Category Archives: Argentina

Crossing Drake Passage for the first time!

29th and 30th December 2016

Dr Jelte’s patch kept any sickness at bay for the crossing, but made me incredibly sleepy. I didn’t make it to even one meal on the first day and only briefly to lunch and dinner on the second, although I only ate a few bites before heading off again. Poor Marijke told me later she was getting quite worried that I’d never get going. She was really lovely, checking on me and even brought in chamomile tea and biscuits on the first day. I did get up briefly, but really the first day was a write-off. I wasn’t the only one though, the ship was almost deserted apparently and the dining room seemed vast with only a few hardy souls showing up for meals.

Second day was slightly better, we had to attend a mandatory IAATO briefing in the morning on dos and don’ts of Antarctica followed by a visit to the boot room to collect our high waterproof boots. Later in the day was vacuuming, yes vacuuming! We had to take all our outer clothing to the lounge and vacuum it all. This is to minimize the risk of introducing foreign plant and pest material in an attempt to keep Antarctica as free from our contamination as possible. After seeing this place for myself, I was more than happy to do whatever was required to keep it safe.

One lonely photo of first Drake Crossing

One lonely photo of first Drake Crossing

I missed some great talks during these 2 days, from Andrew on the Antarctic convergence, Bruce the photography guy and Louise the kayaking guide who are also very knowledgable on birds, Mal, one of the mountaineers, and Marijke on penguins. The biggest disappointment was to find I’d missed some really great whale action as well. There were around 30 whales, maybe more, spread out across the ocean; for about 45 minutes they were bubble net feeding, showing their tail flukes and even half-breaching. Such a shame, but I’m sure there’ll be more as the days go by.

My lack of photos on these 2 days tell the story better than anything else, only one taken for 2 days!!!

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Ready and waiting to go to Antarctica!

28th December 2016

Ushuaia, looking towards port

Ushuaia, looking towards port

Well, it’s finally here, embarkation day! We can’t present for boarding until 4pm and I had to leave the comfort of Hosteria Patagonia Jarke by 10 in the morning. Oh well, I got to see lots of Ushuaia’s streets and cafes and found gifts for family and friends, if nothing else. I was heading to the museum but a heavy downpour and having left my jacket at the drop-off point put an end to that plan, so back to more coffee and sketching until it was time to go.

Heading to Plancius, Ushuaia port

Heading to Plancius, Ushuaia port

I met my first fellow passenger at the port, a lovely English woman travelling with her husband and 3 adult children. They have lived in the US for the last 18 years and were a lovely family, we caught up often the boat.

At the gangway, the expedition staff were waiting to greet us and I met my roommate, Marijke, who is a marine mammal specialist. Apparently it’s quite unusual for staff and guides to share, however, the numbers and gender mix colluded to give me this lovely present. We were sent to meet the hotel manager and his assistant, Johnny and Katie, given our cabin allocation, and shown the way by one of the house staff, lovely Filipino girls.

Home for 12 nights!

Home for 12 nights!

A little while later it was time for the first of many briefings in the lounge area on Deck 5, safety and lifeboat briefing first. Next we head back to our cabins to don warm clothes and take our life jackets back with us to try and get them on and secure. Just more than 100 newbies every trip, we must make the staff laugh, an absolute shamozzle, with arms and life jackets going in every direction while we work it out. After we were safely jacketed, it was roll call, which again, hopefully we can perform better if there is a real need. The fact we have a group of 50 Chinese passengers, most of whom don’t speak English, was an added bonus to the hilarity. Poor Dutch Johnny did his best but some of the names really had him in a twist at times.

Lifeboat on Plancius

Lifeboat on Plancius

Off outside to the lifeboat deck next where one of the ships officers, Gavin, with a great Scottish accent, scared the pants off us with graphic descriptions of what would happen if we had to abandon ship to the lifeboats. 63 people per lifeboat, the need to sit on your defined black strip so we could all fit, no food or drink for 24 hours and mandatory seasickness medication was just the tip of the iceberg. All I could think was, it’s a good thing the mv Plancius is a nice dependable ship! A quick look inside the bright orange life saving vessels and we could escape the howling cold wind and go back to our cabins to untangle ourselves from the life jackets and extra warm clothes then head back to the lounge.

Johnny then gave us a rundown of life on board from his perspective, meal and bar times, internet access, all the usual things. Andrew Bishop, our Australian expedition leader was up next to introduce the expedition staff and give an insight to our daily program during the voyage.  The ship’s doctor, Jelte from the Netherlands, had his turn next and advised he would set up shop in the bar after dinner to dispense the famous ‘behind the ear patch’ or tablets to those who thought they might need them. Then the most important man on the boat, Captain Evgeny Levakov joined us for an introduction and a toast with Proseco to a good trip.

