The Drake – Heading Out
We are late leaving Ushuaia. A storm is passing through and the Port is closed because of high winds. That translates into 15-20′ swells in The Drake and headwinds gusting to 90km/h on Day One. Day Two is calmer, but over half of the passengers are already, well, shaken. We are treated to the first of many whale and shelf iceberg sightings. So, not the Drake Lake, but neither is it the Drake Master Shake. That was our return.
The Drake – The Return
Antarctica sees us off with a storm that forces us to skip our final landing and excursion. Another cruise ship of equal displacement decides to press on. It arrives in Ushuaia ahead of us but with damaged stateroom windows and some minor injuries. We shelter instead near Arctowski Station, partially protected from the wind and waves by King George Island. The Captain asks us to secure everything. We stock up on scones for me and dark chocolate for her. I doze off just as Casablanca ends. In the early morning hours we make our run for Ushuaia.
The swells are around 20′ but the wind often hits us amidships. Even the crew are feeling the effects. We hunker down in our room but venture out for lunch and dinner. The dining room is mostly deserted and eerily quiet except for the periodic crash of silver and glassware. Julia, the irrepressible maître d’ is there of course, and the food is as always perfect.
Sleep that night is hard to come by. We are joined at breakfast the next morning by one of our travel partners. Just one. Someone named ‘me’ unthinkingly notes how the view out of the window is sea one moment, sky the next.
I teeter totter over to the juice bar and when I return my wife is alone. She gives me a look and I replay what I said. What I did. A quick scan of the room and glance towards the entrance confirms my fear. Julia flips her head towards the exit then back to me. No. He won’t be coming back. Maybe for lunch?
Our last day with The Drake is not nearly as bad. Then we are around the point and Ushuaia eases into view. The Silver Explorer pulls into port and Silversea Classic Antarctica voyage 7824 comes to an end. We started out knowing only two other passengers. We end knowing nearly a hundred. For some it was their first cruise. Others were checking off their final continent. All seemed in awe of their surroundings. Antarctica has that effect on people. I know it did on us.
Hop-on-hop-off bus: the horrid reviews on most travel sites are for real. A bit overboard, but only just a bit. Map the route in your phone beforehand. The guide/sound track is mostly useless. Still, one of the best ways to see the city, and Buenos Aires deserves to be seen.
Dinner & Tango Show? Yes! We chose the Café de los Angelitos but really, it is hard to go wrong. Food, service were excellent, and the show was even better. We met all of the usual suspects, Recoleta Cemetery, La Boca, Plaza de Mayo and Parque Tres de Febrero, Plaza San Martín and Floralis Genérica.
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego bills itself as “the End of the World.” Ice Hockey has supplanted football there as the sport of choice. Ushuaia skaters helped Argentina become the first South American nation to achieve associate member status of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Hockey aside, the town is clean and the people and climate welcoming and warm. If the End of the World is anything like Ushuaia, we have nothing to fear.
Pro Tip: In addition to learning local language and customs before travelling, learn the local football squads. I sported a Club Atlético River Plate hat through much of our travels. I’m probably more of a Boca Juniors person. Actually, I’m more of a Los Ñires Hockey Club person.
Thank You Cards
Thank You first and foremost to Luke, our Expedition Leader, Lecturer, Fisheries Expert, Marine Biologist, Wildlife Guide, Zodiac driver, and just a good person: Each morning your voice heralded a new set of adventures, and your smile greeted us at the beginning or end of some truly amazing excursions.
You didn’t do it alone. You had a superb Expedition Team helping you and helping us. Clive J., Cory W., Dmitri B., Hilman P., Jamie W., Luke K., Marieke E., Riette B., Scott S., Steffan D., and Tim H. You are all the best! Before hosting us in Antarctica, several of the team adventured in the Andes:
The entire crew was great–apologies to those I miss. Enzo, Julia, Jennel, Ronnell, Jennifer, Maria, Carmilla, Dalfon–you rule!
Excerpt from the cruise video shot, edited, and directed by the amazing Pablo Bianco. Pablo was with us on every trip but seen only when he wanted or needed to be seen. We chatted several times during the cruise. He’s just good peeps. Check out some of his work here. Thank you Pablo!