Viking Cruise: Glaciers in the Beagle Channel

Yesterday we went around Cape Horn. That was very cool.

Not much to see. Mostly just out at sea, but here is a picture of the early morning with the sun starting to come up around 4am. You can see the storm and the rain we are trying to stay ahead of.

And as you can see, the storm caught up with us 🙂

Then through the Beagle Channel (named after Darwin’s boat) where we got to see some cool glaciers.

Of course the pics don’t do them justice. These are big mountains.

A room with a Glacier View 🙂

Viking Cruise: Ushuaia, The Southernmost City in the World

We spent the past 2 days here in Ushuaia, Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego (land of fire), the southernmost city in the world.

It reminds me of Alaska or Norway only upside down 🙂 There is lots of water all around. It sits on the Beagle Channel (named after Charles Darwin’s ship) just north of Cape Horn, the Straits of Magellan (1st man to circumnavigate the world), and Drake’s Passage. We are about 600 miles from Antarctica, with nothing between here and there besides the S. Atlantic.

It is a bigger city than I imagined, with nearly the same population as Erie—over 100,000, although 40 years ago only 5,000 people called this place home.

It actually started as a prison colony—a place where you would ship the worst of the worst and put them in a prison where, even if you could escape, there would be nowhere to go.

It is cold here most of the year, but luckily we are in late spring here so it stays light til 10pm and when I wake up (still get up @ 4:30 each day) it is already daylight. Midnight sun sort of thing.

We took a raft and a long hike through Tierra del Fuego National Park, which was absolutely beautiful.  Different than forests we have. For one thing, the trees are not as big (short growing season and very cold, dark winters).  Not many bugs or insects of any kind (again, too short a season). No ants. So all the trees that fall (strong winds knock them down) they don’t decompose and can lay there for 50 years or more. So, that is a bit strange looking.

But the park is beautiful

This is where we rafted.

And this was our rafting group. This is actually the end of the “highway” that goes all the way down North and South America from Alaska, which is 17,500 km away.

The hike was about 6 miles long and was much more than a simple “walk in the park”.

When we got back to the city, Hallie and I went to an Ice Bar, where she was attacked by the bouncer. (Big, ugly guy)

He didn’t scare me at all though.

And the owner then made me an honorary bouncer and put my pic on his Facebook page.

(Actually that’s just a good hair day for me 😀)

Tomorrow we go out to see sea lions and penguins in the Beagle Channel before heading onward around the Southern Tip of the world to the fjords of Chile and the Pacific Ocean.

Viking Cruise: The Falkland Islands

What an absolutely pleasant surprise the Falklands were. VERY remote (as you can see from the map).

Very unpopulated (only 3,500 residents)

Yet an absolutely beautiful place with amazing scenery and tons of wildlife.

Their main industries are fishing, sheep farming and tourism.  There are only 3 flights there a week from anywhere in the world (once a week from London, England and once a week from Santiago, Chile).  Plus there are very few (and very small motels) so the only real way to visit is by ship.  But they had almost 60,000 visitors last year come that way. It is a growing industry.

One of the things people get to see is the large penguin population. These are wild birds but they roost here and are pretty friendly (even though they sit on their eggs for weeks). They let you get really close and seem curious more than afraid. THIS CLOSE!

One of the main fish here is the Patagonian Toothfish.  (From the pic you can see why it’s called that)

The funny thing is, this is one of the best (and most famous) marketing successes ever. What they did was—someone figured out that if they changed the name from Patagonia Tooth fish to something more yummy-sounding, more people might be willing to eat it.

So…Voila!  Allow me to introduce you to the Chilean Sea Bass.  Sounds MUCH better (though it tastes—and is—the same exact fish). (Sorry to tell you 😀).

We also got to see some sea lions.  It’s funny because on these cruises, they spoil you so much. Don’t have to cook or clean or shop—they make it easy.  I thought “this is the life”.  But after watching these guys do this for like 4 hours today, THIS is the life! 😀

On to Ushaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world.  Big storm coming tonight. Hang onto your hat!

Viking Cruise: Sailing the South Atlantic

We’re at sea for a couple of days, heading towards the Falkland Islands. We are about 42 degrees south of the equator (which is about the same exact distance that Erie, Pa is north of the equator!).  So in the same sort of temperate zone, only opposite—it’s coming into summer here. I think the next part of this trip will be kind of like going to Alaska in the summer. We will be going around Cape Horn, which is the southernmost land on the planet (other than Antarctica, which I really don’t think is land, but is more frozen water—I’m not sure).

Anyway, we’re a long way from home.

From the larger perspective, you can see from this world map how far south we are as we head towards the Falklands and around the tip of South America.

We’ve seen a bunch of albatrosses so far. Pretty amazing animals. Some of them have wingspans of up to 11 feet. They can live for 80 years. And they spend most of their lives at sea, flying thousands of miles. They have been following the ship for a couple of days now. Very graceful flyers. Riding the wind, so to speak.

