A Travellerspoint blog

Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina - Tuesday, 17 Feb 2015

Fly to Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world. Tour Ushuaia, then board Le Boreal for our cruise to Antarctica. Cocktail soiree then set sail through the Beagle Channel, enjoying dramatic views of the mountains of Tierra del Fuego.

overcast 9 °C

We were in bed by 9.30 pm last night, with the alarm set for 4.00 am.  I woke at about 3.30 am and dozed until the alarm went off.  We went down for breakfast at 4.40 am and shared it with a group of very excited people because today is the day we fly to Ushuaia to join our cruise to Antartica.

We left the hotel at 6.00 am on the "white group" bus.  Scenic had quite a few groups to transport to the airport and it was all conducted with military precision and went off without a hitch.

We arrived at the airport about 40 minutes later and found all our check in luggage lined up waiting for us to claim it.  Gary and Anna Maria were really great and held our cabin luggage for us, just in case the airline started weighing it, because no matter how we tried, we just couldn't get it to the required 5 kgs.

At check in, Phil's bag weighed 21 kgs and mine was 19.5.  Ricardo from Scenic, checked in our other bag which was probably about 12 kgs.  We went through security without a hitch, then waited to board at 8.40 for our 9.00am flight.

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I must comment here that so far, all the flights we have been on in South America leave on time, or sometimes even a bit early!

The flight to Ushuaia takes 3 hours 5 minutes.  We are all getting a bit hungry and have just received the standard South American airline snack - juice, water, soft drink, tea or coffee plus a packet of dry biscuits and two different types of sweet cream biscuits.  Not very imaginative but at least it filled a hole.

I was taking some stunning shots of the mountains surrounding Ushuaia until the hostess told me to turn off my tablet.

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Once we land in Usuhaia, we have about four hours to kill before we can board.  The weather is about 9 degrees and raining.  Because today is still a Public Holiday for Carnival, there won't be many shops open.

We landed at Ushuaia at a tiny little airport and there was a huge crush and a long wait for the bags but finally we found our bags and headed outside to put them on the bus to be taken to the ship.  Rikus was outside collecting our passports.  It was lovely to see him again and we had a big hug.  Rikus was our guide when we travelled from Cape Town to Cairo in 2010.

Our new home for 24 days - Le Boreal.

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We hopped on the bus and were taken on a sight seeing trip of the town, Usuhaia. Sergio, our guide told us to be back on the bus at 4.15 pm at which time we would be driven to the boat for boarding.  The town is quite small and lovely.  Sergio pointed out some good restaurants so Jeanette and Phil and I went to lunch in a lamb barbecue restaurant.  They way they cook the lamb is very unique.  They cut the lamb down the middle and then attach it to a metal spike and stand it up, so that while it is cooking, all the fat runs out of the lamb.  We ordered spit roasted lamb and salad and the lamb was so tender. However, they don't give you nicely sliced lamb on your plate - you get great big hunks of meat with bones so it really is a meal to eat with your fingers.

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At 4.15 pm we were back on the bus for the short ride to the docks.  The Captain was waiting for us and we had a photo with him as we boarded.  Inside the girls gave us our room key and our Butler, Baptiste, met us and took us up to our cabin. There was a lovely bottle of Mumm Champagne waiting for us with some snacks.  Our cabin is very nice and roomy.  We have two toilets, two TVs, a lounge / dining room with a dining table and a big bedroom with a spa in the bathroom.  Nice.  I am glad we are staying in this cabin for the next 24 days.

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Our big red jackets for Antarctica were waiting for us on our bed, plus our gum boots.

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We immediately had an abandon ship drill and a short while after a general briefing about the next 10 days.  Sally Austin (better known as Long Tall Sally) is on this cruise too.  She took us through New Zealand many years ago.  It is very comforting to have old familiar faces looking after us, as Sally and Rikus are a couple of our favourite guides.

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The sixth floor had welcome drinks as did the others on the lower decks.  We caught up with Lyn and Phil who were on our Russian Cruise last August.

Back to the cabin to unpack and then into the dining room for a quick dinner and then into bed.  It has been a long but exciting day.

I started to run a bath but only a trickle of water came out.  No matter, I'll have a shower instead.  No water there either.  A quick call to Baptiste, our Butler, and he phoned someone, and it was fixed.  "Unbeliveable", he kept muttering.

