September 6, 2007

Ushuaia

Yesterday was an action packed day, and I wasn't able to write. I hope to make up for it with this entry.

On Tuesday night, I decided upon a relaxed evening with wine and a new book. Even though I have a long list of things to read, I opted for some Dostoyevsky in Castellano. I have enough trouble reading his stuff in English, but I figured this would be great practice.

On Wednesday I woke up intent on trying another sendero (trail) into the mountains. The weath was perfect (about 30 F at the start and clear), but I was slightly apprehensive because my left knee had been giving me a lot of pain. It was definitely sore that morning, but I figured I don't make it to Ushuaia often so I shouldn't take it easy on my body.

video


Like the trail I took on Monday, this was a city operated trail which started in the heart of the city. This trail was a bit longer and harder than my Monday trail but was suppoed to offer a better vista. My ascent out of town was slow going because I was trying to save my knee. Upon leaving town, the trail went through a pasture of horses. I was forced to walk amongst a number of horses, and I can tell they didn't like my presence. They at least got some amusement when I fell on my ass when trying to avoid some of their shit.



Upon leaving the horses, the trail entered into a young forest. Apparently all the trees had logged out not too many years ago, and my crude pamphlet on the trail said the trail would be treeless for quite sometime. I was happy to see such strong forest recovery, but it did make it hard to follow the trail. The night before had seen about an inch of snowfall and it was evident I was the first on the trail. This trail proved to me more difficult to follow than the first (even though I got lost multiple times on the first) because people had created side trails leading to illegal settlements. It was kind of creepy to see small shanty towns hidden in the woods of the Andes, and I had the feeling that I was being followed for the first hour.


As the trail ascended, more and more snow was the ground, and I could start to see some very old foot prints from who knows when. I am very grateful for these footprints because at one point I spent a good 45 minutes searching for the trail and ultimately decided to just the footprints. With a compass in hand, I followed the old prints and every 50 paces stopped to make arrows in the snow and to ensure I was continuing to the north. Each step that I was following was sinking about 2 feet into the snow. I was happy that I could occasionally find the other foot prints to walk in because I just had my running shoes and they weren't made for this task. Plus, it was a lot quicker when I could find his prints and not sink as far down. Without walking in his steps, I'd sink very deeply in the snow, and it'd be a real pain to get free.

Eventually, I moved to a very young forest where the branches hardly broke through the snow. This definitely made things tougher because I was not just falling a few feet in snow each step, but I was getting whiplash as well. All this time the forest cover had been to thick to see anytihng and I started to doubt if I'd ever get to a vista, perhaps the trees had grown too much. Plus, without the right equipment, it was very slow moving. Then, just when my doubts were the greatest, I broke through the tree line.



It had been awhile since I felt such relief, but now I could see how the inclined continued. The treeless incline was well more than most ladders I had climbed in my life. Plus, the snow was now probably over my head by this point (My walking stick wouldn't touch the ground). Everything was all white until the summit. However, soon I noticed a sign sticking out of the snow to my left. I grudged over to the sign that simply read "Vista, sendero completo." I guess this was the end of the trail that I didn't realize I was even near (If I was on a trail, I definitely blazed it). There was not even away to discern the trail because everything was pure white. I could have easily continued on up the mountain, but I was unsure if my safety was worth a better view.

Since breaking the tree line, I never though to turn around. I was so focused on going forward that I didn't even notice the phenomenal view until I had turned around at the sign. It was a beautiful clear day and I was on the face of one mountain with other mountains projected 270 degress around me. In front of me was the icity and the Beagle Channel. The channel was flanked by a series of mountains, reminding me of the Avenue of the Dead at Teotihuacan.

Besides perhaps the greatest vista I have ever seen, I was overwhelmed with satisfaction. It made it so great that there were no roads, making it impossible for most people to ever see this. It was also phenomenal to be alone. Who knows when someone last saw this view. I imagine this is more popular in the summer when there is less snow, but the snow really contributed to the experience. After reflecting for awhile, I headed back down in great spirits, even singing along the way.









The decline was very difficult in the snow, and I was forced to follow my steps down. However, when I had gotten out of most of the snow, I decided to abandon my original route and follow a river down the mountain. I figured the river may offer some cool rapids, and if things got tough, I could always follow the river back up to my old trail. When I arrived at the bottom, I was still in great spirits but in much pain due to my knee. It was still early enough for more adventure, but I elected to take a power nap and recoup.

Upon waking, Francene and I wasted some time trying to find each other. When traveling, email isn't the ideal way to coordinate a meeting place. We eventually met up, did some errands, walked around the harbor for a bit, and then had some good dinner with cafe feo. Late into the night we had some great conversations about languages, life in other countries, and all that fun stuff. Due to my limited skills in Spanish, she was forced to do most of the talking. However, what another perfect experience and great way to get true insight into another culture. This is the best part of traveling, these relationships. The night flew by and partly due to my limited walking ability, I didn't arrive back to my hostel until 7 AM.

Unfortunately, I had to be out of my hostel by 10 AM, so I really didn't sleep. The morning was rough, and I just had a good breakfast and then took a two hour extended walk to the airport. The airport in Ushuaia is out in the Beagle Channel. It looks like a beautiful, new terminal, but it is also probably the porrest managed terminal Ive ever been to. Being a foreigner, I had to pay a tax, and the line for taxes stretched for a long time...because no one was staffed to accept our money. Likewise, no one was staffed in security, so I waited about an hour for security to show up. During this time, I watched a number of people just go through security unchecked. I'm guessing this is a huge conflict of world security.



I was delayed for the most expensive flight ever because of the weather. Apparently, Aerolineas Argentinas is really cheap, unless you aren't from Argentina. If you aren't, it is about three times more expensive. Fortunately, the departure out of Ushuaia is one of the most beautiful take offs. Unfortunately, I do not have a direct flight, and my flight is getting redirected to the international airport in Buenos Aires...a good 90 minutes to downtown by bus. I was scheduled originally to land in the small, downtown airport. I'm really not sure when I'll arrive in Buenos Aires, but it should be pretty late by the time I arrive at my hostel.

Picture info:
1. Movie of the start of the trail
2. One of the horses that didn't like me
3. View of mountain with last night's snow visible
4. Me in a young part of the forest (not the really young part though)
5. Me after breaking through the tree line
6. Some of my tracks (it is very hard to see how steep this is)
7. View of city from mountain
8. Movie from mountain I (from youtube)
9. Movie from mountain II (from youtube)
10. Me from the vista
11. Francene and I at restaurant
12. Tourists off bus taking pictures from harbor
13. Me near airport with city in background


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