Ushuaia, Argentina Jan 2020

Ushuaia is the southernmost town of Argentina and is located four hours up the Beagle Channel. In many ways it is similar to Queenstown in New Zealand which is also a centre for adventure activities. Ushuaia is the starting point for most tourist expeditions to the Antarctic and is the centre for many hiking, fishing and off-road activities. In winter there is both downhill and cross country skiing, and also dog sledding, nearby. On 27th January 2010 I went on an excursion in a 4×4 along a muddy track in the forest, followed by a walk in the forest.

In the afternoon Tibby and Vickie Downie and I went on the Train to the End of the World in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. All day there were spectacular views of snow topped mountains and the Beagle Channel.

Falkland Islands Jan 2020

We arrived in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on 25th January 2020 on a cold but sunny day. We were fortunate to have a retired Colonel from the British Army as our guide to the Mountain Battlefields of the war where the United Kingdom recovered the Falklands after the Argentine invasion on 2nd April 1982. We were reminded about the assembly of the UK task force, the attempts to negotiate a peaceful solution, the sinking of the General Belgrano and HMS Sheffield, the landing on 21st May at San Carlos on East Falkland and the battle for Goose Green and the town of Darwin. We were taken to Estancia which overlooks Teal Inlet which was where the landing force established a forward supply base. We saw the wreck of an Argentine helicopter. We were then shown and talked through the battles for the mountains of Mount Harriet, Two Sisters, Longdon, Mount Tumbledown, Mount Williams and finally Wireless Ridge. With the British in control of all the mountains overlooking Port Stanley, the Argentinians surrendered on 14th June. We returned to Port Stanley to the memorial to the 255 British Military dead and the three civilian dead. (649 Argentines died.) Nearby is a statue of Margaret Thatcher.

The resident population of the Falkland Islands is now 3,500 with a mix of those born on the islands, many officials posted from the UK on two year assignments and many who service the tourist industry, some of whom are only resident in the summer. The tourist industry is booming with 65,000 visitors a year, most arriving on cruises, like we did. All three elements of the British Military are represented on the islands with three radar lookouts monitoring a 250km circle. When David was there three years ago there were 2,000 military personnel. The number is apparently down to about 700 now. Port Stanley is a small town of one storey houses with colourful roofs, two churches and a small number of shops providing supplies for the locals and knick knacks for tourists. We came across Alice Clarke a young jewellery artist from Yorkshire, who has a Falklander boyfriend who runs adventure activities for tourists. In the Falkland winter they migrate north to Yorkshire for the British summer. A pretty metal bracelet, made by Alice, is now on my wife’s jewellery collection.

Punta del Este, Uruguay Jan 2020

My better travelled friends probably already know about Punta del Este but for me it was a revelation. Our cruise stopped there on 22nd January 2020, before we sailed south in the Atlantic. The town is located at the mouth of the River Plate (confusingly this river is 290km long and 220km wide at its mouth)(the banks of the river are also the most densely populated parts of Argentina and Uruguay having both Buenos Aires and Montevideo on it). Punta del Este is on a peninsula with beaches on both the river and the ocean. It is a holiday resort, principally of Argentinians, and is described by Wikipedia as ‘as “the Monaco of the South”, “The Pearl of the Atlantic”, “the Hamptons of South America”, and “the St. Tropez of South America”, being also compared to Miami and Cannes. In the height of the season, from December to February, the population increases from 10,000 to 160,000. There are 250 yacht berths, towers of holiday apartments, a suburb of luxury homes called Beverly Hills and on one of the beaches hosts the sculpture, La Mano, by Mario Irarrázabal, which depicts five human fingers partially emerging from sand.

After driving through the town our excursion took us to Casapueblo, 13km from the town. This is a building constructed by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, which took 36 years to complete and has thirteen floors with staggered terraces. It was originally a summer house and workshop of the artist and now houses a museum of his work, an art gallery and a hotel. Carlos Páez Vilaró (1923 – 2014) was a Uruguayan abstract artist, painter, potter, sculptor, muralist, writer, composer and constructor. His output was prolific, working until the day he died and leaving a vast collection which is now in the museum. A fascinating building and collection.