Cruise Queen Victoria - Argentina

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February 23rd 2020
Published: February 23rd 2020
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Friday 14thFebruary 2020

Chris had planned a couple of walking tours, but after yesterday’s walking tour failure and as Buenos Aires is such a large sprawling City, we decided to buy a 48hr hop on, hop off bus ticket (@ 45 US $ pp). Left the ship just after 8.00am and caught the shuttle to the Port Gates, got our tickets for the Big Bus and then had to wait 10 mins to get a yellow bus company shuttle bus to the Bus Stop for the yellow HOHO bus. All seemed very complicated!!

Caught the bus at red stop 14 and were treated to some of the sights of Buenos Aires! It is full of trees, statues, churches, clock towers, fountains, parks and gardens as well as old grand French and Italian style palaces and buildings making it an exceptionally beautiful City. The spiny trees, that we love in Spain, grow in abundance here and they are all in flower at the moment presenting shades of pink and yellow in all the parks.

There is also a lot of traffic and traffic lights that seem to stay red a long time which meant that we were on the bus for over 2 hours before we got off at La Boca! From memory (we haven’t got internet!!) it was the poorest part of the City and with the influx of immigrants, houses were desperately in short supply, so the houses of La Boca were built out of scrap metal and painted in bright colours to make them more attractive.

Saw the La Bombonera stadium at La Boca (home to Maradonas beloved Boca Juniors) and many statues of famous local footballers, including Diego Maradona. Wandered around the coloured buildings that were quite fascinating with caricatures in abundance and cartoons wherever you looked! Some of the buildings were made of painted corrugated iron sheets but most of them now are made with painted brick!! We were also lucky enough to see some tango dancing in the bars there!

Caught the yellow bus again, and got off at Bus Stop 09 which is the stop for the Ecological National Reserve ( we didn’t have time to explore) and walked through the Park to the river! Strolled along the Riverfront of Puerto Madero with its new apartments, complete with industrial cranes to remind us of its industrial past, to the Puente de la Mujer Bridge – opposite the trendy grain silos. Walked up the steps to the Casa Rosada (the houses of Government) and into the Plaza de Mayo with its roses, fountains, statues and flags!! Had a peer in the Cathedral, viewed the obelisk (we had already seen it a few times on the bus!!) before walking to bus stop No 12 to get the bus. We had just missed one so the yellow bus guy suggested that we walk another two blocks and get on the Queen Victoria shuttle back to the Port, which is what we did!! A cold beer and ½ hour wifi internet completed the day, dinner and then a tango show on the ship!

Saturday 15th February 2020

The ship stayed in Dock overnight so we were able to use our hop on hop off bus ticket again! First priority was to visit Eva Perons grave so we got off the bus at the metal tulip stop to walk back! The tulip is amazing – it apparently opens in the morning and shuts at night – well this is what we believed until someone told us it was broken and they had no funds to repair it!!

Crossed the roads to look at the statue in Plaza Mitre and then walked through the park to the church in La Recoleta. The cemetery was next door, so assuming we would be plagued with Guides (which we weren’t!!) walked into the Cemetery!! It was huge – massive!! Wandered around looking for Eva Peron tomb and eventually found it by asking and luck really!! Fortunately there was a group of people surrounding it, as she was buried in her Fathers tomb – Familia Duarte!!

Decided we would ride on the Green bus route – one bus was full and the other bus was broken!! So we waited for 10mins and another bus turned up! Did the scenic ride past the leisure park, with its outdoor pool and cycle path. Onto the River Plate where there was a Pier (didn’t expect that one!!) the University, a park to commemorate people lost to terrorism, as well as the River Plate Football Stadium, La Bocas biggest rival!!

Had our picnic lunch in the Japanese garden and walked around the Park (not very Japanese!!) – lots of birds though including woodpeckers and a grey cardinal I think! It was grey anyway and had a bright red head!! Crossed back over the 12 laned traffic road and went to the Ecological Park – this used to be a formal zoo but to give the animals a better life they had let the park go back to the wild and there were not many animals left there!! A few flamingos, a turtle, a couple of camels, guanacos (?) and ducks etc …as well as the Patagonian mara!! These were not in cages but just roaming freely! They are like small dogs but I think they are more like hares, because of their long legs at the back! They could even be related to the kangaroo family but anyway, they are endemic to Patagonia!

Walked around the Botanical Garden afterwards but it was just getting too hot! Must have been about 30c in the shade and the sun was just so fierce, we couldn’t really do it justice. Back on the bus again to walk to our shuttle bus via a beautiful park, just above the English Clock tower! Full of pink flower trees and wonderfully shady!!

Wifi internet was really bad at the Port (probably because a lot of people were using it!!) and watched the ship sail out of Buenos Aires at 20.00pm

Sunday 16th Feb 2020 and Monday 17th Feb 2020

Both sea days where we did very little except go to Beginners Bridge (I am trying!!!) read books, go to lectures, gym etc

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Puerto Madryn

A bit of history! Puerto Madryn is in the Northern Patagonian province of Chubut in Argentina. It was founded on 28th July 1865 when 153 Welsh immigrants aboard a ship called the ‘Mimosa’ arrived in this deep water harbour after travelling from Liverpool for over two months, landing in nearby Punta Cuevas. The Teheulche Indians helped the first settlers survive as the early days were very hard!

