Thursday, October 25, 2012

Punta Arenas to Ushuaia!!!!! (and Chile by the numbers)

We are in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world!

First, we must catch you up. After we last wrote, we went to Seno Otway near Punta Arenas to visit the penguins. This area is protected by law and the penguins come every year to breed and hatch their young. You can visit either in the morning or in the afternoon because the penguins are out hunting during the day. We got to watch them come back from the water, dry off, and then penguin-walk to their little caves.

The view from Seno Otway

Penguins drying off

Penguins at the starting line, racing to get to the best cave

This fellow came by to say hello

Being a penguin is very tiring, I think this guy is yawning

We also saw some rabbit-like creatures on our way out

After our trip to the penguins on Sunday, we took it easy on Monday. We went back to the restaurant we had eaten seafood at and decided to test their meat selection. Turned out it was also quite delicious. A steak with two fried eggs on top is an excellent meal at all hours of the day. We also wandered about town for an hour or two, stopped by a few stores just in case we would find any necessary supplies for Ushuaia. Everything was really expensive, so we decided to stick with what we had. The next day we got on a bus at 9:00 AM and headed for Ushuaia.

After a few hours, we had to get off the bus and the bus drove onto a ferry along with other waiting vehicles, we also got on board, and crossed onto the island that is Tierra del Fuego.

The ferry is pretty full

Sarah is the king of the world!!

We got back on the bus, drove off the ferry, and continued on our way. Eventually we crossed the border into Argentina, and had a slight mishap on the unpaved section of the road. We got a flat tire, and had to switch buses to another bus from the same company going to Rio Grande. They apparently didn´t have a spare on our bus, and wanted to keep the weight down as it followed us to Rio Grande where they repaired the tire. After about 45 minutes we got back onto our original bus and continued to Ushuaia, arriving at about 8:00 PM.

Yesterday we got up and ate our hostel-provided breakfast and finished just as it started snowing. We had originally planned to hike up the nearby glacier, however with it snowing, we decided to take it easy. Luckily it stopped snowing about an hour later and we changed our minds and decided to climb it anyways. It is about 7 km outside of town, up a hill, then there is a chairlift and a small hike from the chairlift. We decided to take a taxi to the base of the chairlift, which is closed due to maintenance anyways, and hike up from there. After about an hour we got to the top, just as it started snowing again!
Here is Sarah on the way up

The Glaciar Martial

Sarah, the chairlift, and Ushuaia down below

So here we are in Ushuaia, at the bottom of the world, just in time for the one year anniversary of our departure tomorrow. We are still considering taking a last minute cruise to Antarctica if we can get a rock bottom deal, but that is proving to be difficult. In the meantime, we will spend a few more days here checking out the musuems and the old Spanish fort.
Now for some sobering numbers from Chile. By far Chile was the most expensive country we have visited up to this point. That said, the quality of life is much higher, it is a very modern country and you end up paying more for that. We also did a lot of tourist activities which only added to the overall cost. We left Chile on the 23rd of October after entering on the 2nd, spending 21 days in the country. We entered with $86 and withdrew $2053 while inside the country. It got interesting when we changed money into Argentinian Pesos, the official rate is about 4.7 pesos to the US dollar, however the black market rate is closer to 6. We also got the black market rate when changing from Chilean pesos. So we ended up leaving the country with about $217 using the official rate, which we will unfortunately get from local ATMs. Our total spend in Chile was thus $1922. That gives us a daily spend of $91.52! Someday we will have to go back when we have a larger budget and can eat nothing but delicious shellfish all day.

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