The Bottom

Ushuaia Travel Blog

 › entry 27 of 71 › view all entries
Waiting outside the bus station at 7am...with a friend there laying in front of me. (No, I didn´t pet him.)

(This entry is titled "The Bottom" because it describes my trip to the bottom - literally - of South America, and it describes the bottom - figuratively - of my travels so far.)


The alarm went off at 6:15am this morning.  Time to catch my bus to the southern tip of South America, to a town called Ushuaia.


I packed up and unfortunately didn’t have time to enjoy breakfast • the cab was early.  He dropped me off at the bus station at 7:00am, the required “presentation” time for a 7:30am bus, per my ticket stub.  Apparently, that means absolutely nothing though.  The bus station didn’t even open until some dude showed up at like 7:10am.  And all he did is just sit behind the counter with a cup of coffee.

The ferry we took across the Strait of Magellan.
  At least he GOT coffee.  I sat on the ground outside the bus station in the early morning sun (probably still getting a sun tan given the low ozone around here). 


It was about this time that I realized how ill-prepared I am for this 12-hour bus trip.  Not just ill • which yes, I am still ill.  But ill-prepared.  No water, no snacks. (Or so I thought at this time.  I later found a few munchies buried in my small day pack…some nuts and bran cookies.)  Shoot.  Sitting out there in the sun, I didn’t see any market within running distance. 


The bus showed up • late. 


As I boarded and headed toward my window seat, I of course went through the normal panic of who would be in the aisle seat next to me.

Whoa is it windy out on the Strait of Magellan! No wonder hundreds of shipwrecks are out here.
  Ugh.  As it turns out, it was a young gentleman who can be best described as, well, a chain smoker with BO.  Yup, that about does it.  This was going to be miserable.


And it got worse.  I quickly found out that the bus’ air conditioning no funciona.  That means “It doesn’t work.”  What about just a fan, forget the cool air.  Sorry, fan no funciona.  Great.  Fifty people on a bus for 12 hours with no air conditioning or circulation system.


And it got even worse.  As I tried to scoot away from Mr. B.O. Chainsmoker and toward my window, I then quickly found out that I was above some kind of vent releasing HOT air!  I thought maybe it was because I was over the rear wheels and this was some sort of heat rising from the axles.

Front of our ferry against the raging white capped ocean.
  What do I know, I’m not a mechanic.  I was just brainstorming.


And yes, it got worse still.  The front half of the bus was occupied by a large group of older German tourists, who represented a beautifully disgusting chorus of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling sounds. 


So there I was.  Sitting on an airtight, no-circulation bus.  With Mr. B.O. Chainsmoker on my left.  Rushing hot air on my right.  Breathing the same air as 25 sick Germans.  With no water.  Good times. 


About an hour in, I was completely miserable.

There is a dolphin somewhere in this picture (actually there were 3 of them swimming with our ferry). Too quick for my camera.
I had jammed my fleece down between my seat and the wall, trying to block or at least divert the hot air away from me.  There was a part of me that just wasn't sure I could tolerate the 12 hours.  Not I had a choice, I guess.


But then - as they always do - things got a little better.  Someone closer to the front complained to the conductor, so he opened the two ceiling vents • that got a little cross ventilation going.  Phew.  I could at least breathe.  (Yes, had this person not have complained, I would have.  And in fact, I did complain twice later on in the trip.)


Also, feeling so miserably sick not to mention uncomfortable, I somehow managed to doze off for an hour or so. 


And the best news was the conductor announced we'd be stopping for a 30 minute lunch break, where we could eat as well as buy supplies.

Here is the restaurant we stopped at for lunch. Somewhere between Chile and Argentina border crossings. It offers lodging too...see next picture.
  So upon arrival at the little restaurante, I darted off the bus and was the first to order an onion soup, ham and cheese sandwich, and two bottles of water.  Of course this cost me like $15 bucks because this restaurant had a monopoly, being the only restaurant - and nearly only building - at this rest stop somewhere on the Chilean frontier just short of the Argentina border.


After lunch, back on the bus, things continued to improve.  For some reason, the rush of hot air on my right just stopped. Wierd, but I'll take it.  And I found my aforementioned hidden stash of nuts and cookies that I had forgotten about.


That afternoon, we stopped at two different immigration offices.  Once to exit Chile.  And again to enter Argentina.  While each of these stops took an hour of waiting in line, I didn't care.  At least I wasn't on the damn bus.  And we stopped for gas, with a minimarket where I replenished my supply of hydrating liquid - this time with a liter of orange juice.


