Ushuaia, Punta Arenas and Perito Mareno Glacier

Day 29 - Friday, February 3rd - Ushuaia, Argentina:  We arrived in the port of Ushuaia during the night and were ashore by 7:30.  This city of about 50,000 residents claims to be the southernmost city in the world.  They have an average of 30 days of totally sunny skies a year with an average temperature in the summer of around 50, in the winter around 30.  We took a four-hour excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park.  Ferdinand Magellan reached this area in 1520 and named the area Patagonia, which means "big feet," referring to the large protective shoes the natives wore.   He also named the largest of the group of islands south of the Magellan Strait Tierra del Fuego, or "Land of Fire."  The park is in Argentina, but the nearby mountains are in Chile and are the southern end of the Andes.  We stopped at several scenic places and also a Visitor's Center in the park.  We drove along the Pan Am highway that one can drive all the way to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, about 11,000 miles away.  We went to the end of the highway and took pictures of the historic sign.  A penal colony that was off the east coast of Tierra del Fuego maintained a narrow gauge railway in this area, part of which goes through the park.  Our possible shore excursion to Antarctica is tomorrow so in the afternoon we took the clothes we'll be wearing to be sanitized and shoes and bags vacuumed.  They want to do everything they can to keep foreign plants and animals from being introduced to the Antarctic.  We left Ushuaia about 3:00 and headed up the Beagle Channel toward Punta Arenas.  The captain announced that a big storm is approaching this area and we'll be spending an extra day in Punta Arenas.

Click here for photos of Ushuaia


Day 30 - Saturday, February 4th - Punta Arenas, Chile:  This town is on the Strait of Magellan and when we left the ship at 8:30 it was very windy and chilly.  We tendered ashore, got on a bus and arrived at the airport in about 1/2 hour. (There is a replica of Magellan's ship on the strait on the way to the airport--it's unbelievable that they could have gone exploring in that tiny vessel).  About 10:00 the authorities who approve the plane trips to Antarctica said we could not fly there, as there were strong crosswinds on the gravel runway where we were to land.  There was a downpour of rain and hail while we were waiting to get on the chartered jet for Plan B, which everyone understood would happen if the non-refundable trip to Antarctica wasn't possible.  We flew to the town of El Calafate (also very windy and cool) in Argentina, where we boarded a bus for a 50 mile drive to the Perito Mareno Glacier.  It was a long bus ride, as the road was very curvy, but the scenery was very diverse from the flat steppe area where we saw ranches with sheep and horses to the mountainous areas where the glaciers were.  We followed along the largest lake in this country, Lake Argentina, which is a very pretty color and has icebergs in it that have broken off the glaciers.  The glacier was impressive, but the weather during our couple of hours in the Los Glaciares National Park was cool and drizzly.  Mt. Fitz Roy, the much photographed mountain, is in the northern part of this park, but we couldn't go there in a day. The lady behind us on the bus whined and complained about Plan B almost all the way back to the ship.   We had 45 minutes in El Calafate before we flew back to Punta Arenas, and we spent it wisely by going to a bar with Pat and Bill, retired teachers from Seattle.  Wish we could spend more time with them instead of listening to the whiney little lady on the bus who wore her pink earmuffs all day (13 1/2 hours).  We got back on the ship about 10:00.  We're disappointed that we couldn't set foot on Antarctica, but we're glad we saw so much when were were cruising there for three days.  We hope we don't miss Easter Island because of more bad weather ahead.

Day 31 - Sunday, February 5th - Punta Arenas, Chile:  Punta Arenas has a population of about 110,000 and is Chile's southernmost city.  It was pouring while we were having breakfast, so we waited until the sun came out before we went ashore in the tender.  It was still very windy and it alternated between rain and sun most of the day.  We walked around the area near the pier, got some souvenirs and went to the supermarket to buy some Chilean wine.  Another cruiser in line behind us had a cartful of wine--she told us we could bring as much as we wanted on board but no liquor.  We came in second at trivia this afternoon and had a nice dinner with Lillian.  She's quite concerned with Paul's activities, as he had a "date" tonight and wasn't with us for dinner.  The captain gave us a revised itinerary based on the latest weather forecasts.  We will not be cruising the Chilean fjords, but hope to be at Easter Island by February 11th.  We'll miss the port of New Caledonia, but a lot of passengers are happy that they haven't cut Easter Island (yet).  The captain said the next two sea days could be rough.  We hope we have some good sea legs after 31 days.  There is a big Super Bowl party in the main lounge tonight, but since the game didn't start until 8:30, we decided to watch it in our cabin.  Our satellite feed is from ESPN and we are missing the best part--the commercials.  We don't really care who wins and won't watch the entire game.

Day 32 - Monday, February 6th - Sea Day:  The rocky motion woke us up early.  Jay went up to the Lido and watched dishes sliding around and crashing.  Barbara was going to stay in bed and avoid walking around, but a wine bottle and glass fell over on the desk, so she had to get up to save the wine.  We washed two loads of laundry this morning, played trivia and went to the dining room for lunch.  The dining room stewards are amazing--that they can bring you coffee or even pour water and serve meals on these rough seas is incredible.  The captain said we were in a strong gale with winds close to 60 mph.  After lunch we participated in the slot tournament.  Jay qualified for the finals tomorrow.  We had dinner in the dining room and went to our cabin right after dinner.  There was no show because of the weather conditions.

Day 33 - Tuesday, February 7th - Sea Day:  The seas aren't quite as rough today--the swells were only 16-20 feet (didn't hear what they were yesterday) and the winds were down to 40 mph. The sun was out today and we saw lots of blue skies.   We went to see the presentation of things to do on Easter Island which was followed by a lecture by Revell Carr, whom Walter Cronkite called "one of the world's outstanding maritime historians."   He talked about the explorers Dampier and Roggeveen.   The Dutch explorer Roogeveen was the first European to land on Easter Island, and he named it for the day he landed.  The slot tournament final was this afternoon and Jay was one of the six finalists.  Alas, he did not win the $500 prize but the five runners-up got t-shirts.  After dinner we went to a program by three English musicians called The Grace Trio.  They sang a great selection of songs.  After the program we played "Name That Tune Trivia."  Ted and Helena from Toronto, who win every time, asked if they could join us.  We won, of course, and they credited us for a few answers.  We got back to our cabin to hear the caucus and primary votes in MN, CO and MO being counted.  Thought that Romney may have had the nomination sewed up, but sounds like it's not over yet.

Click here for photos of Punta Arenas and Perito Mareno Glacier

© Jay Deitch 2015