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Posted by gaddingabout 17:24 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires, Argentina - Monday,16 February 2015

Participate in a culinary secrets of Argentina walking tour. Evening private cocktail soiree and Antarctic cruise briefing.

sunny 24 °C

We slept in this morning after such a late night and full day yesterday as our Culinary Secrets of Argentina walking tour didn't commence until 11.30 am. Our breakfast room has been changed to level one, specifically for Scenic Tours as lots of others groups have now joined us in preparation for our Antarctic cruise. Lots of strange new faces at breakfast but we will get to meet them tonight at the welcome cocktail party.

We are stressing out a bit about our excess luggage and Gary said that Ricardo from Scenic is flying down and back to Ushuaia tomorrow and that he would carry a bag for us. Great news!! I feel a huge load has been lifted off our shoulders. We don't mind paying excess baggage but 80 USD per kilo is a bit rich, especially when we will be away from home for 64 days and need clothing from the Antarctic to the Equator and places in between. Also, 20 kgs for check in luggage and 5 kgs for carry on is ridiculous, especially as Phil's carry on weighs 3.6 kgs when it is empty. Anyway, problem solved and I am feeling great.

We went for a walk in the streets around our hotel for an hour or so. The streets are deserted because of Carnival in Rio. Monday and Tuesday are public holidays in Buenos Aires because of Carnival. The streets are wide and tree lined. Buenos Aires has a lovely feel to it. I could live here.

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At 11.30 am we met our local guide in the foyer and commenced our Culinary Secrets of Argentina walking tour. It was like a "Progressive Lunch" and we went from restaurant to restaurant sampling food and wine. It was fabulous. The food was great and the little local restaurants were great too. A mini bus took the 20 of us to the Lacarra, where we commenced walking to local restaurants for our four courses. First was a barbecued sausage in bread with local home made herb dressing.

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Next was La Zoila for an empanada. These are served all over Argentina and have many different fillings, ranging from chicken to fish and beef. This one had a beef, vegetable and herb filling and it was very tasty. A glass of white wine accompanied the empanada.

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The next restaurant served us fried cheese, vegetables and sirloin steak and ribs. We had red wine with our main course - a lovely Malbec.

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Next stop was the ice cream shop. By this stage, we could hardly walk as we were filled to the brim. It was a really nice experience.

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We spent the afternoon packing and making sure our luggage is the correct weight for tomorrow's flight.

At 6.30 pm our group met for the last time to receive our briefing for Antarctica. From now on, we will be part of a group of about 190. We have a very early start tomorrow - breakfast from 4.30 am to 6 am and on the bus at 5.55 am. We will be boarding Le Boreal between 4 pm and 5 pm so it will be a VERY long day. Weather forecast for Ushuaia - 9 degrees and raining!

Posted by gaddingabout 15:29 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires, Argentina - Sunday, 15 February 2015

Walk through the old quarters of San Telmo district. Enjoy lunch and a display of Tango dancing in the La Boca district. Dinner and Tango Show.

semi-overcast 27 °C

Had a pretty good sleep and woke up before the alarm was due to go off. We have been on tour for a week now - it seems ages since we left home. This beautiful hotel is the first one with bathroom scales so we hopped on for a little check. I've put on a little bit but Phil is virtually the same. I am quite mystified as I have walked miles and miles and being in 100 per cent humidity for the last seven days, surely some fat must have disappeared!

The hotel is really nice. I hope we have some spare time to explore it today. Breakfast was nice. There is a small buffet, plus you can order off the menu. I had some fruit and ordered Eggs Benedict. It was a poached egg, on a piece of toast that was soggy because it was floating in the Hollandaise Sauce, but the flavour was there.

We did a city tour this morning. Buenos Aires is full of very wide streets and lovely old buildings. We visited the cemetery at Recoleta where Eva Peron is buried. It was an amazing place and of course, you have to be very rich to be buried there. Eva is buried with her mother, sisters and brother in law.

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This is supposedly where the very first Tango was danced. It was only danced by men in the beginning, with their hands on each other's shoulders, because the Government said it was too erotic for women to be dancing it. It is a very sexy dance and always tells a story of love and loss. Gandell was a very famous Tango singer. The Tango singers are as important, if not more, than the dancers themselves.

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Next we visited May Square (Plaza de Mayo) where the pink Government House is located at Torres de Los Ingleses. The President works there from Monday to Friday and lives out of town on the weekends. She flies into the office in a helicopter. She is not very popular. This is also the square where the protests occur and where the mothers meet and protest every Thursday about the military taking away their children during the Dirty War from 1976 to 1983. This is a drawing of a white head scarf that is the symbol of the mothers and grandmothers movement.

