Big day today. Depart from Ushuaia. Farewell ship board friends. See more green trees and plants and grass. Fly on a chartered Aerolineas plane from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires. Get myself to a new Hotel near the Plaza de Mayo. Communicate with the world again. That is the short list of how the day progressed.
But … the brows of readers might furrow … where are the stories from the 3rd of November until now? They are on my hard drive and in the cloud waiting for a time when I can post them onto the blog. I wrote around 20,000 words while in Sub-Antarctica and Antarctica. Uploading these and hundreds of photos will be slow, and I want to keep living and discovering through every new day of my travels. Therefore, it is possible, but who knows, these stories may not get uploaded until I return late December. On the upside you may have some reading to do after Christmas! Think of the benefits – you may be baking in the hot sun and reading about places far colder than you have experienced. It may cool you down.
But back to here and now – on the 18th November. After travelling so far, the Great Adventure was nearly over.Our luggage was to be outside our cabin rooms by 6am. But that timing was too difficult for me and later I took my small case down and added it to the collection of super large suitcases before they were offloaded. I was up around 5.30 am and looked out from the ship. There was Ushuaia and the mountains and the waters. Perhaps those distant mountains were Chile – I felt certain they were.
I farewelled those who were leaving for the 8am flight (I was on the midday flight), and met the rest of my ‘pack’ for breakfast; the final breakfast. Before I left my cabin for the last time, sitting looking out over my balcony and trying to relax, I caught a cheeky selfie.
While waiting for our disembarkation, Daphne airdropped some of her photos to our phones. She supplies a Chinese travel blog – her work is brilliant (she had all the camera gear) and I thought you might enjoy seeing at least a few penguins (well more than a few).
Then it was our turn to leave the ship. I stepped out and found surprisingly, as a guard of honour, all the naturalists and Expedition team had lined up to say goodbye. It was silly. It was fun. It was moving. We had all experienced so much together, so that it was with both pleasure and sadness we could say our final goodbyes.
Onto the bus and off to the airport seeing a little more of suburban Ushuaia as we travelled.
Massive wooden beams structured the airport. An oddity was an alcove with a statue of the Virgin Mary, with flowers and other offerings around. The extreme light made recording this unexpected airport item, almost impossible.The arrival of our Aerolineas plane was delayed but finally after an extraordinary, but transient, storm (complete with a glowing rainbow, the clarity of which I have seldom seen) it arrived.I tested out the ‘vegetarian’ packed lunch provided by our conveyors to the airport (the plane offered no meals and we were not due to arrive in Buenos Aires until 15.15). We all laughed before I opened what seemed like a bun. It weighed heavy. I passed it around and the guessing game began. What did it contain? Lettuce doesn’t weigh much. How puzzling. Inside was a very wide 1 inch deep round of deep fried, with crispy coating of goodness knows what, something. It might have been dense cheese and potato without much potato. None of us could work it out and I tried it and – well it had a marvellous taste of fat and salt. As much as I like those flavours I couldn’t, didn’t eat it. Gross at every level. On the plane later, I smiled when I read the inflight magazine’s special article on what not to eat when you are about to fly and what to eat. Nothing more to be said here, is there. It’s the little stuff that breaks up the monotony of air terminals.
After the luxury of the Ponant ship, this flight supposedly chartered for us was economy on a normal flight and packed as sardines we were. Reasonably noisy old plane and I wondered if it once belonged to Ansett or TAA – nah, maybe more recent than that. I had a nice enough time – it is one advantage of short legs and learning to cope with any situation. Had two great people from New Zealand next to me who moved elsewhere to protect the lady’s bad knees from the rude Frenchman in front who wiggled his malfunctioning chair thoughtlessly (the karma for him was that I talked too loudly later when he wanted to sleep, and he was most disgruntled. All the surrounding Australians rolled their eyes not understanding what his problem was. A divide had developed on the ship for all sorts of reasons between the English speakers and the French and it continued.).
I enjoyed looking down at the country and then mostly at the ocean. The way the clouds created shapes on the water seemed crisp like a screenprint.For a while I had the run of three seats. We all know how good that is. Then another woman, who I knew quite well, came and joined me. We had a great time until we both slept (The flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires was about 3 hours). Joan (and Doug) was from Kooyong and played tennis, so we talked about the Davis Cup there etc. Then, as we flew over Buenos Aires, I could point out the huge number of clay courts below.
We landed at the domestic airport which is much closer to the centre than the international airport. Some of my new-found friends were heading off home but a few were spending a couple of nights here in BA. We had a mixed bag of futures. We had been thrown together so intensely for a fortnight that it was something of a wrench for all to leave.
At the airport I purchased a transfer car to my hotel and my driver, with his crisp white shirt, headed off. The roads are wider and newer than the trip to the city from the international airport, so it was much less stressful for me to travel on these roads. A bit of fun occurred when I surprised my and another driver – we were lined up waiting for a street light to change when I exclaimed in my best Spanish – they are my friends in the adjacent car – and so it was a case of happy unexpected Holas between two cars in the middle of a city. Between people who might never meet again. One more practice of weaning – from the intensity of the lived experience of the ship.
On massive many laned fly overs, we drove past what looked like the pictures I have seen of favelas in Brazil. Shonky built residences to make do and survive. Most were concrete block and perhaps they were finished inside. I will never know. I was surprised at the tiny size of most.
Then into the older part of Buenos Aires. Past wonderful French inspired grand architecture. The sun was shining, and the city looked great. I could easily get my bearings when I saw street names and felt like I was returning ‘home’. Well not quite of course, but the familiarity was seductive. Despite the depressing effects of my cold I was reenergised. Happy to be in the sun. Happy to see big trees. Happy.
My hotel is near a church I visited during my last trip. It rings the time on the hour for most of the day (but not all the night) and next morning I heard the bells play out music. An unexpected bonus.
After settling in, I subwayed off to my favourite vegetable meal location but, of course, it was shut. I began walking back towards my hotel and entered an old-style restaurant Los 36 Billares (Billiards – but I saw no sign of a billiard table). A bronze plaque on the wall informed me this restaurant was declared a Site of Cultural Interest and had been established in 1894. Its internal and external structure reflected a very wealthy 1894 and the feeling was of old world, but smart. Wood panelled walls had intricate, beautifully crafted wooden inserts creating pictures of grapes and leaves. Italian inspired food range on offer; my gnocchi in tomato sauce with herbs seemed all home made and made on order (each gnocchi ‘pillow’ was different in a rough sort of way but still refined and melt in the mouth). It was an extraordinarily good and fresh meal. After a fortnight of free Champagne (not sparkling wine but varieties of Champagne) and endless wonderful cocktails (okay so I let my hair down) having to buy a drink was a shock. I ordered something I had never experienced, and it was refreshing but way too strong, so I did the unusual and left some behind (I am on all sorts of drugs to get rid of this cold!). The drink was called a Ferroviario and I would have it again in a flash if I could. The ingredients were Cinzano Rosso with Fernet (another aperitif) and soda – with an old-fashioned soda pump bottle supplied for me to top up as I wished. Marvellous.
An early collapse into bed ended what had been a long and emotional day.