Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Ushuaia is the southern-most city in Argentina and is normally recognized as the southern-most city in the world. Unless you fly, it takes a long time to get to Ushuaia. We took a bus from Buenos Aires stopping off at Puerto Madryn to go whale watching off Peninsula Valdes, and at El Calafate to see the Moreno Glacier. It takes 1 day to get to Puerto Madryn, another day and a half to get to El Calafate and another 48 hours to get to Ushuaia.

After days on a bus you really feel like you have arrived at the end of the world. Buses aren’t cheap in Argentina if you cover long distances. We took the plane back from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and discovered there was very little difference in price. Although we arrived in Ushuaia in November (summer in the Southern Hemisphere), it felt like cold spring weather. When the sun shone it was bright and warm. At night it got really cold. The temperature in the day was about 12 degrees. It seems odd that the area should be called ‘land of fire’ or Tierra del Fuego when it is so cold.

The centre of Ushuaia is next to the port. Many of the shops are on a couple of roads running parallel to the port and on hill roads running adjacent to the water, connecting the main roads. There is a museum charting the history of the area, especially the indigenous Yamana Indians who were treated as curiosities and slaves by the colonizers. Jemmy Button was taken away to England by Charles Darwin to be ‘civilized’.

If you have money you can take a boat cruise out of the harbour to see the southern sea. If you have lots of money and some time to arrange matters you can get on a cruise ship going to Antarctica. This is perhaps the most famous thing about Ushuaia for many travellers.

 We walked up to the edge of Glacier Martial. It is about 5 km from the town centre. The hill was still covered in snow and a few people were skiing, but the skiing season had finished. We couldn’t see the glacier as it was covered in snow; but, it was a fun day out.

We did a bit of walking in the area, but really the main draw of Ushuaia seemed for us to be the fact that it was at the bottom of the world: a place can symbolize more than it can entertain or divert some times.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Salta Gaucho Festival

Every year the city of Salta in the north of Argentina has a ‘cowboy festival’. The city is a popular tourist and backpacker destination. There are plenty of things to see and do in Salta. There is an historic centre with old architecture as well as large universities. Salta is an attractive spot for those foreign students wanting to study Spanish.

It is a fairly large city. Hostels and hotels are dotted around the city. The dominating feature of Salta is the hill that towers above everything else. It takes about an hour to walk to the top, or there is a funicular train you can take. At the top there is a pleasure park and promenade taking in the views.

The gaucho festival is part of a month long cultural festival in April. The events attract both local and distant Argentines as well as tourists. One of the highlights is a long procession through the town. The main stage is at the foot of the hill where there is a statue of a liberation hero. The parade has plenty of local gauchos, armed forces, girl guides and numerous other associations. It is a fun occasion with lots of families in the crowd.

In the evening various bars host gaucho parties. These feature a lot of barbecued beef and traditional singing and dancing. Naturally, there is also a lot of drinking and carousing going on in and around the city during this time.

It is worth climbing the mountain and seeing the festival. Salta also makes a good stop over point on the journey up the Andean incline that eventually comes to the high Andes and Bolivia.