Sunday 20th December 2015
I slept in and woke up late. After some quick brekky, I walked to the Information Centre around 11.30am . There I asked about tours of the Beagle Channel and access to the train of the end of the world and to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The woman I spoke to was very unfriendly and hostile so I grabbed some map and went to sit to look at them by myself and also use the Tourist Info WiFi. I ran into Francesca, the German girl I had been hiking with for 4 days in El Chalten! It was really cool!! She had been with her friend Alex to Torres del Paine too but she got sick and exited the park after one day while Alex did the W. I think I remember her telling me he was already off to New Zealand continuing his world trip while she was killing time and leaving Ushuaia in the afternoon. We chatted a bit and then I left to go ask about Beagle Channel tours at the little shops.
I had a look at what these ones were offering and decided to book the day tour for the next day that Canoero was offering.
After that I did some Christmas shopping. It was a great surprise to see that the mushrooms we had seen in Torres del Paine were indeed a delicacy that could be eaten so I bought to bring back to my parents. The box looked good but hey, if you ever go there, don’t buy them. They actually have no taste at all and the texture is pretty yuk. Just a tourist trap!
I had a sandwich and used the WiFi in this restaurant where many tourists were hanging out on computers working or blogging. One woman told me that this place had the best WiFi in Ushuaia! I was glad I had found it immediately!
I saw these tags while walking towards the Museum del Fin del Mundo.
I entered the Museum del Fin del Mundo (Museum of the End of the World) and spent a good hour and half there.
Here is a picture of how Ushuaia looked in 1901.
There was a chronology of Ushuaia events since 1920. From 1902 to 1947, Ushuaia had a prison for recidivists where some of the worst criminals were sent.
There were some signs talking about Gunter Pluschow, a German aviator and explorer who was born in 1886 and explored Patagonia on his plane from 1925 to the 28th January 1931 when he died in a crash near Argentino Lake.
There was a lot of explanations about the Monte Cervantes cruise ship which left Buenos Aires on the 15th January 1930 with 1,117 passengers onboard and cruised to Ushuaia where people visited Ushuaia and then wrecked 45 minutes after leaving Ushuaia for the way back to Buenos Aires on the 22nd January 1930. They managed to rescue everyone except the captain which disappeared with the ship. I am suspecting he may have volontarily wanted to sink with his ship but who knows. The explanation panels were great and the photos too.
In the museum, there were also a few photos of Selknam and Yamana people.
Another section was all about the cartography evolution which showed how little we knew about the Patagonian geography for centuries. It is one of the roughest area of the world where navigation can be tough even in the summer months (November to February).
Then was a chronology since the Ice Age, 12,000 years ago identifying when the area was first populated. It was a bit confusing as most of the time when talking about history people refer to X thousands years before Christ but here it was referring to X years before present or sometimes a mix of both. Using the traditional way of counting, it was saying:
– 10,000 years BC was the last Ice Age.
– 8,500 years BC came the first inhabitants.
– 4,700 years BC were the first inhabitants in the Beagle Channel
– 4,300 years BC was when they started using canoes.
– 4,000 years BC was when they started cultivating potatoes, quinoa and corn.
– 3,800 to 1,800 years BC was the first inland settlements
These are just rough numbers and when it comes to History that far away, it is never exactly perfect but that’s what the signs were saying.
My favourite was this map showing where the Alakaluf / Kaweskar, Shelk’nam / Onas, Mannekenk / Hausch and Yamana / Yhaganes were living.
The next section was really interesting explaining how these natives who are sanow extinct used to live.
There was in particular this interesting map dating the first encounters between the native tribes and the White Man.
While finally writing down this blog article end of April 2016 and diving back into the stories of the natives of Patagonia told in that museum in Ushuaia, I can’t help drawing a parallel with the natives of Australia. It is extremely sad to think that the natives of Patagonia are completely extinct, killed by diseases and murderer brought by the White Man during colonisation. Although Australian Aboriginals are not very “visible” in big cities, even if they have gone through similar horrors, the culture of most of the 250 tribes which populated Australia is not extinct and is being more and more recognised and promoted nowadays by the White Man. Australia finally reached the time where both the First Australian and newcomers have come to treat each other in more respectful ways. It is not perfect and it is a very sad page to turn where the White Man murdered many of them during the 20th century but the richness of native cultures is nowadays being promoted. During Easter, I went to see an incredible exhibition at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra called Encounters which gave a voice to 27 different tribes of Australia. You can see videos of Aboriginal people talking about their culture on the website here: http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/encounters/encounters_films
The permanent exhibition of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney located in Circular Quay where all the massive tourist cruise ferries arrive is mostly promoting Aboriginal artists such as the quirky and provocative Richard Bell whose work is brilliant: http://www.mca.com.au/collection/artist/bell-richard/
There is an incredible series on SBS called the First Australians which gives a voice to Aboriginals and historians to shed some light about what happened when the White Man arrived in Australian and draws portraits of smart and bold and active Aboriginals who fought for their right. http://www.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/
So I look back at Patagonia and realise how sad it is that none of the Alakaluf, none of the Onas, none of the Hausch and none of the Yamanas are here to also tell us their stories, tell us how their great-grand-fathers were living.
After the Museo del Fin del Mundo, I went to see the nearby “Yamana Museum”.
More in the next article!