Argentina is a really good country to visit, the people are friendly, the food is really good even if I miss the street food culture. I mean when you just go up to a stand or a cabin on the street, buy something you really not sure what it is and get a true taste of the country. Argentina did however counter attacked with one of the hostels guests invited me to a Asado for my last night in Puerto Iguazu.
For you who don’t know what asado is and are to lazy to click the link I will briefly call it combined barbecue with a social event. It was a long time ago I had that amount of meat and to be honest, even the morcillas was really good, at least if you ate it together with some white bread to neutralize the blood taste a bit.
Argentina has its bad sides too though. Money is as many of you know a concern with their hyper inflation (53% in September, 2019) and the money you withdrawn one day may not be worth as much the next day. Another issue related to money is how to withdraw. After a lot of research I found out that in Argentina they use two different ATM systems, “link” and “banelco”. According to Internet banelco is best for foreign cards but my sources on site tells me to use link. Either way you never really know which ATM who will work and there is no guarantee that the machine who just worked will work again. As if that would not be enough of trouble all of the ATM’s I found has a withdrawn limit of 4000 pesos which is really not a lot and with a extra bonus, a withdrawal fee on 10-15%. In total that makes it actually harder and more expensive to withdraw money than to buy something.
Next problem is the reliability. Everything here is more or less 15-20 minutes late which includes the buses and flight. A few companies has corrected this by change their schedule to actually state departure time to 15 minutes before its actually depart, the problem is that you have no idea so you still have to go there and wait. Another issue that I found yesterday when my flight was delayed/canceled was the “mañana mentality”. I like the idea to not stress out but when you have a connecting flight it would be nice with some more information than “Im pretty sure another flight will be available in the future”. So annoying and my 4h flight ended up to be 16 hours instead before I finally ended up in Puerto Madryn.
Have only strolled around a bit today and its a cozy small town. Really beautiful with the beach and rocks/cliffs into the ocean. I was hoping to see a lot of animals but no luck so far. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow. Tonight the hostel is arranging a sea food evening with locally captured sea food, I doubt I ever want to leave this place!
Animals are fun and the more wild they are, the more fun it is. Because of that I decided to head out to the peninsula Valdés for some animals watching and I did not get disappointed.
The day started with a mini bus i heavy winds towards the peninsula, the possibilities for whale safari in the wind was very low so instead we aimed for the land-based animals. The nature reminds me of a desert with some smaller bushes and grass and it didn’t take many minutes before we spotted our first Guanaco, a form of wild camel. It appears that there are plenty of those here so it wasn’t that fun after a while. A little bit further ahead a nice armadillo welcomes us, he was a bit shy though and run of into the grass before I had time to take a picture of him. The maras did however pose properly and birds, yes there was plenty of birds but I have no idea what kind of birds.
Along the coastline we stopped by and said hi to a pack of magella penguins but the big enjoyment was the sea elephants who were laying on the beach. They are just as ugly as they are fat spend their days on the beach, burping and farting all day long and just simple enjoy life. They were quite noisy men incredible fun to watch and besides that they are the orcas favorite food. Glazing all over the sea to spot one but no, they must been somewhere else today.
After lunch the wind calmed down and the whale safari was on, happiness! Roughly 10 minutes into the safari we met our first mum with a new born. New born in this case is like three months old and both the mum and the kid was curious about our boat. Fun fact, the baby whale drinks roughly 200l of milk, everyday! Think about that next time you are breastfeeding your baby! A bit later we meet a bit older southern right whale, this one was approximately around 14m tall and the biggest challenge was how to capture it on photo.
The day after (in other words, today the next phase of my trip starts. However before that I had time to do what I think has to be the weekly highlight, snorkeling with sea lions. Sea lions are like the dogs of the sea, they are curious, playful and kind a brave in groups. Here they are completely wild and they do not use food or anything else to attract the sea lions, instead you just jump into the water and they will come out to you since they are curious of what and who you are. Unfortunately no pictures from this since my camera is not waterproof but it was so fun to swim around with them, play, pet and I even got a nice, wet kiss from one of the brave animals!
Now I will embark my ship towards Antarctica and that means it will be radio silence from me for a while but do not worry, I’m having a really, really good time!
Time to leave Puerto Madryn and to embark the ship you will need to walk out on a long pier into the ocean. The feeling of walking along the pier is different, a bit like “Dead man walking” but in a good way. The sun is shining, shorts, t-shirt, flip flops and of course the backpack. I spent the whole yesterday on whale safari and this morning snorkeling with sea lions, life is simple and good! The other passengers are a bit different though, they have huge suitcases and are dressed up with the latest collection from Fjällräven and Northface. They look very questionable on me, I look very questionable on them, why dress up like you are going on a hike when we only gonna embark the ship? The ship is by the way brand new, really nice but maybe a bit big with its capacity of 170 passengers. I share my cabin with Jesper and Morten, two danish guys which are just a few years older than me and together with form a Scandinavian cabin, this gonna be awesome!
