POSTCARD FROM USHUAIA | ARGENTINA
Ushuaia is the jumping off point for Antarctica cruises across Drake Passage, and is located at Tierra del Fuego. Notorious Cape Horn with its fearsome reputation amongst sailors for often treacherous conditions is to the south west of Argentina's southernmost point.
Travel writer Fiona Harper spent time exploring Ushuaia as she waited to board her ship, Ocean Endeavour with Chimu Adventures, for Antarctica. Enjoy seeing the southern city at the bottom of South America through the images she captured from the city and surrounds, including Martial Glacier in the foothills of the Martial Ranges and Andes Mountains.
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Martial Glacier forms a mountainous backdrop to Beagle Channel
Martial Glacier is the poster child for the Martial Mountain range which forms the backdrop of the city of Ushuaia. The mountains in the foothills of the Andes Mountains are in Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (translated to English as ‘land of fire’), an island that straddles both Argentina and Chile. The mountain range lies east of the Cordillera Darwin mountain range and lines the Beagle Channel which forms the entrance from Drake Passage and the Southern Ocean. Beyond this landmass lies the great white continent of Antarctica.
Cruise ship passengers bound for the Antarctic peninsula enjoy the calm water cruising of these sheltered waters before heading into Drake Passage and the often-treacherous crossing of the Southern Ocean.
Ushuaia is the world's southernmost city
Waiting for my ship to come in, I’ve found plenty of opportunity to explore downtown Ushuaia and the foothills of the Martial Mountain ranges which rim this picturesque city at the bottom of South America.
Much of the mountain areas are protected as National Parks which lure adventure-seeking travellers to its flanks. Hiking, trail running, mountain biking, mountaineering and sailing are all popular pursuits with both locals and visitors. There’s even an Ushuaia Trail Marathon, which unfortunately I’ll miss by just one week!
Port of Ushuaia, Argentina
According to Cruise Critic, more than 300 cruise ships call into the Port of Ushuaia each year during the cruise season (October to May). Most of these ships are bound for Antarctica, though some ply the coastline of Patagonia. Indeed, the only other time I’ve visited Ushuaia was during a Patagonia cruise when we popped over to Ushuaia for lunch. Rounding Cape Horn twice in one week was an exceptional opportunity and one I treasure.
At Club Nautica on the waterfront I chatted to a dock worker named Uka, who, when he discovered I was Australian, beckoned me into his workshed. Proudly taped to the wall was a photograph of himself and Steve Irwin, aka the Crocodile Hunter, which was taken when they were both in Antarctica.
Hiking to Martial Glacier, Ushuaia
Martial Glacier is a popular hike for visitors staying in Ushuaia. It’s approximately 15km return if you walk from downtown Ushuaia to the start of the ice at the foot of the glacier. An easier option is to take a taxi to the car park at the now defunct cable car station and hike from there. Walking trails wind ever upwards, and the trail is well marked, with a couple of stream crossings. The walk is rated difficult, mostly because of the steep ascent, though the trail itself is easily negotiated for anyone of medium fitness.
Take food and water and wear multiple layers that can be stripped off or added to when required. The weather can change rapidly in these mountains and the wind chill factor even in summer can cause problems for the unprepared.
All the way along the walking trail the views over Beagle Channel and the Port of Ushuaia are extraordinary.