At the end of the world (Ushuaia)

We reached Ushuaia on the 4th of Marts 2018

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What a crazy feeling, it is impossible to describe, but what an amazing feeling that went through our bodies

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In Chile we wild camped at the local river in El Blanco. When we were ready to go to bed a family of five from Argentina started to set up their tent. Their kinds were only 2, 4 and 6 years old. They were going to make a fire to grill a piece of meat, but they couldn’t find their lighter. The father, Isidro came by and knocked, and asked if he could borrow a lighter. Off course, no problem and he invited us to join him and his family around the fire. 15 minutes later we ad put on some warm clothes, and where sitting around the fire together with the family. We quickly learned that they had lived in Buenos Aires, but after having their first child, they decided to move the Ushuaia, to raise their children outside the big city. Now they have three children, and have been living in Ushuaia for five years. They invited us to come and visit them, when we reached Ushuaia. We kept in contact, and were invited to stay with the family.

Meet the three children of Isidro and Emmy – yes, we are making burgers

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We had planned to do a multi-day hike on Isla Navarino, an Island just south of Ushuaia, but Isidro recommended a more unknown hike in the mountains just north of Ushuaia called “Sierra Veldivieso”. We started to research… Read all about our preparations and how the hike went in the next post “The hike of our lives (4/5 days on Sierra Valdivieso)”. After returning form the hike we spend 6 days with the family. The family house is located with a view over the Beagle Canal, where cruise ships and container ships are constant waiting to dock.

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Isidro and Emmy are teaches all a different local school, and we were so lucky, that we got the change to be a part of one of the schooldays. So why is the school different? Well the children are located in smaller groups on the floor (sitting in a circle), while having classes (Yes, no chairs and tables). Usually 2-6 groups are located in the same room. The children have a huge respect for not making noise and helping each other. It is like a big family, where the focus of teaching is more centered toward evolving the child as a whole, learning them how to learn and express themselves, and not only teaching them skills (language, mathematics, music etc.). The schools teaching perspective is very wide, and have room for much more creativity. It was an amazing experience, that gave us a positive different perspective of how to learn. I think that the Danish (an a lot of other schools all over the world) school systems could learn from how the children treat, respect and learn from each other at this school in Ushuaia.

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Visiting the Museo Maritimo y del Presidio in Ushuaia was not that different to other museums, but we highly recommend it!

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It is a great museum located in the old Ushuaia jail and military prison

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Actually the first prisoners arrived in 1896, there were 14 of them (Ushuaia was founded by the government the same year on October 12th 1896). The idea was to colonize the place, so after the first prisoners had arrived another 11 men and 9 women, whom were all ex-convicts that had committed new crimes (they volunteered) were send to the island “Isla de los Estados”. 6 of the convicted women got married, 3 of them to prisoners and the other to three inhabitants of the territory already established. The first military prisoned opened in San Juan de Salvamento on Isla de los Estados (1884 to 1899). Later it moved to Puerto Cook on Isla de los Estados, where the prisoners were housed in wooden and tin huts. Due to humanitarian reasons the military prison was moved to Ushuaia, where the construction of the National Prison started in 1902, just east of the little tow, Ushuaia. At this point the population had reached 120. The building of the prison by the convicts went on until 1920. At that point the prison had five pavilions with 380 single cells, but the prison housed more than 600 convicts at one time.

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One of the pavilions stands almost untouched, since the last prisoners left the prison in 1947

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In the 1930’s political and social prisoners were sent to Ushuaia. Many of these prisoners were in fact exiled to Ushuaia, and  they were allowed to rent rooms and even house in the small town. Sheds were built around the prison and many opponents too the government were accommodated there. Again in 1955 political prisoners arrived, because they aimed to overthrow President Juan Domingo Perón during his second administration. Though the prison had been closed in 1947, the new political prisoners were placed in Pavilion 5. After the prison closed down in 1947 the premises had been used by the Naval Base for various purposes.

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Other pavilions of the prison houses different kinds of exhibition from art to exploration of the Antarctica. Especially the ship history in Tierra del Fuego is interesting. There were the only three sea routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, until the construction of the Panama Canal (read this post “Panama City and the Panama Canal”).  (1) The Strait of Magellan is a navigable sea route in southern Chile separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. The strait is the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (2) The Drake Passage, which is often stormy and (3) The narrow and sometimes treacherous Beagle Channel. The Strait of Magellan is considered a difficult route to navigate due to the narrowness of the passage and unpredictable winds and currents, but it is shorter and more sheltered than the often stormy Drake Passage. In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to sail through the strait, which was named after him (Source:

HMS Beagle, the model size is 1:100

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During the next 100 years many sailed through the strait. On January 29th 1616 Schouten and Le Maire were the first to sail around Cape Horn, and they sailed all the way around Tierra del Fuego. On this journey they discovered the Mitre Peninsula and the island “Isla de los Estados” (where the military prison was located from 1886-1902). The HMS Beagle first came to this region in 1829 under Captain William Parker King, but HMS Beagle got famous on its second voyage under Captain Fitz Roy in 1831, where it carried the naturalist Charles Darwin. They reached the Beagle Channel on January 29th 1833, and on the 15th of September they arrived on the Galapagos islands. Want to know more? Check out this post “The creation and evolution of the Galapagos island”.

Here is the record of sunken ships (click on the picture to view it in full size wlEmoticon-camera At the end of the world (Ushuaia)), it is treacherous waters down here. Some of the wrecks can still be seen on the beaches today. Our plan is to visit the wrack of Desdémona, that went down in 1986.

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We also stopped by the souvenir shop. No I didn’t buy it, but bought a Ushuaia shopping net and Esben bought a cap. Now we have Lance (or van), we can buy some souvenirs, there is one rule, they have to be useable on the trip, and when we get back home. Nothing only for display.

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We also walked around Ushuaia, and in the harbor we found ne of the whip wracks in the record the “St. Christopher”, a tugboat that was stranded, because the owner, the Salvamar company went bankrupt, and the bank, Banco Nacion seized the vessel. The trial took so long, that there was a complete loss. Today the ship remains as a symbol of all the ships that sunk in the area.

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We bicycled to the small airport to get a view of Ushuaia, before leaving

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Just two days after getting back from the hike, snow was falling in the mountains. Ushuaia and Denmark is equal distance from equator, which means that the latitude of Ushuaia is –54,8 and it is 55,9 for my hometown, Odder in Denmark. The climates are still different, and in the winter in Ushuaia can last from April to November (7 months), where in Denmark we are lucky to have snow during the winter (December to February). This year Denmark got some snow in the beginning of April, which is pretty unusually.

Snow in Ushuaia

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Birdlife in Ushuaia

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We really liked Ushuaia, but the snow starting to fall it is time to leave…

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So what now? We have reached Ushuaia, but there is still so much of South America, that we haven’t seen. When we were travelling on the motorcycles it was all about the journey to Ushuaia, but now after changing to travel in a van, it have become a lot more than that. We still want to learn more about the countries we travel in and go explore both nature and culture on our way. It is a journey and a chapter in our lives, where we learn from the destinations that we visit. For now our plan is to drive to Buenos Aires by following the East coast of Argentina by taking Ruta 3. How to drive 3094 km from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, keep following our blog.

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