Friday, December 31, 2010

Argentina, Last Day In Ushuaia


A AR$12 cab ride back to Hotel Las Lengas and my one bag is carried to the lobby for delivery to Cabin 314 on the Ioeffe. Unfortunately, Peter and I will not be sharing the same cabin on the ship.

However, Operation Antarctica will soon begin and nothing will come between us. What is Peter without Pan, Cake without Ice Cream or Ebony without Ivory?

After a shower, we begin our last minute packing and preparation for crossing the Drake Passage later this evening. Peter has some medication “a patch” that he thinks I should try. Why not?






CAN 074 Our preparation done, we head downstairs for a nice free breakfast.

Here the lounge gives us nice views of Ushuaia ’s waterfront.






SAM 002 A delicious sampling of cakes, pastries, fruits, juices and hot tea but sadly no empanadas.





We both take some time to get caught up on last minute emails. Afterward, we browse the Drake Passage weather at:



Drake Weather Our novice analysis tells us our crossing will not be too bad. We are seeing more greens than orange or reds.





Cautioned the night before to bring any fragile and important items like beer, wine or whiskey in our carry on bags, a stop is planned at the local grocery store on our way to the port.

There are no typical cruise ship restrictions or searches during the boarding process.





At the local grocery store Peter and I take turns watching each other backpacks outside the store as we shop for our personal preferences.

With smiling faces and building excitement our backpacks are a little heavier as we continue making steps to our rendezvous point just outside Puerto Ushuaia.

“Don, must we turn here?”


SAM 003 “No, it is one more block then down the hill from Avenida St. Martin.”






This is where our fellow passengers have gathered as a group of buses patiently wait to take us to the Akademik Ioffe.



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Argentina, Operation Ioffe


Surprising myself, I am up at 6am for Operation Ioffe. No coffee and donuts for this crack team of covert operators. Checking our equipment, we take a few test shots from the grassy knoll outside our hotel and decide that being closer is going to be better.


CAN 047 Not much of the town is awake as we stroll down to the waterfront.

It is chilly and we will both be glad when the sun gets higher in the southern sky.





CAN 048 Agent 0.000007




CAN 043 Against a gray seascape our target appears as a small white box in the distance.

I fire off some long distance shots and don't like the results.



I think we are going to have to use a multi shot approach if this is going to be a successful mission. We are also going to need some video but I don't think our footage is going to make us famous.



CAN 045 It seems the ship is hardly moving but it slowly grows bigger and bigger.







CAN 053 Ioffe Docked




CAN 072 We click away and then change our positions as the Akademik Ioffe berths in Ushuaia.

I think our multi shot approach has worked.




I wonder how long it will take others to figure out that there was a second camera!




CAN 069 Akademik Ioffe In Ushuaia, Argentina



We now have about an hour and a half before we must check out. Peter needs to take a “dulche” (shower) and I need to make plans for the rest of the day. I head to Puerto Ushuaia, Peter back to the hotel.

Hoping to take a Parque Nacional tour I am disappointed when I learn from one of the guides at Navegacion Canal Beagle that only a tour to the nearby lakes is available.

It is just as well as I could use the rest of my free time to relax a bit before almost eleven days at sea.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Argentina, Dining In Ushuaia


After a  successful rendezvous with my temporary roommate, Peter, we headed back down Avenida San Martin discussing dinner options.



Irish Bar Although the Irish Bar was our original meeting point it is quickly cast aside as an option.


We are in search of good local fare.



The aroma flowing from some restaurants along the Avenida makes this challenging but we soon narrow down our choices. Window shopping, we spot an open charcoal pit grill surrounded by various meats including full split animals dripping with flavorful juices. That seals the deal for us.



SAM 025 At the corner of Avenida San Martin and Gdor Gogoy we step into a very crowded and busy RM Moustaccho.





Although filled primarily with tourists this is an almost foolproof sign that we are in for a good dining experience.



Moustacchio A few minutes wait and we are soon perusing the wine list. For me, the choice is easy, not red or white. 

I want “almost”  the finest bottle of “Vino del Fin del Mundo”.




End Of World Wine For AR$32 per bottle, Postales Del Fin Del Mundo from Patagonia, Argentina fits the bill.

