You know how people always say, “don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.” They’re right, because I’ve found it.
Ushuaia, Argentina is the capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego and the southernmost city in the world, hence the popular nickname “the end of the world.”
For most people, Ushuaia is the gateway to exploring the Tierra del Fuego National Park and the last stop on the infamous “End of the World Train” but for those few adventure-seeking travelers who dream of visiting the frozen continent, it’s also the most popular departure point for Antarctic expeditions.And that’s why I’ve come all the way to Ushuaia; for the real trip-of-a-lifetime, a 10-day cruise to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions. But first, I’ve got a full 36 hours to explore this charming town at the end of the world.
Sandwiched between the snow-capped Martial mountain range and the Beagle Channel, the colorful town of Ushuaia reminds me of a cross between Reykjavik, Iceland and Chamonix, France. It’s got the rainbow-colored buildings of Iceland’s capital combined with the dramatic alpine landscape of Chamonix. The view from my room at the Las Hayas Resort is simply stunning.
I still have a few last-minute things to buy for Antarctica so after checking into the hotel, I decide to make the walk into town for lunch and a little shopping. The 95-degree heat of Buenos Aires is already a distant memory and it appears summer has a different meaning in this part of the country (for example, in Atlanta, we would call this winter). It’s chilly and extremely windy but with the sun shining it’s still a pleasant day for exploring. And thanks to my polar-packed suitcase I am (for once) completely prepared for this type of weather!
The downtown area is adorable and there are plenty of places to shop for supplies for your arctic endeavors. I walked the harbor area a bit and checked out some of the other ships bound for Antarctica. I can’t wait to set eyes on mine tomorrow, Quark’s only all-suite ship, the Sea Spirit.
Antarctic Pre-Departure Prep
Lunch and shopping completed, it was time to head back to the resort for a 6:30pm pre-departure briefing. Seated in the hotel’s lobby, I got my first look at my fellow 114 passengers who I imagine I’ll get to know very well over the next 10 days. In fact, we may or may not spend the next 48 hours bonding over seasickness. They seem like a lively bunch so this should be fun. There were a number of questions from the audience ranging from how many landings we can expect to do per day to how rough will the crossing of the Drake Passage be?
When it comes to Antarctic travel, the number one rule seems to be unpredictability. We will attempt two landings a day in two different spots but everything is dependent on the conditions. The Drake can indeed be rough but our guide said that lately it hasn’t been that bad. (That sounds promising but I’m immediately skeptical of what “not that bad” means to someone who lives on a ship. I suspect we may have differing interpretations.)
My favorite part was at the end of the meeting when she explained the return arrival process in Ushuaia where Argentine customs officials will verify that the penguins have not given us any illegal contraband to smuggle back into the country. Hysterical.
I’m nervous about the Drake Passage (even though I’ve never really been prone to seasickness) but I have my prescription seasickness meds and I’m so excited for the trip that no matter what the Drake throws at us, I have no doubt it’ll be worth it.
The ship sails at 6pm tonight!