There are roughly six billion people on this planet; of those six billion, approximately, erm, all of them were north of me. I was in Ushuaia, a place famous for being the southernmost city in the world.
There is little further south. In Chile there is Puerto Williams, a town of 2,400 people, and Puerto Toro, a village of fifty. At this time of year there are around 1,000 researchers stationed in Antarctica, but otherwise, that’s it. Everyone else is to the north.
Out on the town
It was midnight. John, a fellow Englishman, and I had a bus at five-thirty that morning and we wanted to stay awake rather than get a few hours of crummy sleep. As befits a nineteen-year-old, John wanted to go out and get ‘absolutely ruined’; the idea of being hideously drunk while crossing international borders and sitting on a bus for twelve hours didn’t appeal too much, but what the hell.
Together with Frank, a Dutchman, and two French-Canadians we went in search of the Ushuaia night-life.
Frank had been travelling through South America for nine months, and his stories always seemed to start with ‘I was in a strip club …’ and invariably ended with ‘… the lapdance was great but of course I didn’t pay for sex.’
We found a nightclub, Club Náutico, looking out over the Beagle Channel, but it was empty and asking for twenty pesos on the door. The doorman assured us it would get going at two-thirty, but we decided not to take his word for it.
Further on, another club, Saint Christopher. That was dead too; the tune of Lady in Red was drifting out the door, so we left sharpish.
John reckoned he knew where we should try. It was called Sheikh. It looked a little shady, he said, but it’ll be open.
Shady wasn’t the word for it. Flashing neon lights and no windows suggested Sheikh would be more to Frank’s taste than anyone else’s.
I was first to the door. It had mirrors on it. I walked in through the tiny corridor and meekly pulled back the curtain. It was the darkest room I think I’ve ever been in.
As my eyes grew accustomed to the gloom I saw a room about the size of a lounge. But instead of sofas there were little booths, filled with men huddled over their drinks. They looked like Mafiosi and they were all staring at us. In one corner stood a scantily-clad selection of women.
Ah excellent, a dodgy strip club.
The two French-Canadians were horrified. Are you planning on staying here? they whispered. I looked at Frank. He nodded happily. I shrugged.
I have never seen two people leave somewhere so fast; they actually ran out the door.
That left three. I eyed the women uncomfortably. I didn’t really want to fend off strippers while sipping a drink, but John and Frank were already at the bar. Oh well.
John looked over to the women and his face dropped. Oh god, he said, the fat one just winked at me. Let’s get out of here. We practised our best casual saunter as we walked back towards the curtain, but it might have turned into a canter as the women started towards us. Someone might have muttered ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.
Outside, the Canadians were nowhere to be seen. They must really have run for it. We chose the safe option and went back to the hostel for beer.