Saturday, January 20, 2018

Montevideo, Uruguay, January 20, 2018

Uruguay is a beautiful, agricultural country.  The fields are well looked after and everything is so green.  There is some irrigation and crops are in all stages of growth, from what looks like just planted, to mid size corn, to fields of round bales and onions ready to harvest-

35 km from Montevideo we turned off the highway and seemed to drive forever into the country side.  We are camping about 1.5 hours by public transport outside of Montevideo!  I don't mind camping, in fact sometimes I sleep better in my tent than in a noisy hostel, but I didn't come to Uruguay to camp. Jono gave us a ride to the corner bus stop and 7 went into the city centre.  The bus only comes once every couple of hours so we were pretty good in our timing.  

Once in Montevideo, I separated from the others and found a decent hotel.  I spent the afternoon planning my next 2 days.  That takes soooooo much time.  

Supper was a chivita canadiense.  It's a beef, cheese, red pepper, bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg sandwich, toasted on great bread.  Don Antonio Carbonaro, an Argentinian, invented it in 1944.  It's a plato typico uruguayo and delicious- 

Uruguay is a funny place.  Most shops were closed today, Saturday, and will be closed as well tomorrow.  After supper, I walked down to the water which was packed with locals enjoying their time off-

Most were fishing-

And everyone was drinking maté.  They all had thermoses and shared the maté cup and straw.  Pieces of maté are soaked in hot water and then it's drunk through a metal straw-

There are some cool buildings down town such as the Palacio Salvo which is 26 stories and was the continent's tallest building when it was built in 1927-

Other beautiful buildings-

I've got a big day planned tomorrow:  flea market, theatre tour, free walking tour and possibly a visit to the carnival museum if I don't play out by then!

Colonia, Uruguay, January 19, 2018

The guy at reception at the hostel said I needed to be at the ferry at least 2 hours before departure, that it was just like being at an airport, so I was on my way before 6 am, first taking the subway to the end of the line and then waiting for a cab.  I got there in plenty of time and had an hour to kill before immigration, boarding etc.  Oh well, at least I didn't have to rush.  The ferry was very modern and fast -

Weirdly enough, there was no access to the outside.  Leaving B.A.-

Once in Colonia, I walked a few blocks to catch a bus to the campground.  I set up my tent and went back into town.  It was smoking hot.  My first stop was at a Parilla for lunch.  It was an "all you can eat' affair and the meat was grisly until I got into the really rare stuff.  The good thing is that you can eat and eat and eat meat - beef, chorizo, chicken and pork.  I tried some sausage but the casing was tough and it tasted fatty.  I wanted to rent a scooter to zip around but needed my actual drivers licence which was back at the campground.  So, luckily Colonia is very tiny and it didn't take long to see all the sights.

It was discovered in 1680 by Manuel Lobo, who was the Portuguese Governor of Rio de Janeiro and was strategic because it was across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires.  There were numerous battles between Spain and Portugal and Portugal eventually gave Colonia to the Spanish in 1750.  

Iglesia Matriz is Uruguay's oldest church.  The Portuguese started it in 1680 and it's been rebuilt a few times since-

The inside is very simple-

Next door is the Plaza de Armas which has the remains of a Portuguese house-

Porton de Campo was built in 1745 but this is a reconstruction.  It was the entry gate into the walled city-

The Faro dates from the 19th century.  It's on top of the 17th century Convento de San Francisco.  Lying Planet says you can go to the top but it appeared closed-

Calle de Los Suspiros has the original 18th century street.  It was really hard to walk on and I can't imagine how it would destroy car tires in no time-

There are a few stone houses left from the Portuguese era-

Rio de la Plata joins the Atlantic in front of the old city, actually, it's more like a small town.  The ocean is blue and the river is brown so it looks pretty gross and polluted-

I took the bus back to the campground and found out I was on cook group so Weibke, Russ and I made ratatouille, meatballs and rice.  It was okay.  We're also on breakfast tomorrow and luckily that isn't until 8, not that I'll sleep in anyway.  We're off to Montevideo at 9 and I'm looking forward to exploring Uruguay's capital city!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Buenos Aires, January 18, 2018

My fight was good yesterday afternoon-

And in no time I was in B.A.  I took a cab to the hostel and had a great conversation with my driver.  B.A. Is like Paris - the architecture is beautiful and very fancy.  Lots of the buildings are white.  When I got to the hostel, I crawled into bed and was done for the night.  I was not feeling well at all.

