Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Logbook: Fin del Mundo II

Findelmundoii1It’s been a really good “mixed use” week on The Voyage! First, I used some pretty nasty weather -- cold, rainy and windy -- as a good excuse for a couple of days of R&R (doing nothing but reading books, watching movies, etc.) Second, I spent a few days on “other” work. Third, I did some decent exploration which I will recount here: One day, I went on a day-long “excursion” into the National Park for a hike along the Beagle Channel and a little canoe ride down a river whose name remains unknown to me. The hike was very nice -- a three hour one way trip along the rugged shore and through the woods -- but I thought the pace was a little too fast. This is not because it was a hard hike, but because I would have preferred to take more time to enjoy the scenery. As seems to happen so often on “organized excursions” there is a tendency to try to cram too much into too little time. If you are ever down here, I suggest you visit the Park and do the walk on your own. The trail is easy to follow and you will be able to take it at your own pace -- I would have done the three hour hike in about four hours.

The canoe trip was also very nice, made even more fun by my “canoe partner” Orly -- a delightful young woman from Israel -- who quickly realized that she didn’t have to over-compensate for her lack of experience by paddling harder or faster, and relaxed into her front seat role as “being along for the ride” unless I informed her that some specific assistance would be helpful. For those of you who have canoed down a gentle river, you know how easy it can be to “over work” the situation. By the time our two hour ride was over, we had pretty much mastered the routine together and celebrated our success with a team photo. Where we ended our trip is of some significance because it is the terminus of “Route 3” which alleges to go all the way to Alaska some 17,000 kilometers away. (I say “alleges” because I know for a fact that it doesn’t exactly cross Columbia -- nothing does -- but there’s no sense letting a little detail like that strange country get in the way of a really good point, is there?) Anyway, the notion of “the end of the road” at “the end of the world” is pretty charming and nobody goes there without having their picture taken at the sign -- yours truly included!

Findelmundoii2My other day of exploration started with a cab ride to a lodge at the Martial Glacier area that sits in the mountains above Ushuaia then continued with a chair lift ride further up and an hour long hike still higher. The glacier was okay, but what I really enjoyed was stopping at a panoramic viewpoint on the way down to get a great look -- and a few photos -- of how beautiful this area is. In the photos, you can see how Ushuaia is nestled in a very small space between the mountains and the water. On a clear day, the view around here is as good as just about anyplace in the world! On my descent, I decided to forego the return ride on the chair lift in favor of a delightful walk down the mountain. Upon reaching the lodge, I further decided to forego the cab ride back into town and thoroughly enjoyed a nice, long, downhill walk. The total of about 15 kilometers ended up taking me about three hours, due mostly to my stopping to play with every dog I met along the way!

Which brings me to the funniest thing of the week, a “dog story”: Like every place I’ve been in Central and South America over the past few months, Ushuaia has a large population of stray dogs. The other day when I was at the market picking up supplies, I decided to get some “dog treats” to have in my pocket to share with various dogs I came across. Being a good, caring, compassionate dog lover, I eschewed -- great word here, huh? -- the nutritionally worthless “cookies” in favor of healthy, protein rich “chews.” Well, the first dog I offered one to didn’t even bother to take it out of my hand -- no interest whatsoever -- and the next few dogs accepted my offerings but promptly spit them out and left them on the sidewalk. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why stray dogs didn’t want treats!

Then, last night on my way home from dinner, I walked down a side street where I saw a pack of dogs waiting outside the kitchen door of a restaurant and -- right before my eyes -- a cook came outside and tossed the dogs a HUGE pile of meat scraps! Of course! In this town -- and this country for that matter -- where meat is king and you can’t get a plate with less than a kilo of meat on it, there is always a ton of it left over that goes to the dogs! No wonder they didn’t want anything to do with my nutritious, processed protein “treats”... They dine on meat every day! And, no wonder the stray dogs around here all look so healthy, with shiny coats, clear eyes and good body weight! Macgellan is an idiot!

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