Buenos Aires revisited

8th January

Well Ushuaia, like a lot of places that practice the siesta tradition, doesn’t seem to wake early! After a quick walk to Ushuaia Extremo to try and return my hired jacket I went back to the harbour, to a cafe Katie had told me about that opened early, Ramos Generales. I had to cool my heels for a little, but I wasn’t the only one lining up for a warm place to sit, a coffee and to get back in touch with the world. A whole heap of us ended up there, all head down with laptops or phones in front of us, their free wi-fi is a sure way to entice those just back from Antarctica.

I eventually left to take my jacket back and pick up some souvenirs before collecting my luggage and making my way to the airport for a 4pm flight.  It was like “old home week” in the town and at the airport though, running into people from the ship all day. Was lovely to sit with Marijke for a while at the airport to catch up on the last few days as we’d been separated for the latter part of the voyage. Another 2 women sharing weren’t getting along and the only solution was for one of them to swap with one of us – so I lost my bestest roomie, but gained another who was nice too, but it just wasn’t the same. The only problem was the 4pm flight turned into 6pm, then 7pm, and eventually 7:30pm – I heard this wasn’t uncommon.

I was so pleased I’d booked through a travel agent, had transfers organized and could keep in touch with Luis from the agency to update him during the wait. Walking through arrivals at almost midnight to see a driver holding a sign with my name on it was such a relief. Although I didn’t take it all in when I arrived, the Patios de San Telmo was a darling place to spend the next few days. I fell in love and could have happily spent all day every day just hanging out there – I didn’t!





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Return across Drake Passage

6th & 7th January 2017

It's all ahead of us now - Drake Passage, that is

It’s all ahead of us now – Drake Passage, that is

I opted for anti seasickness tablets rather than the patch for the return trip across the Drake at Jelte’s bar-side medical dispensary, and happy I did. I wasn’t sick and or overcome with tiredness and thoroughly enjoyed the crossing.


Yay, no wakeup call!!!

Yay, no wakeup call!!!

The first night was gentle,the following day saw a fair amount of staggering, we had up to about 5 metre waves, although this is apparently classed as Drake Lake! Between meals there were talks by the guides and a movie.


Is this first time I've got a bird in a pic!!! Nah not really.....

Is this first time I’ve got a bird in a pic!!! Nah not really…..

I thoroughly enjoyed Christophe’s talk about Amundsen and the race to the north pole. This brought back memories of my first visit to Hobart when we stayed at Hadleys Hotel and were in the Amundsen Suite. Bruce gave a hugely enthusiastic talk on seabirds and why they are so cool, he even managed to stir interest in me, who is so not into birds.

Our daily briefing was more about what was to come – paying our bar bill and disembarkation, rather than the exciting plans we’ve had on past days. I was very proud of myself today, no naps and appeared at every meal, yay.

The most wave action I've seen from my cabin

The most wave action I’ve seen from my cabin

Second night and day on the Drake was much the same, with more talks by Lousie about Shakleton and Marijke on whales and her time spent with the Australian Antarctic Division. Those of us who weren’t sick or sleeping spent most of our time in the lounge or up on the bridge deck, hopefully not annoying the Captain and crew, who were always very welcoming and happy to answer questions or just have a chat.

Diego Ramirez Islands

Diego Ramirez Islands

A surprise for all came when Andrew advised we were at the Diego Ramirez group of islands and had permission from the Argentine naval base there to sail within 3 miles. This is another rare treat, being the most southern land of South America, and was great for the bird lovers spotting albatross and petrels galore.

Returning boots and paying our bills kept us busy for a while then another treat, we headed up and around Cape Horn on the way home. Andrew told us later there’s an old mariners tradition that says sailing around Cape Horn entitles you to wear a gold coin earring, not sure if this extends to motorized ships!

Our last briefing that night was wonderful, there was a fantastic 10 minute slide presentation, farewell drink and toast by our Captain who also told us he hadn’t been able to get that close to Diego Ramirez for about 5 years. We’re so fortunate to have had such good weather and a company who are happy to go the extra mile.

More food!! Our last dinner was awesome, as always and afterwards the other staff were paraded to our joy. The chefs, cooks, baker and stewards were grinning from ear to ear at our applause. It’s such a happy ship, I’ve had the time of my life.