The ship depart and I’m finally on my way to fulfill a very old dream of mine. However before we even left the harbor we had the mandatory security drill so put on your life vest, grab the survival suit and find your life boat. Even if the ship only has two life boats the number of people who went to the wrong one is surprisingly many, I guess the drill is a good idea.
After that its introduction of all the guides and dinner. To make it easy this first evening we had a dinner buffet but the rest of the days we will have a 3-course dinner and breakfast and lunch buffet, I will become fat on this trip! The captain set course towards Falkland Island while we start eating and socialize, after all we are gonna share a cabin for three weeks now.
Woke up exactly 07.30 by the cracking sound in the speakers before Mikael, our restaurant/hotel manager wished us a good morning and welcomed us to the dining room for breakfast. I noticed fairly fast that the ship was rolling a bit in the high waves so there was no queue for neither breakfast or lunch. One of my roommates started to feel ill and but a quick visit to the doctor fixed that, a nice patch behind the ear and he was back to normal again. Myself didn’t noticed anything but when Jesper went to the doctor I took one pill, just in case. I mean I have already bought these pills to prevent sea sickness and its not that fun to be ill so better take one just in case.
We are now out in the middle of nowhere and the sea makes you feel small. Besides the company of a few sea birds you don’t see or hear a living thing out here, well besides a few dolphins who came by but disappeared even before I was able to bring up my camera and shoot em. In other words the day today has been really calm. We have been eating, collecting some gears like life vests (for zodiac cruising) and rubber boots, eating some more and then some lectures before we eat even more. I will be both spoiled and fat from this trip because the portions of the food is just as large as they are many and it tastes even better.
According to plan it will be at least one more whole day at sea before we reach north west of Falkland Island. Its a relaxed, calm feeling on the ship and I kind a like it, I kind a need it after my adventure in South America however it will be nice to see land again and maybe mostly, to walk a bit but if a whale or a albatross will come by I may change my mind about it.
Another morning where you were woken up by an almost annoying happy Mikael who wished you a good morning. You can easily tell that the sea is much calmer today and that your body is getting used to be on the sea since plenty of more people are awake today.
With my 40 years I belong to the youngest part here on the ship but luckily for me I am sharing the cabin with Jesper and Morten who besides are in the same age as me also has the same kind a bad humor and we are interested in the same things, nature and mammals. A lot of the other people on this trip are birders and trust me, they are going all in for it! From early morning to late evening they are standing on the deck, with binoculars and a camera which probably costs more than the trip itself just to be able to catch one tiny bird on film. After spent some time in their company I do however confess that its quite fun to try to catch the birds and whatever you say, the birders are amazing on finding the animals. how tiny they even might be.
I still haven’t seen any whales but an albatross glided pass, big distance and shaking by cold made the picture very blurry though but hopefully I get a new attempt tomorrow.
But we have been good boys today too. Before our landing on Falkland Islands we have been washing, scrubbing, vacuum cleaning over and over again. Falkland Island are really afraid of invasive arts and now you will not find even a single sand corn in neither my clothes, backpack or boots, I’m ready for the landing!
Finally we can see land again but can we actually land? A strong wind from west made it uncertain but finally the captain gave us permission and the crew started to unload the zodiacs. Meanwhile we started to change clothes but what to wear? Around 6 degrees, strong wind and high waves made it difficult to decide but now, afterwards I can tell that three layers was to much. Even if I did the mistake to forget to close the ventilation zipper on my waterproof pants, well waterproof as long as you close all the zippers. The first wave rolled in over me and splashed my groin with pure, cold water. No, it was not warm and no, it was not a nice surprise!
Once we got on shore I was greeted by a much greener island than what I was expecting. We landed on Leopard beach at Carcass island in the northwestern part of Falkland Island. The island has some residents but judging of how happy they were to see me they cant be many and I think I walked around six km to meet them. A hike with only birds, more birds and some lost gentoo penguins at my side. It was however really nice to get off the ship and to just stroll around for a bit even if the wind grow for every minute and when it was time to head back to the ship the wind was over 50 knots (25 m/s).
Our crew really had to work hard to get us all aboard safe and I’m actually impressed that they succeeded, unfortunately the wind made it impossible for us to land on West Point Island as planned but its hard to control the weather and at least I got the opportunity to move around for a while which was super nice!
