A wish. A dream. Big cos? to seem unreachable.
I am on the plane that is taking me from Buenos Aires to Tierra del Fuego, in Ushuaia. Yes, that's right. In that small town at the end of the world that for years I had observed in postcards and dreamed of reaching.
The airport upon arrival? very small, just a moment to pick up the suitcase and then you find yourself immediately outside in the middle of an immense horizon, where there isn't any around? almost nothing and where this airport seems to be the only existing structure. Yes, that's right. The amazement? great, combined with the wonder, when the van, with about fifteen of us on board, takes the road. Long, almost deserted, in the middle of a wild, uncontaminated, changeable, amazing nature. Where in the distance you see mountains that seem drawn on a clear blue and green horizon. You immediately get used to the little traffic. In crisp clean air. To those delicate colors you've never seen before. We enter the town almost on tiptoe. The low and colorful houses look like those of Bergen.
The uphill road takes us to the hotel to leave our things here and rest until the next day. An all-wood structure. Its warmth inside is amazing, due, Rosaura tells me, to the modality? construction, with insulating panels, which allow you to keep the heat without having to run after heating. It's summer here but it's not very hot. The temperature is around 12 degrees during the day. We leave our stuff in the room, Dany and I, and in a hurry we call a taxi to take us downtown. We have a few free hours, enough to walk around and explore Ushuaia. I remember my companion of adventure that we are in the Tierra del fuego, so named? from Magellan when, on arrival, he saw the numerous fal? lit by the natives. Emotion ? very big, while almost incredulous but deeply grateful, we make our entry into the city.
Tierra del Fuego? a land apparently not very hospitable, but full of charm. Shared with Chile which holds two thirds of it, the Argentine area extends to the eastern part of the Isla Grande which in turn is divided into thousands of islets south towards Cape Horn and Antarctica. The winds in the north caress the icy plains, while the west and south embrace mountains covered by evergreen trees. The good part of the island? occupied by the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego.
Ushuaia, the capital of the Tierra del Fuego Province,? considered the city? pi? southern of the world. Sandwiched between the mountain peaks of the Andes and the icy waters of the Beagle Channel,? the main tourist center as well? the starting point for those who want to visit the National Park, the Malvinas Islands or go as far as Cape Horn or Antarctica. Founded in 1884, the city? then it had barely a hundred inhabitants while in 1914 the community? reached about 1500 people. Populated first by English colonists and then by gold hunters, it became a penal colony when the government made a maximum security prison here. The prisoners, forced to live in inhumane conditions, were "rewarded" for good behavior with the possibility? of working. Did they participate cos? to the construction of the city? also making the rails of the fin del mundo train and spending the rest of their time logging and building buildings and bridges. The largest building famous of Ushuaia was closed by Peron in 1947. In the following years the city? grew with the support of the Argentine government that sought? to favor immigration and urban development. Today it thrives thanks to tourism and the electronics assembly industry and a good part of the population? of Italian origin.
The center of Ushuaia? characterized by the presence of colonial-style buildings, where the main street, Avenida San Martin,? full of shops, bars and restaurants. We enter some to browse but the prices are prohibitive and much more? higher than from us. We only buy one additional card for the camera. The narrow streets are teeming with tourists and almost everyone has a backpack on their back. Most of the shops also sell mountain and hiking clothing. You can breathe the air of adventure everywhere. On the shore in the port we stop to observe the wreck of a fishing boat and then continue to the War Memorial for the Malvinas Islands, held between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982. The perpetual fire reminds me of the one for the victims of the genocide Armenia. Darwin, Beagle and Fitzroy have been part of the toponym vocabulary here for decades, reminding us of the importance of explorations.
At nightfall, the air becomes crisp. You need to be well covered. The day ? quite long at this time of year and begins to darken around pm. Kiosks in the harbor sell tickets for catamaran excursions along the Beagle Channel. We make a brief stop at the Tourist Office to have a souvenir stamp put on our passport, well aware that it could be our first and last time here. Even the Botega of the book seemed a mirage to us, since Dany promised a little book to her granddaughter! Too bad for? that ? already? closed and we should come back tomorrow. Before returning to the hotel, let's just take a look at La Iglesia de la Merced, built by the prisoners. We return to the taxi in silence, with our hearts full of joy and gratitude. Tomorrow another dream day awaits us.
In the next episode I will tell you? our encounter with Magellanic penguins ...