Saturday 19 February

(magnify) The Convicts’ Railway

I’m woken from a deep sleep by Don telling me that it is twenty minutes past seven. Get up quickly, dress and head down for breakfast.

A little after 8.30 am, our guide for the day, Sylvana, arrives in a minibus. We drive into the national park, several miles to the west of Ushuaia. Ushuaia was originally founded as a penal colony and our first stop is at the steam railway, built by the convicts. Don and I get heavily engrossed in taking photographs and our three minute stop soon turns into thirty.

The park is very touristy. Various short trails are signposted with timings – 5 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. Many of them are boarded walkways. Sylvana shows us an impressive beavers’s dam. She makes much of the fact that we must like walking. I guess that a few paces from the coach is the limit of most of the groups that she takes around here. Have my photo taken at the end of Route 3, which runs for 1974 miles up the coast to Buenos Aires.

(magnify) Ushuaia National Park
(magnify) Mussels and mountains

The name Tierra del Fuego, Sylvina explains, was given to the region by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who in 1519 saw smoke rising from the many native Indian campfires around the coast and mistakenly thought that it was a result of geological activity. The name means literally ‘the land of fire’.

We stop for a coffee at a cafeteria attached to a campsite and I order some chocolate cake. I am presented with a piece of colossal proportions. Helen would be most envious.

Back in town the bus drops us off and we go into a pizzeria for lunch. I share a pizza with Ron (still too much – perhaps it was that chocolate cake).

Unrestored wing in the prison

Afterwards, we split up. Don and Steve go off to look for views over the city. Ian and Celia go for a general wander round, while Ron, David, and I head for the museum in the old prison.

It must have been a grim life. There is much detail about the living conditions (no heating in the cells) as well as some general history of antarctic exploration, early maps, and models of boats including the Beagle of Charles Darwin fame.

(magnify) Only 13400 km to London

I tire eventually of the museum and wander out into the town. I’m trying to find a good vantage point over the town but at every turn the line of sight across the gentle hillside is blocked by buildings.

(magnify) Falklands Memorial

Continue to mooch through town. It is a busy Saturday afternoon. As the sun gets lower, I reach the sea front and try some photos. A memorial to the Falklands conflict catches my eye and I spend some time trying (and failing) to get an interesting silhouette.

Meet the others for dinner at the restaurant we agreed earlier. Steve is not with us though – he has just received the news of the death of a close relative and wants to see if there is anything that he can do to get home a day earlier in order to be at the funeral.

I order one of Ushuaia’s specialities – king crab. It is a bit spicy, which masks the flavour a little, but is otherwise very good.