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After a brief stay in Buenos Aires we pushed onward to Ushuaia, a town on the southern Argentine island of Isla Grande deTierra del Fuego. The word Ushuaia comes from the indigenous Yaghan language—meaning “deep bay”. Ushuaia is not only the starting point for cruises to Antartica, but also a backpacking hub and a ski area for those (such as ski racers) who want to ski year-round. We arrived a few days before our Patagonia fjord cruise to explore a bit.
We stayed at a lodge, a former farm, a few kilometers southwest of town. Ushuaia is bounded on its north by the last bit of the Andes Mountains which have curved to the southeast.
Our lodging was on the coast with great views across the Beagle Channel to Chile.
Another view to the snow-capped mountains across the channel in Chile (the international border runs along the middle of Beagle Channel).
Ushuaia originated as a penal colony—mainly for dangerous criminals and habitual offenders transferred from Buenos Aires, but also some political prisoners. The prisoners built a railway to transport timber from the forest back to town which they, in turn, used to built the town. This tourist train (Tren del Fin del Mundo) follows a section of the route, now within Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego.
(Apologies for the window reflection.) On the train we traveled through a logged region of the park which has not returned to forest even after more than 100 years.
(Again apologies for the window reflection.) And horses free to roam. My understanding is that the horses (some wild; some not) are a destructive force in the park.
We also visited the former prison which is now a museum of sorts, Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia. The prison accepted its first inmates in 1896 as part of an effort to establish permanent Argentinian residents and Argentine sovereignty over Tierra del Fuego.
The prison was modeled after a remote British prison in Tasmania, and the French one in Devil’s Island. Escape from Tierra del Fuego was difficult… (via Wikipedia » The prison closed in 1947 and became a naval base active during the Falklands War of 1982. The Argentine cruiser ARA General Belgrano, subsequently sunk by the British Fleet, sailed from the Port of Ushuaia.)
And finally, if I may, a bleak poem by an anonymous inmate (as translated from Spanish) »
When looking into the sunset
with my sad beggar look
I resign myself to die as a traveler
that surrenders to the pain of his failure,
the shadow that will come from the sunset
I will find myself sitting on the path
if I can’t get there, if nothing I hope
So I’m going to take a single step.
Let my cross rot among the scum
where the faith of my destiny fell
and my memory was covered in mud
I don’t deserve another end, cruel pilgrim
I crossed the night of my history
leaving human blood on the road.