Peter also wants a bottle of water. He asks, “Is with gas, OK?” 

For his benefit, I agree as I usually have no need for additional gas. I guess it's a European thing.






SAM 019 Appetizers



For starters Peter has a salad and I select an order of small fried fish. My order of small fried fish turns into a plate piled mile high with a large portion of a “sardine” type fish with lemon wedges. No way I am going to eat all of them and a main course as well. Adding lemon juice, I fish one of them from my plate, then another, then another as I start having vision problems, again!



SAM 022 Our main courses arrive, a steak for Peter with potatoes, a mix meat skewer for me with vegetables and papas fritas.




Good conversation, trying to solve the world's problems while sipping the finest “Vino del Fin del Mundo” and we are enjoying ourselves at Moustaccho.

In my peripheral vision I notice what I perceive to be a few men in black and white watching us from a distance. Focusing on the situation, I quickly realize that the restaurant is completely emptied of customers except for two guys. One from Germany, one from America.

AR$250, about US$60 including tips and we “politely kick” ourselves out of Moustaccho after a nice dining experience.

It's past 11:30pm as we begin our walk back to Hotel Las Lengas. While we are both excited about sailing for Antarctica tomorrow afternoon, Peter's enthusiasm is raising an eye brow.

“Don, we must get up early tomorrow. The Ioffe arrives between 6 and 7am, I want pictures”. It is already almost tomorrow and I am certainly not a morning person.

However,  if this team is going to work like Starsky and Hutch or Gin and Tonic then I must compromise.



SAM 027 We finally arrive back at Hotel Las Lengas.

More conversations and logistic planning for our early morning and it’s almost 2am!




Good night Peter, Good night Don Boy.


Argentina, East Meets West



It is the afternoon before I sail to Antarctica and a prearranged room awaits me at Hotel Las Lengas which is on my way back into town.



SAM 027 Slight detours through the western neighborhoods of Ushuaia for sightseeing and I eventually end up there.





My room is a shared double and my so far unknown roommate has already checked in. Stepping into Room 203, I immediately feel like I have under packed for my trip.

There are two large suitcases in the room along with a computer and a fair amount of camera equipment.




Peter, returns to the room and introductions are made. I can tell I am going to like hanging out with this guy from the former GDR, East Germany.

At 6:30pm we head down stairs for our pre-trip briefing and then agree to meet up in town for dinner at 9pm. Since neither one of us is all that familiar with downtown Ushuaia I suggest (with an ulterior motive) the “only” Irish Bar in town on San Martin as our meeting point. Peter suggests the intersection of San Martin and 9 de Julio near the rental car office as a backup.

Returning my car a few minutes early, I have time for another walk around this quaint town then peek into the Irish Bar looking for Peter before stepping inside next door at a Panaderia.



Medialuna Rows and rows of my new love are waiting for me. AR$4 and three of us have a nice reunion. Still a bit flaky but glazed and sprinkled with coconut.

How can I not be in love?



9pm comes and still no Peter. I wait a few more minutes then retrace my steps down San Martin. “Peter, Peter”, I call from a distance as I see him standing somewhat confused near the intersection of 9 de Julio.

Looking up 9 de Julio the reason for Peter's confusion becomes clear. There's an Irish Bar on 9 de Julio and Peter was told by a local it was also the “only” Irish Bar in town. I am glad the cold war is over because I don't think neither Peter or I would be good spies.

Did you say Checkpoint Charlie or Bravo?




Irish BarIrish Bar On Avenida San Martin with Panaderia next door!



Monday, December 27, 2010

Argentina, An Afternoon In Ushuaia


Having spent the morning in quest of reaching Martial Glacier and falling short, I set out on a drive to explore a bit more of Ushuaia.



CAN 033 Leaving Martial Glacier, I find Highway 3 headed to Parque National.





The black top road soon turns into one that is compact gravel. The mountains surrounding the city are on my right and in the distance the Ushuaia 's coastline on the left.

The early morning and afternoon showers are long gone and nothing remains except sunshine and clear blue skies.



CAN 036 Although, I have no plans to be taken for a ride, I make a stop at Tren Del Fin Del Mundo.






