Monday the 31th of March 2003- Day 41.
Hotel woke me at 7.00am. Had a shower and a haircut – self inflicted and took a taxi to the airport at 7.30am. Cost 6 P. Checked in and had a cofee. Seated next to a guy from Hollywood, County Down. Beautiful scenery all the way in. Flight took 40 minutes. Arrived into down. No buses travel into town so you must take a taxi. Lonely planet recommend Torre del Sur hostel. Booked in but found it overcrowded, crampted, untidy and smelly. Seven beds to a room, all facing each other, so someones feet would be at my head. No bunk beds. Decided to check out Cruz del Sur hostel which is recommended on the Lonely Planet Thorn tree. 18 p per night. Details are here. More relaxed here, tidy and friendly. Decided to change. The other hostel which charges 15 P per night were fine about it.
I found the following artticle in the Buenos Aires Herald, which can be found here.- They took it from a New York Times article which was only a few days old, so this March 2003 aricle is pretty much up to date.
Fear for end at end of the world
By TONY SMITH
USHUAIA — Here at the bottom of the world, life has always been a struggle.
In 1882, fears that underpopulation might tempt neighbouring Chile to contest Argentine sovereignty of Tierra del Fuego prompted President Julio Argentino Roca to order a penal colony founded here.
Prisoners worked on chain gangs, building roads, a railroad and power and telegraph lines. A steamship from the capital docked once a month.
When the jail closed in the early 1940s, military rulers of the time decreed Ushuaia should become the base for a fur industry and imported 50 beavers from Canada, freeing them in Tierra del Fuego’s pristine forests.
But the plan backfired, producing a beaver debacle. With no natural predators, the beavers flourished and the original 50 are now 120,000. In felling trees for dams, they have devastated huge stretches of woodland.
But the Argentine government has not abandoned attempts to make life viable in this remote region 3,000 kilometres south of Buenos Aires. Early in March, the sight of Richard Maiyo of Kenya loping down Ushuaia’s pretty harbour front just north of Cape Horn was the latest embodiment of their efforts. The 26-year-old Kenyan broke the tape to win the first Marathon at the End of the World, and local officials were euphoric.
The marathon “should definitely put us on the map as the destination at the end of the world,” said Viviana Manfredotti, the provincial official in charge of sports.
The city’s 45,000 inhabitants, struggling to survive Argentina’s economic crisis, can only hope that she is right.
First populated by Yamana Indians who passed on their indigenous name for this “bay that penetrates westward” to English sailors and missionaries arriving in Patagonia in the mid-1800s, Ushuaia has long searched for a niche.
About 20 percent of the population is now unemployed or underemployed. Aside from levies on local oil, people here depend on the 120,000 people who visit during the brief summer — December to March. The fall marathon and a sled-dog race and cross-country ski competition in winter extend the season.
A sharp devaluation of the peso last year made Argentina suddenly much cheaper for foreigners, and foreign destinations are too expensive for Argentines. So a new ski resort just outside Ushuaia is attracting Argentines and Chileans and helping to fill the city’s 3,000 hotel beds.
But the remnants of failed schemes to make this region viable are all around.
Daniel Scham, for example, is one of just 15 beaver hunters who still roam the woods, bagging beavers whose pelts fetch a mere five dollars each, compared to 45 in the 1980s. Even with the extra two dollars the government pays for each tail — supposedly an incentive to keep the beaver population under control — Scham and the other hunters must hold down a second job to survive.
“We can’t get a decent price because we are small-scale, but we can’t grow because there are only four or five furriers in the region,” he said.
In the 1970s, prosperity came, fleetingly, in the guise of a duty-free zone where multinationals assembled television sets and other electrical goods for sale in Argentina’s closed economy. State subsidies meant companies could pay wages four times higher than in the rest of the country and Argentines from all over flocked to Ushuaia, raising the population from a sleepy 15,000 to a bustling 60,000 in 20 years.
But when the economy opened up to world trade in the early 1990s, the duty-free zone closed and people started to leave.
“They wanted us to make furs, but today we all wear polyester,” said Pipi Morel, a former insurance clerk who now works as a tourist guide. “Then we made electric goods, but our car radios are now made in China. People stay here only because it is so beautiful and rugged and they love it.”
Even with tourism, Ushuaia’s remoteness is a problem. The marathon attracted only 160 athletes — not the expected 1,000 — but organizers stressed that was 33 more than the first New York City Marathon in 1970.
“At the end of the day, our remoteness is positive,” said Héctor J. Zubieta, who owns Ushuaia’s Las Hayas resort and says the city needs no more than one or two new hotels. “We need to grow, but not too much,” he said. “If too many people were to come here, it would be the end of the end of the world.”