We returned to town for a few days to enjoy a few more good meals and sleep-in days before heading back to Argentina to visit their Patagonia.
We returned to town for a few days to enjoy a few more good meals and sleep-in days before heading back to Argentina to visit their Patagonia.
Because we didn’t book months ahead, all accommodation in the park was sold out. While it’s possible to drive 2+ hours each way to/from the Puerto Natales to the park everyday (and many people do), we weren’t up for it and instead paid an insane amount to rent a car and stay at a hotel just outside the park gates.
While our budget didn’t appreciate the decision, it turned out to be worth it as we enjoyed three fantastic days in the park.
The mountains look just as you expect and are jagged, snow-capped and stunningly beautiful. We did 3 different day hikes while here (2 easy, one very difficult) and took a boat on Grey Lake to observe the glacier and icebergs up close. The colors were remarkable.
Adding to the experience was seeing lots of guanacos up close and occasional condors flying. Incredible.Read more
A short (3 hours), pretty bus ride took us to this gateway town to Chilean Patagonia and the national park. On the way we saw flamingoes and several more guanacos.
The town is relatively small and set on a pretty bay and is jam-packed full of surprisingly good restaurants, lots of hotels/hostels and shops selling high-end hiking gear. Apart from wandering around the town, we took a trip out to the nearby Lake Sofia where we did a short hike to see our first Andean condors flying above the cliffs.
Like other towns in Chile and Argentina, people seem to let their dogs roam free. The dogs are clearly well fed and looked after (in stark contrast to feral dogs we saw all over Asia and Africa), but they are everywhere. Unfortunately, they are not all friendly and one seemingly very cute sheep-dog type unceremoniously bit John on his calf as we walked by. Quite a shock! Christy used her best ‘Narcos’ Spanish to let the owners know we were not happy to be bitten by their dog. Luckily, the bite only bruised, but didn’t break skin. This is the last place we’d have expected something like this to happen after many harrowing experiences with dogs in Asia and Africa. We’ve definitely been wary of dogs since this incident.Read more
The trip to this charming town, our first stop in Chile, was a 12 hour bus ride from Ushuaia. Historically significant in the exploration of this part of the world, the town has been visited by Magellan, Darwin and Shackleton, to name a few.
The weather was wet and windy as we drove through some very desolate and beautiful farmland that looked much like Southern New Zealand - except for an occasional llama. During our ferry crossing (on the bus), we saw some very cute white and black dolphins - which we first mistook for penguins.
In Punta Arenas we’ve spent our time walking through the very sweet downtown packed with grand, somewhat crumbling buildings. Finally we stumbled across some choripan – bread with chorizo – which we were hoping to try. Delicious!
We also visited the Braun Palace Museum -set in a beautiful old mansion - and the quirky and wonderful Nao Victoria museum. The Nao museum was out of town overlooking the Strait of Magellan and had 3 full-size replicas of famous ships including: Shackleton’s James Caird (the lifeboat that miraculously made it from Elephant Island to South Georgia), Darwin’s HMS Beagle and Magellan’s ship. It’s crazy to see how small and basic these boats were that accomplished such incredible journeys.Read more
Sadly, we had to leave the ship but were excited to catch up with our dear friends, Marc and Rowena, for a few hours before they boarded our same ship for their Antarctic adventure. We tried not to tell them too much as they were in for an amazing trip, but it was hard to contain our enthusiasm. We look forward to hearing what they saw and experienced given they had a few more days in Antarctica as they didn’t visit South Georgia or the Falklands.
Originally we’d planned to spend just 3 nights here, however we quickly realized busy season is truly busy so ended up needing to stay 6 - not only to wait to get a bus ticket out of town, but also to book hotels and buses ahead as almost everything is sold out. Although we’d wanted to travel in a more relaxed and flexible way, this simply isn’t possible during summer.
Our time here was spent planning and booking things ahead (phew, we did it!), though we managed to spend a good amount of time walking through the town, visiting the museum and enjoying king crab (which is delicious, but not as good as the Alaskan variety). The people here are incredibly friendly, the weather very damp, cold and changeable, and the setting spectacular as it overlooks the Beagle channel and is overlooked by stunning, jagged mountains and glaciers.Read more
After leaving South Georgia, we cruised for 2 and ½ days through the Scotia Sea in the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula.
