December 30, 2008 - January 16, 2009

Joan and I returned from a fabulous cruise/tour to Antarctica, Argentina and Iguazu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina border.  We used Overseas Adventure Travel and flew to Buenos Aires for New Years Eve.  We flew first to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where we met our tour mates and got to spend New Year's Eve and New Years Day in an almost deserted city, as everything shut down for the holiday.  This allowed us to take our guided city tour without the typical Argentine traffic jams.  The tolling in of the New Year was done in our hotel lobby with Nick, our tour leader and a couple of other hardy souls who battled jet lag and travel fatigue to stay up.  The next night we went to a Tango show, which was very professional and interesting.

Here's a shot of the Pink House, Argentina's White House.  Juan and Evita Peron stood on the balcony on the left to address the nation.

After two days in Buenos Aires, we flew to Ushuaia in Argentine Patagonia.  It is the southernmost city in the world and is the port where the expedition ships to Antarctica leave from.  We spent two days and one night there, visiting Tierra del Fuego National Park and preparing for boarding our ship.

Here's a shot of Joan at the waterfront in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world

While in Ushuaia, we visited Tierra del Fuego National Park.  The region is billed as fin del mundo (the end of the world) and it has unique habitat and species.  Ushuaia lies on the Beagel Channel, below the Straits of Magellen, and is the main channel used to get to the South Atlantic, bypass Cape Horn and steam south to Antarctica.


Here's Joan and I at Tierra del Fuego National Park and a shot of the Beagle Channel, with the southernmost national post office (Argentine) in the world on the pier and Chile and the Andes Mountains in the distance.

We boarded the MS Andrea, a boat with a Croatian and Philipino crew and steamed out towards Antarctica.  The crossing of the Drake Passage was relatively smooth going south, with rolling waves that pitched the boat from side to side all day and night.  Most people wore the patch and/or meds and there were not many people sick.  For safety, everything was tied down on the ship; tables, chairs, beds, furniture, etc,  all drawers had locks and the beds had wooden boards on each side to prevent rolling out of bed when sleeping.   It was an adventure!

We arrived in Antarctica by crossing 60 degrees south latitude and the first landfall were the South Shetland Islands (no, not where Spunky came from).  We had our first of 11 landings after the second day on the ship and it was an adventure, indeed.  Just suiting up took about 20 minutes.  You start with thermal underwear, warm shirt and jeans.  You put on three layers of socks (liners, regular and thick), then put on your knee high boots and pull your jeans legs down over the boot top.  Then you put on your waterproof outer pants OVER your boots and jeans.  You then put on your parka, scarf, hat and earmuffs, glove liners and outer gloves, then a life jacket.  If you're bringing a camera or camcorder, you need to put it around your neck or in your pocket in a plastic bag and put under your parka.  Then you're ready to get into the 10 person zodiac boat for a short ride and a wet landing on the Antarctic shore.

The most amazing views were of penguins, seals and icebergs.  It was estimated that we saw hundreds of thousands of penguins sitting on eggs, just hatched chicks or larger juveniles.  It needed to be seen to be believed.  The iceberg viewing was fantastic as well.  Icebergs as high as skyscrapers or as wide as several miles were gliding right by the ship.



Penguins, penguins, penguins.  Hundreds of thousands of them.


Icebergs of unbelieveable sizes!


The LeMaire Channel - one of the most beautiful passages on the trip.       


Beautiful scenery, with the zodiac and the ship providing scale.


Getting in and out of the zodiacs and our BBQ on deck off Peterman Island at the furthest south we got - 65 degrees - 11 minutes south

After 4 days in Antarctica, including two landings on the continent itself and 7 others on islands off the coast, we started back across the Drake Passage.  This time the seas were quite a bit rougher and we had Beaufort 8 seas and wind, with 25 foot waves rocking us front and back as well as side to side.  About half the people were sick and missed meals and lectures on board, including Joan for a day.  I was fine with the patch and didn't stop eating the great meals we had on board.  We arrived in Ushuaia and took a plane back to Buenos Aires for one night and then on to Iguazu!

Iguazu is a waterfall on the Argentine, Brazilian border.  One side is in Argentina and the other in Brazil.  We flew to Puerto Iguazu on the Argentine side and saw the falls from that side, looking into Brazil.  Then we crossed the border into Brazil, stayed at a beautiful resort hotel in Foz do Iguazu and took the next day to see the falls from the Brazilian side.  The falls are higher than Niagara and much, much wider.  In fact, one cannot see the whole falls from one point.


One of the neat things we did was to take a raft ride under the falls.  We started downstream from the falls and motored up to go underneath and got soaking wet.  It was great fun and a great ending to the trip..