Day 33, Grand World Voyage 2020
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020; Ushuaia, Argentina
If I took Interstate 35 south from Dallas, connecting on the appropriate roads through Mexico, Central America and South America, I would eventually end up on Route 3 at the end of the road (and the fin de monde”) in Ushuaia, Argentina.
We came up the “southern route” from Antarctica to this most southern city in the world. Our crossing of the Drake Passage was Capt. Mercer’s calmest ever. While I appreciate the comfortable ride, I missed out on experiencing the sometimes-turbulent waters I’ve read so much about. Oh well – I’ll just have to come back someday.
Yesterday morning we arrived at Cape Horn, the most southern headland at the tip of South America. (We have discovered many “most southern” points in this part of the world.) A Chilean pilot joined our ship so we could take a leisurely circumnavigation of Cabo de Hornos, as it is called in Spanish. While the seas were almost flat, the wind blew ferociously as we rounded the island. Most of us made quick darts outside for photos before returning to the warmth of the Crow’s Nest to watch albatross glide around the Amsterdam. Our Antarctica Experience team provided a running commentary, their last before they left us today.
Capt. Mercer adjusted our schedule, bringing us to the pier in Ushuaia around 7 p.m. last night instead of this morning as planned, in part to make up for today’s abbreviated stop here. In order to make our next port we had to leave here at 2 p.m.
Elaine and I joined our friend Nancy last night in town for a local beer and free WiFi at what must be the most-southern Hard Rock Café.
In an effort to be somewhat frugal, we elected not to join a Holland America shore excursion. The most popular were to Tierra del Fuego National Park, particularly on the Train to the End of the World on a vintage railcar. We opted to explore town on our own, checking out the souvenir shops that intermingle with high-end outdoor gear merchants. The small city caters to trekkers in the Patagonian wilderness and Antarctic explorers.
Its harbor is the jumping off spot for expedition ships to the Big Ice, as Antarctica is known here. The inflatable boats stacked on decks identify these ships.
If you don’t want hiking gear, t-shirts or magnets, you can still have chocolate in Ushuaia. We passed several chocolate shops and finally gave in to temptation in the café at Laguna Negra Chocolates. A small cup of hot chocolate was just what we needed (although the lemon and orange loafs were too dry to eat).
Back in the Crow’s Nest we enjoyed an early afternoon sail away and managed to stay there till dinner. Our route took us through the Beagle Channel, named after the ship on which Charles Darwin sailed in 1833 to map the area.
Cruisers know the channel as Glacier Alley. For hours we passed by U-shaped valleys carved by glaciers, some of which still reach down to the water. We turned our heads from one side to the other to see stunning waterfalls. The green of the lower slopes contrasted with the stark whiteness of the snow on the peaks. I wished I had my DSLR camera with its long lens, but couldn’t tear myself away to go back to my stateroom, so the iPhone had to suffice. We moved too quickly for my slow sketching, but later I’ll use my photos as references for some drawings in my sketchbook.
We didn’t want to dress for the dining room, even though we heard the wait staff was dressed in a “Dinner with Darwin” theme, whatever that was. We retired back to the Crow’s Nest to spend the evening quietly reading and admiring the beauty around us. By 10 p.m. we gave up on waiting for darkness to fall and headed for bed.