By 8pm, we finally arrived in Ushuaia.

Here are the lush accommodations...note the corrugated metal walls. Who would have thought the pre-fab housing fad made it down to southern Chile!?
  My torturous ride was over. 


I walked up the hill to Hostel Freestyle - as Lonely Planet describes it, it is truly a "five star" backpacker's hostel.  At $17 a night for a shared room, that was ok with me for now.  Tomorrow I'll deal with trying to get a private room to get better sleep.  The "concierge" who goes by Rasta Max was outstandingly friendly and jovial.  Even though he was in the middle of helping another weary backpacker, upon seeing me he took a moment to stand up, shake my hand, and say "Welcome to Hostel Freestyle! I´ll be with you in a minute."  That customer service made all the difference in the world.


This hostel was indeed impressive - with a packed kitchen full of people preparing their own dinners; a social lounge area with people hovering around tables exchanging stories and downing beers; an upstairs lounge with big comfy couches, a pool table, and amazing view of town and Beagle Channel; spacious rooms with surprising clean and you might even say stylish bathrooms (ok that´s going a bit far, I guess...but "clean" is the key word there).

Entering Tierra del Fuego.
  My one complaint is the they charge for internet access - 1 peso per 30 minutes.  Maybe that is to help regulate usage of the mere 3 computers for the bustling hostel.


After checking in and settling in, I took a walk around town focused on a few priorities:


1) Money.  I needed Argentine pesos.  I struggled to find a bank, surprisingly, in this tourism-focused town.  But I did finally find one, and much to my delight, my ATM card worked.  This is so superficial and gringo to say, but it´s always comforting to have a wad of local currency in my pocket.


2) Farmacia.

Desolate road we were on, as we headed from Chile to Argentina.
  I wanted to hit up a pharmacy for some meds.  I found one, and engaged the farmacist in a conversation about my symptoms and remedies. All in spanish! (Ok with a few moments of charades - like acting out my cough - which I now know is "tos" in espanol).  I walked out of there armed with a bottle of cough syrup and over the counter Amoxicillan.  Nice.  I have enough for 3 days, at which point I´ll check on my symptoms and get another 3 days worth if I feel like they are working.


3) Alternative hotel.  I did a quick survey of alternative lodging choices, to get a feel for prices and availability.  I wanted a single room to maximize my sleep opportunity.  I found one that would suffice, but I´ll make the decision tomorrow, pending how tonight´s sleep goes.


4) Food.  Well, here I went to the extremes.  I had a pineapple smoothie to get some vitamins, and I had a plate of french fries just because I felt so awful.


Successful on my errands, I headed back to the hostel.

Interesting shot from the bus.
  I spent a few minutes in the upstairs lounge, enjoying the nighttime view over the city and Beagle Channel.  But soon fatigue took over, and I crawled into bed....after doping up on cough syrup and antibiotics.


Although I went to bed relieved that one of my longest travel days was over, I also couldn´t help but think back to the Shackleton video and realize that no matter how bad my little bus trip was.... I really have zero reason to complain. 







Lucho says:
I'm so sorry so many problems turned up! We Argentines don't usually respect schedules, nothing's "on the dot" here... But I'm sure you liked Ushuaia landscapes, they're beautiful.

One last thing: We don't say "gringo" in Argentina, we say "yankee" (pronounced "shankee").
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012
mellemel8 says:
OMG i was here as well. my boat the hurtigruten MS FRAM. just docked at 7am. i was hanging out until we flew back to BA. CRAZY!!!
Posted on: Dec 17, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Waiting outside the bus station at…
Waiting outside the bus station a…
The ferry we took across the Strai…
The ferry we took across the Stra…
Whoa is it windy out on the Strait…
Whoa is it windy out on the Strai…
Front of our ferry against the rag…
Front of our ferry against the ra…
There is a dolphin somewhere in th…
There is a dolphin somewhere in t…
Here is the restaurant we stopped …
Here is the restaurant we stopped…
Here are the lush accommodations..…
Here are the lush accommodations.…
Entering Tierra del Fuego.
Entering Tierra del Fuego.
Desolate road we were on, as we he…
Desolate road we were on, as we h…
Interesting shot from the bus.
Interesting shot from the bus.
photo by: xander_van_hoof