USHUAIA, 7 Febrero.

Three and one half hours and 1700 miles later, we are in a different world.  Buenos Aires is all glitter and thin, beautiful women and men and designer everything.  Ushuaia is silver water, dark pines, snow capped mountains.  The people on the plane going there are shorter, darker, more plump, and when we arrive at the small airport, the families and friends waiting are more of the same, in jeans, sweat shirts, anoraks, and trainers. 

The approach is Ushuaia´s airstrip is hair raising. 
We descend below the thick cloud cover to find our wingtips skimming the jagged, snowy peaks next to the plane.  The water below is clear, so we can see the underwater portion of the granite islets which emerge. This is the Beagle Channel, which cuts through La Tierra del Fuego from Argentina to Chile.  Bernard jokes That  the water is clear because it is too cold for anything to grow.

The snow line stops in a perfect line on all the black mountains around the shining silver water. 
We have escaped banging against any of the peaks, and now look down at a very, very short runway.  At either end there is water.  We clutch each other´s hands and say prayers of gratitude that it is not windy or foggy.  The water is very close.  The plane banks steeply to turn, then descends quickly, hits the runway, and manages to stop before we tumble off the edge. 

We are about 750 miles from Antarctica.  The South Pole.  An image of a red and white striped barber pole always flashes in my mind when I hear the words.  Some book from my child hood, no doubt.  Anyway, I now wish we were going there.  Next time, maybe.  Anyway, it will be light until 11 pm as a result, and we are told to be sure to close our drapes so we can sleep. 

Our guide and driver are waiting to drive us up to Las Hayas, our hotel up on the hill.  We drive through the ¨suburbs´ on unpaved roads, made hazardous and slow by potholes and very fat sleeping policemen to slow you down if the potholes don’t. We will not see a paved road here, except in the center of the ramshackle center of town. , There is no architectural harmony here, only a mish mash of slanted, corrugated roof tops, Swiss chalet type wooden houses, concrete breeze blocks houses, and several unfinished frames here and there.  The sky is gray and the clouds are lowering. We need our warm jackets.  Our guide, VEronica, says it snowed yesterday, we are lucky.  It is summer.