Saturday, February 28, 2009

Post Number 3: Rounding Cape Horn & Ushuaia

Another funny penguin video we took at Punta Tombo:

Day 6 – Rounding Cape Horn

The sea is getting choppier, the temperature is dropping (50 degrees), the sky is intermittently sunny and cloudy, and the wind is whipping. A perfect day to round the Horn! Drinks in hand, we toast the occasion (Budweiser in honor of our friends on Cape ran out of Glenlivet).


Day 7 – Early on the morning of February 8th we wake up to a great sunrise and our first glimpse of Ushuaia, Argentina.

Its claim to fame is that it’s the world’s southernmost city and the capital of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). It’s separated from the mainland by the Straits of Magellan and is known for its remote location, extreme weather, and natural beauty. We leave the ship, look for a taxi to hire and we find Mario.

David’s Spanish lessons are paying off, as he quickly negotiates a deal and we are off! He asks Mario to take us up to the highest elevation on the east side of the city for panoramic pictures,

On the way down Mario drives us through a beautiful community with wonderful homes and gardens. Much to Barbara's delight the "lupine" are in full bloom!

Next we drive to the base of the glacier (Garibaldi Pass).

On the way to the national park we stop to view the southern most golf course in the world:

Then we drive 10 miles west of the city to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park – wildflowers, glaciers, snow-capped peaks, streams, wild horses, peat bogs. It’s absolutely beautiful. We ask Mario to stop again and again…and he accommodates our desire to photograph everything!

At the end of the road into the park (on the shore of the Beagle Channel) we stop to mail post cards at the southern most post office in the world. We also get a facsimile of our passports stamped (no one told us to bring our real ones...bummer). The postmaster is impressive.

Toward the end of our 4 hour “tour”, I ask Mario to take us to the general aviation airport in Ushuaia.

We stop in and buy some cool patches and hats and I chat with a local airport mechanic who, when he learns I am a pilot, lets me have a look around.

After a great day with Mario, he drops us off on Main St. for some last minute shopping before we return to the ship.

Stay tuned for the Beagle channel, Straits of Magellan and more.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Post Number 2

Day 3 – Puerto Madryn, Argentina

After a day at sea (calm waters, sunny skies, 79 degrees), we arrive in Puerto Madryn, board one of NCL’s excursion buses, and head for the Punta Tombo Penguin Rookery (a nationally protected reserve). A 2 ½ hour ride each way, we are fortunate to have a comfortable bus (in a part of the world that warns tourists that good transportation is extremely limited, roads can be dusty and bumpy, and the weather can be very unpredictable).

Punta Tombo is the largest penguin nesting ground in continental South America - thousands of Magellan penguins all over the place.

There are between 200,000 and one million+, depending on the time of year. Because the penguins are accustomed to humans and don’t feel threatened by us, they cross “people paths” constantly to get from their nesting areas to the ocean.

They are hilarious to watch, and getting up close is a blast. Make sure to check out the 2 videos of them that we posted.



Day 4 – At Sea

At sea days are all pretty much the same. We spend our time reading and watching the occasional ship go by. Other times we are sleeping, sometimes gambling, going to shows, watching the sun set and, depending on the weather, wandering around the ship. Big decisions for the day are: which restaurants to eat in, when, and with how many of our new friends do we dine with.

Day 5 – The Falkland Islands are remote – 300 miles off the coast of South America’s Patagonia region and less than 600 miles from Antarctica. They are a British outpost, though Argentina made a claim for them in 1982 when a military junta occupied the islands for 2 months (remember the Falklands War?). And, although we refer to them as the Falklands, Argentinians call them Islas Malvinas.

We tender to Port Stanley, formerly a whaling port. We don’t quite know what to expect, but find that we are totally enamored with the town. We spend several hours walking up and down residential streets – brightly colored houses and quirky vignettes make for great photo ops. And I keep thinking how much fun it would be to spend some time here painting.

Tomorrow we round Cape Horn and are off to Ushuaia. Stay tuned!