On our way we saw our first icebergs - one huge tabular ‘berg approximately 22km long - and many whales, penguins and birds.
We were lucky enough to pass by, and get a good view, of Elephant Island where the majority of Shackleton’s crew waited while “the boss” and 4 others sailed to South Georgia in a tiny wooden boat. We were on the opposite side of the island from Shackleton’s landing site, but it was incredible to imagine how a tiny boat had been able to make it to South Georgia from here. Amazing!
Our first landing was in Yankee Harbor where we saw our first chinstrap penguins and Weddell seals. Next we visited Deception Island, a recently active volcano with a small opening leading to a magnificently sheltered harbor. Here we enjoyed a short hike, saw our first leopard seals and enjoyed seeing the remains of a former whaling station during a small snow storm - which simply added to the atmosphere of the place.
On Christmas Eve we visited Cuverville Island where we hiked up a steep hill to enjoy beautiful views of the Errera Channel. The best part was body sledding down the hill. Ridiculous fun! In the afternoon we landed at Brown station, an Argentinean research base that was our first official landing on the Antarctic continent. The base is empty at this time of year and opens in January. On our way back to the ship our zodiac cruised through Paradise Bay where another zodiac waited with champagne to toast our official arrival to continental Antarctica. Living the life!
We spent Christmas day in Port Charcot. While the weather was beautiful, there was plenty of snow and ice around making it the most spectacular white Christmas we’re ever to likely experience. Santa managed to pay a visit via a zodiac. In the morning we spent time scooting around the icebergs of Salpetriere Bay in a zodiac. We were lucky to see Weddell and leopard seals, hundreds of penguins and birds, and some beautiful arched icebergs.
The weather was so clear and windless that we were able to enjoy xmas BBQ lunch outside on the back deck of the ship, surrounded by massive mountains and glaciers with icebergs floating in the sea. In the afternoon we landed at Port Charcout and saw 3 types of penguins: Gentoos, Chin-straps and Adelies, a Crabeater seal and Minke whales in the bay.
While cruising out of Neumayer Channel towards the open ocean, we couldn’t believe it when we saw orca’s then humpback whales feeding, including bubble-net fishing. It’s impossible to describe how stunningly beautiful it is here and everyday has become more and more breathtaking. This may well be the most spectacularly beautiful, wild place we’ve visited so far
Our final two days were spent crossing the Drake Passage to Ushuaia. Famous for huge seas, we were lucky and enjoyed a very mild crossing with good weather. This was an incredible trip with an amazing ship and crew and so many nice people onboard. We feel so grateful to have had this experience.Read more
This island has played large in our imagination after first reading Sir Ernest Shackleton’s account of his epic journey from being stuck in pack ice off Antarctica, sailing to Elephant Island in 3 life boats, then sailing a single life boat >900 miles to South Georgia before traversing the island in mid-winter over glaciers and crevasses to a whaling station where he could get a rescue party together for his crew back on Elephant Island. Four months after setting out on their small life boat he was able to return to rescue his crew – all survived.
We had 2½ days around the island and were able to make many landings while here. Our first landing was at a massive king penguin colony on Salisbury Plain. It was an emotional experience seeing such abundance of wildlife (king penguins, fur seals, elephant seals and countless birds) and realizing we were someplace very special. Next, we stopped in Fortuna Bay, another large king penguin colony and also the place where Shackleton and 2 of his crew had arrived after traversing the island. It was very exciting to be walking in the footsteps of these great explorers.
On our second day, we were meant to land in Stromness - the whaling station where Shackleton had come to mount the rescue - but bad weather prevented us from landing. We did enter the bay and get a good look at the former station before continuing on to Gothul for a zodiac cruise through a sheltered cove where we saw some amazing wildlife. Our afternoon landing was at Grytiviken, another former whaling station and where Shackleton and his friend and fellow explorer, Frank Wild, are buried. We toasted Shackleton at his gravesite with some Irish whiskey before taking a short walk up a hill for a beautiful view. Next, we visited the excellent museum and took a brief tour of the former whaling station. There are about 15 people that live here, mostly researchers and administrators. Incredible experience!
