I spent 3 days in Ushuaia, Argentina. It wasn’t because I had a lot of things to do in Ushuaia or I wanted to really bask in the moment. It was because it was almost impossible trying to find a Argentinean domestic flight heading out of Ushuaia to Buenos Aires or an international flight to Los Angeles that I could receive an e ticket with. So after hours of searching, I finally bought a ticket via Aerolineas Argentina’s website. And I had to go at least 48 hours after booking the ticket online, because you can’t pay for it via credit card online. You have to find their offices in each of the cities that they serve. Thankfully, the office in Ushuaia was merely 2 blocks away, but it still meant I had to book tickets at least 48 hours in advance. I decided to wait 3 days because it was $150 cheaper than the day before or after it.
I then bought a separate ticket, the cheapest one I could find, flying out on Monday evening out of Buenos Aires. Plan then was to see as much of Buenos Aires as I can, because it was a city that I had heard so much of.
11 Aug 07 – Ushuaia to El Calafate to Buenos Aires
“I got to [Ushuaia airport] early enough for lunch, but as soon as I finished, I got an intercom call. It turns out that a few pieces of souvenir that I picked up from the ruins raised an alarm with the security guard, who correctly identified that I had rocks in my bag. They opened up my backpack and saw that it’s nothing more than a few souvenirs made of rock I had picked up at Palenque, Copan, and Machu Picchu (for Aztec, Mayan, and Incan compilation). She would later explain that people would pick up fossil rocks from Patagonia and try to fly back home with them, not knowing that it’s illegal to do that. So she didn’t give me a hard time.
The plane ride was on its last 45 minutes of its journey when the flight attendant noticed that I was using my GPS. I thought I was in big trouble for using electronic devices, especially a GPS device, on the flight. But no, he was also a pilot himself, and was just fascinated by it. I got to talking about how I drove from California to Ushuaia and how the GPS helped me out several times.
The girl next to me was amazed, too… I didn’t say much with her and don’t know too much about her, but I was very impressed with her. She had this tiny nose piercing, and she was 5 months pregnant. When the plane was taking its sweet time taking off, I looked at her and said, ‘this is fun.’ I said it in English then in Spanish. She had this smile on her face I will never forget.
Her name’s Ellie. Later on, I told her that I usually don’t have all this hair and that when I first started out, I looked much more presentable. This is also when I found out she was 5 months pregnant and she took out an ultrasound photo of her baby in her carry on bag. There was something about her that made me very happy for her. She was overjoyed about being pregnant and everything. How can you not be happy for a lady with an ultrasound photo, looking through a baby catalogue?
That’s when I met Jerry Dunn. His first words to me were, “Did I hear you right, you drove all the way to Ushuaia from California?” And I said, yes, surprised that someone sitting on the other side of the aisle in domestic Argentinean flight spoke perfect English. Of course he did, he was from Lancaster, California.”
“Turns out he and his wife, Jeanie, have been in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 2 years and was just finishing up their 2 year missionary work with the Mormon church. They had traveled all over Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, giving lectures and doing several things to make the people here more self-reliant. We were heading out of the airplane so I quickly wished him luck and said our good byes.
We had to take a bus to the baggage claim area and I took this opportunity to ask for a pen from the bus driver. I quickly wrote down my name, email address and webpage for the Dunns to look at. I made my way to the back of the bus to find them. And when I did, they asked, “do you have a place to stay for the night?” No. “Would you like to stay with us?”
I didn’t know how to respond. I was a complete stranger to them, and they were offering me something that I dearly needed after a 2 hour delay made me look for a place to stay at 11:30PM. After some stumbling over my own words, I politely accepted.
There have been points in my life when I wanted to doubt God. The very existence of it. I want to think I’m smarter than that. I want to be idealistic enough to think there must be one, perfect god who everyone would accept without any doubt. Sometimes, I think I’m actually looking for clues to disprove the existence of even an idea of it.
And then things like this happen where I’m overwhelmed with a profound sense that no matter what I believe, there is that one God who is looking after me. That even if my ambitions may lead me stranded alone, he will never leave me astray. And the further I tried to get away from it all, the closer and closer I became in solidifying my belief in Him.