The Falkland Islands contains roughly 700 islands but two are bigger and more famous than the others, the western which I visited yesterday and the east which I took today. On the east island the capital Stanley (Port Stanley) is located and with its population of 2500 its the biggest city in the country. However even if it was just here we landed I didn’t stayed for many minutes.
instead I took a tour to see some rock hopper penguins and after 1 hour of 4wd driving we arrived. The was no road to this place and the Land rover drove over rocks, through water holes, over mountains and through valleys to get there, a bit shaky tour but well worth it and once we arrived there was plenty of rock hopper and even a Macaroni penguin. They are similar but the Macaroni is a different kind and this one was just confused and lost.
It started to hail and then snow but what does it matter, the penguins was just there, hatches their eggs and looking semi interesting on us with their bushy eyebrows. A few brave one approached us while other were just walking around in the colony, they were noisy and smelly but oh gosh, so beautiful
We were running out of time but me, Morten and Jesper took a chance and convinced our driver to take us to Gypsy cove. This place is not packed with gypsies as you can think, instead the name probably come from back in the time when the people in Stanley went here camping and with all the tents…yea you understand. Today its different, during the conflict 1982 Argentina spread a lot of mines here which makes one of the nicest beaches I’ve seen impossible to use. The positive side effect us the the natural life is thriving here instead, at least that’s what they told me. I didn’t see anything except one single, frozen Magellanic penguin in the distance and running out of time we had to rush back to the zodiacs.
In the zodiacs we were welcomed back by two commerson dolphins but of course I had my camera in the bottom of my backpack.
On my way to South Georgia which means another day at sea and I start to get cabin fever, or in plain English, I’m bored!
The day started as usual with a big breakfast and was quickly followed up by a lecture about invasive arts, bio security and photo and videos, all really interesting and good but I feel a bit restless and bored. Luckily for me I have thousands of pictures from my South America trip to sort and edit plus I found some games on my computer so I will be occupied but the day has been slow and tomorrow will be the same.
One positive thing is that we saw both Orcas and Albatrosses today. I was never able to shoot the Orcas with my camera but I must say that a few pictures of the albatross become really nice but I really feel that my camera is holding me back here. I already destroyed one lens (clumsy me) and the current one is not very good for landscape. At the same time I wouldn’t wanna carry around a huge, heavy system camera so my little Nikon 1 is probably a pretty good compromise after all.
The sea is a bit more wild today and except that we passed what looked like two randomly placed rocks where is absolutely nothing here except the sea. I even saw that the radar screen was empty while I was visiting the captain on the bridge in an attempt to cure my cabin fever.
It was actually really interesting and a bit nerdy to visit the bridge and I did not understand much of all the buttons, controls and screens there but a good way to summarize it is that if you think I have a hi-tech job, do visit the bridge on a modern polar exploration ship. By pure self-preservation I successfully avoided to press any buttons even if it was tempting.
It did help but unfortunately only temporary and I am still bored to the max even if we have seen both fin-whales, humpback whales and fur seals from the ship today. In pure desperation I even activated the Internet and tried to communicate with the world for the first time in a week. Internet is available via satellite on the ship but it is expensive, really expensive. For €150 you can buy 500Mb of data which is not much but we got a 100Mb for free, just like the drug dealers who try to get you hooked. The connection was so slow and bad though that I couldn’t get neither Facebook or my email to work so I will continue to live without knowing whats happening in the world and to be honest, it feels really good!
Woke up just in time to arrive to St Andrews bay in South Georgia. Here you can find one of the largest colonies in the world of King penguins, elephant and fur seals. The weather report stated -5 C and windy but we woke up to blue sky, almost no wind at all and actually really warm and nice temperature.
Before we jumped on the zodiacs we were warned that it would be many animals on the beach but I wasn’t really prepared for it anyway. Literally it was King penguins or elephant seals wherever you looked. Its really hard to guess how many it was but according to Wikipedia there is around 150 000 penguins in this colony and my only thoughts are, I’m not sure that’s enough.
Besides being the next biggest penguin they are both handsome and social. If you took the time to sit down and just relax for a minute you were surrounded by some curios and brave penguins who wanted to check out what kind of strange person you were. The elephant seal was not that social, they pretty much just slept on the beach, burping and farting all day long. As you may understand it didn’t smell nice here and you were wandering around in a mix of penguin poo, feathers and bones and carcass, a bit disgusting but overall it was a magical good landing!
Our second stop for the day was Grytviken which was the whaling station of all whaling stations until it was abandoned during the 1960’s. Today there are only ruins left of the whaling station but there is a museum, a church and a small shop for souvenirs. There is no permanent residents but during summer the museum is open and some researchers are staying here.
