Thursday, March 11, 2010

El Fin del Mundo

Well, I'm here! I am in a much better mood today than yesterday, despite the rain and mist that hide any view of the mountains and the sea.

Yesterday was not a good day. Well, it was, in the sense that it got me here in one piece, but really ... it wasn't. My 25 hours of travel started out promisingly enough -- I checked in, and got through U.S. customs and airport security in an astonishing 45 minutes, after Dad dropped me off at the airport. (Oh, yeah, while I think of it -- Dad, I promise to double-check the terminal next time around, but hey, we got to ride the monorail, which I'd never done before.)

The rest of it went smoothly enough, with no major hiccups along the way; it just seemed so unbearably LONG. It went something like this:

Arrive at Toronto 3 hours early for flight. Clear customs, security, etc and kill remaining 2 hours and 15 minutes reading half a novel.

Arrive in Houston, Texas, on time, and race for connecting flight as I thought I'd left it pretty tight with only 53 minutes in between. Kill remaining 40 minutes before flight boards reading more of novel.

Arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina the next morning at 10 a.m. after 11 hours sitting upright, as I was in a row where the seats had no room to recline. Having only dozed sporadically and never actually slept (partly thanks to my seatmate who kept poking me awake to get out for the bathroom), feel half-stoned and intellectually impaired. Find my way to shuttle in this condition, somehow, and get to other airport in B.A. (where the domestic flights leave) after 1 1/2 hours. B.A. appears to be very beautiful, Paris-like city but not fully awake enough to appreciate. Kill remaining four hours till connecting flight reading all but last 3 chapters of novel.

Arrive in Trelew, Argentina for (supposedly) brief stop en route to Ushuaia. Approximately 70 minutes later, in the air again and on the way. Lower half of body starting to go numb as there is only enough leg room for someone 4'6". Or my sister Shelley.

Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina -- the end of the world -- at 9:20 p.m. local time (two hours ahead of Toronto). Have lost all feeling in legs and feet, and have developed a migraine that may actually split my head in two. Stumble to taxi and bark out name of hostel.

Arrive at FreeStyle Hostel, Ushuaia, and am ushered immediately to room with friendly Australian dorm mates. Receive big hug from hostel worker guy to make me feel better (cute Kiwi, very nice). Dash off quickie email to family to say "hey, I'm alive" and update Facebook status. Then make bed somewhat haphazardly and go to sleep. In Toronto time, it's about 8:30 p.m.


So I suppose you won't be surprised that I saw nothing of the town yesterday. I slept in this morning and woke up feeling much, much better. Went out for a stroll, and discovered that I was probably the only person in town who thought it was warm: I was wearing Tevas, T shirt and capris, everyone else was bundled up in anoraks and sturdy boots. It's not that warm, actually, and the T-shirt was probably pushing it a little; but it's not below zero, there's no snow on the ground, and I felt like pretending it was summer.

It's more like late summer, or early fall, depending on how you define these things. Kind of the equivalent of Toronto in September -- but with Vancouver-style mist currently blocking the supposedly spectacular views. Am now chilling in the hostel, where I think I'm staying for the evening. I've finished the last 3 chapters of my book, but as I came prepared with several others (that's why my backpack is so heavy at the moment!), I have another to curl up with tonight (diving into Bruce Chatwin's "In Patagonia"), and my previous book is on its way back to Buenos Aires (and thence on to Australia) with one of the friendly Aussie dorm mates.

Tomorrow I move to the Hotel Ushuaia, where I join my group for the Antarctica cruise. The boat (ship?) actually pulls out on the 13th. I'm now fully prepared, as I found a place to rent unattractive but very serviceable wellies today, and you can expect lots of pictures when I get back on the 22nd. Till then, I'll probably be out of touch.

Keep in touch and let me know how you're doing too -- I don't want to feel completely forgotten, down here at the Fin del Mundo ...

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