I had started the journey with a Christian group, having helped build a house in Monterrey, Mexico. And I had felt very much welcomed and accepted as part of their family. And so I wanted to finish the journey with something related to Christianity. I had always thought it would happen at the end, donating my car to a korean christian church in Buenos Aires. But no, it was much different than that. And much, much more meaningful.”
12 Aug 07 – Buenos Aires
“There are other missionaries here in this particular church as well and they’ve all been great. They invited me over for lunch, and although the Dunns couldn’t make it due to another family’s invite to their lunch, I got to sit in on their weekly lunch potluck. Everything was so delicious, the bread, the meat, carrots, vegetables, the pie, all of it. I deeply appreciated their enthusiasm about having me as a guest and I never felt as though I was out of place. I will always remember the way they welcomed me as though I was part of their family. I almost wanted to cry. If God wanted me to know that I’m being looked after, He let me know then and there. The last 24 hours have been a true testimony to that.
Dr. Robinson took me back to Jerry’s house, who was waiting for me outside on the streets. I took a quick hot shower and just enjoyed the rest of the afternoon talking football and family and things. Soon, it was time for dinner and we had a light one with pancakes and homemade syrup. Jeanie said it’s the best one I’ll ever have. She wasn’t kidding.”
13 Aug 07 – Buenos Aires to Baltimore
14 Aug 07 – Baltimore to LAX
The Dunns gave me a ride around Buenos Aires, and I saw the Obelisk as well as this metallic flower along the drive. It opens up during the day and closes at night.
“I woke up early today at 6:00 AM because Jerry and Jeannie were heading over to help out with a small project they’ve been involved with. A shipping company similar to FedEx had ordered many jackets and shirts and outfits in general and had collected the ‘dysfunctional’ ones, and over time it accumulated. So the church here is collecting them and distributing them to the poor. But since the company doesn’t want people wearing its embroidered logo all over Argentina, they’ll have to cut off the logos from the jackets and make small pants for kids out of them.
And there are thousands of pounds of these clothing articles in this one warehouse we went to. Of course the trucker that was supposed to pick them up was late and didn’t show up for its 8 O Clock appointment till around 9:30. We started going through the piles of bags of cloths in the warehouse, making sure we take out the worn out ones. This took a bit more manpower than we thought it would take. There were many more people that had helped them out before and today, it was pretty much just the three of us.
So I didn’t see as much of Buenos Aires as I had first planned on doing, but who cares? I’ve seen so many cities that although it doesn’t become a blur or anything, the routine of going through the most tourist sites becomes quite mundane after a while. And so I was more than happy that I got to start the journey with a christian group and finish it with another. The opportunity to help out in whatever I can to the Dunns who have been nothing but loving towards me, as well as the church that they dearly love, was much more memorable than visiting any perfectly good monument that will still be standing whenever I decide to return. The experience I had with such loving people as the Dunns is why I’ll fondly remember Buenos Aires.”
Argentina is a country that I felt like had a lot of potential and is the only country where I feel that I definitely need to make a return trip to. I have no idea what this statue is, but at least I got to see it. I want to see the Iguazu falls, go wine tasting in Mendoza, watch pieces of the Perito Moreno glacier peel off, and make a short trek to the Torres del Paine national park (Chile, but use El Calafate, Argentina as a starting point). In fact, I intend on going back to Ushuaia sooner or later. It is the most popular starting point to go on a cruise to Antarctica, which is much closer than it is to Australia. Unfortunately, I was there during the winter so I couldn’t go on the $4000 cruise (per person). But after Antarctica and Australia, I would have visited all 7 continents.
This is one of the last pictures I took on the trip. In case you are wondering, I have shaved off my trip beard since then. Like I mentioned before, I had lost about 10-12 pounds during the 2.5 month ordeal.
After this lunch, the Dunns would give me a ride to the international airport and I would fly 7711 miles back home. I would gain 4 hours and go from winter to summer practically overnight.
This is the elevation marker for South America.
14143.4 miles driven total (Green)
Of that total,
Rope towed – 287 miles
Rental Car – 389 miles
Flight ride (Blue)
Ushuaia to Buenos Aires – 1781 miles
Buenos Aires to Washington Dulles – 3993 miles
Washington to LAX – 2301 miles
FLIGHT TOTAL – 8380 (including Cartagena)
Drawing a direct line from LAX to Ushuaia – 6797 miles