This landing was more about history than looking at nature. Interesting and kind a tragically to see how the whaling industry actually became a industry but for me who loves old abandoned buildings it was like heaven to just stroll around, see the old rusty ship wrecks, buildings and the bones from the old, butchered whales.
Since our goal is Antarctica we took a stroll up to the graveyard and at Ernest Shackletons grave we took a toast for him and once we were back on the ship glühwein and a barbecue was waiting, I promise, I’m not bored anymore!
Still at South Georgia we decided that today we will visit Calisbury plain. A landing which probably was the easiest on this trip so far and once on the beach we saw a long beach filld with elephant seals and behind the beach a plain filled with King penguins and yes, even more penguins.
I tried to actually think through my pictures today like using the nature as framing and using focus to get more interesting pictures but well, that didn’t work out very well and lets just say that me and my camera are not always friends.
The afternoon was supposed to be on Prion Island but heavy wind simply stopped that so we had to go for the backup plan, Fortuna bay. The beach is pretty small but surrounded by high mountain peaks and glaciers. Since the beach is small we were split up in different groups so while first group was on the beach the other one took a zodiac tour and looked at the nature and icebergs from the seaside. There was plenty of penguins, seals and birds but what took my focus and impressed me mostly was the icebergs. Crazy big, completely free from dirt or pollution and with a almost magical blue color. The blue color shows that the ice is really old and has no air in it anymore and the absence of dirt and pollution hints you that these one comes from Antarctica, I’m closing in on my goal!
In the evening a representative from South Georgia government thanked us for good cooperation and stated that we were 100% free of rats. Apparently they had walked through the ship with special trained dogs to find rats while we were on the beach. We also managed the bio security with a score of 97%. That’s the best result this year and we are actually the first ship this year who of all cruise-ships that passed the test. I guess that was the explanation why our staff was so rigorous about the bio security and we had to vacuum clean, wash, vacuum clean all our clothes, they are really, really scared of invasive species here.
A nice breeze and drizzle which switched to snow welcomed us to Gold Harbour, a relative small beach surrounded by glaciers and contains one of the largest populations of seal elephants.
A kind a odd but pleasant problem which occurred when we were trying to land was that it was to many animals on the beach. How are we supposed to get on shore without accidentally step on a seal? Our guides did a superb job though and within a few minutes we had a nice course sick sacking over the beach. These seal elephants are huge and a adult male may grow up to four ton, they are noisy and try to be even bigger to protect their harem and as a last resort, they may go to attack. Full speed ahead and nothing will stop them and trust me, you do not want to be in their way!
Normally they just sound really loud and they try to avoid fighting because it takes to much energy but sometimes, kind a rarely according to our guides they do and we were on the front row. Two fully grown males, roughly 4 ton each raise up and charge against each other. We were just standing there, exalted and looking at the fight while the guides started to be worried about our security
Back on M/V Hondius we aimed towards Cooper bay but the weather wasn’t with us today and the landing had to be canceled. Instead we had some more lectures and this time about seal elephants and penguins and I must say that with a wind of 25 m/s and snow it was quite nice to stay inside
In a few weeks it will be impossible to land here at Prion Island because there will be to many animals on the beach. Right now it is possible but the smell is disgusting and there are fur seals everywhere, filled with testosterone which makes them kind a aggressive while they try to get their own territory. Our goal was not the beach though so by carefully walked pass them we succeeded to land.
Our goal was a viewpoint a bit further in on the island with the hope of seeing nesting wandering albatrosses. I didn’t nee any nesting but I did see two big, fluffy you birds and while I was admiring them their mum flew just over my head, magical for sure! For you who doesn’t know it the wandering albatross is our planets biggest bird (wingspan) which is somewhere between 3 to 3.5 meters.
The afternoon also got its excitement. We planned to take a zodiac tour at Elsehul however once we opened the side doors which we normally use to get aboard the zodiacs we waves were smashing in. To big risk for injury or that someone will fall overboard so that didn’t work out but instead of canceling the tour the staff built a stairway on the outside of the ship and slightly delayed we were on our way. While we enjoyed more albatrosses, penguins and even a leopard seal the staff at M/V Hondius was pumping out the water from the ship which entered during our first failed launch
The only thing that wasn’t good was the weather. Really gray and foggy which I though only appeared in Sweden during November made it more or less impossible to get any nice pictures so I rather quick decided to put my camera in the bag and just enjoy the moment instead.
Our plan was to go by South Orkney Islands however they are apparently still surrounded by pack ice so we need to change our plans. Instead we aim for South Shetland Island, more exact Elephant Island . The Majority of the islands are still covered/surrounded by pack ice so lets see what happens but at least we got a plan, it s however at least 2.5 days of traveling before we arrive but hopefully we can land there.
