And so having allowed time for the “What if” factor of being delayed and potentially missing the boat we had time on our hands in Ushuaia. Our Hotel “Los Nires” was a way out of town up on the hillside with wonderful views of the Beagle Channel – very nice and comfortable with pleasant and helpful staff. They ran a bus into and from town several times a day and having spent so long hanging around and being on the plane we dumped our bags and headed back into town.
Hotel Los Nires
Town was very cold and VERY windy
A small town which has grown in the last few years mainly just because of tourism
Lots of camping & camera shops and all the same old same old
So we walked town flat and looked at the boats waiting for their next loads and when time took the courtesy bus back to the hotel.
Dinner very good and pleasant and nice views from the Restaurant
That’s Chile over there and it’s very chilly 🙂
Residential Ushuaia from the other side of the hotel
We were booked on an excursion and the next morning were collected and taken for a 7km hike next to the Beagle Channel in the Tierra del Fuego National Park – Stunningly beautiful. Pampa Alta Path.
and into the Forest……….
With our brilliant guide Santiago –
Lunch was laid on – large tent had been put up in preparation with everything you could want for – braai and good wines – and this chap amongst others hoping to get fed too.
After lunch we were taken for a canoe ride on Lake Roca & the river.
No one said we had to carry our own boats !
All in all a wonderful day out and whilst chilly the sun shone brightly.
The next day we had until the afternoon to kill time and as your luggage is collected by Quark and taken to the ship and put into your cabin we decided that we would walk up the Martial Glacier as far as we wanted to. So taking the hotel bus into town we grabbed a taxi to take us up the steep hill to the start of the Glacier walk. The Cableway was broken so we had a 50 minute slog up the steep hill to the start of the ice and snow.
Map of the area
These Guys were a long way off
Seems a long way to climb for such a short ski !
The Cableway was broken
Downhill harder than up !
Our boat awaits……
And so the moment had arrived, we took the taxi all the way down back to town and arrived at the dockside, where we were loaded into a coach and taken to the quayside – all very relaxed and friendly – boarding was hassle free and we were warmly welcomed upon board with the inevitable glass of champagne – our bags were waiting for us as promised and various instruction sheets were handed out as to which meetings we had to attend and when and just in case anyone was hungry a large “Snack fest” had been laid on!
In due course we cast off and as we were leaving Ushuaia on the Beagle Channel another boat was returning. Their turn-around time is really quick.
Map overview of trip
Next morning starting the crossing of the infamous Drakes Passage; 800kms of sometimes pure hell
A word about Quark: We really were out of our depth here and didn’t know what to expect – I had googled them and done some elementary research but this was a whole new ball game for us. We do not like being organised, we do not like this sort of this, being hemmed in with other people, and frankly I don’t like boats having spent far too many times as a child being sick crossing the English Channel from Southampton to Le Harve or Cherbourg – not my idea of fun.
Unique Destinations – Leo Van Heukelem – of whom I had heard of on Fine Music Radio, 101.3fm – we are founder members – had a seemingly good reputation, but then again who knows. Our 4×4 friends in Jhb who had been to the Arctic, but not with Quark reckoned this was as good a way of spending the Kids inheritance as any and the more I went into this the less I found to worry about.
Worth a look Quark Expeditions
Unique Destinations – Leo Van Heukelem – a truly first class outfit.
I have to say that this was by far the best decision that I could have made. Leo’s knowledge and advice was spot on – he only made one error. He said that from experience and feed back, that it was not a good idea to do anything after the boat trip to Antarctica as it would be a disappointment – but once the boat turned back for Ushuaia – and given that the Skipper put foot to avoid what turned out to be a 6/10 Drakes Passage crossing, it was 4 days of being depressed – two to cross the Passage, then a 3000km flight to Buenos Aires, brief over-night stay, then the trip back to Cape Town via Sao Paulo and Jhb – what a bummer. In retrospect we should rather have gone up to Mendoza from Ushuaia, the wine producing area, for a couple of days to chill or even a few days more in Buenos Aires, where we could have occupied ourselves easily to a great degree. No complaints but just our observation is all.
The more I learn about Quark the more impressed I am. We are back, they have our money, we have done the trip, but their website has a record of our trip with photos, input and info freely available. Sure they hope that we will go on another trip with them and guess what ? With this attention to the detail we will. They are a truly first class outfit. From the moment we stepped onto that boat until now they have not disappointed in any way whatsoever. That’s a hard level to beat, especially for Mr Critical here.
