January 11, 2007 GMT
A Couple of Weeks at the Bottom of the World


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We are here


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Bertha at the end of the world

After Christmas we stayed on in the woods for a week with Jason and Pete, the KTM riders, and Val and Adam, the crazy Californians. Amongst other things we perfected the art of asado, ate some excellent food (including a rather magical US recipe of lamb and mushroom stew) and generally had a great laugh.


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One of those nights

We also went on a couple of good walks; one around a lake to the border between Chile and Argentina...


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Hamish in Argentina, taken by me in Chile

...and we walked to the end of the world with Pete, there it is, just behind us...


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The end of the Earth!

...and saw lots of wildlife, including this magnificent woodpecker. I think it's called the Magellenic Woodpecker.


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We visited a huge beaver dam too, but didn't see any beavers.


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A big beaver dam

When we'd got rather too feral we moved back into town and booked into a hostel for three days over New Year.

And we PARTIED! We brought in 2007 with new mates and lots of beer. Sorry, I mean cheer.


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The start of the evening, 'Uh-oh'

One hour into 2007 and we were in a traditional Argentinian Irish pub; I started as I meant to go on and danced on a bar stool with 60-something year old George from Michigan, a biker we'd met on the way.


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Wahay!!!

We enjoyed the luxury of the hostel for three days then moved back to the tent, this time we pitched camp at the Rugby Club, an excellent campsite sheltered by trees and next to a river, run by a very friendly family. On the way Hamish spotted a sign 'Tierra Negra, 10 pesos'. ''Excellent!'' he said ''A hostel for only 10 pesos!'' Actually it meant 'black soil' (peat) for sale. Time for some Spanish lessons...

We enrolled at 'Finis Terrae' Spanish School for a week. It was fairly intense but I was amazed that I remembered some of it from school. (I learnt Spanish for a year when I was 14 but as I spent the entire year doing rather non-acamdemic things I can't believe anything stuck) Hamish and I both learned heaps, and I enjoyed it so much I enrolled for an extra three days. Hamish had had enough by then and went fishing with Adam, so Val gave me a lift into town on her bike instead.


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Graduation!

After three more days my brain was completely full, and I now need to practise. At every available opportunity (and when nobody I know is listening) I've been talking to people and can now hold a short conversation, thanks to my excellent and very patient teacher, Sofia.


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The teachers and some students

Hame turned 38 on January 7th. We had a small party the night before with other bikers staying here at the campsite, plus a few of our fellow students. The Swiss bikers produced a cake at midnight and Val and I cooked enough Spag Bol to feed an army.


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Make a wish...


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There are no strangers, only friends you've yet to meet

The next day we'd decided to go and see the Martial Glaciar which is in the hills above Ushuaia. Hamish, being Hamish, took one look at the 'hill' (to a Scotsman it's a hill. To everyone else it's a mountain) and was off and up through knee deep snow to the top. It took him about an hour and a half to get up there, and about 10 minutes to get down, slding on his backside, yelling 'Awesome!!!' all the way. Must have been hanging around with Americans too much.


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Hame is the tiny black dot in the middle


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Going up


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Val and Adam, Ushuaia behind


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Ushuaia from above


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From even further up, Hame's picture

We both like Ushuaia. It's a port, it is fairly touristy, but we've enjoyed being in one place for a couple of weeks and we've got to know the town quite well. Houses of every shape, size and colour are clustered together up the steep streets, there are heaps of duty free shops and restaurants to cater for the tourists who mostly come by boat, stopping in Ushuaia as part of a cruise. Ushuaia also seems to have more than its fair share of chocolate shops, what a shame for my waistline...


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Ushuaia is famous for its king crab.

Ushuaia is also the embarkation point for cruises to Antarctica; for a mere US$3000 (this is half price) you can explore Antarctica for 11 days - I think we'll give that one a miss. We're in summer now, with daytime temperatures of around 15 degrees, with snow on the tops of all the surrounding mountains - it's very picturesque. In winter the town still relies on tourism and it becomes a ski resort.

There is lots to do here, cruises up the Beagle Channel, diving - if you are completely insane as the water is freezing - lots of hiking, fishing and even golf. I managed to get a game in at the Southernmost golf course in the world with Carla, a Canadian from Spanish school. It was great to play with snow-capped mountains around us.


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Hole-in-one! Dream on


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Carla

Riding in Ushuaia is not without its hazards though; with mad dogs on just about every corner who like to chase bikers. Both Adam and Phil got bitten whilst here, and every time we go out we are chased. The dogs lie in wait at traffic lights, then the minute you take off, WOOF! and off they go after you. Val was convinced that if you don't move your foot they can't see it so will not know what to bite. It worked for us, on our journeys to school.

One other issue in Ushuaia is the complete absence of road markings. This makes for interesting riding, especially at crossroads. Argentina is full of crossroads as most towns are laid out in a grid system and we've not quite worked out who has the right of way. There seems to be an unwritten rule which we've not figured out yet.

A bit of history...

For 6000 years or so Tierra Del Fuego was inhabited by groups of indigenous people. One of these groups, the Yamana, lived around the Ushuaia area. Tierra Del Fuego didn't have the large amounts of natural resources coveted by European explorers who invaded land owned by other indigenous groups further North, but there was contact between the Yamana and Europeans as they navigated the Beagle Channel. Missionaries later established Ushuaia and attempted to convert the Yamana to Christianity.


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Area once inhabited by the Yamana

This contact brought diseases which the Yamana had no resistance to and in a couple of generations, sadly, the tribe was all but destroyed. A few descendants of the Yamana live today in Chile but there are only about 20 left. We went on a 'school trip' to the Yamana museum as a Spanish lesson, it was very interesting to see how people adapted to the area and made use of the few resources to survive. Tierra Del Fuego means the 'Land of Fire' and was christened by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, as he sailed past and saw the fires of the Yamana.


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Part of the national park, the area once inhabited by the Yamana

I've mentioned 'asado', the traditional Argentinian grill. At weekends families get together, find a good place outdoors and cook up an asado - meat, meat and more meat on a fire. It is very delicious, but there is a distinct lack of vegetables around...


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Two men and a fire

Another national delicacy we've been enjoying is empanadas. These are small pies filled with a variety of ingredients and they are absolutely delicious and horribly fattening. My excuse is I need the extra fat to keep warm.


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Owners of the campsite, Maria and her husband, making homemade empanadas

Hamish has spent the last couple of days fixing a problem with the front brakes, there has been slight leakage from the front caliper. Perhaps it was because of some extra cargo...


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Hame hard at work

We intend to leave Ushuaia in the next couple of days and head North, on our way to El Calafate, speaking Spanish all the way!

(Emma)


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PS
I have finally put some wedding pics on the blog; if you want to see Hame in his kilt check out the entry 'On the Road Again'

Posted by Emma Myatt at 04:15 PM GMT
 
 

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