Ushuaia, Argentina is one of the most naturally stunning places I have ever had the privilege of visiting.  The previous time I had docked there, I joined in on an impromptu hike up one of the surrounding mountains all the way to the glacier.  During that contract my computer crashed and my external hard drive died, leaving me without photographic evidence of that experience.  Luckily I was able to contact a friend and get a few photos from him to at least prove I that I had been there.

This time I had been counting down the days until my return to the world’s southernmost city.  Located off the historically famous Beagle Channel, Ushuaia is the starting point of countless Antarctic expeditions and excursions, not to mention quite the hub for local adventure sports and sightseeing as well.  Thousands have passed through on their journey to the world’s most mysterious and notoriously inaccessible continent.  Located on the island of Tierra del Fuego, the city has about 70,000 inhabitants surrounded by frigid waters and snowcapped mountains.  A truly unique place, I was delighted in the opportunity to escort a shore excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park, named for the island it is located on.

The park is truly a majestic natural paradise in which 90% of its land is actually protected.  Throughout the winding dirt roads and countless rickety wooden bridges, one can see numerous trickling creeks and rivers, as well as rabbits, foxes, horses, and various bird species.  The cooperative weather made for incomparable views and photographs, including a late afternoon rain that offered us a vibrant rainbow arching over one of the park’s many bodies of water.  At one point we even saw a red fox just outside the window of our tour bus.

This brings me to my next point.  While I really and truly loved the park, the sheer number of tourists was beyond that which would have made for a peaceful experience.  Our stops were teeming with stereotypical cruisers only there to score photos and get in the way.  People even shouted at each other to move so they could capture the sign saying we had reached the end of the Pan-American Highway.  Sure it’s a significant sight, but holy smokes!  All I wanted to do was frolic among the dandelions; roll down the velvety green hills; and test the icy water with my toesies.  And all that isn’t to mention the soundtrack of hacking, coughing, wheezing, and complaining that our ancient cruisers provide; plus the disgusting level of toxic fumes our busses spat out their tail pipes.  I am disgusted yet confident that I inhaled more exhaust vapors than fresh and natural air.

Needless to say, my experience could have done without the guests.  It’s the other side of that “double-edged sword” I mentioned two posts ago – great to see things for free, but with everyone else around it’s definitely not a personal experience and that is super unfortunate.

Take it from me – go to Tierra del Fuego National Park on your own!  Better yet, drive all the way down from Alaska on the Pan American Highway and score a campsite to take in the park overnight.  It would totally be worth it.

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