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We then went into the Montserrat cathedral and the Sunday mass was about to finish. The organ started playing and it was just beautiful.

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Next stop was Dock Sur which is a market area with the roads closed. The buildings are colourful and quaint and the whole area has a lovely feeling of happiness and friendliness.

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Before we had some free time in this area, Scenic had a surprise for us. We went into one of these quaint old houses, all sat around and watched the Tango performed. It was great and afterwards we had a group photo taken.

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This house is the home of a local artist and sculptor and we wandered through looking at his work. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos but I must say his work wasn't to my taste. It was quite bizarre and violent, but, to each his own.

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We had some free time at Dock Sur and wandered around soaking in the Sunday morning atmosphere and taking photos of the colourful buildings.

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Back on the bus and we went to a local restaurant for lunch. It was called Pedro Telmo and it was located in San Telmo. We had pre-ordered lasagne or a crumbed pressed beef thing. The servings were huge and we were all squashed in, but the food was good and the atmosphere was great. Dessert was creme caramel or ice cream.

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After lunch we wandered around the Flea Market for a while in San Telmo. It was very crowded and we didn't want to buy anything so we went back to the meeting point and there was a great band playing so we stood and listened to them until it was time to board the bus.

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For dinner we went to a Tango restaurant in the Avellaneda area. We left the hotel at 8.15 pm which was really late. Before our meal was served, the tango dancers came around the tables and asked if anyone wanted to learn the Tango. I got up and had a quick lesson. It was fun. Our meal was lovely. We are eating lots of steak in Argentina and it is top quality. After dinner the tango dancers put on a great show for us, with dancing, singing and a gaucho dancing and twirling hard plastic balls on strings, and a guy playing a small guitar with 12 strings that is made out of an Armadillo shell. It was a great evening and we didn't get back to the hotel until after midnight. We are certainly packing a lot into our days.

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Check out the size of the knife! The steak was beautifully tender so why you would need a knife like that is beyond me.

Posted by gaddingabout 12:12 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires, Argentina - Sat, 14 Feb 2015

Tour the Argentinian Falls then fly to Buenos Aires

Happy Valentine's Day
Left our lovely hotel at Iguazu Falls this morning very early at 7.30 am which by the way, is owned by the Orient Express. We had a big day ahead of us. First port of call was a tourist shop on the Brazilian side of the falls, where everyone was able to change their Brazilian Reals for Argentinian Pesos. Then we headed for the border. Gary took all our passports and our paperwork into the guards' station and once he got in there, it didn't take too long to process our departure from Brazil. We lined up in the bus for quite a while before it was our turn.

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This bridge is the border between Brazil and Argentina. Yellow and green on the Brazilian side and then blue and white on the Argentinian side.

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Gary had told us horrific stories about the Argentinian border guards and how long they take to process entry documents, however today there were three of them and our entry into Argentina went very smoothly. Argentinians have many heros, eg, Maradona, Eva Peron and the Pope, just to name a few. We were advised to "play the game" in Argentina and say "si" (yes), and we'd be okay in most situations. The area of no man's land between the two borders is about half a kilometre.

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So, today was our day to visit the Iguazu Falls on the Argentinian side. It took considerably more effort to view them than on the Brazilian side, as the falls were across the road from our hotel. On arrival at the park, we were given our tickets and then we walked to a train station. It is very hot and humid and rain is threatening. This is a photo of the drought here last year.

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This is how the locals drink their tea. It is supposed to be good for EVERYTHING!

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We queued up for ages and ages until a train came. They come every 15 minutes, but it seems much longer than that as there are hundreds of people lined up waiting for the train. Our guide wanted to make sure that we all caught the same train so we finally boarded the third train.

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Then we had quite long walk (20 minutes) to the falls, specifically to view the Devils Throat. The path to the falls was a suspended metal walkway, like the one up to Mount Kosciuszko in New South Wales, Australia. It makes for easy walking as it is flat and bounces along. As we approached the falls, a few of our group decided not to go any further (Phil included) as we were flying to Buenos Aires this afternoon, they didn't want to get wet as the spray from these falls was very strong (depending on which way the wind was blowing).

I pressed on. The falls on this side are smaller than from the Brazilian side, but are furious. The Devil's Throat is so wild and furious. It is quite mesmerising. Our guide told us that two people committed suicide here last year. God, that would be awful. The water is flowing so fast, they wouldn't know much about it after they jumped in.

