Walking Ushuaia, Argentina

I have been traveling through South America for a month at the point I reach Ushuaia, Argentina.

I think I know what to expect from the entire continent, in a general way. I’ve seen beauty and been shown gracious welcome. I’ve had the humbling experience of traveling by land through many border crossings and standing in line at two of those crossings for over 6 hours. I have braved city bus systems, fallen over several sidewalk irregularities, practiced my Spanish language, eaten food that did not agree, and enjoyed many meals that did. I have done all of that and am surviving – even loving the priviledge of being able to put my feet to the ground in places many people can’t imagine ever seeing in person.

But all my experience, as well as my abiding stereotypes, gives nothing to prepare me for this small city at the edge of the world. I begin my walk at the harbour, facing the downtown area and looking up to the surrounding jagged mountains.

I walk across the street to the visitor’s center. It seems no single nationality nor one language has a lasting claim to this place. I remind myself to speak Spanish, but I lose count at nine languages that seem common: Spanish, of course, and English, also German, Mandarin, Italian, the English spoken in Australia (!I know they can say the same about American English!), at least two Eastern-European languages (I think Polish and Hungarian?) and another tongue I can’t identify at all.

Across one street is the downtown area. It seems retailers find this place especially enticing, as brand-names from all over the world have built-up a presence here in this town of a bit over 50,000 souls. Hard Rock Cafe, for heavens’ sake, is here. It is apparent to me as I step into the city center – all two-square blocks of it – that something is going on here that should remind me that it is never a good idea to walk around with my stereotypes.

Whatever my expectations were, instead, I am greeted by: Upscale mountaineering retailers, luxury leather goods, specialty yachts, space-age small planes.

But even with the connection to the world’s marketers, Ushuaia remains a part of its pristine geography.Β  Even during this summer walk, snow is visible on the sharp peaks surrounding the bay, signposts warn of impending bear visits, the mirrored quality of the icy water reflects puffy clean clouds, penguins live nearby.

It all leaves me a bit out-of-sorts. I walk through the downtown and out into a more residential neighborhood. It is cozier here, and I find a bench on a pie-shaped park to sit and watch pelicans on the bay. I wonder what it is that has me so befuddled. I take a walk wherever I go; today should be no different. I am here today, and tomorrow venturing by ship to Antartica, but I find that Ushuaia is pulling my attention. On the cusp of viewing the continent that so few people ever see, it is this little city that makes me stop and think.

It feels more like home than I expected to experience in a place so far away from where I live. There is a California calm here, a confident idea in the streets that no town, anywhere, does life like its done here. I sit on a suburban bench, at the extreme southern tip of my connected continent, and I feel like I am living in the middle of California Cool. I think maybe that is not such a good idea.

But then, I remind myself, Ushaia knows itself better than I do. My own California calm takes over, and I decide to just let it be. Ushuaia seems to be doing just fine defining its own character, at its own pace. I’m the one that needs an attitude adjustment – and I hope I leave my stereotypes behind as I venture farther south.

 

Please join theΒ Monday WalkΒ with RestlessJo and friends:

24 Replies to “Walking Ushuaia, Argentina”

    1. Oh Judy – you wouldn’t believe what I’ve gotten myself into. Nothing to do with ‘walks’, everything to do with nutty poetry. Reading your chapters right now πŸ™‚ – see you wednesday !

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    1. Hugh – Thanks for stopping by. Our trip to Antartica was a disaster – beautiful place, and we’re lucky we got that far, but holy-moly what a funny-dreadful memory! One day I will have the courage to write about it – Susan

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  1. I got so much excited at your line about Antarctica – i’ve long wanted to go there and I hoped you’d be writing about it soon. Then I read the comments! I hope you do find the courage to write about it – a funny-dreadful memory sounds intriguing (easy to say when it’s not your own). In the meantime, this is a lovely post to be going on with.

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    1. Anabel – thanks so much for the encouragement. The expedition-style Antarctic trip was so expensive, we opted for a safe and sound and much less expensive cruise ship. Did I say safe and sound???? One day, I will write the story πŸ˜‰ -Susan

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  2. I do love the way you write Susan. And this post was especially interesting as I spent 3 days in Ushuaia a few years ago now. We didn’t make it to Antarctica, but we did several day trips from the town. My experience of the town was very different, not least because it snowed when we were there – in December! I don’t remember that much about it except that it had a kind of ramshackle charm stuffed up against the relentless mountains. Perhaps all the development happened in the last 4 years.
    Alison

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    1. Alison – Snow during summer! I wonder if that changes the experience. It was all sunshine and sparkle when we were there – yes, maybe ramshackle a bit, but in a very intentional way. Like those jeans that are quite expensive, but already in shreds. You were there longer than I, so my impressions are pretty superficial πŸ™‚ As always, many thanks for stopping by

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  3. Susan, what a fascinating glow you cast on a city I didn’t know, and had to look up. I’ve not been to Argentina – yet – but as they say, it’s on the list. πŸ™‚ Like you, I’m a walker and prefer to get to know a place by wandering its streets and drinking up the culture. Thanks to you, I feel like I’ve been there! ~Terri

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