Our expeditions leader, captain and the rest of the crew is doing an amazing job and its just to look at the number of landings we did at South Georgia as a proof of it. Many of the landings were in rough weather but with a tight crew and a lot of willpower everything is possible. Im both super impressed and grateful for it.
Lectures about animals, nature and history with some breaks for food and photo/video editing makes the days passing by surprisingly quick and tonight they crew arranged a charity auction for South Georgia rat eradiction program. Bill (the author of daily cartoons) is one of the guides who took the presenter role and hi was like born for this. Mixing jokes with stories, chasing and sometimes almost forcing people to bid which made it felt more like a stand up comedy show than a auction.
The items for the auction was not much to have but it was for a good reason and to make sure that the rats doesn’t return to South Georgia and you could clearly notice that we passengers had a bit different budget, for example the Oceanwide flag went for over €600. In total we collected over €2200 which is a good start but they do need more money!
Another day at the sea without much news so I thought I could give you some info about the ship instead.
M/V Hondius is brand new and this is her first trip to the Antarctica. The ship can handle 170 passengers and is simply built for polar expeditions and is classified with polar class 6. That doesn’t mean she is a icebreaker, its just means that she has some features from other ships like reinforced and isolated hull so it can handle some ice but it cant climb up and crack ice like an icebreaker. Polar class 6 also demand that we have some more spare parts than you normally have, for example every passenger got their own life west and survival suite, the ship has extra many and strong search light and so on. The ship has two life boats who each take 100 persons and please, don’t ask me how because they look really tiny. It also has 4 life rafts which is nice but in case of emergency, I choose one of the life boats!
The ship has two engines who generates 4200 Kw and if they brake down we have two spare engines. The march speed is 12 knots but if you run both engines it is possible to get it up to 15 knots.
In the lower decks there is huge amount of food stored. Accordingly to the head chef we will eat 15 000 portions of food during this trip and of course we have food for more days, in case of something happens. Even so the chef decides from day to day what the dinner should be which is pretty impressive! Water is another thing which we spend a lot, the ship can create 60 ton of fresh water per day, it doesn’t tastes good but its really nice that all water on the ship is drinkable and that you doesn’t have to bother with plastic bottles.
For more information, check out Oceanwides website with some detailed facts about the ships and of courses, tours if you are interested
The day started in the best possible way when I dazed and confused had my morning coffee and tried to wake up noticed that we had company of a pack of killer whales. I should have learned now to always bring my camera but I haven’t and I thought that if I run down to grab it I will miss them, now afterwards I know I had time to get the camera but well well.
The sea is probably filled with Krill here because it was a lot of penguins in the water and of course, the killer whales who were practicing on hunting together. Really, I mean really cool to see and they stayed around the ship during my whole breakfast. Later on we had to stop the engines for a short maintenance job and at that time a minke whale and a dwarf minke whale decided to visit us. Feels almost like it was planned since our service stop but still, it is wild animals and apparently the dwarf minke is really rare to see. This time I had my camera but the pictures only show the reflections of the sun in the water.
We have now passed latitude 60S and are officially in Antarctica. South Orkney Islands had to be canceled because of the pack ice and instead we went to Point Wild, Elephant island. This is a really inhospitable place with just rocks and cliffs, snow, ice and nothing to stop the wind between here and south america. Interesting story though is that it was just here that Shackleton’s men took cover when their ship Endurance sank. Shackleton took a life boat and headed north towards South Georgia to get help while the majority of his men stayed here. It is almost the same trip as we came by but in opposite direction and for us it took 2 days, for Shackleton it took 17 days. He did however succeed and after 4 months his men could be saved from Elephant Island.
Today there is a monument to remember this incredible story on the site, of the captain who actually saved the men but besides that its nothing more than rocks, ice and a whole lot of penguins. To survive here for four months is unbelievable and I think I would maybe handle a week, at most.
But a giant leap for me, first landing on Antarctica! The place was Brown Bluff and to get to the rocky shore we had to navigate our zodiacs around big icebergs while Adelie penguin were casual looking at us.
Once on the shore there was plenty of ice, snow and penguins! I have now succeeded to see 7 of the 8 different penguin species in Antarctica region, I only have the majestic Emperor penguin left.
