Friday, 13 January 2012

Arrival in Ushuaia

Day one of the Spirit of Shackleton Antarctic cruise with Gadventures: Landing in Ushuaia was remarkable. Three and a half hours after leaving Buenos Aires, we descended over the lakes and bogs of the Tierra del Fuego National Park: a wilderness reserve backed by immense mountains that look as if they’ve been hacked and torn at with a pair of scissors. Here, plateaued glaciers lick towards the valley floors and snow-filled basins contrast the rough-edged silhouette of the Andes mountains as they conclude their epic journey along South America’s western coastline and dissolve into the Beagle Channel.

The jagged silhouette of the Andes form the backdrop to Ushuaia
On arrival at tiny Ushuaia airport, customs consisted of a quick rifle through my rucksack and then it was a thirty peso, ten minute taxi ride to the centre of Ushuaia. With the airport to the west and the prison building of this former penal colony to the east, the most southerly city in the world sprawls along the Beagle Channel. As part and parcel of the  Spirit of Shackleton Antarctic cruiseGadventures had booked me into the Cilene Del Faro spa hotel and my suite had an uninterrupted view of the harbour through room-length windows; I watched the ice-breakers and cruise-ships depart for - and return from - their Antarctic voyages, and waited in anticipation to catch my first glimpse of the M/S Expedition: my home for the next 3 weeks. It was early evening by the time I made it out onto St Martin - Ushuaia's main street-  for dinner at an Argentinian restaurant, and the evening was well under-way by the time I made it down the harbour to join the groups of tourists who amassed around the harbour, but by the time I made my way to bed, the sun was still hovering above the horizon.

First glimpse of Gadventures Antarctic cruise ship: The M/S Expedition

Lifetime imprisonment
On my first night at the end of the world, the sun finally set at 11pm and my plans to lie-in the following morning were interrupted by a 5:30 sunrise. No problem though, the early start gave me plenty of time to peruse the shops and cafes of St Martin high-street before visiting the prison - turned - museum and art gallery; this unique attraction houses masses of artefacts, with separate galleries dedicated to a history of Ushuaia, Antarctic exploration, the prison itself, contemporary artworks and penguin exhibits, with elements of each showcased in the original cells. One wing of the prison has been left in its original form, where you can shut yourself in a cell and imagine the days spent here by some of Argentina’s most notorious criminals and political prisoners – chilling stuff!

Former cell-life at Ushuaia museum
This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

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