Monday, December 13, 2010

Journey to the Bottom of the Earth

Ola! I made it! Sydney to Ushuaia in Argentina. Just 3 flights and 3 stopovers taking 36.5 hours, 18.5 of those in the air! The air crew kept talking to me in Spanish - I am a local already!!!

Ushuaia (Pop 60k) is officially the most southern city in the world. No road on the planet goes further south! Ushuaia is also the place that I will set off for Antarctica in 3 days, a mere 1000km away and 3.5 days sea voyage compared to around 2 weeks from Tasmania or New Zealand.

The Facts - What I learned on the plane:
  • South America consists of 12 countries a with total population of 360 million (300million in USA), 75% of which lives in cities and 81% of which is Catholic.
  • First civilised by Incas in Peru between 5000 and 2500BC.
  • Discovered by Columbus in 1492 (Carribean) and invaded by the Spanish in 1552, who took over the last of the Incas in 1572.
  • Columbia holds the world record for civil war. In 2010 it hit 40 years but recent press report it is ending.
  • Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community of any city outside Japan (like Melbourne was for the Greeks in the 70s).
  • The Andes is the longest mountain chain in the world at 8,000km.
  • Angel Falls in Venezuea is the waterfall with the largest drop in the world at 996m.
  • Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia is the highest lake in the world at 3,808m (Katoomba is at around 1,000m).
  • The Atacama Desert in Peru and Chile is the driest on earth. NASA tests all its Mars landers there.
  • The Pantanal in Brazil is the largest wetlands (swamp) in the world at 230,000 sq kms (almost the size of NSW!).
  • The Amazon Basin is the largest river basin in the world at 7 million sq km (Australia is 9 million sq km!!!) and is home to 40,000 plant, 1,300 bird 400 mammal, 4,000 fish and 2,500,000 insect species!!! It even has 75 types of monkeys.
The Dramas: What happend to me on the way:
  • Back pack checked-in at Sydney did not arrive in Buenos Aires! I used my airplane Spanish and a lot of hand waving to finally track it down and get it to Buenos Aires 3 hrs before leaving for Ushuaia - what a close shave - would have gone to Antarctica in shorts!!!
  • I lost my iPhone somewhere between Santiago airport transit and arrival in the hotel in Buenos Aires. Now you know how much "wine tasting" I did on the 18 hour flight to Santiago!!! And it is only day 1!!!
First Impressions - What hit me after a couple of jogs:
  • Chileans and Argentinians travelling with me look very European and dress very well (like myself). Like Europe, businessmen wear no ties.
  • Like the Yanks, Argentinians drive on the wrong side of the road and too close to the shoulder - I have more stones in my joggers than I care for!
Next blog on Ushuaia, due 13-14DEC10...