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Day 11 – Buenos Aires

Day 11 – Buenos Aires

Today is brought to you by the number 3 and the letter C. The number 3 is for the number of dachshunds spotted today, all short haired, two minis and one standard. The letter C is for Closed on Mondays, which summarizes most museums  and the ecological reserve.


It would be fair to say we probably should have availed ourselves of the hopping element of yesterday’s hop-on, hop-off bus tour to visit these things when they were open. We choose to see the silver lining that our tramping about today with nowhere in particular to go helps our match fitness for clambering in and out of zodiacs and up icy embankments in the weeks to come.

We did mange to see the cemetery, get a closer look at the UNESCO listed ugly skyscraper, which from street level isn’t nearly as ugly as I thought it was yesterday, have a stroll along the front edge of the ecological reserve, not get our laundry done AGAIN by being disorganised, had a leisurely lunch and evaded  a second round of sunburn. We also managed to get lost on our way to join a walking tour (missing it entirely) and have a cheap eat with cheap beer in the antiques end of town.


With a little Prior Planning and Preparation we might have maximized our time here a little better, but we have nearly a full day here on our return journey so will be visiting the history museum and the ecological reserve on our way through then. Possibly dinner and a tango show depending on how deplorable the budget is looking by then. Apart from seeing a multitude of statues and Evita Peron’s  tomb I have sadly learnt very little about how Argentina came to be the place it is, which leaves me feeling like a very bad tourist. I could google it and pretend I’ve learnt it here, but that would be cheating. What I did learn is that an awful lot of the art and some of the gardens have been donated to Argentina by other countries. I wonder which government department sits down each year with a gift list for other counties of the world. Do they all have a calendar of significant dates like a birthday list (foundation, independence etc)? I’m sure there is a committee for that.

I should note that the people of Buenos Aires have clearly been reading about the coming zombie apocalypse. Nearly every mausoleum / crypt is bolted, padlocked and chained shut to slow the rising dead from attacking the city when it all starts. Now that is thinking ahead. However, some appear to have tried to make a break for it already with a number of broken hinges, glass and general disrepair. In all seriousness, wandering around cemeteries is another one of those weird religious type tourism things that leave me a bit iffy. The best bits were the cats who are apparently there to keep the rats in check, although the one I saw was more interested in eyeing off a pigeon snack, and the statue of the lady and her dog which had a Tim Burton kind of aesthetic. When I go, burn me and and feed my ashes to a tree. Failing that, the dog statue was nice.


I expect Buenos Aires is much better suited to night owls than to we morning people. We went out for a quick breakfast this morning and ended up at a cafe run by Surly and Grumpy I(clearly not morning folk). What I initially out done to a bad case of mondayitis may in fact have been blue market blues. In December the newly elected president of Argentina freed up the currency exchange, which has none some damage to the so called blue market. That is the exchange of US dollars for peso and vice versa. There used to be a big difference between the official exchange rate that offered on the blue market. Now it is just one or 2 %. The cafe was still doing some trade while we were there, but I assume it is not as profitable as it was just two months ago.

After a bad currency exchange experience in my youth in Bali I’m a bit of a sucker for a more official exchange, so paid the lazy tax and changed our cash at the hotel. You pay a premium for peace of mind, but not that much of one in this instance. Kingsley and I have also come to an understanding that perhaps it is best if I look after the money side of things as dividing by 10 and dividing by 100 seem to be interchangeable for him when it is getting late in the day, and adding 10% to things can also be problematic. Play to your strengths is the key. He talks to strangers and I dole out the cash. And don’t ask me the difference between left and right. 


I’ve also realised that I struggle much more with navigation in cities where the ocean lies on the wrong side (east) like BA than those white the water is where it ought to be on the west like Santiago. Go figure.

We’ve found BA to be reasonably affordable if you want it to be. I think we have been surprised by the lack of diversity in the food between here and home. Mainly grills joints (parrillas) serving enormous quantities of meat, salads and potato dishes, Italian pasta and pizza joints and general cafes with sandwiches and the norm. Nothing seems to stand out as something we haven’t tried before, but perhaps we have been looking in all the wrong places. Serving sizes are big, so an american thing not just a north american thing. I have read about some amazing closed door restaurants, but they are a bit above our price range for this trip and a,lso require the 3 P’s. Always leave them wanting more as they say in the classics I suppose.

Having carted my camera bag all over town for two days for no very good reason I’ve come to the conclusion that most days I should just leave it at the hotel and use my phone for the obligatory travel snaps. If I have the time I can always go back to a particular spot at the right time of day for anything more serious. I’m also working very hard to stick to my normal workflow rather than taking shortcuts and regretting it later. it is a bit frustrating when trying to get blog photos done quickly, but I know, deep, deep down, that I’ll kick myself  if I don’t and bugger it up and end up losing shots I want to keep. Other notes to self while I’m on  that subject (bear with me for those others of you who are actually reading this), before my next trip I need to get a light weight laptop not this hulking boat anchor, and bring a usb hub so I’m not having to switch between mouse, camera or card reader, iphone and primary and backup external hard drive. you would think I’d know better.