The staff from the chambermaids to the dining room servers up to the Guides, the boat labour crew to the bridge staff and the Captain. Nothing was too much trouble 24/7 always smiling, always happy, always prepared to go the extra mile. Yes there were rules and regulations – mostly common sense which as we all know is no longer common and certain nationalities (mention no names) fill in the blanks – either don’t listen or have no sense of spacial awareness or are just plain stupid – like do not walk through the paths of the penguins – walk over them, do not approach closer than 5 metres, if they come to you that’s cool but you may not approach your friend just because a penguin that comes to them – Duh…………you could not believe the stupidity and couldn’t care less attitude of some of these people – but the staff kept cool and with a smile just kept on repeating the obvious. Fuck a duck they need a medal for patience 🙂
So from the very get-go it was all just so well thought out and planned. Lots of lectures in the theatre that were never boring, even the geologist, a German, who very obviously took himself ever so seriously but was the good natured butt of humour from the other guides, he was really informative and light and actually quite often funny.
The passengers were 189 to 140 odd crew to look after us. We were divided up into two groups as no more than 100 can land on the the continent at anyone time. So whilst one group went onshore the other group would go off in the Zodiacs, and then change over after a couple of hours, it all works so well. Getting into and off the Zodiacs is a ballet operation – you have to have hands free – so OK I have to say this, one particular population group have huge suitcases on their backs with their camera equipment..go figure……there are strict rules about standing up in the zodiacs but you know in spite of all, everything mostly worked out fine due to the good naturedness of the guides. Bravo to them.
Off the Globe
Good to see
Stitch photo gone wrong !
Having survived Drakes Passage we sailed for the South Shetland Islands and headed for Deception Island & Neptunes bellows. Also known at Whalers Bay – the “island” is in fact a caldera but this only becomes apparent once having entered.
approaching Neptunes Bellows and Deception Island
Other boats in the area
Heading for shore, first walk in Antarctica
The Mother Ship !
Lots of old buildings
It was cold but not as cold as you might think
quick draw ?
Nah just kidding……
Old Water boats lying around
Here’s lookin’ at you kid
Magic Day ! New Years Eve – Next day 1st Jan 2016 we head for Foyn Harbour and Port Lockroy where there is a British Scientific Station – 4 people live there and they maintain a sort of Museum of things from years ago.
Heading for Foyn
Preparing to go ashore
Took a while to work this out !! Required closer inspection
Window of opportunity – the blue gets you every time – stunning
More old water boats
old supplies in museum
So another wonderful day and back onto the ship. The organisation both on board and on shore is quite superb and well thought out. There is always something to do and one seems to be endlessly either putting layers of clothes on or off. Coffee and tea and eats (inevitably) are always available and there is the observation room right up at the top for a quieter place to sit and just ponder the vistas that present themselves, but I always want to get outside into the cold and wind for the experience. The bridge is also usually open and it is fascinating to see via the sophisticated equipment where we are and who else is in the area. Wi-fi is available but it is very costly. I got around this problem by buying an international card for my Sat phone so could send and receive messages from the kids who are at home and in the UK. The food on the ship is obviously very plentiful and the quality very good – EXCEPT – like Argentina they simply cannot get scrambled eggs and bacon right – God alone knows what they do to the bacon – it is dreadful and the eggs runny – but it is a small issue, there is plenty else to eat. The ship also had a scheme where you could buy your wine and champagne for New Years Eve upfront at the beginning of the tour at a vastly reduced price – this proved to be a very good idea but one still pays double the cost of wine in RSA – ditto spirits.
So the next day we head out for Danco Island and Paradise Island – so named by the Whalers as it is a protected anchorage, also the in-frequently manned Argentinean Station “Almirante Brown” who as an Irishman rose to the top in the navy and is to this day much revered in Argentina. This is at the end of the Errera Channel and on the Antarctic Mainland.
Heading for Danco island
Scrambled or Fried Sir……
Gemtoos – Check the chicks
so many shapes so many photos
Must I floss ?
Other possibilities to pursue
Almirante Brown Station on the Antarctic mainland
Big penguins in yellow Jackets
Cormorants -More chicks
Every dog has his day…
Playboy Bunny pool ?
Lin looking at me wondering what’s taking me so long up the mountain !
And so after another truly exciting day out – Back to Ship and hot coffee
Back on board
Overview of all the places we went – second part of actual antarctic to follow (Part 4)
So when you look at this trip in total you really only get to spend four actual days in the Antarctic proper – The trip is 10 days in total but two of these are spent embarking & Disembarking, another two each way is in crossing the 800Km stretch of Drakes Passage which leaves you only four actual full days in total seeing the Antarctic – no complaints but after all the planning, buying all the kit and waiting for the passing of time until you board – Man, the actual times flies past in a wink of the eye. We are so glad that it was not difficult to justify the time we spent travelling the length of Argentina prior to this trip.
And so, due to quantity of photos etc. Part 4 will deal with the remaining two days of the Antarctic and the return home via Buenos Aires.
More photos at: photo album
SEE BELOW for Part 1: Iguazu & Buenos Aires & Uruguay
SEE BELOW for Part 2: Bariloche, El Calafate & Ushuaia