There are more people than me who has the Emperor on their highest wish list and I was both surprised and happy when our plan for the day was revealed. Once after our landing at Brown Bluff we set our course south, towards Weddel sea. A tour that took us straight into the pack ice, close to everything from small to huge ice bergs where I estimated the biggest was around 1 km². We didn’t try to drive through that one but besides that our captain is a bad ass and the ice has to get out of our way or we run over it. Its really hard to get a grip of the size of the icebergs but the bigger ones are really huge and its easy to believe that its islands you see, not floating icebergs and the biggest one, B-15 was even bigger than Jamaica when it broke loss from the ice shelf. Now its a bit smaller, just like the size of Luxembourg.
Once we reached the Weddel sea it was really calm, the ice was was hardly no waves at all, instead you could use the sea as a mirror but unfortunately a heavy fog arrived which is not optimal if you are trying to spot animals. A few hours later and it even started to snow I realized that I will only see 7/8.
The feeling of being in the exclusive group of people who actually set their foot on Antarctica hasn’t really landed yet but the feeling of standing in front of the bow, looking out over an frozen sea while the only sound you hear is when the hull reluctantly forces the ice out of its way was overwhelming, I am a very lucky person who see and experience this
Just as we arrived to Deception Island the wind increased but we managed to get inside. Inside in this case means that we navigated ourselves trough a narrow passage into the middle of the island, the island is hollow. The explanation for this is simple, its an volcano. Sure its still an active volcano but it was almost 50 years ago it erupted last time so I think its safe.
What we did was simple sailed into the crater, with the surrounded rocks we had pretty good cover from the wind but most importantly the swell and I was really looking forward for a landing which got canceled. The wind was just increasing and with a wind speed at 36 m/s we didn’t have much of a choice. Even if the entrance to this crater is narrow the crater itself is just like everything else here, huge. According to Wikipedia the crater is 9×6 km. If you dig on the beach hot water will start trickle and this place has been used for many years as a save harbor and a good place for taking a swim or just clean yourself. Sure its cold in the sea but by just digging a bit you get hot water from the spring below.
Well that was nothing we could enjoy, instead we started to sail south again and it was a bit of a roller coaster. The whole ship was splashed in water when we dived into the waves and it didn’t took many minutes before the whole ship was covered in ice. Of course they closed down the deck so we were not allowed to go outside which felt a bit unnecessary, I mean who want to go out in freezing cold and it would be impossible to remain on the deck? Well the good thing is that I didn’t become sea sick and as we all know, after a big storm sunshine will come!
I woke up to a Antarctica who showed its best side today. The sea was calm, the sky was blue while we sailed up Gerlache strait which is beautiful with its snowy high mountain peaks, wall of ice and glaciers. Our goal was Cuverville Island and their colony of Gentoo penguins.
Once we arrived we had to put on the snow shoes before we could start walking around, enjoying the nature and the animals. We also took a zodiac tour and besides impressing icebergs and ice formations we succeeded to see both Weddel seal, Crabeater seal and Leopard seal. Fun fact is that the Crabeater actually doesn’t eat any crabs, it eats krill but I guess that is what happen when you name something after how it looks only.
After lunch we went to Neco Bay, more icebergs, penguins and seals. My attention was however more on the glaciers who got a totally amazing blue color in the sunlight. They start far away inland and stretch all the way into the ocean and suddenly you hear a loud crack, bang and a following grumble, then you know that a new iceberg has been created.
The water is crystal clear, around zero degrees Celsius but that didn’t stop a few of us brave ones from taking a plunge. It was cold but not as cold as I thought it would be and with a good timing for my time to get into the water some penguins appeared. Totally a memory for life but I’m not sure if it counts as “I have swum with penguins”? Back at the ship the crew offered us some hot chocolate with rum, a really nice ending of a really nice day
You don’t believe me? Well some other passengers were actually documenting it so feel free to see for your self.
The wind grow stronger and its started to snow again but this is how it is here. One minute it can be really sunny and warm and suddenly it all change and it gets freezing cold. Today it was around -4 Celsius which doesn’t sound so bad but with the wind it is really freezing cold and not very fun to be outside.
That doesn’t stop us and we took a trip to Paradise Bay and visited an Argentinian “research station”. It was with purpose I put the quote mark around it because there were no researchers there, they are only here during summer and we are a bit to early right now. Also, there hasn’t been published any reports or data from this station which makes at least me think about how much research they really do here. Instead I think that they simply use this station to mark there interest and claim in the region but what do I know.
Paradise Bay was not a paradise today though, it was as I mentioned both cold, windy and snowy but its still fun to stroll around in the snow and stretch your legs and its even better to get back inside later on.
