Sorry to be writing so late, but I developed some stomach issues late in the day and then fell asleep for a well deserved rest.
Where am I and why go here? I am currently in a town named Ushuaia. This town has been called “The End of the World”. The hotel is called “Hotel Albatros”. An appropriate name. More of that in a while.
We left our hotel at El Calafate at 7:30 AM and got to the airport at around 8 AM. Check in went very smooth and of course, my suitcase was overweight. The weight limit for overseas versus domestic is different. Overseas luggage is allowed to be much heavier. Boarded the plane, a jet, at 9:30 for our short 90 minute flight to Ushuaia. I immediately fell asleep as was told by another person in the group that I was playing a symphony as I slept. Always my sign for being over tired and that I was living on fumes.
Smooth sailing through the airport and when I stepped outside, I was greeted by a gust of cool fresh air. Totally different from the previous parts of Patagonia. We all boarded a big roomy bus for our ride to the hotel. The woman on the bus pointed to some close snow capped mountains and said “Chile”. There are two cruise vessels docked. One is much larger than the other. Our boat is not in port yet and will be much smaller. Our boat is a converted Russian trawler and specifically built and designed to cross “The Drake” and navigate in Antartica. We finally checked into our hotel. Our group has turned into a well oiled machine. We are all friends and care about each other. One couple is a fun couple from Mexico City. Moises and Sanda are a fun loving couple and a pleasure to be with. Moises is in his early fifties and Sand in her late forties. Moises is in the import/export business and leads workshops throughout Mexico. He is fluent in English. Sanda speaks very little English, but is learning fast. Moises asked me and some of the others if we would like to rent a van and explore the area. Sounded like a great idea since our Antartica adventure does not start until Monday afternoon. Myself, Moises, Sanda, Gwen, Daisy and Ella all settled in and first went to eat lunch.
The front desk recommended a restaurant named “El Viejo Marino”. The restaurant is across the street from the waterfront promenade or this towns version of the Malecon. The restaurant only serves fish and king crab. In the window was a large tank full of the biggest king crabs I had ever seen. The decoration was very rustic and reminded me of a restaurant in Boston called “The No Name”. Olivia and myself visited there in the mid 70’s. On the table mat was a picture of a fishing boat with the same name as the restaurant. Did not look like a coincidence. Moises ordered for us. First we were each given our own large scissors and waited for the first course over drinks. There are three local beers served here. One is named Patagonia. Makes sense. Anther is called Beagle. Darwin’s ship was named the HMS Beagle and the third beer is named Cape Horn. Cape Horn comes in a non beer looking bottle with a handle and says on it “Worlds Southernmost Beer”. The waiter brought out a huge king crab and we were each given a leg. We were told to use the scissors to cut the bone away from the meat. The meat was so sweet and tender. Next our main meals came. I had a fish called “Black Hake” except it was not black, but white and looked like haddock. It was grilled and made to perfection. On the side was a source of king crab, shrimp and scallops. Excellent. After having spoonfuls of flan, El Calafate ice cream and almond ice cream, We then walked back to the hotel to pick up the van.
Ushuaia is built on a hill going down to the waterfront. Reminds me of a small scale San Francisco. Streets are narrow. We were told that it gets totally dark after 11 and the sun rises anywhere between 4 and 5 in the morning. Moises took us for a short tour of the City, He has never been here before but did some reading and we had a garmin leading us. The Argentinian Navy has a presence here. This was the town that the lost sub sailed from recently.
Moises took us to a museum that was converted from a former prison. We found out that convicts built this town and all the streets and original buildings. The town has perfect natural barriers and no convict had every successfully escaped. The first prisoners came here in 1896 and the prison was abandoned in 1947. An eerie place and Daisy told us that it reminded her of “Dacca”. There were lots of old photos of the prisoners, their work projects and daily life. The cells were small. Half of the structure was left like it looked in 1947 when it was abandoned. Very strange. As we were leaving, there was s map of the area on the wall. I showed Moises, Sanda, and Daisy the the area in “The Drake” where we will all probably get very sick. That is where the Atlantic and Pacific meet and form a couple embracing.
Moises had a surprise for us. He took us to an ice bar. Yes, you are hearing me straight, an ice bar. You pay to enter and the entrance fee includes as much drinks as you want at the ice bar. First we were lectured on the various islands in Antartica. Shown beautiful photos of many of the islands and wildlife. The lecture was in Spanish and Moises acted as the interpreter. We were then given large parkas and mittens and lend into a large room where the temperature was between -15 and -20 celsius. Felt a little like my Yukon adventure. We were asked what we wanted to drink from the ice bar The bar was made of solid ice and we took pictures of the signs and lounges in the weirdest bar I had ever been in.
It was now back to the hotel. My stomach started to create a commotion inside and I felt it was better for me to return to my room. It was 7 PM. Fell asleep and woke up around 1 AM.
Today the six of us are meeting at 8 AM for breakfast. I do not know how much I can eat and then going to a national park named “Tierra del Fuego”. More glaciers and mountains to look at and shoot.
Getting closer to Antartica and facing the dreaded “Drake” and all its glory.