Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ushuaia, Land of Marriage Proposals

Alright, when I left off I believe we were just rolling through the gate of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and the literal end of the road. It was a really nice place, and actually looked about like I had imagined...

Though we had made it to Ushuaia we weren't quite finished, as the actual end of the road is in Bahia Lapataia National Park just south of town. It's not advisable to go there without the necessary supplies... of champagne. 

After a quick stop at the grocery store for two bottles of Argentine bubbly and we were off for the park. Unfortunately for us, the park didn't have a "furthest distance traveled" award, and our $30 per person entry fee was not going to be waived. As absurd as this probably sounds, we actually decided - after riding from Kansas to Argentina - to not ride the last ten miles of the road in order to save the $60. $60 was close to a day's budget. It was 5:45PM, the park was closing at 6:00. We were turning around to leave when the park attendant ran up to us and told us that when she left in 15 minutes, there would be no one watching the park entrance for the rest of the night. Maybe she agreed that it was a bit silly for the government to call the last ten miles of the 29,000 mile Pan-American highway a National Park and charge people $30 a head to take a picture with the sign.

We thanked her for the information and headed back toward Ushuaia to find a place to stay. That too, would be more difficult and expensive than we had anticipated. Private hostel rooms were going for $90 a night! We tried every place we could find, but they were all the same. It seemed that the hoteliers of Ushuaia had (wisely) formed a sort of cartel, and agreed to charge around three times the going rate for similar lodging elsewhere in Patagonia. Frustrated with the situation we decided to head back to the park, as it was now around 7:00 and the park would be closed (open). At that point in the day we were both in pretty low spirits; money anxiety had been with us for a while, and between the park fees and the lodging prices our "end of the rainbow" dreams of Ushuaia were crashing back to reality.


An unmentioned subtext of this entire trip is my intention to strand Jill in a remote region of South America and thereby force her to marry me. The reasoning behind this shouldn't be a big shock to anyone who has been reading along and watching her super-human ability put up with all of the insanity this trip dished out. I loved Jill the first time I saw her, and seeing her smile and laugh as we rumbled through South America for seven months, living out of a box smaller than a carry on bag (!) convinced me all the more. All along I had been planning, and had actually settled on proposing to her San Carlos de Bariloche... until we arrive and it looked like this:

Instead of this:
Not wanting to get down on one knee in two inches of post-apocalyptic volcanic ash, I postponed the proposal. The long days of bad roads, insane crosswinds and rough mining towns in Patagonia didn't seem fitting either. So the next logical location was Ushuaia - but it wasn't cooperating.


When we arrived at 7:15 the park gate was abandoned, as promised. We headed in and made our way to the end of the road. Shortly after we arrived a park ranger rolled up in a pick up with two passengers. For a minute I thought we were about to get busted, but he smiled and waved as he walked over to us, and offered to take our picture with the sign. 

He then took a photo of his two guests with the sign and headed off in another direction... it seems that after hours visits were not as criminal as we had feared. From then on we had the place to ourselves, so we popped our champagne and settled on a small hilltop to celebrate our arrival. 

Between those two photos, looking out on the bay toward Antarctica, Jill accepted my proposal! It was an amazing feeling that I'm not really able to do justice in writing, sorry! We laughed giddily and drank another bottle of champagne as the sun went down and then rode back to town, where we happily paid the very reasonable $90 for a private room.