To actually get to Antarctica, I had to fly south from Buenos Aires to the small port of Ushuaia, affectionately called the Southernmost city (not town, which is in Chile) in the world. Not so proudly, it was also once the city of condemnation for criminals, where all of Argentina’s worst criminals were sent to be isolated in the cold, lonely island province of Terra del Fuego. It was called ‘Land of Fire’ because the first european explorers to discover it sailed along its shores noticing many fires and smoke rising from the land since the indigenous population there used fire often in their day-to-day lives. More than using fire for heat, they used it to cook, since they were actually an evolved type of man that barely felt cold – despite the cold temperatures and snow, they lived in small, uninsulated huts made of wood, wore no clothes, and ate over 10,000 calories a day that they easily burned up without being overweight at all.
Ushuaia, also nicknamed the Ed of the World, is the only city in Argentina that is actually on the west side of the Andes, forcing people to cross the massive mountain range and all its glaciers to get to mainland Argentina. Since the province is also technically an island, they have to cross into Chile before being able to sail accross to mainland Argentina. Their tourist season runs all year round and is the main industry there, since they have the ski mountains to appeal during the winter months, and the 40,000+ cruise passengers visiting in the summer months to board their ships that sail to Antarctica. It still has a small-city feel, with unpaved roads, and the little bit of ‘rough-around-the-edges’ underdevelopment that still exists probably disappears under a blanket of snow every winter.
Terra del Fuego National Park was one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen, lush in mosses, vibrant flours, big forests, with colours of green, blue and brown dramatically lit by the long sun-hours. There is only about 1/3 of the park that you can access by car/bike, and the rest you could get lost in hiking around for weeks. The andes, glaciers, and not far-off Chile creates a spectacular backdrop, and without any fences or farms, horses seem to roam freely in open fields, bunnies hop around grazing, and breeding ducks and big hawks litter the ponds and air everywhere. If i could do it again, I would have given myself a lot more time, supplies and film to have spent weeks there, roaming the coast, fields and mountainsides for days on end trying to capture the natural beauty I find myself having a hard time trying to explain now.