My last observation is that platform shoes are back. Can anyone explain that to me? We are going around in sensible shoes and have had about five near misses on rolled ankles so goodness only knows how these girls manage it. Especially when you’re dodging the drips form the multitude of air conditioners retrofitted to every classic building in town ( I can hear the numerous architects whose names I have forgotten from yesterday rolling in their graves, or crypts or mausoleums or ashes beneath trees or whatever) . I can only imagine what life must have been like in the days when effluent was tossed out of Windows. I’m not sure that ever happened here.

We fly out to Ushuaia tomorrow morning, so a few more days in Argentina before we get on board our boat. Our first job on arrival is to get our blooming laundry done finally or we are going to be the most unpopular people aboard.

PS : I know I still owe you day 8. I am now thinking I might schedule it to publish some random day when I’m out of contact to see if you’re paying attention. There is a cute, giant, ponderous rat in that post.  I know, I know, a rat I like.  Who knew?

Day 10 – Buenos Aires

Day 10 – Buenos Aires

We’re staying in a sweet little hotel in the middle of town. It has a brass revolving door at the entrance and lifts that you swing open on the outside by hand and an automatic inner door.

We did manage to get out and about for dinner last night, muddling our way through the menu and ordering with a little help from our waitress.
Knowing that we have to stay up again tonight we slept in, not leaving the hotel until after 9. Unheard of. To get a feel for the city we opted for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour, complete with audio guide in several different languages. Apparently it also comes with a bottle of wine. You’re not allowed to drink it on the bus. That was fine, it was 10:30 in the morning.
This is a pretty big city, full of a variety of impressive buildings, including the first concrete skyscraper that has been heritage listed by UNESCO. It is very, very ugly.
If you’re into architecture then this tour will likely mean more to you than it did to me.  I don’t really know my French provincial from my neoclassical. Gothic I can probably pick at a pinch. There are also a seemingly huge number of art museums, but I didn’t hear them m etiolated one for history, which interests me more. The history museum won’t be open tomorrow so that’s on the list for the return journey.
The audio guide does give a little bit of history as you go along, but each bit of the guide is tagged to a particular location it seems, which means when there is no traffic and you move quickly it cuts off part way through the commentary. I may never know why the zoo was ground breaking in the late 20th century. 
The headsets they you give you are a bit average. Luckily Kingsley had his own ear phones in his bag so we used those and could hear what was going on. It’s a double decker bus which is open to the elements so sunscreen is a must. Take care to apply it all over, failure to do so will leave you with sunburn, right Kings? A hat that won’t blow off in the wind is also required. I think both of those points serve for anything you do here in daylight hours. It is hot out there.
There is a little stop ‘for lunch’ at a cafe that gives a mini tango show. Great to see and the charming gent gave the girls on the bus a quick lesson and photo op. A black coat and fedora made all the girls look the part and the ladies look great with intense eye contact with their instructor. One girl was more excited than most, I’m not sure what her story is. Maybe doesn’t get out much or was raised with the Armish? That’s not fair, she wasn’t quite that excited. Nearly but not quite.  I’m sorry to say I think I have forgotten everything I ever learned in tango class, and  I didn’t bring my dancing shoes on the trip so declined the opportunity. Kingsley was the invited up. Probably just as well. The lady dancer was drop dead gorgeous and I may have had to continue to Antarctica alone.
Lots of things are closed on a Sunday, not least laundry services. Not even the hotel offers laundry on a Sunday. With an 11 day boat trip ahead we we hoping to get washed and pressed here, but it may be a rush around in Ushuaia instead.
Buenos Aires isn’t quite as pedestrian focused as Santiago but we are yet to have to walk on the road which sets it apart from most places we’ve visited in Asia. There are a lot of statues, monuments, fountains, parks and museums. It makes me hungry to know more about what they represent.
We’re back at the hotel for a nap as the restaurants don’t even open until 8 so I’ll need some z’s. 
Day 9 – Iguazu to Buenos Aires

Day 9 – Iguazu to Buenos Aires

Before you start, I am well aware I’ve missed a day. It was a great day, and I have started to write it up, but the lack of Internet in our room at the Sheraton in Iguazu Falls just made things harder than it needed to be, so this is going to be out of order.

