Hello Friends & Family
It is a long journey to Antarctica- over 9000 miles, and airline scheduling necessitated starting 3 days before we were to sail. I left Denver in the afternoon on Feb. 21st, had a short layover in Dallas, and then on to Buenos Aires, a grueling 11-1/2 hour endurance test for me trying to cram into an airline seat designed for (and possibly by) Munchkins.
I arrived in Buenos Aires late morning and was greeted by my Dad and brother Alex who had gotten there about 20 minutes earlier. We took a cab to our hotel, where we were joined by another brother Tom and his son Aaron (age 14). Our fatigue was overshadowed by the excitement of seeing each other and starting our trip, so as soon as we were checked in we wandered around Buenos Aires, finding a great restaurant serving world-renowned Argentinian beef (OK, I had salmon, not yet realizing the reputation of the beef...).
Lack of sleep had us hitting the sack early, as we had a 8:00 flight the next morning to Ushuaia (pronounced oo-Shwy-uh), billed as 'The Southernmost City in the World' (there is also the Southernmost town, the Southernmost tree, you get the idea...), where we experienced probably the most dramatic glide path I've ever had approaching an airport. It was raining in Buenos Aires when we took off, and cloudy the entire way except the last 20 minutes of the flight. As we got lower, turbulence increased and the peaks of Tierra del Fuego began to appear. We dropped actually below the mountaintops on either side of the plane, following a glacial valley down until we burst out over the ocean and saw the runway. It was a bit unnerving, but most spectacular.
After a short ride to our hotel, we spent the afternoon roaming the tourist district of Ushuaia in search of the famous Bife de Lomo (tenderloin steak), etc. Ushuaia, a community of about 60,000, survives largely on tourism, and there is no shortage of souvenir and other shops. The town has the dramatic backdrop of jagged snow covered peaks, and is built on a hillside that really gives you some exercise as you see the sights. There is a naval base at the east end of town with several military ships anchored. Argentina still stings from the war in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, and indeed maps for sale in Ushuaia call them The Maldives, refusing to acknowledge British territorial claim. (Interestingly, Argentina also claims a portion of Antarctica as theirs, despite the 1961 Antarctic Treaty making the entire continent off limits to territorial settlement. They do this as self proclaimed custodians of an inherited Spanish law that annexes all newly discovered Southern lands, although no one really formally acknowledges their claim.)
The town is bustling with activity in the mornings and early afternoon, but, as most of Argentina, it pretty much closes down for siesta from 3-6PM. Don't try to find a restaurant open during those hours, and many souvenir shops close as well. Refreshed from their naps, businesses reopen at 6 and don't close until nearly midnight. The street along the waterfront is always entertaining though, combining the spectacular mountain views with the ocean vistas of the Beagle Channel. There is a single pier where all passenger and freight ships dock, but access is restricted. Good views are available across the bay from either side, and the light is quite nice in the evening.
Once again we retired somewhat early, not only anticipating sailing the next evening, but we had a guide scheduled to take us hiking in the mountains outside town the next morning. We were excited to see some of the surrounding countryside!