Close by there is Orne Island which was our last stop on Antarctica. The location is if possible even more inhospitable, super exposed with no protection from the wind at all and between the sea and the shore there was a huge ice wall which you had to climb over. Luckily for us our guides were pretty quick into digging some small steps which I think made sure that not any of the passengers fell into the water. Once on shore there wasn’t really much to see. The snow was blasted by the wind and in the horizon you can see icebergs and glaciers. There is however a colony of chinstrap penguins here and even if I seen them before this time we got really close to them and that alone made the whole landing worth it
On my way back to M/V Hondius the waves were rolling in, over the zodiac and once onboard I was both soaking wet and freezing cold, here a big, warm shower was waiting for me and that is more than the earlier polar explorers had.
We have turned north again and even if its almost three days of sailing before we reach Ushuaia it feels like I already has checked out. The crew do what they can to keep us occupied and the birders are of course on deck, trying to spot even more birds but I feel that its kind a over now. Instead I spend most of my time in the lounge, playing cards, talking to all the nice people on the ship and drink a lot of tea.
When I booked the trip I had a feeling that the average age would be quite high but I would never guessed 69 as it is. The oldest, a lady from Netherlands were 87 and that is just as crazy as cool. And yes, she did all the landings and all the stuff that we other did. Lucky for me we are a gang of younger people too, even if we are not any youngsters.
In the sunset we arrived to Drakes passage which is pretty famous for its rough weather and water. To the west of us there in a hurricane and to the east of us there is an storm, however where we are it is really calm. I would say Drake the lake but we did try to play Jenga but the tower collapsed before we even started to play so maybe not calm as a lake but still, its not living up to its reputation!
The passage through Drake passage continued to be calm and we even arrived before schedule which made it possible for us to take a drive around Staten Island. More penguins, birds and rocks which I kind a feel I already seen enough of. I would rather take a trip to Cape Horn but Chile refuse to let us enter their water. As I understood it and it may be completely wrong it wouldn’t be any problem to enter Chilean water if our captain was from Chile or if we had embarked in Chile. Neither of that is true for us since our captain is Russian and we embarked in Argentina so nope, we were simple not welcome. Even if we arrived before schedule we cannot enter Ushuaia earlier, our pilot will arrive at 01.00 so we had to spend the day watching birds and just relaxing while the evening was a bit more exciting-
We started with making a toast together with the captain and acknowledgment the crew. George (our photo/video guide) had spent some time and edited together a short video using video clips we passengers had taken during the trip and Neill (our photo guide) had put together a nice slideshow of his favorite pictures from the trip. Of course we got an copy of it which you can see below.
The clock was ticking and the older people went to bed one after another while we “youngsters” stayed up late, having some drinks and discussed what to do now and best/worst part of the trip. One thing that we all agreed on was that it has been an incredible, amazing trip bit I have problem putting words on it, I don’t think I processed all my experiences from the last month yet.
Full of impressions after my trip to Antartica (which will get a own chapter) I am now back in Buenos Aires for a couple of days relaxing and exploring the city. I have spent some time here before and at that time I visited a couple of the tourist attractions you should do, like Cementerio de la Recoleta. A fancy graveyard, more like a necropolis where for example Evita is buried. Myself was more interested of seeing the necropolis though and one mausoleum is greater than the other one. Some of them even have glass or are open so you can see the coffins, a bit creepy but for sure real interesting to see and overall, very beautiful.
I also visited La boca before my trip to Antartica. Earlier this was a rough neighborhood probably mot famous for being the birthplace of tango but added some paint and KABOOM, now its a huge tourist magnet. No, I didn’t dance any tango and I didn’t pose on the balcony like all other tourists, instead I had a beer and looked on all the people of the streets, the houses, felt the atmosphere while chewing on a choripan, a sort of hot dog.
Today it instead was a tour to reserva ecologica, a marshy land which was built by the Argentinean military government a long time ago and today is a popular recreation area. You can bike, run, bird watch or just sit down at the shore to Rio de la Plata. Apparently there is supposed to be over 300 different species of birds here but I’m not a birder so I enjoyed the sun and the nature instead.
I also found ARA Uruguay today, the corvette which both saved the life and the expedition for Nordenskiöld. A story about a Antarctic expedition in the early twenty-century there most things went wrong but still has a happy ending, at least until a bus made sure that this is the end for Nordenskiölds adventures on a street back in Gothenburg.
The lunch today was meat buffet, no I’m not kidding. It was really a buffet with a big table of salad (who cares) and a barbecue with two or maybe three chefs there you simple handed over your plate and said which pieces you wanted. A problem for me who doesn’t speak Spanish but luckily they had pictures of both a cow and a pig with the name of the different parts, pretty clever and a real good deal for me! Maybe not a surprise I’m not back at the hostel, having meat-sweats and cant move but gosh it was worth it!