Leaving Ushuaia behind

Leaving Ushuaia behind

Dinner followed all this activity in the dining room on Deck 3, wow, the food was delicious, the staff were fantastic and conversations that started off quietly this night got louder every night after. Rather than risk being seasick I headed up to the bar and bought one of the patches, had a chat for a while, wandered outside for a few pics and went to bed before we entered the dreaded Drake Passage. During the night though, I started sliding up and down the length of my bed, the weirdest feeling ever. Apparently, the waves were coming from the side of the ship so she was rolling from side to side more than up and down.

 

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Ushuaia – last town in Argentina!

27th December 2016

The Hosteria Patagonia Jarke is set on the hillside with a view overlooking the town and port of Ushuaia and is a lovely place to stay with plenty of spaces to sit, relax and take in the surroundings. They have a couple of gorgeous rooms with glass roof and walls with big comfy sofas and chairs, I was wishing I had more time to enjoy them.

Hosteria Patagonia Jarke, Ushuaia, Argentina

Hosteria Patagonia Jarke, Ushuaia, Argentina

I took off down town to find the clothing hire place I had contacted about renting an outer jacket for the cruise but found a sign on the door “Out for a Ride”. Oops, that was unexpected, I didn’t realize Argentina celebrated the art of the siesta!

Not to worry, I wandered around the shops and had lunch at Tante Sara’s where I took out my sketching gear again and drew a cute little place across the road while having lunch.

First sketch for a while, pretty rusty!

First sketch for a while, pretty rusty!

Back to the hotel for a nanna nap, I’m still blaming jetlag, as I woke again 4 hours later!!! Wow, quick rush back downtown to Ushuaia Extremo who were now open, thank goodness, and a lovely girl quickly helped me with renting my jacket for the next 12 days. I thought it was pretty good value at US$65 for the entire trip and think it turned out to be the most used piece of gear I had.

Trusty jacket hired for my trip from Ushuaia Extremo

Trusty jacket hired for my trip from Ushuaia Extremo

Another walk around then back to Tante Sara for another sketch and more food before heading back up the hill where I spent a couple of hours drawing with a glass of wine beside me in the lovely glass room before heading off to bed around 11pm with the sun still shining. What a place.

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Off to Antarctica on Christmas Day 2016

25th December 2016

Well, this is something you haven’t seen for quite a while, a new post from MidlifeTraveller! I last wrote about my 2013 travels a year ago, and was only up to Vigo in Portugal on 6th August 2013. I continued my travels that year until early November and continued on to Spain, Morocco, Croatia, and Puglia in Italy as well as Sicily. I still hope to write more about this one day!!! In December 2015-January 2016 I had a fantastic trip to Cuba and Mexico and same time this year I was off on an Antarctic cruise, just returning home on 13th January 2017. If I don’t write now it won’t happen, so here goes.

Hobart Museum sketched Jan-16

Hobart Museum sketched Jan-16

I took a trip to Hobart last year over the Australia Day weekend, and found the Antarctic section of the museum there totally fascinating. Then and there I decided my next destination was going to be the great southern continent. By the end of March it was all booked and deposit paid, only thing left to do was save the rest!!

On Christmas morning 2016 I flew out of Brisbane on Air New Zealand bound for Buenos Aires via a few hour stopover in Auckland. I’ve never flown with them before but couldn’t recommend the airline highly enough. The plane, staff and service was exceptional, we even had NZ wine poured out of full-sized bottles, something I haven’t experienced before in economy class! Being Christmas Day also bought a visit and chocolates through the plane by Santa and one of his elves – how cool was that.

Santa & helper on Air NZ flight Christmas Day 2016

Santa & helper on Air NZ flight Christmas Day 2016

About 20 hours later I arrived in Buenos Aires to Christmas Day still, about 3 in the afternoon, talk about making the day last. Stayed 2 nights at the Hotel Merit in San Telmo and took a half day bus and walking tour around the tourist hotspots of the city. Being only 5 of us in the group, it was a very relaxed and fun morning. This gave me a good idea of where I wanted to revisit when I came back for a few days at the end of my trip. La Boca was one of my favourite spots, seemingly, along with plenty of other tourists.The rest of the day was spent wandering back around the streets near the centre of the city.

Flying over NZ on the way to Buenos Aires, peaks in the distance

Flying over NZ on the way to Buenos Aires, peaks in the distance

An early start to the next day saw me at the airport by 5:30am and landing in the southern most town of Argentina at Ushuaia by about 10am. I must say it’s quite a change for me to be met at the airports by someone holding a sign with my name on it who whisks me off to the hotel. Much less stress that finding my way in a country where I don’t speak the language.

 

 

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