Antarctic Adventure

This is a photo essay of our trip to South America on a Holland America Line cruise, December 2019 – January 2020

Buenos Aires

We arrived mid afternoon on Monday, checked into the hotel, and took a nap after sleeping (not) on the plane all night. Then out for a walk to find dinner.  Our hotel was very nice, and the front desk workers very helpful.  

 

Iguazu Falls

Tuesday we caught a 2.5 hour flight north to see the amazing Iguazu Falls.  They really are breathtaking!  Iguazu is really hundreds of falls, together making Niagara look small.  Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is huge, but you view it mostly from a distance.  Here you get right up close and personal!  You can hike for hours to get to different areas and heights, and all the vistas are awesome!

Walkways take you across the river and through the woods…

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The top of the falls hardly prepares you for what is next…

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The falls are far too huge to capture in one picture.

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We also saw lots of great birds and animals…

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These Coati look like nice little raccoon types, but we were warned they can be aggressive and very nasty.

 

Lots of gorgeous butterflies…

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The plane took us back to Buenos Aires by 11:30pm.

 

Back To Buenos Aires

On the Plaza de Armas, is the Casa Rosada – the Presidential Palace and the balcony from which Evita and President Juan Peron addressed the multitudes:

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Facing into the plaza is this Cathedral. (I think it looks more like a bank from the outside)

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These guys were guarding one of the side rooms… it contained the tomb on the lower left.

 

 

Central to the plaza is this monument to the 25th of May, 1810 when Argentina won independence from Spain.

 

And other monuments and museums…

 

On a street leading to the Plaza de Armas, a demonstration was in full swing.  Firecrackers so loud and rapid fire I was thinking it was machine gun fire!  The street was filled with noise and densely colored from blue smoke bombs:

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The Recoleta Cemetery is huge!  It has been noted as one of the 10 best cemeteries in the world (Who Knew?)  Covering about 14 acres, it contains over 4,600 vaults, many of which hold whole families.  Many famous people are interred here: Nobel Prize winners, Argentinian Presidents and of course Eva Peron (Evita).  We expected that she would have a huge monument, and there are hundreds of huge imposing monuments, but hers is rather small and plain in comparison.

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It may be hard to see here, but this guy is getting out of a boat.  I wonder if he broke his arm smashing all the railings of his resting place…

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The monuments ranged from very primitive to very ornate; single occupants to a whole dormitory.  (Did you know that was the original meaning of Cemetery?  A Dormitory: Something to do with the Bible saying death is a sleep)

 

One tomb was guarded by this guy and his buddies…

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OK, I know you’ve been anxiously waiting… Here is Evita’s tomb:

 

 

Wednesday we slept in, and then boarded our Holland America cruise ship in the early afternoon.  

 

Montevideo

Here the capital city of Uruguay is welcoming me and my official touring shirt.  The statue of the worker is not quite so welcoming.

The Plaza Independencia is surrounded by beautiful architecture.

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There are many street vendors, adding to the color.

 

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Mate gourds hold a highly caffeinated drink that is so rich and thick, you drink it through a special straw like device that has a screen on the bottom to filter out all the solids.  A very popular drink in most of the southern parts of South America.

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I saw a man looking into this box while the girl did something at the other end of the box.  When he left, I asked her what it was.  She had very limited english, but told me to take a look.  No charge, only tip if I felt like it. The interior of the box looked like a living room, with windows, doors, and a couch.  She put headphones on me, and music started. She would reach in and manipulate little puppets.  An old man emerged from a back door, and you could hear each footstep as he moved around the room.  A little bird flew in and out, and was obviously dear to the old man.  Not a very long story, but great fun!

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The juxtaposition of old and new makes for an interesting downtown.  It has been voted the best quality of life for any city in Latin America.

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A frustrating thing about a cruise is that you usually don’t stay in one place long enough to see or do all you might want to, like take in a show at this famous Solis Theater:

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Puerto Madryn

This was our next stop in Argentina.  A nice day for the beach, but we were off to the Punta Tombo National Park.

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On the way to the park we unexpectedly saw this rather large animal:

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The Punta Tombo park is the largest home of Magellanic Penguins, with well over one million making their home here.  I expected that they would hang out at the beach, but they live in burrows in the dry, almost desert-like land a ways offshore.