Weather down here can be rough. In fact, they have already canceled a stop in Argentina at Puerto de Madryn because of a big storm. So instead we are heading due south straight to Ft. Stanley in the Falkland Islands (The Malvinas to the Argentine’s).

Most of you probably won’t remember, but in 1982 Britain and Argentina fought an actual war over this land called The Falklands War.  England won.

However, just a few years later, at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City at the 1986 World Cup, Argentina got their revenge, when led by legend Diego Maradona and his infamous “Hand of God” goal, Argentina beat the Brits at “their own game”.

Check it out (for those of you who know Argentina futbol as Lionel Messi 🙂

(And for you soccer fans, the other goal Maradona scored that game was one of the greatest runs/goals of all time. Check it out:


Viking Cruise: Goodbye Sun and Warmth

Yesterday we bid goodbye to the mainland and the sun and warmth for a while. It’s been a great trip so far, but now probably the most interesting (at least different) part as we head south to the Falkland Islands, and then around the southern tip of South America.

We spent a lovely day at the beach in Montevideo. As you can see, very pretty beaches. It’s summer here in South America remember 🙂

Even though this looks like an ocean, it’s really the mouth of the Plata River emptying out into the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s 100 miles wide. Crazy.

I know I have a pissed off look in this picture, but there’s good reason:

There are a lot of rough looking “bad hombres” around here like this one, so you always have to be ready for anything.

Falklands next.

We should see whales, dolphins, and albatrosses on the way. Will let you know!


Viking Cruise: Buenos Aires -Delta Islands

Yesterday we had a very unique opportunity thanks to our good friend Matias Marquez and his brother Marion.

First we drove an hour outside of the city of Buenos Aires. Then we hopped onto a river bus. This is literally a boat that stops at dozens of small docks along the river delta islands where it backs up and 2 or 3 people either jump on or jump off. And, as you can see, it is how they get their groceries and supplies etc. 

After about 45 minutes we got off and then hiked a half a mile to a friend of Marion’s place where we got to kayak and canoe through the small river channels, grabbed a beer and lunch at a quaint little restaurant, canoed back to the place, walked back to the dock and then took a water TAXI (MUCH faster than a water bus) back to the mainland, where we grabbed (another) great lunch and drove back to the ship.

Now, two things of note:

1.  Unfortunately (for you) this is one of those places/experiences that you really cannot describe and actually need to see for yourself. The remoteness of this place. Their simple way of life. The slow, quiet pace. The lush greenery. The life by-water-only (no roads or sidewalks) is hard to “get” unless you can see it. Sorry.

2. We left on this journey at 8am when Matias picked us up at the port, and had to be back at the ship by 5pm. Matias had to race to get us back on time (worst case, we are late and then have to catch up with the ship at the next port—Montevideo, Uruguay—which we could do if we had to, so not a real big deal. But it was a race through traffic and a lot of red lights and construction zones to try and make it.

And true to the spirit of Argentina and of logistics, Matias got us back at 5:05 (a LITTLE late, but still in time to make it onboard) BUT he also found the time on the drive for a quick detour and stop at Freda’s Gelato for some Dulce de Leche ice cream and banana split. Well worth the delay and the possibility of having to catch the ship at the next port.  Well done, Mati!

Onward!  (With a too-full belly 😀).

And gracias to Mati and Marion for a most unforgettable day and experience.

Viking Cruise: Tango Night in Buenos Aires

Last night Matias took us to a tango place where we:

1.) Got a tango lesson. (GREAT success!) Because only one got seriously injured 🙂
2.) Had a great dinner (meat,meat and more meat) And wine of course 🙂
3.) And got to see a real tango show, which was terrific.

Great music and dancing!

Fun Time!


Viking Cruise: Buenos Aires Day 1

Buenos Aires is a VERY cool city. Very modern and vibrant—European looking. Reminds me of Toronto.

It is the birthplace of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, better knows as Pope Francis, who (believe it or not) of was a bouncer at a nightclub here before entering the seminary.

It has more bookstores per person than any city in the world.

It is where Eva Peron was worshiped by millions (thus the stage play, Evita and the movie starring Madonna).

It is very Spanish and Italian. 2 million immigrants came from both Italy and Spain after both world wars (it is a big country, without many people, so they were happy to get folks to come and live here). Were not as many big native communities as there was further north.  And not many people of color, due to it’s geography and history. Seems like it was too far south (cold south) for the slave trade to reach here. It has the 3rd largest Jewish community in the hemisphere. (The US, Canada, then Argentina). Half a million Jews. Plus a kosher McDonald’s.

You can find houses of worship of all kinds here. VERY tolerant. And who can guess what is the #1 religion? It was brought here by the British over a century ago…

Answer: Futbol (soccer). And this is their main Cathedral.

Home of Diego Maradona of yesteryear, and of Lionel Messi today.

Their “White House” is a Pink House. And, we are told it is pink because to help waterproof the limestone it was constructed with, they used pig’s blood. Thus the reddish tint.

Surprisingly to me, their #1 export is not beef or wine (though they are famous for that). Their #1 is soybeans. Mostly to China.

Going to see a Tango performance tonight!