This morning the group left at 7 am for Colonia, Uruguay but I had to stay back to get my passport.  That happened very easily and the agent seemed to think my visas would still be good so here's hoping!

After getting my passport, I took the metro to the city centre and went in B.A. Metropolitana Cathedral-

It contains the mausoleum of General San Martin who freed Argentina, Chile and Peru.  His remains were brought from France in 1880.  The three women statues protecting him represent those three countries and there were also two live guards-

Nice buildings-

From Casa Rosada's balconies, Eva Peron preached to the Argentinians.  The building is its strange color because President Sarmientos tried making peace during his 1868-74 term by blending the red of the Federalists with the white of the Unitarists.  Or so they say.  Another theory is that the palace was painted with bovine blood, which was a common practice in the late 19th century.  The offices of the President are here but not his residence-

The Obelisco is 67 meters above the Plaza de la Republican.  It was dedicated in 1936, the 400th anniversary of the first Spanish settlement on the Rio de la Plata-

I then hopped on a bus and went to La Boca.  In the mid 19th century, it was home to Spanish and Italian immigrants who settled along the river.  They worked in meat packing plants and warehouses.  After painting the shipping barges, they threw the left over paint on the corrugated metal siding of their own houses.  It's a bright tourist trap of only 4 streets but it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.  Everyone, and I mean everyone was taking their picture in front of this building.  Not sure why-

There are lots of restaurants charging an arm and a leg for a meal-

And many had tango dancers and musicians playing-

More colorful buildings, mostly trinket shops-

There are some nice murals and human statues on many balconies-

There's also an art market-

This looked pretty wierd.  He also had a bandana around his neck-

I would have liked to go to a tango dinner and show but they don't end until 2 am.  I'm catching the ferry to Colonia, Uruguay at 8 in the morning so opted out.  Looking forward to getting back with the group!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Antarctica, January 2018

My journey to Antarctica started out as only a thought, that while I was in this part of the world, I may as well go.  The end of October, I looked at a few websites and noticed there were a couple cruises available on January 7, when we were 'supposed' to be arriving in Ushuaia.  The next day, I checked the website again and there was only one cruise listed!  I immediately emailed Quark, the company, to inquire more seriously and to say I would like to share in a triple room, which is cheaper.  I was told there was only one spot available, and it was a single cabin.  So, I took it.  As life unfolds if we let it, later that afternoon, I got an email from my financial advisor asking for permission to sell some stocks and wouldn't you know it, that amount was only $250 less than the cruise!  So, I was on my way to Antarctica.

I never really anticipate anything.  I find it a waste of time - too much energy is burned trying to imagine something that hasn't happened.  I also don't look at pictures or read much about the places I'll see.  Yes, I read about what there is to do in a place, but not all the details.  I like it that way because then everything is a surprise.  When I was in Jordan and we were going to Petra, I had no idea what I was about to see.  Everyone on the tour was so surprised at that, but it was true and absolutely amazing when I saw the treasury for the first time!

So, I left Ushuaia not having a clue what I might come across.  Yes, I expected ice, snow, water, penguins and probably seals, but that was about it.

Our journey took us to many places:  

Life in numbers:
187 guests, 5 elephant seals, 2 leopard seals, 65 Polar Plungers, 29 Type B Orcas, 65+ crab eater seals, 6 birthdays - 7 if you include Nico's, highest altitude 186 meters, 13 lectures, 8100 Gentoo penguins, 1610 nautical miles sailed, 6 recap meetings, 30+ humpbacks, 8 cruisings, 3 continental landings, youngest traveller was 15 and the oldest was 89, 60 campers, 16 kayakers, 146 metric tons of diesel burned, 246 bottles of wine drunk, South 65 degrees 6 minutes south, 85 kilograms of meat grilled for our BBQ, 1 Adelie penguin, 1500 Chinstrap penguins and $4700 raised at the charity auction!

Antarctica is a land of water, ice, snow, penguins, sea birds, icebergs, seals, penguins, more ice and snow, sunshine, penguins, wind and absolute beauty.

It was wonderful to climb to a peak and sit and look out at the bay, the mountains, the icebergs, the ice.... All of it.

