Saturday, January 01, 2005

The End Of The World Is Here

At least that is the way the town of Ushuaia, the most southerly in the world, markets itself. I knew the name Ushuaia even before I knew where it was because it is also the name of a well known brand of shower gel and shampoo in France. Funnily enough though, in all their adverts they always show exotic Tahitian locations and lots of tropical fruits. Nothing could be further from the truth of the real Ushuaia which is at the tip of South America in Tierra del Fuego. Despite only being at the same latitude as Newcastle, it is a very chilly place, even now in Summer. And I am yet to find some long-haired beauty washing her hair in a waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation. Actually you probably aren't likely to see anybody's hair here for most of the year as it's usually covered in a woolly hat.

Apart from the bleak nature of most of the surroundings it's very pretty round here. Yesterday I went to do some hiking in the local national park and I was struck by the similarities shared with the Highlands of Scotland. And even though the plants are different (for example there are no pines or heather here) they are similar and you can see they fill the same ecological niches.

Anyway, I hope you all have a very excellent 2005 and wish you success and happiness in this year that has so unfortunately been overshadowed already by misfortune. I also hope that the politicians will finally pull their fingers out of their arses and do something useful for a change (although there's fat chance of that happening).

P.S. I thought I might also leave you with an amusing little anecdote from my camping experiences (though it wasn't so amusing at the time). It was the last night at El Chalten, only a few days after Daniel (a Czech guy on the tour with whom I share a tent) and I had christened our tent Prdel (for those of you who don't speak Czech you might want to look up the meaning of the word here). The wind was blowing in off the mountains and bringing with it a fair amount of rain as well, but we managed to get to sleep OK, until about 2:30 that is, when I first felt a puddle next to me. When I properly came to (and found my torch) we found that a small, yet important, part of the tent that separates the flysheet from the inner lining of the tent had blown away, causing the flysheet to become stuck to the lining (allowing water to pour in) and one of the internal poles had also fallen down, in turn causing the soaked lining to lie on top of us. We were unable to fix the tent in the dark and howling wind and so had to quickly pack up our belongings and retreat to the truck to try and get some fitful sleep. As I write Prdel is hanging up to dry and so I am fervently hoping I will have somewhere desiccated to sleep.

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