#4 Argentina, Feb. 16, 2005

Dear Everybody,

I was on a bus for 12 hours going to Ushuaia 

and we were almost here, when CRASH! We were going up a mountain on the outside in a light mist about 6:30 PM, when I glanced up and saw a small tanker truck coming down the mountain out of control, skidding completely sideways headed for our bus. He smashed into the front of our bus broadside and the bus took quite a jolt. The two front huge windshields completely shattered and folded in on top of the driver with shards of glass coming into the body of the bus. I was seated in the front seat behind the driver, but there was a glass or plexiglass barrier in front of me that didn’t break. Anyway, glass came flying through the doorway into the bus from the driver’s area and I bumped my knee pretty hard on the barrier in front of me. The whole front of the bus was smashed, and the door mechanism was all in pretzels, so they couldn’t get the door open at first. Then something on the bus started burning with big smoke—kind of near the door, but sort of under the bus. They managed to pull off barriers to getting out the door—a lot of it was synthetic stuff that could be pulled off—and we managed to squeeze out the door by bending down and squeezing. The majority of the 35 people on the bus had cuts on their faces, especially the bridges of their noses. It certainly could have been much worse.

I had just been thinking that the bus was going awfully slow. We had been driving for 3/4 of the way on gravel, and here, now, finally was asphalt. It was apparently brand new, and black and slick. I guess the driver knew something that I didn’t about the mist making the asphalt slippery. Clearly the truck had been going too fast down the mountain and lost control. I gather there wasn’t anything flammable in the truck, as nobody seemed too concerned about it, and there were no markings denoting anything flammable. The truck driver was injured kind of bad—lots of blood streaming down his face, but he was walking around, so I guess he was OK.

When I got on the bus, and was seated in the front seat, I looked for seatbelts, as often on the Mexican buses they have seatbelts for those front seats just for this reason. There were things to clip seatbelts into, but I couldn’t locate the belt, itself, so I wasn’t belted in.

Now I’ve got a puffy knee. I don’t think I seriously injured it although it’s pretty sore. I had intended to stay in Ushuaia for 6 days anyway, before going back to Puerto Natales to get on the Navimag ferry boat next Thursday night.

Well, I think that’s the first time I have been in an accident traveling—that I can think of, anyway. We had to stand out on the highway for about an hour and a half in the drizzle. It was kind of cold and miserable, and I had just begun thinking about what I should have for dinner when the accident happened. At first they sent ambulances, but finally a bus came to take us to town, and just as we got to town, the sun peeked out as it was nearly setting, causing a brilliant rainbow—the brightest that I have seen in a long time. There was one complete arc, and a second partial arc.  Must have been a sign!

I lucked out with my hotel. I got a reservation by having my last place in Punta Arenas call the tourist bureau here in Ushuaia, as the book recommended not coming in high season without a reservation. Then, I didn’t think the bus would arrive until about 7:30 at night so I thought I’d better have one.

This Posada Costa Serena is just darling—just a few rooms. My room is very pretty, with two beds (although small) and two bathrooms down the hall with big walk-in showers for three rooms. The proprietess, about my age, obviously takes great pride in her Posada. There are snacks available at all times in the kitchen, and I have Internet access in my room where I’m doing this now. I also have a TV—no CNN but some other English channels.

In spite of being very touristy,—the cruise ships stop here—I think Ushuaia is quite charming. It’s situated on the Beagle Channel, with mountains rising on three sides. The Magellanic architecture kind of grows on one; it’s essentially corrugated tin, painted in bright colors, but designed in a pretty way—much prettier than it sounds. There are quite a few buildings like this here, built from 1900 to the ’30’s, and I see they are preserving them which seems like a good idea. My friend, Ruth Hastings was here on her way to Antactica a few years ago, and she put me onto a special house that was ordered from Sweden from a catalog and built here in 1911. It was quite interesting with seven bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s a cultural center now. Ruth also put me onto a wonderful restaurant which turned out to be three blocks up the street from my hotel. I wouldn’t have known about either of these from the guidebook.

 

 

 

 

I went on a boat excursion on the Beagle Channel to several small islands—one with fur seals,

 

 

one with cormorants,

 

 

 

and one with sea lions. It was a beautiful day, unlike what followed which were a couple of days of cold and WINDY weather.

I have had nice chats with others in this posada as we use the kitchen and dining area. There are snacks available 24 hours a day, so people tend to congregate in the kitchen/dining room.

When I went to have my morning espresso this morning, I shared a table with an Australian young man who had been traveling for 10 months. And this morning a couple, also from Australia, shared travel stories with me over breakfast.

I’m walking OK but carefully, and hope my knee will get better soon. All’s well that ends well!

Hasta la vista!

Carol

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