In the middle of the snow-capped valley of Ushuaia, the southernmost city of Argentina, Hugo Flores enlist dogs and sleds for visitors who have returned to enjoy this frozen land activity, still standing despite the blow to tourism that the pandemic inflicted on it.
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His cabin, which received hundreds of visitors each year, was the starting point of the End of the World Race, a sled competition for participants who came each year with their dogs from all latitudes and which was suspended due to covid-19.
The closure of borders in Argentina it hit his venture that feeds mainly on foreign visitors and received about 150 tourists a day before the pandemic.
But the heavy snowfalls of recent weeks in Tierra del Fuego gave him revenge to capture domestic tourism at a time when snow is scarce in other Argentine winter resorts and when the government relaxed some of the sanitary restrictions.
“Ushuaia it’s full of tourists, but last season it was like living a shipwreck,” she tells the AFP Flowers remembering a 2020 in which he believed his business was over.
Art and instinct
Its 152 dogs of the Siberian and Alaskan husky breed they consume a ton and a half of feed a month, but what they need most is exercise and constant care. Volunteers help with homework while receiving sled driving lessons.
“We don’t train dogs, running is in their instinct, but you have to train leaders to follow the course,” he explains about the art of driving.
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Patience is the main virtue he believes necessary to dominate this type of dog known for its beauty and stubbornness.
“There are whistles that are stimuli for the dog to know that I am behind, anyone with strength in the arms and who withstands the cold can do it,” he said.
More than 3,000 km south of Buenos Aires, the pack riots in a deafening collective howl when Hugo leaves the cabin to choose the dogs that will undertake the next journey.
Each dog makes a maximum of six runs a day, a tour that tourists finish with a hot chocolate in the cabin of Hugo.
“They go for a run every day, they need it to feel happy,” explains the 58-year-old who started in the trade after being fascinated with the extinct Argentine polar dogs.
Flowers he was the caretaker of one of those specimens product of the crossing of races created by the Argentine Army to withstand the icy Antarctic campaigns and expeditions to the South Pole.
But these dogs, of strong bearing and great resistance, did not withstand life outside the White Continent when they were removed from Antarctica in the 1990s to comply with international regulations for environmental protection, as they were considered a threat to the other species: seals and penguins.
“When they took the polar dogs out of Antarctica and brought them to Ushuaia I met them, they fascinated me and I started training with sleds, an activity that deserves to be encouraged because it unites man and nature,” he says.
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