It's a beautiful place in our world and I am very lucky to have had the chance to see it!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Drake Passage and Beagle Channel, January 15-16, 2018

Last night was not rough but the swaying still kept me awake.  Now I've woken up with a cold - coughing and shivering.  I've got 2 days to get better so......

The day is filled with workshops:  photography editing, "Deficient Diets: The Strange and Sad History of Scurvy and Its Polar Problems", "Adaptations of Marine Mammals" and "Unseen Antarctica".  There will also be an auction of 'interesting' objects to raise money in support of Penguin Watch and a bar talk about "A Love Story with a White Rhino".  I'm not sure how many I might attend.  Right now my bed is feeling pretty cozy!

As it turns out, I spent all day in bed!  Looking forward to feeling better tomorrow.

Happy Birthday Nico!  You are 26!  Your forever birthday cake!

Nico '2' celebrated as well with carrot cake, iced tea, and lots of coloring-

I've gotten to know a quite a few people on the ship - there are only 187 of us, but I've enjoyed most of my meals with Zara and Diana, both from Australia.  Zara works for Intrepid and Diana is retired-

Leah and Bobbi are cousins.  Leah lives in Victoria and Bobbi in Prince Albert-

Elaine and Amy are from a small town south of Chicago.  Elaine is a retired teacher and Amy runs a travel agency-

So during supper, we toasted Nico and I showed a few pictures.  It is hard to believe he's 26!

I didn't do too much today - spent a lot of time in my room, which I enjoyed immensely.  We had a couple meetings: one about disembarking which is tomorrow at 8 am, another to drink champagne with the captain who is a burly Ukrainian, and another to watch a 15 minute video of our trip and to say farewell to our crew who have been unbelievably amazing.

Supper was also special:  surf and turf:

I'm looking forward to getting off this boat tomorrow morning!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Orne Harbour and Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica, January 14, 2018

Orne Harbour is on the northwest side of the Arctowski Peninsula, near the northern entrance to Emera Channel.  Gerlach's discovered it in 1898 and was named by whalers.  Spigot Peak is 938 feet tall and dwarfs our boat-

We saw more of the same this morning: there are 420 pairs of chinstraps-

Crab eating seals-

His tooth is hanging out-

The third and last stop on the continent-

The Antarctic tern-

The Chinstraps are chilling on an iceberg after they've had a 'bath'.  They float/swim on the surface to get rid of the poo.  A chinstrap's poo is white compared to a gentoo's which is pink.  Chinstraps eat krill and fish where gentoos eat only krill.  You are what you eat!

A pretty iceberg-

The polar plunge was just before lunch.  Quite a few did it, but not me!

After lunch we went zodiacing for the final time at Wilhelmina Bay.  It's between Reclus Peninsula and Cape Anna, along the west coast of Graham Land.  Gerlach discovered it during his 1897-9 trip and named it after the Queen of the Netherlands.  It's 15 miles wide and a glaciated bay filled with many islands.  Whalers also operated in the region.

Can you see the troll?

The man with thick eyebrows?

Simple beauty-

I've been wondering why we haven't seen much calving and the reason is that these glaciers are on solid ground, not hanging over the water.
The striated snow in the centre of the picture and the icing on the 'cake' on the right side; it's just so magnificent-

Other groups raced around looking for humpbacks, but Dany, our guide, preferred to stay in the area close to the ship and talk about "What makes Antarctica?".  According to Milutin Milankovitch, a Serbian astro physicist, there are three things that affect our climate:  the slant of the Earth's axis, which takes 41,000 years to go back and forth between about 21 and 25 degrees, the elliptical orbit of the Earth around the sun which takes 106,000 years to complete a cycle, and the wobbling effect, just like a top, of the Earth on its axis which takes 26,000 years.  These three conditions combined create the climate patterns we have in the world.    

Once the zodiacs were back on the ship, we set sail for Ushuaia.  The plan is to arrive in the afternoon/evening of January 16 and spend our last night on the boat in port.  
We left Antarctica and in no time were in the Drake Passage-

It was easy to tell because the land disappeared and the boat started rocking from side to side.  According to the weather forecast, we should be having the same kind of weather as on the way down, which I can handle, but the crew isn't so sure.  Barf bags are everywhere-

I'm looking forward to a great sleep and NO WAKE UP CALL in the morning!