Today was a travel day. Or at least that was what I was expecting. What I didn’t take into account is that they eat late here. Like after I’m normally tucked up in bed late. So I might have to tough this one out and stay up past 9pm… We shall see.
We had a nice lazy start to the day with breakfast at the hotel. I felt obligated to dig out the macro lens I brought with me around the gardens for little effect, and then Sergei, our driver from yesterday, who you don’t know about yet, picked us up and drove us the 15 minutes or so to the airport. Check in was easy and we got extra leg room in the emergency exit row for no charge. Might be to do with the split demographic. Either partners with children or the elderly with strength or movement impairment. We are both safely in middle age with no kids we were a good fit. It didn’t stop Kings sticking his feet into my space though. 
We ran into a NZ couple at the airport who are traveling with an annoying Australian. Who knew they were out there 🙂 they are off to some cricket to in Buenos Aires. I’m glad I’m not traveling with them.
Uneventful flight. We ended up spending more time in line to exchange USD to pesos than in the air. That may be a slight exaggeration but not by a lot. The baggage carousel advertised was not the one our baggage was actually on, but following a man shouting randomly in Spanish we found our bags. Kingsley’s was missing his luggage lock which was interesting…
The taxi ride into the city and the Hotel Bristol on the main drag took about 15 minutes and cost about 150 peso. I felt significantly safer in the car with Sergei than this taxi driver. I guess there are also fewer speed bumps in Buenos Aires. The music in the radio was a 80’s mixup so strange flash backs.
It is definitely cooler here than it was at Iguazu. Again the air conditioning in the hotel works. For those of you who don’t know our friend Craig you may not understand why I keep mentioning this. We walked in to our room at his ‘happy place’ temperature of 17 degrees. The view is not quite the same as our last hotel, looking into a back alley this time, but the room is cozy and the location is great.
Stuck between lunch (which we missed) and dinner (which is at a crazy-person hour here) we popped down to the local supermarket for some cheese, crackers, beer and medicine (some may know that as wine). Very thankful ro the lady behind is in line who explained what the girl at the checkout was trying to tell us about returning beer bottle for a Refund, like in Vietnam only less hand waving. Must study more (aka some) Spanish before coming back to South America.
The hotel we are staying in is just south of ‘the obelisk’. This part of the trip I have delegated to Kingsley to organise for good or ill. I recall when I took some tango classes with a very dear friend 12 or so years ago the most important lesson I learned was how important it is to allow someone else to lead. I will be dredging up that lesson over the next two days. I don’t know that I’ve been a very good student over the last decade so wish me luck.
First impressions are that this is much busier, less pedestian focused than Santiago was, and a lot more smokers. Might be my low blood sugar though. We shall see when it gets cooler and we head out.
Day 5 – Santiago to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires

Day 5 – Santiago to Iguazu Falls via Buenos Aires

Day 5 was the day I was dreading. It was another travel day, and we were at the mercy of many things over which we had no control. Overall it all went smoothly.
We had a transport booked from the apartment to the international airport in Santiago which arrived on time and whisked through the still sleeping city quickly and quietly. At the airport we attempted to use the self check-in, which worked for me but not Kingsley so I was furnished with boarding passes for the flight to Buenos Aires and the domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Iguassu Falls. Kingsley had a neatly printed slip of paper saying something had gone wrong.
Staff at the bag drop desk were able to assist however and we soon both had boarding passes for the first flight.
The flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires took us about an hour and a half and gave us a spectacular view of the Andes as we flew over.