The idea of taking it calm and easy had to be held back in favor of exploring the river delta along Rio de la Plata. A bus trip later, changing to train which felt like taking forever but in reality was close to 1.5 hours only I arrived to the outskirts of Buenos Aires, in Tigre.
Of course it started to rain just as I arrived and my rain coat, yes that one I left at the hostel to minimize my luggage. It didnt stop me though from jumping on a catamaran to see the delta and luckily for me there was roof on the ship. The river/rivers had a brown, kind a nasty color but that didn’t stop the local from taking a swim and me who were expecting some sort of wilderness was a bit surprised that almost everything was exploited and there was housed everywhere. Piers and small summer houses everywhere and one was fancier than the other, I guess this is like what the archipelago is for people who live in Stockholm, a perfect getaway during the hot summer days. The other thing that makes me think is the amount of shipwrecks along the shore. At least from distance it looks like they are cleaned from everything that might have a value which would mean its not a environmental disaster but still a huge contrast toward the nice houses on the island on the opposite of the river. I like the mix but it is kind a odd for sure.
After checking Google Maps I decided to only take the train halfway back home and walk along the shoreline in some nice parks. A really good idea however these parks were not open for the public. Instead it was one park for the police, one for the navy and so on. Instead of a nice walk in the park I had to stroll between the highway and the barbed wire fence to the park, not what I had in mind but an experience for sure and I even met some local under a highway bridge. Homeless people is pretty usual to see here but these were just as happy and surprised to see me in their territory while they were making tea, wise from the story about the three billy goats gruff I however did not stop and had a chat with them, who knows how that would end!
Just as a coincidence I also reached Tierra Santa, a form of artificial Jerusalem in the middle of Buenons Aires. Everything here is plastic and made up, even the palm trees who actually grow wild in the city and yea, Im not really sure what this park is about. Unfortunately for me it is only open between Thursday and Sundays so I couldn’t enter and enjoy the spectacle but the small parts I saw while looking over the fences was really super tacky.
The end of my journey is getting close but first I have to visit the part of the city which everybody recommends me to go to, Palermo. Palermo is big and splitted up in several smallen districts like Hollywood and Soho where there is hipsters everywhere and the next bar if fancier than the other.
It feels a bit to come to a bigger version of Södermalm, Stockhom. Everybody compete about being different and unique without pushing the limits to far so you become weird. It just feels fake and very superficial but at the same time its nice to go from bar to bar and use one of the rooftops for a nice view and good beer. There are also a few really nice parks here like for example Parque Tres de Febrero which probably is one of the best parks ever to use for an date with its rose garden or the Japanese garden which in contrast to its cousin in Paraguay actually is a garden which makes me feel that I really like the area, just like Södermalm.
The evening was finished like an beer evening should be finished, with pizza. This time however it was different since I for the first time tried a vegan pizza. The bread and the tomato sauce was really good however the cheese substitute made of tofu was, different…to be nice.
To try to summarize my experience of Buenos Aires is hard, its a huge city which for sure has something for everybody. The Italian influence is strong but English works pretty good, it do however help if you speak Spanish. The security is good and I never felt unsafe anywhere in the city but at the same time, that is my experience of all of south america on this trip. I think the best way to describe the city is like a mix of New York and Barcelona, big, chaotic and totally, totally amazing
Whatever you want everything has an end and Im right now at the aiport for going back to the reality.
It has been some busy months here so in one kind of way it will be nice to go back to the ordinary routine with work – eat – sleep and then repeat but if it was possible I would grab my backpack and just continoue, but in a slower tempo since my brain is almost exploding of everything Ive seen and experienced.
In total I’ve seen two of the seven modern wonders of the world (Christ the Redeemer and Macchu Picchu) and two of the natural wonders of the world (Amazon and Iguazu Falls). It has plenty if nights at hostels, some luxury and top 3 of places I ever slept at while other has been real dump. I have been flying, rolling by train, I’ve been standing in the bow of the ferries and Ive been traveling by bus, a lot of time on buses. I knew before I left that the distances will be big but I couldn’t really imaging how big south america is and how long time all traveling actually take!
I have been eating like a king, even if that includes that I tried to eat both termites and guinea pig. I experienced a president election and the following riots, just as it is expected to be in a latin american country. I was introduced to the famous south american hospitality when I was invited to an Asado even if my Spanish is just as bad as their English was. I drank Caipirinha on the Copacabana beach, drove motorbike through the salt desert, hiking in the mountains and been eaten by mosquitoes in the jungle.
I have experienced pretty everything which I was hoping for plus more and met new friends from all around the world. It is a fact that people are more social and open here compared to us from northern Europe but that it should be so dangerous here, that’s just not true as long as you use your common sense!