On our last day in South Georgia, we landed at Gold Harbor to see both king and Gentoo penguins, as well as many other creatures. After some rough weather, it was a brilliantly sunny day. Lastly, we cruised up Drygalski Fiord for indescribably beautiful views of the mountains and glaciers.Read more
Even though we’re traveling on a luxurious ship with all the comforts you can imagine (champagne, sir?), this first stop on our trip helped us to quickly remember we’re in a very remote part of the world that few people will ever have the opportunity to see. The crazy part is that we still have a very long way to go to get somewhat close to where the early (and current) explorers and researchers traveled to document and preserve this incredible part of the world.
Once we were cleared to get off the ship (very strict bio-security measures), we jumped into Land Rovers driven by locals over dense, spongy peat fields to visit a rock-hopper penguin colony. After hanging out with the penguins for an hour or so, we headed back to the capital, Port Stanley. We walked the main street and visited the very impressive museum that included a great exhibit presenting a local viewpoint of the short occupation and brutal war with Argentina in ’82. Before returning to the ship to begin 2 days of sailing to South Georgia we stopped in one of the pubs to enjoy a local pint.
This is an amazing, unique, wind-swept group of islands, with a population of just 3,000 people. A beautiful and remote place.Read more
After a few nights in a nice hotel in B.A., we met with our tour group for orientation. Then, a short, bumpy 3 hour charter flight took us to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is set on the Beagle Channel and is steeped in an amazing history of famous explorers and exploration. We’ll be spending more time here at the end of our Antarctica trip and are looking forward to learning more.
After a quick lunch and short hike in the stunning mountains, we boarded our ship. It was ridiculously exciting to suddenly be on a ship, casting off and heading towards an adventure we’d been anticipating for a long time.Read more
Because we’d used miles to pay for one ticket out of Delhi, we ended up on different flights to London. Christy flew Delhi-Helsinki-London (on FinnAir – “the official airline of Santa”) and John flew Delhi-London. We met in London for a few hours’ wait then took a long flight to Argentina. John bought a very small camera in DutyFree as we’ll be sending his HUGE camera home after Antarctica as it’s just too heavy/big for how we will now travel.
A very nice lady from our Antarctica travel company met us at the airport and then drove us to our Airbnb apartment in central BA. The apartment was in a great location with easy access to all the sights we wanted to see. Generally, we’ve headed off early in the morning to different parts of the city, walked around, drunk some coffee and taken a siesta. We also went to Boca (famous for the soccer team and colorful homes), the waterfront and famous women’s bridge, the cemetery where Eva Peron and many other famous Argentinians are buried, and we saw an Opera at the Teatro Colon - considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world.
Like India, the cow is worshipped here in Argentina but in a totally different and obvious way. When people find out that we don't eat a lot of red meat, there is genuine concern that we will starve to death. Also, nothing really gets started here until late at night, which is another adjustment to our normal m.o. Like many other travelers have noted, BA is like a combination of NYC and Paris with more empanadas. The architecture is amazing and the people have all been wonderfully friendly, even though we are struggling with our Spanish. The plan is to travel for a few more months and head back here for 3-4 weeks to take Spanish lessons and enjoy this beautiful city.Read more
Our last 4 days in India were spent seeing some sights in Delhi, getting our teeth cleaned (masala chai stains, yo!), and getting our laundry cleaned and bags in order for the next part of our trip to South America and Antarctica.
Delhi is a huge city with incredible history and culture as well as many comforts that make traveling easy. However, the air quality is the worst we have ever seen anywhere in the world. When it hurts to breathe, your eyes are watering and city authorities suggest you do not go outside, you are not encouraged or motivated to spend anytime exploring what the city has to offer.Read more
The main reason for coming to this part of India and to this park was to try to see tigers in the wild. We went on 5 safaris and saw tigers on 4 of the visits to the park (we had 2 different sightings on one of the trips). This is unusual and we feel very lucky to have had such a range of tiger sightings – from very close crossing and sleeping in the road, to seeing silhouettes in the dense jungle and hearing a mom roaring at her cubs. Tigers are incredibly beautiful and can be highly ellusive given the density of the terrain. Guides rely on spotting tracks in the road and listening for warning calls from deer, monkeys or birds to pinpoint potential locations of the tigers. In addition to tigers, you can sometimes see leopard, wolves, bear, wild dogs and striped hyena. While we didn’t see any of these, we saw plenty of deer, monkeys and birds. The landscape is also incredibly beautiful and left us feeling like we would like to someday return for a visit. India’s wildlife and parks were not on our radar and seems to be under-sold to tourists.Read more
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