AT THE END OF THE WORLD
AT THE END OF THE WORLD
That’s not how we imagined it… After an absolutely unique, 3-week expedition to the Antarctica, which also led us to the remote Falkland Islands and South Georgia, we disembark in Ushuaia and arrive in a whole new world! During the cruise we only receive limited information about what is happening on the other 6 continents of this earth and not until we have to end our trip one day earlier than planned, the extent of the whole situation dawns on us…
We are lucky that, unlike others, our ship is still allowed to dock and we can leave the vessel without quarantine, but we are now stuck in Ushuaia – literally at the end of the world. Without losing time we get to our home-on-wheels but unfortunately, we learn that the border with Chile has already been closed to all traffic. Therefore, we decide to stock up with everything we need in the coming days. A shopping cart full of pasta, tin cans and frozen and fresh vegetables (and yes, toilet paper and wine were in there as well) is the first thing we get. We also fill diesel and water tanks and our almost empty gas bottle in the only propane gas company in the last hours of their normal operation. And of course, we get an extra stock of cash which is not easy for foreigners in Argentina even under normal circumstances…
A NEW HOME
On the second day, here in Ushuaia the complete «lock down» happens, almost at the same time as the much milder quarantine regulations in Switzerland take place! All restaurants and shops are closed and all residents are forbidden to stay outside unless you go grocery shopping as an individual (!) or you are on your way to or from work. The police monitor the streets of the city and therefore we are extremely restricted in our freedom of movement because we stand out like a sore thumb in our special vehicle with foreign number plates. We decide that this is the moment to move out of our home-on-wheels and luckily find a nice apartment that we rent for two weeks until the national quarantine is over.
A NEW DAILY ROUTINE
After almost three years of unlimited freedom, it’s not easy to switch our minds from one day to the next and stay indoors 24 hours a day. After a few days, the fresh vegetable supply runs out and one of us goes shopping on foot. It doesn’t take long and the little “shopping walk” becomes the highlight of the day. 😊 We also take advantage of the fast internet connection and spend hours talking to friends, family and other travelers who are in a similar situation. The Netflix entertainment program is as diverse as the creativity of Stefan’s kitchen. There is everything from Spanish chicken with garlic sauce and lemon risotto, Indian curry with homemade Naan bread to a delicious Argentinian steak with potato gratin and homemade chimichurri sauce. After half a pack of lumpy, white toast, Stefan also decides to pimp our daily breakfast table with homemade braided yeast bun and because baking is an excellent pastime we have also fresh apple pie and brownies for afternoon coffee. 😊 We were already more than well fed on the Antarctic cruise and if this quarantine lasts much longer, it ends with a beer belly instead of a washboard stomach.
IN SEARCH OF A WAY OUT
In the meantime, Thomas is networking with all kinds of stuck travelers in Ushuaia – it’s good to know that we’re not the only ones in this predicament. There are also national, as a matter of fact even international WhatsApp groups where travelers exchange their experiences and news. Thanks to knowledge of Spanish, it’s also much easier to find a safe and covered place to park our vehicle. We somehow expect that it won’t be possible in the foreseeable future to leave “Tierra del Fuego” with our car because we would have to drive through Chilean territory. The bad news from Europe roll in every day and there are increasing signs that the virus wave will soon reach South America. Therefore, we decide to pause our trip for the time being and, if possible, to return to Switzerland.
However, this is easier said than done… Three domestic flights to Buenos Aires are canceled without replacement or refund and shortly afterwards the bad news reach us that “Tierra del Fuego” has closed all of its airports until further notice. Nevertheless, we sit on packed bags, as information about possible military flights, special trips with a chartered bus or other rescue ideas pop up overnight. One day we depart within 20 minutes and rush to the airport, leaving the dirty dishes in the sink and the key from the car on the table in our apartment, hoping to get to the capital by means of an Argentinian Air Force machine. Unfortunately, this plane flies back to Buenos Aires empty due to a lack of permits from the unspeakable Argentinian bureaucracy and our chances of getting one of the organized repatriation flights from Switzerland or another European country are close to zero.
WINTER IS COMING…
Somehow though we made peace with the situation – or at least we try to… We are fine, we are healthy and our hair is growing longer every day. Our apartment is heated – a not unimportant aspect – because in a month or two there will be up to half a meter of snow at the end of the world…
And we still have a lot to do… We are months behind schedule with our travel blog and from the Antarctic expedition alone, there are several thousand pictures on Stefan’s computer waiting to be sorted and edited. With this in mind, dear readers, keep your eyes open for further newsletters. 😊