Viking Cruise: The Falkland Islands

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

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkland_Islands

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 🙂

https://youtu.be/BfgYnP99doM

(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:

https://youtu.be/KY40__rBvSk

Onward!

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!

Adelante!

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!

Viking Cruise: Montevideo

Uruguay is kind of an odd little country. Only 3.5 million people—half of whom live in the capital, Montevideo. Second smallest country in South America, sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, the 2 largest.

Mostly a Spanish and Italian heritage. Famous for soccer (they won the World Cup in 1930), Carnival (think a month long Mardi Gras), barbecue (YUM!), the tango (claimed also by Argentina) and their national drink called Mate (Tastes just like bitter tea to me).

But we had a nice walk around the city.

And had a great lunch at a giant building called something like “Palacio de Meat” (which for those of you who don’t speak Spanish (Yuriy) 🙂 I think means—Meat Palace.

PS—Jenny, Hard 8’s got nothin’ on Uruguay!

This is the famous Chivito sandwich. Steak and ham and cheese. Delicioso!

One of the taller buildings by the main square.

One of the Carnival characters (uh..the one on the right, duh!)

Onward to Buenos Aires!

Viking Cruise: Southbound

As we head further south, the weather sure is changing. It’s still nice, but the temps have gone from 90’s when we started, to the 80’s last week and now it is in the 70’s (don’t get jealous, folks in Erie 🙂 It will continue to get cooler as we get closer to Antarctica. Should be interesting.

Tonight we tried to go to a mysterious party on-board. Mysterious because all we knew about it was from the paper invitation that was slipped under our door yesterday saying “Outcast Party”.

Curious, we went down to find out what this was all about, only to find that our invitation was given to us in error and it was a party for the 30 or so smokers on-board. Once they found out we were not smokers, we got politely dis-invited.

So that means that we are even considered outcasts by the outcasts on the ship.

Makes sense 😀

Viking Cruise: Leaving Brazil

Left Rio on Thursday night for Montevideo, Uruguay and then Buenos Aires Argentina.

To say goodbye to Brazil the ship hosted a Brazilian night with great food and music. The Captain even served.

Hallie got into the spirit!

And I bought soon-to-be-1 year old Ernie a soccer jersey for his birthday.

Uruguay next!

Rio de Janeiro: Christ the Redeemer

Got to see one of the most iconic works of art in the world. The Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the city of Rio from Corcovado Mountain (Hunchback Mountain).

Christ the Redeemer is an art decor statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil created by French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, in collaboration with French engineer Albert Caquot. Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida fashioned the face. Constructed between 1922 and 1931, the statue is 98 feet high, excluding its 26 foot pedestal. The arms stretch 92 feet wide.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_the_Redeemer_(statue)

It is a most impressive site.

We walked the 220 steps up (easy peasy after walking 10-15,000 steps a day so far on this trip), but it started pouring and we got pretty soaked. Oh, well. Still very cool.

Please, if you are overly sensitive, stop reading here because I am going to make an insensitive joke:

I believe that the priest, Pedro Maria Boss, who conceived this magnificent idea wanted people from all over the world to come to invoke the name of his Lord.

It worked.

The top of the mountain is VERY crowded and everyone is totally rude, not considerate of anyone around them, posing for pictures, stopping wherever, to get the “perfect” selfie. So, what happens is, all you hear, in dozens of languages is people muttering something like, “Jesus Christ, can you please get these  f’ing assholes out of my way?”  (Though not sure that is EXACTLY what Father Pedro had in mind 😀)

Anyway, onto to another iconic site this afternoon – Sugarloaf Mountain.