I arrived early at DFW for my evening flight to Buenos Aries (Sherry drove me there) and Peter shared with me the news about the lost airplane with three Canadians onboard in a snowstorm in Antarctica. What a way to get started. They did find the crash site near the South Pole early on Saturday and it did not look survivable.
I arrived in Buenos Aries around 9:00 am Friday (its three hours ahead of Dallas time) and I flew business class. The flight was great mostly because I took an Ambien and slept between supper and breakfast. Getting through customs was fairly quick and a taxi was waiting for me to take me to the hotel; a 30 minute drive into Buenos Aires..
The Caesar Park Hotel was very nice and my first trip was a guided visit on a bus through various areas of the city and then a two-hour boat ride on the river where there were many homes and summer vacation spots. It is summer here and usually it’s very hot but a cold spell arrived when I did (coincidence) and the daytime temperature was a very pleasant 75 degrees with lots of sunshine.
A went to a closeby steakhouse for dinner and enjoyed a fabulous Argentina steak with creamed spinach and a bottle of Malbec which I took back to my hotel room.
On Saturday I took three tours. The first was a guide and private vehicle and we visited the presidential palace and some of the numerous sights in he area. BA has a population of about 14 million but it is very spread out and the transportation system is excellent with some streets 18 lanes wide counting the side streets.
My second tour was a walking tour through local neighborhoods and I visited several churches (mostly catholic) and enjoyed Argentina coffee along the way. The streets were cobblestone and the highlight of the walk was watching a Chinese shop owner chasing down a thief with a very large pistol in his hand. No shots were fired and once the thief saw the gun he quickly gave up his stolen goods and the store owner put his gun into the back of his pants and walked back to his shop with much relieved fanfare by the street audience.
The evening tour was a dinner and Tango show at a theatre near the shoreline of the 120 mile wide river that runs past BA to the ocean. The meal was forgettable but the show was pretty spectacular and by chance I was seated next to a couple from Michigan who will be my shipmates in a couple of days.
On Sunday I got to sleep in until my shipmates flew in for brunch at the hotel at 10:00 am. I met a few of them and at 1:45 we boarded a bus (4 buses actually I think) and we went on a four-hour tour of the City. While some of it was repetitive from my past tours, it was pretty informative.
Buenos Aires has about 40 million people in total with most of them being Italian followed by Spanish and Polish. The Jewish population is the second largest in the world.
We met again as a group at the hotel at 6:00 pm and were introduced to the ship staff, doctor and leadership. A storm is blowing into Ushuaia where we fly into tomorrow and we will be on a catamaran all afternoon with lots of wildlife expected to be seen. We will then board the ship in the evening. It’s a 3 hour flight from BA to Ushuaia.
Ushuaia reminded me of Alaska with mountains and rock and seas everywhere. The catamaran trip along the seashore included a very nice dinner with wine and lots of sight-seeing. Almost every rocky island that we passed was covered up by some sort of birds and seals and the passengers (lots of photographers, scientists, naturalists, and conservationalists) were constantly leaving the dinner for the bow of the ship; including me.
After boarding the Lindblad Explorer; our home for the next 10 days, we had dinner and lots of ship safety training. There are 148 paying passengers and I’m quickly meeting them all. Many are married couples in retirement and they have come from all over the world. India, UK, Germany, Canada, Uruguay, and so on are all represented here. There was a last minute cancellation by Ted Danson’s (the actor) first wife and so my roommate was upgraded to that single room; leaving me all to myself in a very nice room with a porthole. Sunset tonight is 9:26 pm.
After dinner (food is great) we went to the mud room to receive our parkas and to bring anything that is in our possession that might have bacteria etc (such as tripods, boots etc) so that it could be thoroughly disinfected.
The seas were very rough as we entered the Drake Passage. I was awakened many times during the night by waves that must have been around 50 feet tall. Thank goodness for my motion sickness patch which worked very well. The only side affect was a very dry mouth.
The captain provided a loudspeaker breakfast announcement at 8:00 am the next morning (Tuesday) and it took everything I could do to get a shower given the vigorous motion of the ship in the waves. We met all the staff who will help us with training and safety and animal and bird watching. Most of them have been to Antarctica numerous times and all were highly educated individuals.
In the afternoon, the professional photographers on board held a training session to help us all get better photographs while exploring.