Ushuaia, Argentina

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Our last Argentinian port of call, today, 8 March, we disembarked in Ushuaia – remote and rugged, it’s the land of fire and referred to as The End of the World!  During his famous circumnavigation around the tip of the continent, Ferdinand Magellan saw huge bonfires that lit up the sky, hence his name for the island, Tierra del Fuego.

We set off through the town and made our way to the Andes Mountains beyond, where we went as far as the Garibaldi Pass to Lago Escondido “Hidden Lake”.   We enjoyed the comfort of the coach as we made our way through lush forests and spectacular mountain scenery.

Population of approx. 60,000, it’s a safe place to live.  No crime, we were told!  Plenty of jobs available as many of the big companies set up offices there; they pay no tax.

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I thought it was a lovely little picture postcard city, although I may not like it so much in the depths of winter!  Its’ beginnings go back to when it was a penal colony and, on that note, we stopped at the Ushuaia Jail and Military Prison which housed prisoners from 1902 to 1947.  It’s now a museum housing lots of interesting photos and information detailing the harsh conditions of the unfortunate convicts.

Last stop was a break for some food in the island’s winter sports area, Las Cottoras where we enjoyed empanadas, pastries, sandwiches as well as local wines, chocolate and coffee.

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A last walk around this lovely town completed our day and gave us many happy memories to take away.

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Puerto Madryn, Argentina

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Yesterday was a sea day and a chance to wind down.  Today, Sunday 4 March, we were off to see dolphins and sea lions in the icy Atlantic Ocean.

Next to the ship was a very, very long pier which we had to walk along to board an RIB – Rigid Inflatable Boat – for a ride to the Punta Loma Nature Reserve about 40 minutes away.  The Reserve was created in 1967 to protect South America’s only permanent sea lion colony and is home to about 600 sea lions.

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We were very lucky to be there at high tide, otherwise we probably would not have seen many.  As it was, the sea was very calm, the weather great and with a perfect high tide, the boat was able to position itself for plenty of photo taking opportunities of sea lions and cormorants.  The sea lions were not concerned that the boat was so close to them and were so noisy, I don’t know how anyone gets any sleep!

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On the way back, the captain looked for dolphins, but we were out of luck.  Although there seem to be plenty of dolphins in these waters, all the sightings have been some distance from the ship.

Seeing the sea lions in their natural setting was one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Hola from South America

Buenos Aires

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Here we are at last, with a 13-hour flight behind us.   We were very pleased to find that our hotel, The Intercontinental, was an excellent choice; spacious and very comfortable.  Could not speak highly enough of the staff and we would stay here again.

Buenos Aires cast its’ spell on us straight away.  No time for jet lag, we were keen to explore and when I mentioned that I was keen to try “real” tapas, the hotel provided a minivan to take us to a nearby restaurant.    We had no Spanish, the waiter had no English, but in no time, he was cooking various delicious dishes with very fresh ingredients and bringing them over for us to try.

Buenos Aires is such a city of contrasts.  Wide boulevards, old world architecture, luxury apartments and dog walkers, walking up to a dozen dogs at a time.  Tango cafes, cobblestone lanes and the widest street in the world, the Ave. 9 De Julio.  I counted 10 lanes which we walked across, but I was later told that there are 18-22 lanes!  Impossible to take a photo; groups of lanes are separated by grass strips and places for motorcycles to park.

So pleased we gave ourselves two days before boarding our cruise ship, we had time to explore a few areas if the city, including coffees at Café Tortoni.   This café is so well known and popular, they have a doorman there all the time and there is a tango show each night.

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The resting place of Eva Peron.

It might sound a bit weird to be sightseeing in a cemetery, but the Recoleta cemetery, located in an exclusive neighbourhood is a virtual city containing 6,400 architecturally diverse mausoleums including the black marble crypt of legendary Eva Peron.

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Another interesting place to visit was La Boca.  This historic district has a strong European flavor, multi-coloured houses, a vibrant street art scene and several tango cafes.

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Lovely flower sculpture.  Opens during the day and closes at night.

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This is a family home built on top of apartment block.

We loved our introduction to South America and found the people welcoming and friendly despite the language differences.  We tried the local beef and found it tender and delicious.  Interestingly, after reading online about large portions of meat being served and not given the option of how we would like the meat cooked, we found the opposite to be the case.   We also enjoyed dulce de leche, a caramel spread that is used inside sweet pastries, frosted onto cakes and was even tucked inside my churros – delicious!

Counting Down to South America

In a few days’ time we will be on our way to Buenos Aires for our trip around South America.   This is our itinerary – we will be boarding the Emerald Princess for a 30 day cruise and will disembark in Los Angeles, where we will spend a few days before flying to San Francisco for a few more, then back to LA to fly home.

It’s been far too long since our last cruise so we’re very excited.  What will Cape Horn be like, I wonder?  Of all our cruises (including around the world) we’ve never really experienced rough seas yet, so will our luck hold out once again?

Hope you will follow along and share our adventure.