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January 2003 trip to the Antarctic.

ANTARCTICA - even the word conjures up magic, mystery, ice and, of course, penguins. Debbie loves penguins! So January 2003 found us aboard the Norwegian Ship M/S Nordnorge on their “Voyage of Discovery” tour to the Antarctic.

 

This is our account of that once-in-a-lifetime trip; I have split it into 4 parts to make it easier for you to read:

1. To Argentina and Beyond (this page)

2. Crossing to the Antarctic

3. The White Continent

4. Round the Horn to Chile

I've included just a small selection of the 1000+ pictures that I took there; please contact me (via the email link on our home page) if you'd like to see some more

 

1. To Argentina and beyond

Preparations

We began to think of visiting Antarctica in October 2001 when Norwegian Coastal Voyage sent us a new brochure including details of their first winter (or summer down South) cruise to Antarctica. Apparently NCV had built a new ship and Nordnorge was no longer needed on their Norwegian Fjord run, but as it was fully registered for Polar conditions they decided to see whether a season at the other end of the world would be profitable. Unlike most companies who operate “down South” NCV decided it would run the cruise from Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego the southernmost point of Argentina, to Puerto Montt in Chile, thereby taking in the wonderful Chilean Fjords as well as Antarctica. They must have decided it was worthwhile for they still do the trip - following this link and clicking on "Chilean Fjords and Antarctica" will show you an excellent map of where we went and list the itinerary.

Buenos Aires

Fifteen long months after booking we found ourselves at snowy Heathrow ready to fly to Buenos Aires (via Madrid on Iberia, as no British flight is allowed to land in Argentina). Not the best of flights, but maybe we just had a bad cabin crew who didn’t like the long flight either! The first thing we noticed on arrival in Buenos Aires was the heat. Even at 8 am it felt like stepping inside a fan oven; later in the day it reached 40 degrees C, far too hot for us even though we hadn’t yet put on our Damart underwear. Unfortunately the Sheraton hotel kept us all waiting nearly 6 hours in one of the function suites before allowing us to our rooms. Desperate for a shower we missed the sightseeing tour of Buenos Aires, but we did have a very enjoyable wander round the city on our own seeing most of the important places including the Casa Rosada (famous for Eva Peron). The people were incredibly friendly and helpful in spite of our not speaking Spanish, and we thoroughly enjoyed our few hours walking round Argentina’s capital. When we arrived back at the hotel we learnt that our pick-up the next morning was to be at 4.30am so decided not to take the evening trip to a Tango Club. However we did find a superb restaurant and had an excellent meal, probably the best steak I have ever eaten, together with a very nice bottle of Argentinean wine.

 

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The Casa Rosada (the pink house) in Buenos Aires
The view at Ushuaia airport
The "end of the world" in Ushuaia National Park
Devastation caused by beaver dams
The old prison at Ushuaia
Our ship awaits at Ushuaia

Tierra del Fuego

Friday 31st January 2003 at 7.30 am found us taking off from Buenos Aires airport on a domestic flight to Ushuaia. The cabin crew were very friendly but had terrible trouble keeping some people from leaving the plane when we landed to refuel at a very small village in the desert, with a name longer than the runway!  When we stepped out of the airport building in Ushuaia the view that met us was breathtaking. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip around the National Park, seeing the southern end of the Pan-American Highway which starts in Alaska, plus the views across the channels to the Andes in Chile and of course the beaver dams together with the devastation they can cause!  We also saw the old prison, now a museum, and the trains built by the prisoners. At last we arrived at the port, and there was the Nordnorge waiting for us. It felt like coming home as we’d cruised on her sister ship Nordkapp round the Norwegian Fjords a few years earlier. It also meant we knew which cabin we wanted and where all the bars, lounges and restaurant were on board. We were due to leave Ushuaia about 7pm but due to the plane breaking down on its way back to Buenos Aires to bring more passengers, we didn’t leave till almost midnight. We were glad to have had our early flight as we spent the day on Tierra del Fuego instead of at Buenos Aires airport.

 

This short page has given you just the briefest taste of our adventure. Now read about our crossing to Antarctica (with LOTS of pictures) .....

 

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