20 minutes to the mountains. Hmm, wish I had my skis. . .

1 comment:

  1. Danny, Thanks for this update. Happy Thanksgiving! Will you eat Argentinian food? I was going to write 'beef.' However, you and Kris will choose the vegetarian option. Our family is meeting Lou's nephews, niece and their families in Cincinnati.

    I love you guys.