You know you have finally reached the end of the world when you arrive in Ushuaia in Argentina. As you descend along the mountainous roads towards the cramped city, you will see the ocean that stretches beyond infinity. Nothing lies beyond these cold waters and majestic fjords. Here, in Ushuaia, is truly the end of the world.
Ushuaia is the southern-most city in the world. Located at the southern-most tip of Argentina, Ushuaia is also the closest city to the frigid and wild continent of Antarctica. During the summer months, thousands of tourists fly to Ushuaia to embark on the expedition of their dreams: a choppy voyage towards the mysterious land of icebergs and penguins. Such expeditions do not come cheap though: a ten-day itinerary would cost upwards of USD10,000. Yet these expeditions are always mostly booked. How many times in your life would you get to visit Antarctica?
Unlike most of the other tourists who flock the seafood restaurants and alpine gear shops in Ushuaia, I was not planning to see Antarctica. Rather, I was more interested to feel and experience what it was like being at the end of the world, or what the Argentinians call “el fin del mundo”. Honestly, Ushuaia is not exactly a comfortable place to be in. In the summer months, it is wet, muddy and windy, and sometimes so cold you would think it is winter. Yet the wild nature around Ushuaia is impressive. It must have been these harsh conditions that made the scenery around Ushuaia so spectacular.
While most tourists skip the hiking, I actually found the hiking to be one of the most memorable ones in Argentina. The Tierra del Fuego national park (translated as “Land of Fire”) is only a few kilometres from Ushuaia, and boasts lakes and bays that open up directly into the infinite ocean that lies beyond. There are various easy treks that bring you to amazing viewpoints of the snow-capped fjords and icy-cold ocean. These views are special, because they are accompanied by the fact that no civilisation lies beyond what you see.
My favourite part of the Tierra del Fuego national park was the climb up Cerro Guanaco (Guanaco hill). It was a tough, four-hour climb up 1000m to the summit through forests, bogs and scree. However, the views at the summit were amazing. From the summit, I could see the tiny Ushuaia in the distance and the mighty fjords that keep the bay safe from the wildest of oceans. It was amazing just watching the snow-capped fjords and imagining the beautiful Antarctica lying behind. This is the beauty of nature that I find so attractive: its wildness, colour and naturalness.
Just when I thought I could spend a day lazing around and resting my sore feet, a group of friends invited me to climb up a different mountain. The next day was spent exploring a different side of Ushuaia. This time, it was a summit close to the city, known as Cerro del Medio (Hill of the Half). A three-hour climb up 750m in elevation brought us to the summit of the hill. From there, you could see the sprawling city of Ushuaia and the massive Beagle channel that surrounds it. The summit was extremely windy, and the cold winds were blowing straight into our faces. Yet, it was so beautiful to just sit there, listen to the howls of the winds and watch the serenity of the deep blue ocean. Hiking could not get better than that.
Welcome to Ushuaia, where people board fancy expedition ships to the faraway iceberg known as Antarctica, where tourists scramble to eat the largest king crabs. As you go on your adventures to the south pole, do not also forget the beautiful nature around the city you just landed in. This is Ushuaia, the end of the world, with nature befitting its slogan too. It is this wildness, this seemingly untouched and uncivilised nature that drew my attention to Ushuaia. If you too love to experience the wildest of the wilderness, then you should make that trip down to the end of the world.
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