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We even saw several chicks.

What are you looking at?

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They say it is very hard to determine the sex of a penguin.  The penguins seem to have no trouble with it, and in fact they always find the same mate.  I was very surprised to see the key to this dilemma, of all places, on the restrooms doors!

 

We also saw plenty of guanaco, a cousin of the llama.

 

 

Falkland Islands

We anchored in a bay off Stanley in the East Falkland islands.  The town is very small, and must grow 100 fold when a cruise ship arrives!  We scouted out the main street, a rocky beach, a church, museum and post office.  That pretty much did Stanley!  There is a lot of information about the 1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina, over who owned these little islands.  The way we hear it, Britain has claimed them forever, and Argentina just slowly moved in and tried to quietly take over.  Britain finally said that’s enough and sent lots of power to take the islands back.  It seems Argentina was both amazed and overpowered, and now the Falklands seem to be very happy to be solidly UK members.  Argentina still claims the islands are theirs, and we saw several signs of that elsewhere in their country. 

 

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The Government House:

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A memorial made of Whale jawbones!

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Margaret Thatcher is a hero here, thanks to returning the islands to the U.K.

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This ship didn’t fare too well…

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In a huge museum are mostly marine artifacts, but some are just cool old things.  Here is a device to put out a fire in your home; “simple enough a woman could do it!”

 

Lots of gardens with flowers, and I couldn’t just pass by them.

 

It is interesting to watch the tenders taking passengers to and from the cruise ship.  At the end of the day, they hook them up and raise them into position above deck 3.

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Antarctica

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This was anticipated to be the highlight of the trip, and it certainly did not disappoint!  When some folks heard we were going to Antarctica, they asked what was there other than ice and water… well, we did see a lot of ice and water, and penguins and whales and sea birds.  But the words don’t begin to describe the raw beauty, the majesty, the absolute grandeur of the area.  We gazed at white snow and ice contrasted with incredible blue skies for days!  We were blessed with great weather, for the most part.  The crew and naturalists on board kept commenting on how special the great weather was, and that we could see so much.  

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Here is an old wreck, peeking out of the frigid water…

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We cruised slowly by huge icebergs, some maybe twice the size of an aircraft carrier, with a “deck” so flat it looked like it could be used as one.  Other ‘bergs were much smaller, and we could see how they had rolled once or twice, creating interesting patterns as the waterline changed.  On top of one of the big flat topped iceberg were dozens of Magellanic Penguins, prompting the question “How did those flightless birds get up there??” It seems they use the talons on their webbed feet like crampons, and their beaks like ice axes, and climb up the ice!  These were at least 100 feet above waterline!  I did wonder if there was an escalator up the backside of the ‘berg that we couldn’t see…

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The ‘berg below and left has flipped completely over, revealing shapes formed underwater.

Drake’s Passage is the route you must take from the tip of South America to the Antarctic.  It is notorious for extremely severe weather, and in fact the week before our trip, a regularly scheduled “commuter” flight that serviced research stations in Antarctica was caught in a suddenly arriving storm and was lost at sea.  We expected a rough crossing, and it did make the ship rock and roll quite a bit, but really was not too bad.  It did make one happy to be in a ship that size, instead of a personally owned 53 foot yacht… just saying…

Some passages in the Antarctic waters we had 50 – 60 mph winds, which made it seem all that much colder.  I wore long underwear, pants and shirt, sweater, two sweatshirts, a jacket, wool scarf, hat and gloves… that would keep me comfortable for almost an hour till i’d retreat to our cabin and warm up!  We had a beautiful veranda suite, which means all glass wall between our room and the balcony, and a glass railing on the balcony, so exquisite views were always available from our stateroom.  And I mean always!  The sun officially went down about midnight, and came up about 2:15am, but it was even then twilight and stunning. 

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There are lots of public spaces on the ship with huge windows, but many of these got crusted with salt water crossing the rough Drake’s Passage, and to take in the awesome views you needed to be outside.