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On the way back to the train station, it started to rain - in fact it poured. We all lined up again and waited for the train. Finally it arrived, we hopped on and then changed trains and arrived back at the area where the restaurants were. We had a snack for lunch and then all hopped on the bus and headed for the airport.

Locals we met on the train.

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Gary had gone ahead to the airport with our check in bags and had done a group check in and got our boarding passes. Our bags are overweight, 23+ kgs each, so a group check in suited us very well. The domestic airport was so hot - no air conditioning in here and we were wet from the falls so we were all feeling pretty sticky. We were have a glass of red wine with Jeanette, Jeff and Lynette when Gary came and asked us to take our carry on bags down to the check in desk and get a tag put on them. I took both our bags down and they weighed them and mine was 10 kgs, 2 kgs over and Phil's was 12 kgs. So back up to the restaurant to take things out of our bag and then back down to get them weighed and tagged. I got mine down to 7kgs, but Phil's was 10kgs, but she put a tag on it anyway. How ridiculous. The stuff I took out of it was put into another bag that I carried on anyway. Please explain?

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We boarded the plane and were sitting with Gordon again, because our surnames begin with "B". Phil was putting his bag over the seat in front of him and broke the catch on his tray table so it wouldn't stay in position. I told the hostie and we were all moved into the exit seats, which was great because we had a lot more leg room. It is so nice to be in a country and on a plane where everyone speaks English and not Portuguese.

It was a one and a half hour flight to Buenos Aires, we collected our luggage and arrived at the Sofitel Hotel. It is lovely and we are extremely pleased with our room. We have a lounge room, hallway, big bathroom and big bedroom. Our bags were wet because it was pouring rain when we left Iguazu and quite a lot of my clothes were wet. I have them draped all around our suite trying to dry them. My whole bag of undies was wet!

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Phil went to the supermarket next door and bought a bottle of champagne, cheese, ham and biscuits and we are having a snack for dinner as we have another early start tomorrow.

Posted by gaddingabout 16:49 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Iguazu Falls - Friday, 13 February 2015

Walking tour of the Brazilian Falls. Jet boat ride to the base of the Three Musketeers. Afternoon at leisure.

semi-overcast 32 °C

What an amazing day we have had. It just gets better and better!

Up early and into breakfast just before 7 am and it was still pretty dark. It started to lighten up at about 7.15 am and we were all pretty happy as there was no rain and the sun came out. Looks like it's going to be a great day.

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The bad news of the day was that Marlene, who broke her knee cap at Sugar Loaf mountain was going home. She had had a bad night and could hardly walk so it was probably the best decision to get home and get her knee treated properly.

After breakfast, we all met in the foyer and walked across the lawn to the falls. What an absolutely stunning sight they were. We took millions and millions of photos and walked down and down to the bottom. We got quite wet at times and when we went out on the bridge, we took an umbrella with us. I bought some Sketches shoes in Canberra before I left home, to use in the Galapagos and the Amazon for stepping into the water, getting out of a boat, but I wore them today and they were great. Totally non slip and could cope very well with getting wet and then they dried themselves as well. Worth every cent.

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These little things are very common and tame and will harrass you if they can smell food. But don't go too close because they have rabies.

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We caught a lift back up to the top of the falls where our bus was waiting and then we drove to the Bird Park and across the road was where the helicopter flights left from. We decided to take a flight and it cost 120 USD per person but was well worth it. We had Jeanette, Ilona and Jeff with us in the helicopter and two others whom we didn't know. It was a great flight and we circled the Falls several times and he banked from side to side several times. It was thrilling.

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After the flight, we wandered over to the Bird Park and caught up with the others of our group. The birds are beautiful - such lovely colours. We saw some reptiles and butterflies as well.

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We had a quick lunch there as well and then back on the bus for the short drive to where we had our jet boat ride under the falls.

We walked down a lot of steps, and were then transported to the bottom where we put on life jackets and lined up for the ride of our lives. It was thrilling. We zoomed along, getting splashed all the way and finally came to the bottom of the falls, where our driver went in - well right to the edge! It was absolutely thrilling and we were so glad we did. Phil was moaning about getting wet but he should have worn shorts today and not long pants. Anyway, we had a super day.

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As we hopped on the bus to come back to the hotel, it started to rain. We were so lucky to have had such a beautiful fine day today. Our guide was calling us the lucky group.

Tonight about half of our group decided to dine in the hotel restaurant instead of the buffet. We had dinner with Jeanette and it was very nice. I personally prefer eating that way rather than buffets.

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Posted by gaddingabout 17:07 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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