Here’s some irony: Our plane touched down on Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) just a few hours before Santa Barbara erupted in flames. We were online early the next morning (middle of the night PST) and began speculating who among our friends and acquaintances had become homeless.
We knew Chuck’s house was in the middle of the inferno. But a couple anxious days later, he emailed us from Thailand to let us know that firefighters had halted the flames at his back patio and that his housemate and cat were safe. It was one of the very few houses that survived on his street. We’re hoping for word that our other friends in the area were as lucky.
We spent a couple of days in and around Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world (although inhabitants on the small Chilean Islands might beg to differ). The town is unremarkable but provided a great base from which to explore.
A hike to the Martial Glacier provided great views (between snow flurries) of the surrounding mountains and the Beagle Channel (named for famed navigator Magellan’s ship that rounded the Cape Horn). For those of you who live in places with â€œrealâ€ winters and who ski on a regular basis, this may not seem like a big deal. But hey, these Santa Barbarian weather wimps HIKED ON A GLACIER!
A much more challenging day was spent trekking for 7 hours, most of it in ankle-deep mud, through Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. Despite the muck, a few icy gusts of wind, and only a handful of other determined (or foolish) people on the trails, it was a great hike.
Most interesting was the plethora of dams and damage created by el castores–beavers. We were also surprised to come upon a few large conejos, some Woody Woodpeckers that were completely oblivious to us, bizarre Doctor Seuss-looking parasitic growths on some of the trees, and a family of wild horses. Every so often, the trail would wend its way up a peak or back to the water and we would be treated to breathtaking vistas of the outlying islands and snow-covered mountains.
The end of the world may be muddy, but it is extraordinarily beautiful.
â€œVistas schmistasâ€ I can hear my siblings saying. Let’s talk food, shall we?
Argentina: Beef, pizza, pasta, wine. That’s about it. The food is good, not particularly interesting, but good. If you are a steak-and-potatoes person, you’d be in heaven here. The beef IS as good as everyone says and, as our friend Michael points out, Argentina is the only place where fillet mignon (or a thick Porterhouse if that’s your preference) is cheaper than pizza. It IS cheap and the portions are huge. And if you really want your cholesterol to soar, the ice cream/gelato is excellent. Don’t worry, we’re mitigating it all with outstanding, ridiculously cheap red wine.
There are beautiful chocolate shops everywhere so Alan made it his goal to find the best chocolate in Argentina. We soon learned that looks are deceiving, or at least our tastes are very different than the average Argentine. What we’ve tried is overly sweet and short on the cacao. Great looking, but dull. But ever the optimist, Alan will continue the quest. [Sacrifices must be made in the search for excellence. –Alan]
The best meals we experienced in Argentina happened to be French (rivaling some of the finest we’ve had in France) and, of course, Mexican, courtesy of Genevieve and Marcelo who created an incredible feast of mole de Puebla and grilled pollo. The mole was way too spicy for the Argentine guests at Enrique’s birthday party (although they raved about it between cooling swigs of dark beer), while we and the Mexicanos all but licked our plates clean.
Next up: CHILE