So here we are, at the Fin del Mundo or End of the World. Ushuaia is the southern most city in the world and the departure point for our Antarctica trip. We were feeling excited but also scared and apprehensive. It’s a once in a lifetime trip and the cost reflected that. What if it disappointed? What if we had bad weather? What if we had the time of our lives!?
Ushuaia is a beautiful town, surrounded by snow-capped mountains looking out across the Beagle Channel. Lupins and the biggest roses we have ever seen were in bloom, adding to the beauty.
Even though it was still technically summer, it was the coldest place we have been for quite a while. Our main objective in town before leaving on our trip was to purchase and hire the warmer clothing we needed for the adventure ahead. The list was quite long as we hadn’t packed for Antarctic temperatures. Between us we needed waterproof gloves, waterproof pants, waterproof (and big and warm) jackets, thermals, snow socks, scarfs and sunglasses for John.
Speaking of warm clothing, one of the most interesting things we learnt in Ushuaia was that the local indigenous people, the Yamana people, wore little to no clothing before the Europeans came, despite living in an extremely cold climate, which averages only 10 degrees in the warmest months and below 0 in the coldest. They survived primarily because they covered themselves in animal grease and stayed close to the fires they would build to help stay warm. This is also how the area got it’s name Tierra del Fuego or Land of Fire.
In a stroke of luck, it also turned out we were in town during the annual carnivale to celebrate the end of summer. We spent the days walking the many (expensive) travel shops in town and then enjoying the colourful carnivale parades in the evenings.
The carnivale celebrations were great to watch, even if it was very cold. Different groups decked out in colourful and amazing costumes danced down the main street, past crowds who were enjoying the celebratory atmosphere in the air. The meaning of each group was lost on us (especially the group with the almost naked lady) but it was fun none the less.
One highlight at the carnivale was watching the foam battles between the local children, teens and some adults, which seemed to be a local tradition at the festival. On the first night they mainly kept the spraying to other armed combatants but by the second night, all bets were off and it was a free for all. Children were jumping out from behind walls, spraying anyone who passed (locals and tourists alike), innocent dogs would be running about with foam mohawks and groups of teenage boys and girls would be chasing each other up and down the street. A great way to let a girl know you like her!