Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What A Difference A Day Makes

From Puerto Natales in Chile, we headed further south to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. This journey was longer and more complicated than any of the border crossings that we had done by bus. You can trace our route (marked in blue) on the map below.

It involved:
- 12 hours overland travel (from 7am to 7pm)
- 1 vehicle change in the middle of nowhere long the highway, halfway between Puerto Natales and Punto Arenas.
- A ferry crossing at Punta Delgada, across the Magellan Straits (the whole bus goes onto the boat) to the island of Tierra del Fuego
- Overland transport to the border at San Sebastian, crossing into Argentina
- Another 300+km after the border to Ushuaia
- Crossing from 1 side of the Andes mountain range to the other, through a mountain pass

Not complicated enough? Just throw in 1 more border crossing for the return leg from Ushuaia to Rio Gallegos (i.e. Argentina-Chile-Argentina)!

Our journey to the tippy tip!

At a latitude of approximately 54 degrees south, just 12 degrees short of the Antarctic Circle (which is at 66 degrees south), Ushuaia is commonly referred to as the southernmost city in the world, aka the end of the world. Especially if you are Argentinian. The Chileans don't buy that statement, and consider instead their settlement of Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino (south of Ushuaia, across the Beagle Channel) as the rightful bearer of the title.

It's all a game of numbers and semantics, really. There are people living in Antarctica (mostly in military and research bases) but not enough for these inhabited pockets of land to be considered settlements in their own right. The next biggest population of just slightly less than 2,000 is in Puerto Williams. However, most countries adopt the definition of a city as an urban area comprising at least 5,000 inhabitants. The funny thing is, the Chilean government apparently agrees with this definition!

I guess the idea of visiting the world's southernmost settlement isn't quite as enticing, but until Chile finds another 3,000 odd people who are willing to freeze their asses off in Puerto Williams, Ushuaia (and all its 64,000 inhabitants) can cling on to its title of the world's southernmost city.

Well, city or not, wherever we were standing then was definitely south enough for us! While we were practically next door to Antarctica, US$8,000 still stood between us and Penguinland - so this was pretty much the south-est that we would ever get in our lives. And the furthest away from home too!

Being located so close to the South Pole, Ushuaia's climate is pretty drastic. People joke that Singapore only has 2 seasons - hot and wet. Well, Ushuaia has only one - COLD!!!! The yearly average maximum temperature is 9 degrees Celcius. The lowest, 2 degrees Celcius. Bordering on the arrival of summer, we were suppose to "enjoy" a maximum temperature of 12 degrees. As luck would have it, our arrival coincided with some freak snowfall (more like a blizzard, in our tropical opinion), cooling down the max daily temperature to 2 degrees. Nightly temperatures fell to negative digits. How ice. I mean, nice. The digits on my hands and feet were feeling pretty negative about the weather too.

But hey, true world travellers don't just let some big ol' softy snowflakes stand in their way of fun! Looking on the brighter (but unfortunately not warmer) side of things, we got to experience the different faces of Ushuaia as the snow alternately fell and waned throughout the day.

View 1: From our hostel room, looking towards the city waterfront

Day 1: Nice, sunny and just slightly nippy - just like how a day in spring should be

Day 2, 3, & 4 (in the day): we took a step back into winter

Day 2, 3, & 4 (at night): street lights reflecting off the snow

View 2: Looking down the street across da'Hood

Day 1: no gloomy picture of the end of the world here!

Day 2, 3 & 4 (in the day): under a relentless assault of big fat clumps of snow

Day 2, 3 & 4 (at night): the lights come on in a distance and it all looks really pretty (from the warmth of the hostel)

View 3: Zooming in on Ushuaia Bay and beyond it, the Beagle Channel

Day 1: the water is faintly blue

Day 2, 3 & 4 (in the day): water turns a gloomy grey

Day 2, 3 & 4 (at night): except for some little dots of light, you can hardly see beyond the bay anymore

Yeah, I was enjoying the pretty scenes that the weather was throwing at us. But what I loved most was seeing the spring blooms in various modes of:

Mode 1: sunny and cheerful, daffodils lifting their heads towards the sun!

Mode 2: iced over in the early morning, heads bending under the weight of the snow and icicles

Mode 3: thawing out as the day warms - water droplets hanging off the tips of icicles as they slowly melt

Different faces every day. And all within 24 hours.

Isn't it all so pretty? (And cold.)


Debra said...

Gorgeous pics, as usual. You are getting v good with your camera, babe!

Yi Lin said...

Thankies! Well I have alot more time and opportunity to dabble in photography while on this trip. The changing weather presents lots of different setting and the natural scenery is a great source of inspiration. Hopefully I won't get lazy or think "there's nothing to shoot" (which is not true) once I get back.

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