We had a late breakfast at the hotel before checking out of the hotel, preparing to board our boat, the MV Ushuaia at about 4pm.
Alex had kindly arranged transport down the hill to the port for all our gear so we were relatively unburdened for our walk about town.
The first view of the day was out little boat being dwarfed by some of the big cruise ships in town. Ours is the little blue one on the left being dwarfed by the massive cruise ship behind. From their private balconies we could just see the passengers peering down at us.
The MV Ushuaia was formerly a research vessel, and at some stage in its life a spy vessel for the US government. It’s relatively small size will allow us much greater access once we’re down in the Antarctic peninsular. Some of the big boats aren’t even allowed into those waters, and some of the medium sized ships only offer on or two landings during their 10 day cruises. Weâ€™re very happy with our choice, and that was not diminished by looking up at the men and women in their robes sitting on their private balconies.
After being quite smug about our vessel we walked up the hill to the ‘just about everything museum’. It is housed in the former prison. One wing has been left largely as was, small cells which were roughly the size of our cabin aboard. They did not share a bathroom between two cabins however. At the end of the hall there was a large shower room that looked to be inspired by concentration camps, and toilets, no door of any kind.
The wing was fairly cold, even on a balmy summers day in Ushuaia (17 degrees C). The form of heating used while it was operational appeared to be two wood burning stoves in the corridor that runs between the cells, I imagine winters would not have been all that comfortable.
Ushuaia also used to have an art and craft workshop to help rehabilitate child inmates who arrived here. The first convicts to be sent to Ushuaia were hand picked because of the skills they could bring to develop the town. During the wars political prisoners were also housed here.
The museum wing has a guided tour, but only in Spanish. It appeared to involve a lot of standing around and being spoken at so I don’t think we missed out. There are audio guides for hire at 50 pesos. We didn’t both with that either, and most exhibits had both Spanish and English signs.
A significant part of the museum had photos of comparative prisons around the world. There were a number of Australian mentions, including Port Aurther and Fremantle.
The maritime section has number of model ships and a plethora of dioramas. We learnt that the first tourist ship to visit Antarctica went in 1958, called Liberato, and from the picture it looks like it was larger than the one we are on now.
For 200 pesos each ($20) it was interesting enough, and good to be supporting the community. Kingsley thought the unused wing would make a great backpackers and has it in his head we should find a disused prison somewhere to convert.
After being served paella by a very tall man in a touristy sort of restaurant that seems to cater for the big cruise ships coming into town, we had two objectives. The first was to find a spare lens cloth just in case, and the second to find coffee and cake. Despite there being three camera shops and two optometrists in town none had a cloth for me. And we wandered through town looking for an open coffee shop and failed to find what we were after.
Also notable is that most shops close down for the period between 1 and 3:30. Another oddity for a tourist town. They also make it hard for you to spend money here. If you want to use a credit card you’ll need to swipe / insert your card, use your pin, sign and provide ID(drivers license or passport). Using an ATM to get cash is even harder. There is a limit of wither 1000 or 2000 peso for each bank, And 4 out of 5 ATMs I tried to use keep telling me I had entered an invalid amount, even though I selected from the menu. We do have USD with us and most places will accept those, after some checking with supervisor.
3 o’clock came around and we met up with the rest of the group at the port. We were warmly welcomed aboard the boat by the crew and they have been the nicest, smiliest people we have encountered in Argentina so far. Frederico and Valentine being the exceptions to prove the rule of course.
The MV Ushuaia was formerly a research vessel, and at some stage in its life a spy vessel for the US government. Itâ€™s relatively small size will allow us much greater access once we’re down in the Antarctic peninsular. Some of the big boats aren’t even allowed into those waters, and some of the medium sized ships only offer on or two landings during their 10 day cruises. We’re very happy with our choice, and that was not diminished by looking up at the men and women in their robes sitting on their private balconies.
Having been warned of the dangers of sea sickness over DrakesPassage, most of the group opted to use patches.Some experienced a bit of spaceyness and dry mouth. So far Kingsley and I have possibly been a little vaguer than usual but that’s it.
Once aboard we needed to listen to a safety induction by our expedition leader, Monika, with a focus on heavy doors and keeping you fingers out of door jams, and a life boat drill. All very organised. There are three biologists aboard who will be giving lectures and coming along on landings.
The food is not very adventurous, but I guess a lot of people they may not be eating much over the next few days.