Ushuaia Ride, 4 April 2010
We slept past the docking at 7am but managed to make it off the ship by 9am. Surprisingly, the day was comfortably warm (50 deg F) and the sun was out with no rain. We walked the bikes off the ship, down the pier, and onto the Ushuaia streets, choosing to turn right onto the waterside road. This was Easter Sunday morning and many establishments were not open and the streets were uncrowded, almost empty.
The road turned out to be pretty level, two lanes wide, but with occasional cracks and no rideable sidewalk. Ushuaia reminds me very much of the Inside Passage towns in Alaska. The spectacular mountains were snow laden and tall. The buildings of the town were two story arrangements in various colors but fairly modern. There were fishing boats and a few pleasure craft moored in the broad harbor and a few freighters in the harbor. Grey Argentine Navy ships of 1970’s vintage can be seen moored at nearby piers and other darker, almost black ships belonging to the government were one more pier away, All of these ships were small, less than 1000 tons. Some seemed to be patrol craft. I saw no one in military uniforms except the guards in the cruise area. There were many tour info buildings on the pier as we left the harbor area. The town was immediately adjacent to the harbor area and the main drag was only one or two streets up the hill, paralleling the shoreline.
I could see fuel tanks on the hillside and there was an airport or landing strip just to the west about half mile away. I saw some old parked airplanes but no aircraft in the air. In fact, I saw no aircraft all day. I wondered if the Argentines used bush aircraft in the same way they are used in Alaska. I suppose not, because I saw no flying activity at all, although, again, this was Easter Sunday morning.
We passed out of the port area, the naval pier area, and the fishing boat area within the next mile or two. Birds were active in the water, mostly terns and gulls, but several ducks flew or swam nearby and I also saw a vulture floating overhead. The road rose onto a bluff about 20-5- feet above the water and through a residential area higher up on the hill. Mountains and valleys were behind and all around. I saw no lifts up into the mountains. We stopped several times to take photos of the gorgeous harbor views, the structures built up onto the hillsides and the roadway through the commercial areas. As the day wore on, traffic started to pick up, but the cars and trucks gave us plenty of room, although they were travelling quickly.
We continued past the power plant, below a new large five story structure alone far up on a mountainside. It seemed completely on its own with no roads visible to get there. It could be a new housing area, a new commercial facility like a drug research facility, or even a new hospital. I gained this latter theory when two ambulances squealed past us going out. When we later found a hospital in town, I doubted this theory and began to guess about a serious automobile accident further east. As we reached a point 75 minutes out and 200 feet above the water on a bluff, the road turned back away from the water and we decided to take a few pictures, then turn for home. The winds on the way back seemed colder but the sun was still warming us. I noticed that the traffic lights were sparse, only 3-4 of them on the entire way back.
We passed the Mercedes dealer tucked well off the road in a warehouse-like building with few windows and no showroom to be seen. We continued on and decided to turn off the road up the hill to a street which had been identified to a tourist at the NCL Sun as the “main drag”. The hill was steep but as we walked, we noted the museum section of Ushuaia on our right including art museums, historical museums, geographical/science museums, and several other municipal, state and federal buildings. Unfortunately, all were closed for this Easter Sunday. Also, unfortunately, the street we sought was marked as one way in the wrong direction. We continued two more blocks up the hill to find a two way street. It also seemed unremarkable. We returned down the hill one block and then rode through 10-12 blocks of homes with occasional small shops interspersed. Few were open and none looked like good stopping places for lunch and internet access. But this seemed like the right road to work our way back through town because a tour bus passed us and drove a long way before turning back down the hill. After a dozen blocks, we turned downhill ourselves but were quickly chagrined at the steepness, probably 45 degrees, or so steep I had trouble walking down with the bike. Nevertheless, we made it down and turned onto the main drag.
This street was mostly commercial, but again, many stores were closed. Tourists from the boat were everywhere, looking unsuccessfully for good shopping opportunities. Many already had bags from earlier shopping. One likely store for us was a specialty chocolate shop whose pastries were off limits to us during this Passover season. Besides, it had no internet.
A block later we met with success at the Lennox hotel, a modern four story 25 room hotel. We locked the bikes in front and went to the top floor restaurant, which had internet, for mate and coke light along with fruit salad and ice cream.
The internet provided an opportunity to clean up email and to use Skype to talk to family. We stayed for more than an hour before climbing on the bikes and returning to the boat.
On the walk down the pier we took advantage of the opportunity to purchase postcards, write quick notes and post them through the Argentine mail system. All was accomplished with a single transaction. While writing the notes, several shipmates stopped to comment on the bikes. On the way into the ship, several more inquired. I am convinced that a dozen or more of our shipmates will bring their bikes onto their next cruise or will take a cruised they wouldn’t normally have taken because they like bicyclecruising as an idea.