I had already been warned by my guide from a boat tour that the train is not worthwhile and I now tend to agree. The train makes a semi-circle loop towards the National Park (which is an additional AR$65 entrance fee) and provides views that you can get on your own. The train fee ranges from AR$130-300 about US$32-75.




CAN 035 Tren Del Fin Del Mundo



Inside the main building there is a gift and coffee shop. There are also some historical artifacts on display which are nice to see.

Like a few other venues here much is made of “El Fin del Mundo” and Tren Del Fin Del Mundo is no exception.

Just down the road is El Parque National. Unfortunately, at the entrance toll booth only pesos are accepted. With mostly dollars in my pocket, I do a u-turn.

I am later told it is better to visit the park as a part of a small tour group if you are short on time. Most tours are AR$130-160 and I believe include the park's entrance fee.



CAN 038 Different views of the local mountains as I head back into town still makes the drive fun.








CAN 041 Local Golf Course, Fore!




Sunday, December 26, 2010

Argentina, Martial Glacier


With short nights, daylight comes creeping through my window too early for me to welcome it. The comfort of a warm bed adds to my resistance and it is well pass 8am before I barely rise.

Plans for an early morning “free” entrance to the National Park are crushed.

I must check out of Hosteria Chalp and do so after a nice steaming shower that puts some “shine” into my morning. It is about 11am as I am packing up my rental car while rearranging in my head possible plans for the day.

There is a noticeable change in the wind and temperature from yesterday. A light snow with huge wet flakes soon begins to fall and a gray fog reduces the visibility considerably.

I briefly enjoy the moment and then take refuge inside my “Ka”. Uncertain of the effect of this weather on driving conditions, I patiently wait for the snow shower to end.



CAN 001 I gladly accept the sun's return and set out for Martial Glacier. A short drive through town and I am climbing a twisting road lined on both sides with lush green vegetation.





CAN 002 Glacier Drive Views



A clear view of towering mountains against a now bright blue sky opens up before me. Here is where the hundred dollar a night and up resorts in Ushuaia are located.

Rounding a curve I don't know if it is because I am hypnotized by the scenery but I come within inches of a taxi racing down the hill. Obviously, he has seen the scenery too many times to still be captivated by it.



CAN 004 Parked at the base of a ski resort, I begin my hike to Martial Glacier already with an elevated view of Ushuaia behind me.





Encountering a couple of hikers on the way down, “Hola's” are exchanged then I inquiry about the length of the hike to the glacier.

“Dos horas”, two hours.

Maybe not too bad except it begins with a rather steep rocky climb. From another hiker I learn the glacier is not that visible today.



CAN 003 Already, it seems to me that no matter the time it takes or the conditions my hike to the glacier will be worthwhile.




Spectacular scenery with smooth faced towering mountains on both sides, brilliant white snow cap jagged ones in front along with the altitude and my breathe is literally taken away.

I make momentary stops under the warming sun to be awed and inspired as I allow my breathing to return to normal.



CAN 007 Reaching a ski chair platform, the terrain flattens a little as water from fresh melting snow cascades over smooth pebbles and giant rocks.

A relaxing sound.



Pass the ski chair, an “easy” climb is made through a wooden area where the path is muddy from recent rains. This path does have a low grade with natural and man made steps to help you along the way. Exiting the wooded area puts me in a wide open valley.



CAN 009 The mountains seem so close that I can reach out and touch them.

However, I must make a slight descent and cross a stream to continue on.






CAN 013 Mountain Stream




CAN 018 Now in an elevated deep valley I have even better views of Ushuaia and the port area below.





I watch for a moment while a westerly storm blankets the city with an afternoon rain shower. Here there are blue skies with the sun attempting to warm the chilled air.



CAN 015 As I continue my hike the terrain becomes more treacherous and the way less defined.






CAN 017 The path to the glacier makes a steep ascent and I can see “ants” moving around on the slopes in the distance.





Soon finding good footing becomes a matter of choosing careful steps. At some points, only a blunt rock may save you if you slip and fall. With the higher altitude comes more awe inspiring views that I use as an opportunity to catch my breathe.




CAN 027 Top View


Around each corner and over each hill I think I am getting closer to my destination but it seems to keep moving further away.