I have a What The? For the city of Buenos Aires. Why build the international and domestic airports so far apart (45 km) Our connecting flight was domestic, so we needed to disembark, clear immigration, collect our bags, get through customs and trek across town in time to check-in, drop our bags and present for boarding on the new flight. We touched down in BA at 10:50 am, as scheduled. Originally our connecting flight was due to leave at 14:20 pm, but LAN had kindly pushed that back by an hour, giving us more time for which I was thankful.
*i have since learned that the Jorge Newberry airport is an international airport so probably my own fault. Even so…
We managed to clear customers etc in 40 minutes, and the airport transport service I had booked form home was waiting for us at arrivals with my name printed clearly on a board. I saw lots of other people waiting with names scratched on a piece of paper so I felt quite special. Our driver was also in a suit! He didn’t speak any English though, and we have already established that my one day of Spanish in duo lingo doesn’t get us very far. He knew where we were going though so we followed him to his car.
The car was a Renault. Kingsley’s suitcase fit in the boot. Just. Mine did not. It got wedged into the passenger seat, which would have been fit had the car been an automatic. It wasn’t and our poor driver kept prodding at it to make room to change gears.
The drive across town to the domestic airport took just under an hour. We were travelling between 11:30 and 12:30 and there was very little traffic. Being in a strange place the traffic is always the killer. On arriving a possible reason for the distance between international and domestic terminals presented itself. The national Argentian carrier does have international flights arriving at the domestic terminal.  This would clearly give tham an advantage as if we’d flown AA we wouldn’t have had to make the dash across town. I could be wrong. I don’t think I am. I also which I’d done my research as I could have booked our flight from Santiago with AA. Live and learn. 
We had arrived in plenty of time for our flight, in plenty of time if the time had been the original easier time too. It was a big relief. A friendly LAN staff member helped Kingsley check-in and we were ready I for our next challenge, local currency. 
We had come armed with USD to exchange in country, but had heard that the rates oat the airport are unfavourable. We were going to need cash for our transfer form the airport to hotel in Iguassu and the entry fee to the park (260 ARS per person). And we were ready for a drink and a bite to eat.
So I thought an ATM on this occasion would do the trick. I was aware that the banks have a daily withdrawal limit or either 1000 or 2000 pesos. In our case 1000 pesos (approx $100 AUD) was going to be very tight and leave us nothing for tips or spending money on arrival in the park. I couldn’t find an ATM that would give me any more than 1000 pesos.
I should have listened to Kingsley and stopped to work out how much we’d need before heading to the departure lounge area. Then we could have bitten the proverbial bullet and changed some USD at the exchange place there. I figured there would be one at Iguassu airport. I was wrong.
There was another ATM that allowed me to withdraw another 1000 pesos though. I will be looking at two lots of withdrawal charges when I get home so my $200 AUD will cost me $216 plus whatever pain is associated with exchange rates that I haven’t anticipated. Live and learn.
On arrival on Iguassu I was feeling we were on the home stretch. We had been on the move since 5:30 am and as it was now 16:30 we we’re feeling a bit done in. Kingsley had booked a remiss to collect us and take us to the hotel. We stood around and waited until the arrivals hall was empty of passengers except us. No remise.
A friendly taxi driver offered for drive us for less than we had been quoted for the remise, and Kinglsey suspected there had been some mix up with the date he had booked so we jumped in the taxi, where both our bags fit this time and off we went to the park.
There are only two hotels inside the national park. One on the Brazillian side and another on the Argentinian side. We are staying at the Sheraton on the Argentian side making this the decadent honeymoon part of the trip. One of the reasons is that I am very keen to squeeze as much as I can out of the four hours each day between 6am and 10 am when all the bus loads of other tourists arrive.
Our hotel room has an amazing view. You can get a similar view form the patio bar, but as we discovered the seats their are quickly monopolised by the roving packs of octogenarians than seem to be the main residents of the hotel. 

The funny thing is about staying in a more expensive hotel, you seem to get less included. No free wifi in your room here. We signed on to their loyalty program ( I’m expecting spam in my future) which give us wifi in the common areas. Very odd. So I’m blogging from the lobby.
We survived the day without arguing, arrived in the right place, on time, with baggage,  enjoyed a cocktail looking out over greenery to an amazing waterfall. I’m calling it a win.
Chile, Argentina and Antarctica

Chile, Argentina and Antarctica

This proverbial trip of a lifetime has been over a year in the planning.  And that’s with someone else planning the important things for us (Thank you Alex Cearns and World Expeditions).

Just like many of the people I’ve spoken to about the trip, I was initially suprised that we would be traveling to Antarctica via South America, and not Tasmania as I had imagined.  This is why…

Map courtesy of

We will be going to the Antarctic Peninsula (the bit in the red square).  The trip from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Peninsula via Drake’s Passage should take us a couple of days. Travelling from our side of the world would take us to the eastern side and take considerably longer. So all in all the loooong flight from Perth to South America makes sense, and lets us visit three other countries on the way.

Perth to Santiago, Chile

15 January

We fly via Sydney and will no doubt spend most of that time trying not think about Brian and Craig and their Business Class tickets to Europe.

Santiago, Chile 

16 – 18 January

We will be staying in downtown Santiago.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina (and a bit of Brazil) 

19 – 23 January

Seeing as this trip is actually our belated honeymoon, I thought a few days of luxury were in order.  We’ll be staying in the Sheraton, in the national park on the Argentinian side.

Buenos Aires, Argentina 

23 – 26 January

Staying downtown we may take a bicycle tour to check out the sights.

Ushuaia, Argentina 

26 – 28 January

Before setting off on the boat we have a fun day out planned with Canal Fun Ushuaia which will take us out into the Tierra del Fuego National park.
We’ll meet up with our tour group before embarking on the MV Ushuaia.


28 January – 8 February

Aboard the MV Ushuaia we will spend the first few days hoping for a calm crossing of Drake’s passage and that the sea sickness meds work.

We’ll then make our way around the South Shetland Islands and the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula visiting an assortment of islands and bases.

Ushuaia, Argentina 

8 – 10 February

A quick stop to get our land legs before heading home.

Buenos Aires, Argentina 

9- 11 February

Just a day.

Buenos Aires to Perth  

11 – 12 February

The long ride home.