Living at the End of the World

We have often been reminded here in Ushuaia that we are living at the southernmost city on earth – the “Fin del Mundo” – the “End of the World.” As in: Cafe del Fin del Mundo; or Resto-Bar del Fin del Mundo. It’s a lot like Key West in that regard (Southernmost Motel, Southernmost Bar, etc.), but only in that regard. In every other way, things here are very different from back home in Florida; except for hearing Spanish spoken everywhere.

Today, Wednesday, marks the end of our trip, although we won’t get home until Saturday morning. Tomorrow we fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires (via Calafate) and Friday we have an overnight flight to Miami. It will be a long couple days, sitting either in planes or around airports.

So, today we decided to make the best of having a rental car until we return it at the airport in the morning.

Before I tell you about our day, however, let me tell you about where we’re staying, the Mysten Kepen B&B. The barrio (or neighborhood) is very much like the lower-income parts of Hialeah and Spanish-speaking Miami. Here’s a photo of the street our B&B is on (it’s the rust-colored building).

You can see that, like everywhere else we’ve been in Argentina, there appears to be no zoning, setbacks or building codes. In fact, just a few buildings down the street is a radiator shop and automotive repair business. And though the road in front of the B&B is paved, it’s a gravel and dirt road just off the picture to the right, like most of the roads in and around Ushuaia. There’s dust everywhere as a result. The people don’t seem to mind though, knowing no different, and the expense of importing oil for asphalt to pave all the roads is probably cost-prohibitive.

But we felt safe walking the streets at any time of day or night, though we were timid at first and a little uneasy after talking to a fellow American at a restaurant the other night. He works in import/export and travels back and forth from North Carolina to Ushuaia. He told us that it’s very safe in Ushuaia and that “just a couple weeks ago, some guy got stabbed, but they closed all the shops in town for a couple days until they caught him; they take crime very seriously here.” Um, we didn’t really feel that much more secure knowing about that episode, but thanks for the info, dude.

Like closing all the stores because of a single criminal act, many of the ways they do things here seem peculiar to us, like how the garbage is collected, for example.

Along the street, there are elevated metal baskets into which garbage is loaded by the residents, sometimes bagged, oftentimes not. You can see the one in front of our B&B in the photo, above.

Last night, the garbage truck came through at 10:00 p.m. – odd time to collect trash. The garbage truck shut down traffic as it lumbered through the neighborhood because the garbagemen had to manually pluck each article of trash out of the receptacle and throw it into the truck, a verrrrrry slow process.

But, inside the homes (at least inside our B&B), everything is first-rate, clean and organized. I think this inward-looking lifestyle may owe its origins to the Spanish mission-house style of living where the old homes were built around a central courtyard that was the focus of family life and the outdoor world was, well, kept outdoors.

Here’s a view from our bedroom window on the second floor, looking down on the house nextdoor:

The neighbor’s house is more typical of the construction here than is our B&B. About 75% of the buildings outside the commercial area are roofed in tin or corrugated steel; in fact, about 25% of the buildings use that material for their walls, too, like this neighbor! They obviously have no enforced building codes and it amazes me that people can live in buildings like these with the cold and snow that they have to contend with here for much of the year.

Anther thing we’ve found fascinating here is the number of dogs on the street. These are not strays (most have collars); people simply let their dogs roam all day. And, for the most part, the dogs are all friendly, like the Sheepdog that came into the store the other night when we were buying our penguin rock carving.

On our drive up into a nearby mountain valley today, Dale counted more dogs than people. They just sit on the side of the road, watching cars go by. We never saw a dog chase a car or pedestrian.

All the people we have met and talked with in Ushuaia have been wonderful, like Roberto and Rosario, our hosts at Mysten Kepen, though outside of the tourist shops and restaurants, it’s hard to find people that speak anything other than Spanish (our hosts speak only Spanish, so I’ve been getting lots of practice).

And, of course, I’m not including anyone behind the wheel of a car. They drive just as poorly here at the southern end of Argentina as they do on the west and in the north in Buenos Aires.

Besides our drive up into the mountain valley today, we also drove up to the Glacier Martial, from which I took this picture of the city (population 50,000). You can see from the trees changing color now that Autumn approaches here in the Southern hemisphere.

From here, we drove down to the city and out to the airport which sits on a peninsula in the harbor, from which I took this picture of the snow-capped mountains across the Beagle Channel on the Chilean side – that’s part of Cape Horn and the end of the South American land mass.

Driving back toward the city, we had a good view of Glacier Martial with the city below it.

We drove along the harbor in front of the city, eastward out onto a point. Look at how the winds have made these Lenga trees grow.

There’s Ushuaia below the Glacier Martial, again, viewed from the East.

That’s it, one last photo to remember our time here…

…before we pack everything up and go home.

It’s been a great trip. I can’t think of a single day that wasn’t an adventure!

But we’re looking forward to getting back to familiar surroundings and seeing our loved ones again.

2 thoughts on “Living at the End of the World

  1. Dear friends

    What a trip ! We have followed you all along, trying to imagine what sort of adventures you will find in Paris !!!
    Have a beautiful “back home” !!
    Virginie and Fred

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