After dinner we congregated in the lounge for a night of story-telling, reliving the voyage and generally lots of laughs. Next morning after breakfast it was last minute packing and then all of a sudden Andrew announced the Argentine authorities had cleared us to disembark and it was all over bar the goodbyes! I have a day in Ushuaia waiting for my flight to Buenos Aires where I have another few days before heading home, bring it on!

I can truly say I’ve had the most wonderful 12 days on this voyage. Antarctica and everything about it was mind-blowingly beautiful – I certainly don’t have the words to describe it and my photos don’t do it anywhere near enough justice. The ship crew and expedition staff were the absolute best and I found heaps of fellow passengers who I just fitted with, probably no surprise when you consider this is not your everyday trip.

I can’t recommend Oceanwide Expeditions highly enough and I just loved the mv Plancius! I’d better add here that I’m in no way being or have been reimbursed for these posts, sadly  ; my praise is purely my unbiased opinion.




Filed under Antarctica, Mid-life travel, Solo female travel, Travel

Last day in Antactica, Half Moon Is & Robert Pt

5th January 2017

Oh no, last day in Antarctica before we head back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia in Argentine, where did the time go?

The expedition staff were over the moon this morning to see “proper Antarctic weather’, overcast and -1 degree, and windy, for our last day. They didn’t want us to go away thinking it was always sunny, calm, and clear skies.

The fitness gurus in the group set off for a 10km run, the mountaineers started their trek and the other brave souls landed for more penguins and a walk. Me, I stayed on board and sketched, chatted and took photos from the bridge deck of snow falling! I spotted one of the zodiacs stopping and starting on the way back, eventually being towed back to Plancius by another. I took a couple of pics and decided to make a sketch. When Marijke looked through by sketchbook later she was so excited to see it there, as that was her zodiac that had been towed. The German friends were also super excited to take a pic as they were among the passengers! Again, the lost SD card has reared it’s ugliness – the pics of Marijke’s zodiac under tow were obviously on that camera, grrrrrr……….

After lunch we headed to Robert Island for our last landing but the surf was too high for a landing, the bravest endured another zodiac cruise. Again, I was happy to stay on board to start another sketch, this time one I’d taken when kayaking.

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Orne Harbour and Foyne Harbour/Enterprise Islands

4th January 2017

First stop today was a landing at Orne Harbour where we could see two bays at once from the top of the hill, purely exquisite scenery, I just hope I’m getting some decent photos as it’s truly unbelievable. I’m very happy to sit for ages and take it all in without snapping thousands of pics but it will be an added bonus if there’s even just one that truly shows what we saw.

Spent more time perched on a rock sketching and had a couple of penguins quite close who are just adorable. Another snow slide back down made for great entertainment and I videoed a few of the descents.

Yet again an amazing lunch, and it was off in the zodiacs for a cruise around Foyne Harbour with a few circles around the wreck of the Gouvernoren. This was a whaling ship that caught fire and was sunk to prevent the whale oil cargo from igniting and exploding. Once the fire was extinguished the cargo was rescued. The Gouvernoren is a big rusty hulk with just part of it rising out of the ocean quite near the shore, huge banks of pure white ice behind and blue skies overhead, just fantastic.

We then motored further to a couple of old small wooden whaler’s boats on the shore that are well preserved due to the cold dry air. It’s so surprising that Antarctica is the driest continent but this is what helps preserve wooden structures down here.

Whale watching in a big boat will never be the same, we spent the next couple of hours following whales in the zodiac. Our group found a mother and baby to keep us happy. The baby whale was diving but not showing his tail and it seemed the mother was trying to teach him. Beau said usually when they show their tail and dive they won’t appear again for quite some time. This one kept diving, showing her tail and coming back up to repeat. Eventually, just as we had decided to stop following, we were cheering when they both dived and we saw 2 tails appear. How exciting!! Beau was also beside himself as the baby whale spy-hopped right at the front side of our zodiac. They poke their head out of the water, have a look around and then sink down again. What an afternoon.

Marijke and a couple of the other zodiac drivers found a pod of whales and were included in their bubble net hunting circle. She showed us footage later and was just about jumping out of her skin with excitement. It all adds to our experience when the guides are just as, or even more excited than us, all the more so because they know some of these experiences are quite rare.

I think I got a touch of sun today – who’d have thought you could say that in Antarctica – and also not enough water, had a headache and very tired, so an early night; but not before another delicious meal and good conversation in the dining room with my table of German mates. A couple, Jorge and Kaisa and two of their friends Christiana and Barbara, we’ve had some great evenings together.

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