Tours and Activities:
Ushuaia, at the Tip of the ContinentPablo EtcheversJorge González
As in all great tourist cities in the world, the best way to get to know the present and past of Ushuaia is the double decker city tour.
As the weather in the only trans-Andean city in Argentina is extremely changeable, we paid little attention to the cloudy, rainy morning that greeted us.
The double decker parked outside the tourist office was about to leave on its tour of the city conducted by its owner, Luis Votto, an engineer. He told us that this old Routemaster model 60 was brought by ship from England and remodeled under his supervision. It has been providing service since 1999.
Once all the passengers were seated on the upper deck, the driver started the engine. The voice of the guide could be heard over the loudspeakers along the bus. Tangos provided background music during the tour.
The outing begins at Maipú Street and turns into San Martín Street, which used to be the only road in Ushuaia, running 14 blocks from the prison to the cemetery. Nowadays the main street, it is lined by most shops and public offices in the city, besides historical sites such as >Bar Ideal (opened in 1951, whose first cook had worked at the prison) and the Government House.
Thanks to the owner’s exclusive agreement with the naval base and the museum, after touring the historic center, the double decker enters the prison grounds, at present site of both the Prison and the Maritime Museums. Construction began in 1901 and finished in 1923. Besides the main building, the first power plant and the workshops of the old jail, there is a replica of the End-of-the-World Lighthouse.
After visiting the naval base, the bus goes up Yaganes Street and turns into Gobernador Paz which, until 1960 delimited the north of the city and home of some of its first settlers such as José Canga Quiñones, a famous carpenter who built many of the old houses in Ushuaia.
It is worth noting that in the late 1940s the city grew considerably due to immigration. Over one thousand Italians and their families came to this desolate end of the world to work in construction infrastructure and stayed for good, creating the neighborhood which is now the home of families from the naval base. In the 60s, industrial promotion policies resulted in the third population wave by attracting many corporations and workers who settled in the new neighborhoods.
The Routemaster continues along Deloqui Street towards Parque del Centenario (Centennial Park), a scenic point with a panoramic view of the mountains around the city and the islands on the opposite side of the Beagle Channel. We then went down Sarmiento Street towards Bahía Encerrada (Enclosed Bay).
Touring the Neighbourhoods
As we headed for the old airport, the guide told us about the indigenous inhabitants of the region: the Yaganes or Yámanas. It was only in 1890 that the first white man, Thomas Bridges, an Anglican on an evangelizing mission, settled in Tierra del Fuego.
The old Routemaster makes a ten-minute stop for passengers to take photos of the city as seen from higher land at the old airport. We set off again, bordering the naval neighborhood where what was known as the low mission used to be, and returned along renovated Maipú Avenue. To the right, we saw the Beban Manor, a magnificent construction built by a Croatian merchant, nowadays site of one of the cultural centers in Ushuaia.
Farther ahead, on the coast, the famous remains of the Saint Christopher, a former rescue tug, can be photographed. Across the street, the old cemetery and still farther ahead the Islas Malvinas Monument, the first Salesian Church and the former government house opposite the present day port.
The double decker tour ends at the End-of-the-World Museum, where we arrived just in time for some of the passengers to join the guided visit. The rest of the tourists visited the Maritime and the Prison Museums, essential to know more about the history of the origins of the city.