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Have you heard of whales and bubble curtains?  I’d heard how whales will team up, dive under a ways, and then parade around in a circle blowing bubbles.  More than just fun, this makes a “bubble curtain”, which krill (small sea creatures), can’t or won’t cross.  So when they “corral” a bunch of krill this way, they swim up the middle and scoop up their favorite meal.  We got to see this in action!  Amazingly beautiful teamwork! I personally can’t believe this intelligence was just an evolutionary accident.

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Here you can see one whale diving down again, with his tail fluke about to go under on the left, and his two colleagues with their flippers just showing through the water as they ascend and spout.

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This guy is just completing his krill run.

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We saw a very small portion of Antarctica, somewhat analogous to cruising off the coast of Florida and saying you’ve seen the U.S.  We cruised a fair bit of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is the tiny finger of ice covered land reaching up towards South America.  We would love to see more of this amazing continent, but it’s not an easy one to get to!  And there are several other places in the world to check out as well!

Ushuaia

This is the southernmost city in South America.  We took a tour into the Tierra del Fuego national park, and a beautiful lake.  

I love watching us dock or anchor.  Many times tugs are there, but only as standby; they never touch the ship (or at least VERY rarely).  I think they are there partly in case of an emergency, like our captain messing up, or just to provide employment for the local port authorities.

 

A nice harbor…

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Across the harbor is this airport with a view…

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Our ship on the dock, with its neighbors.

 

A bus took us to the Tierra del Fuego national park.

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The sign on the right below is talking about Las Malvinas, their name for the Falkland Islands.  So it says “The Falklands of Argentina”.  Never give up. 🙂

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Lago Acigami was another beautiful spot:

 

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We tried to mail something from the southernmost post office on the continent, but it was closed.

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And back to our harbor home:

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Punta Arenas

Cherryl wasn’t feeling too good on this port day, and elected to “stay home.” It took about an hour to get into town with the shuttle, so my original plans of checking out the town and maybe returning to get Cherryl for a late lunch obviously weren’t going to work.  I tried texting and emailing her, but neither worked. I walked around town for a long time, toured Sara Braun’s home, got a little lunch and looked at lots of interesting architecture.  It rained sporadically all day.

 

Sara Braun was born in Russia, but was forced out because she was Jewish.  She became a very prominent and generous business woman.  She lived in this mansion overlooking the main plaza.

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The view from balcony of Sara’s home:

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Painted columns in the living room…

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An interesting circular opening between floors…

 

More shots of the plaza and neighboring buildings.

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Graffiti and protest slogans are everywhere.  I believe this one deals with the Rights of Children.

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The only Emperor Penguins I saw on this trip: (They looked tired)

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A small dental clinic:

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After hours of walking I thought I deserved a break.  All I could find was this Nutella and banana crepe! 😉

 

A little mall, and a place where I didn’t get my nails done!

 

An Adventist Church:

 

And a far bigger church!

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Puerto Chacabuco

The cruse travel director, Kevin, said the only attraction in the port of Chacabuco was a bench.  Ok, a few benches in a park, with a nice view of the harbor and our ship.  But we were off on a trip to the mountains, a Chilean National Park, and something else.  Our guide was fun and informative (so why can’t I remember much of what she said?) Our bus drove all around in the mountains, and we hiked a round a bit in the few stops.  Nice waterfalls, a nice little snack in a very crowded tourist snack building, and I got a somewhat shaggy picture of a Condor gliding miles above us.

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We got to handle a Mate gourd and filtered straw:

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I enjoy seeing how power lines are run… I’m just glad I don’t have to sort out what’s what!

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Chile is also exhibiting a bit of civic unrest.  Some decorated statues in the central plaza illustrate the tension.

 

The National Parks offer better scenery:

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This is where we stopped for a snack…

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Some sights hiking through the park…

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And on the way back to the ship…

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Castro

We spent our day on a very nice bus, driving to 4 of the 16 UNESCO world heritage churches in this area.  All were made of wood, the oldest being built in the mid 1700’s.  Or at least I think so… our guide was very hard to understand, and offered very little clear commentary on what we were seeing.  We were sitting in the back of the bus, and we got to laughing at the horribly mangled words she used with such authority.  IMG_5530

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To get to the island of Nercon, our bus got on a very tiny ferry.  Two busses and a few cars made it on each boat – amazingly crowded!

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This beautiful old church must have been imitating Paris’ Notre Dam… with flying buttresses on the side!