Sunday, 16 May 2010

The End of the World

"It's not the end of the world." So easily said, so often true.

This time last year it was the end of the world for me.

I was in Ushuaia - the southernmost* city in the world. It's in the far south of Argentinian Patagonia on the island of Tierra del Fuego - all the place names around there are evocative, the Beagle Channel (no sightings of beagles, but plenty of seals, sealions and cormorants), the Magellan Straits, and further south again, Cape Horn.  They call it 'El Fin del Mundo.' It's quite a selling point for the tourist industry, I suppose.

It's not the first time I've dabbled with the apocalypse. 

I once explored the clammy tunnels under Har Megiddo in northern Israel. You might have heard of it as Armageddon. No sign of Gog or Magog but I did get a snog. That's a whole other story. If it was the end of the world it's kind of the way I'd want to go.

The thing about the end of the world, like so many other things, is that it seems really humungous - something you cannot even grasp the idea of, let alone the reality. It seems completely implausible that you would find yourself at it.

I mean how do you even get there? And do they have a B&B?

As it happens, you simply take the bus - 3am from El Calafate to Rio Gallegos, across the border into Chile by ferry across the Straits of Magellan, back into Argentina, arrive in time for a tea tenedore libre in Ushuaia town centre. I say 'tea.' I also say 'simply'. I mean one thing just leads to another.

It's a bit like real life. Coming events, tasks or goals can seem impossibly daunting and unattainable. But break them down into smaller steps, each one taking you nearer, and even mammoth tasks are achievable. The trick is not looking at the end point - just the next step.

Some religions - notably the Baha'i faith - believe we are already in the end of days. And the Zoroastrians must be wondering too, having prophesised, among many other abominations, that men will: "... become more deceitful and more given to vile practices."  The Mayans think it's going to happen in 2012. Pretty well everyone agrees it will feature a panoply of natural disasters - earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, the sun rising in the west etc.

But it is most likely that people are generally right when they say: 'It's not the end of the world.' Mostly they say this during moments when you are in great personal distress - as if it would somehow make you feel better. It so rarely does. 

And even if it is the end of the world, it might not be as bad as you think it's going to be. As long as you have a bus ticket and the right outfit.

* Pop quiz. If Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, can you tell me without looking what the equivalent northern latitude would be? Guess which city in Europe? 

Related post: We apologise for the eruption of normal services


  1. As long as they label it with a big banner, we'll all recognise it when it comes.

  2. It's probably el fin del mundo in Glaswegian.

    seriously, have you tried to count the World's Ends and Land's Ends and Finisterres, etc. there are in all the languages and all the countries on the edge of things?

  3. As a child I had a video of a nature programme called The Flight Of The Condor, which I watched at least a thousand times until I could recite ever word. At the top of Tierra Del Fuego you are at "A latitude equivalent to Venice".
    Also if you spun Norway round holding its southernmost point still, I believe it reaches to Venice which shows you how far North it goes.
    Oh, and Toronto is parallel to Venice.
    And I swear that's all from memory (and probably wrong).

  4. Dogberry - did you have many friends as a child? (#just asking)
    Moptop's not a million miles away, but Fran is probably closer with Glasgow. The answer is.... Newcastle!! So it isn't quite as extreme as you might imagine... but we were there in mid-May, which is mid-November in the southern hemisphere. Of course the Antarctic is bigger that the Arctic and South America does not benefit from the warming Gulf Stream

  5. Sorry - meant Friko, not Fran (who don't care where)

  6. Agh! Once again I read too fast, and missed the 'equivalent' part of the question, thinking you meant The Most Northerly City. As as result I was quite confused by Glasgow.

    Anyway, never mind all that. I am glad to finally find my way over here on a more or less regular basis, BB. This was quite a delightful post and I do enjoy your humour. (And I didn't think you went too far last time...I'm sure it was just mid-week for people and they didn't have time to read it!)

  7. Of course I'm not a million miles away, Bébé! Otherwise how could I suggest you come on the poetic pub crawl with me on Saturday to mark the end of the Writing on the Wall Festival?

    Eh? Eh?