Posts Tagged ‘patagonia’

Video: The End of the World Train

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Patagonia is well known for its incredible landscapes in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is accessible either by highway or by the End of the World Train. Beginning in 1883, Ushuaia, Argentina was simply a prison colony intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals, following the example of the British prison colony in Tasmania and the French colony in Devil’s Island.

In 1909, the penal colony needed a way to get men from the jail to the woodcutting site where they would obtain firewood for cooking and heat. Eventually this “Convict Train” was used to create workshops in the area, where prisoners could learn the skills needed to find employment once they were released. As the community grew, opportunities became available for convicts at a press, bakery, sawmill, blacksmith, tailor, and a shoemaker. Other workshops included photography, carpentry, and cabinetmaking. The jail transitioned into a naval base in the 1940s, and after a particularly violent earthquake in 1949, the train stopped running. It was brought back to life in 1994, and now provides tourists a unique way to the entrance of Tierra del Fuego National Park.

You can see Ushuaia and the stunning Patagonia landscape where these men worked on our Patagonia and the Natural Wonders of Argentina and Chile tour.

What trade would you want to learn while living in Ushuaia?

Trekking on Perito Moreno

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Allison Dale is Smithsonian Journeys’ intrepid marketing intern this summer. She is majoring in English at Georgetown University, and in her past travels she has explored North America, South America, and Europe. Here, she tells us about her adventures in Patagonia.

The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

From the plane I watched the vibrant city of Buenos Aires disappear beneath the clouds. Upon landing in El Calafate, a small town in the Patagonia region of Argentina, the bustling city avenues of Buenos Aires were replaced with milky water tributaries and imploring street vendors were replaced with knowledgeable guides. With two friends, I struck out on an adventure to see one of the world’s most endangered land masses: a glacier. El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the Perito Moreno glacier, only one of three glaciers in Patagonia in equilibrium with its surroundings despite the change in the world climate.

A bus ride, a boat ride, and a short walk later I stood in front of a wall of ice soaring 240 feet above the surface of Lake Argentino. This wall of ice, through sheer natural force, carved its way through the surrounding mountains over thousands of years and now spans an impressive 19 miles in length. Never in my life had I seen such evidence of nature’s power and beauty. The milky blue waters of the lake reflected the morning light onto the crystalline blue wall of the glacier, exposing the swirls of sediment the ice collects as it advances and recedes foot by foot, year after year.

Suddenly, I heard a sound like a gunshot or a car backfiring. From the rickety, man-made boardwalk I watched as massive blocks of ice the size of houses calved from the glacier wall and thundered into the tranquil lake below. The sound of the impact between water and ice echoed off the valley walls. Nature was truly showing off her power for us that day and we looked on in awe.