CAN 026 Others more equipped and able pass me by as I find myself having to take in more awe inspiring views.





SAM 003 I am not sure of my altitude but I don’t think I have ever hiked this high before in such mountainous terrain.






At the point that the terrain becomes uncomfortable for me, I reach my personal summit but never the glacier. Seeing the glacier would have been the “icing on the cake” but I am more than satisfied just having a few crumbs.



SAM 005 Looking down, I realize my initial descent will be just as challenging as my ascent.

Fortunately, others are climbing up and I will have idea of where a good trail might be.



At certain points, I side step like a horse on the loose gravel beneath my feet. Eventually, I am sitting by a stream reflecting on how fortunate I am to have spent an afternoon hiking a beautiful mountain in Argentina.






Saturday, December 25, 2010

Argentina, Local Cuisine In Ushuaia


On the way back to Hosteria Chalp I stop at a local “Take A Way” restaurant that is filling the air with the mouth watering sweet scent of an outdoor barbeque grill. My eyes are growing as I order a “sampling” of chicken, beef and vegetables.

I don't think my translation of “sampling” or “pequeno” worked really well or they were looking at the size of my eyes as I ended up with some huge portions. For about US$10, I have enough food to feed a small army.




SAM 001 Back in my room, the feasting begins




SAM 002 The grilled chicken is moist with a sweet orange flavor.

The  “Colonel” should be put on notice. He now has some “finger lickin” competition.





SAM 003 The beef turns out to be a bit of a disappointment as it is not as tender as I would expect.

The skin has a flavorful salty sweet taste but has the texture of beef jerky.




The vegetables are a pickled mix of carrots, cauliflower, peppers and from what I can gather other local vegetables. Somewhere in the combination there are pieces of a melon type fruit.

A Calafate Ale, Cerveza Austral makes sure my meats and vegetables reach their temporary destination. I fall asleep trying to determine how I can keep my eyes from growing as big as my stomach.




Argentina, Car Rental In Ushuaia



SAM 014 Returning from a fantastic tour of Beagle Canal, I make some inquires about a rental car for tomorrow.





I find myself at Cinco Estrellas (5 Star) Rent A Car on 9 de Julio 128 where I can get a car for AR$230 a day, about US$60. My plan is to visit the National Park and some other areas around Ushuaia and be able to do so at my own pace.

The admission to the National Park is AR$65 about US$16. However, I am told that there is free access to the park before 8am or after 10pm. Apparently, this is when the toll booth is unattended.



SAM 004I am not one to get much worms but I make this a part of my plan to visit the National Park about 25km outside of the city.

I will need to pick up the rental car this evening. No problem!



A light rain is falling as I walk back into town. The rain does not last long as it was just a blow off  from the clouds in the near by mountains.

Checking out my car I am made aware of one interesting local traffic rule in the city, traffic going up or down a hill has the right of way.


CAN 057 It now makes sense why there are not to many stop signs around town.

I wonder if this system would work in San Francisco?





Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Argentina, Sea Lion And Bird Island Ushuaia



CAN 154 As a part of tour of Beagle Canal, we make a “figuratively speaking” stop at Sea Lion and Bird Island.






CAN 147 Using his well practiced skills, our Captain maneuvers the “Yate Tango” within mere feet of the rocky slope of the islands.







CAN 152 Sea Lion Colony




CAN 148 This allows us to get great views of sea lions basking in the sun.







CAN 187 Here, a huge alpha male watches over his harem while rejected males and females form small communities of their own.




CAN 141 In one area of the rocky slopes, fresh blood stains show evidence of a recent confrontation.







CAN 161 What’s the name of this island?




CAN 160 On Bird Island several different species of birds are gathered, enjoying the great outdoors on a pleasant afternoon.






CAN 159 We are told that there are some birds present that migrate over 800 miles to Antarctica from here, non-stop.





Nature and it's ecosystem can be so fascinating, almost to the point of a Ripley's believe or not moment.



CAN 158With a pair of binoculars we can see some nesting birds while others walk around the colony as if shopping in a mall.




They are oblivious to our presence and it makes them more interesting to watch.  Just doing what birds do best, being birds.

I am glad this place is for the birds.