With this in mind, we resisted the urge to see the Magellanic penguins at Punta Tombo and after getting up at 6.15am to see the sunrise and to watch the wildlife ( there wasn’t any!!) got off the ship at 8.00am. After getting some pesos at the local cambio we walked to the bus station and caught the bus ( Bus Company is called 28 de Julio) to Trelew (195 Pesos!) It took about an hour and the locals have all the windows covered with curtains to keep out the sun, but because I had the curtains pulled back, we saw three lots wild guanaco as well as some small ostrich bird like creatures – the landscape is extremely barren and just flat scrubland. Changed buses at Trelew and got a bus to Gaiman (138pesos return for one person) and arrived at Gaiman about 11.30am!! The name Gaiman originates from the language of the Teheulche Indians meaning ‘sharp stone’ showing the peaceful relationship between the Indians and the Welsh colonists.

Mmmm…….well – not quite what I expected!! It just appeared to be a main street with short dead ends off it, so we weren’t quite sure what we were meant to be seeing! Finally found the Information Centre, where we also saw the Cunard Tourist Buses! Had a quick peer at the disused railway line and tunnel that used to run to Trelew and Puerto Madryn (I think!) and also the old Gaiman Station (built 1909) that has now been turned into a small museum. Also saw Pastor Evans derelict house and the first house built by David D Roberts in 1874. Walked across a rickety suspension bridge above the river Chubut to the Old Chapel built in 1880. On 28th July some of the chapels offer a famous Welsh Tea to commemorate ‘Gwyl y GFlaniad’ – the anniversary of the disembarkment of the first Welsh Settlers. Walked past the Welsh Tea Houses – they don’t open until 2.30pm so we couldn’t visit one and walked up Michael D Jones street whilst waiting for the 13.30 bus back to Trelew.

Got back to Puerto Madryn about 15.40pm and had a walk along the sea front, caught up on wifi in a coffee shop (2 large refreshing ice frappes) before walking back up the pier to the ship – where we saw brown seals basking on the bow thruster of the ship!!

Wednesday 19th Feb 2020 + Thursday 20th Feb 2020

Two more sea days! They seem to pass very quickly and we keep busy most of the day! What with ‘Looking for Wildlife’ 9-10am, (We saw petrels, shearwaters and brown albatross on a windy and rough sea!!) Beginners Bridge 10-11.00am, lecture 11-12.00am (Today we had Mervyn King – previous Governor of Bank of England ‘Can Capitalism Survive’) Lunch then another lecture ‘Triumph and Tragedy of the Tango from 1.45 – 2.45pm.

Weather conditions deteriorated throughout the day, with Storm force 10 winds (gusting to force 11), huge waves and 4-6 metre swells creating huge waves. Watched the sea for a while with waves breaking over Deck 9 and a couple of large windows smashed also!! Went to a wildlife and photography lecture from 4.00 – 5.00pm a quick shower and get ready for our dinner at 6.00pm and then the show at 8.30- 9.30pm!!

Slightly different on Thursday as the Captain decided to go round Cape Horn as the weather in the evening was fine (ish!! Cloudy and showers!) but the weather forecast on the Saturday morning (when we were due to go round the Horn) was terrible! Spent a lot of time looking for whales and dolphins (operative word here is ‘looking!!’) whilst the ship went around the island of Cape Horn and we saw the famous lighthouse and the memorial to all the sailors that have perished in these waters. Cape Horn marks the southern headland of Chile’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago. The waters around the Cape are notoriously hazardous owing to the strong winds and currents, heavy seas and icebergs and it is 450 miles from Antarctica. There are said to be 800 shipwrecks and over 10,000 men lost their lives over the years.

Friday 21st February 2020

Ushuaia is the Capital of Tierra del Fuego and is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world. (Disputed by Chile as there is a town- Puerto Williams, that is further south and they have applied for City status!!) Ushuaia was founded October 12th 1884 and is located on the shores of the Beagle Channel. The Beagle Channel was named after the HMS Beagle during its first hydrographic survey of the coasts of Southern America from 1826 – 1830. Beagles Captain Pringle Stokes committed suicide and was replaced by Robert Fitzroy who also took Charles Darwin on his second exploratory survey.

We were off the ship by 7.45am in windswept Ushuaia (yes – another early morning!!) and found the bus station on the main road (turn left out of the Port). However, the bus to the train station for ‘The Train to the End of the World,’ for which we had purchased a voucher online that needed to be exchanged for a ticket, didn’t start until 9.00am. As our train was booked for 9.30am and they said the bus took 15 minutes we thought that was cutting it a bit fine so plan b it was!

Walked back to the taxi rank and spoke to a guy who said he could take us to the train station for 10$ or do a trip for approx three hours for 90$, to see the sights in the Tierra del Fuego, so we took the easy option!! I think its just as well we did as it was a good 20 minute ride to the train station and then we had to queue to get our ticket, and then queue to get on the steam train.

Not sure it was a worthwhile experience – the train line is a replica of the line built by the Prisoners of Ushuaia. Ushuaia basically first existed as a penal colony for re-offenders in Argentina with many prisoners shipped down from Buenos Aires in the early 1900, and then the city grew up from this. The prisoners coveted the building of the train line because it meant that they had fresh air, despite it being extremely hard work, especially in the winter.

You can still see where the trees were cut down (cut slightly higher in winter as the trees were covered in snow) to ground level, the wood being used for the railway, and also, to then transport timber to the prison for fires, The line follows the River Lapataia, through some pleasant countryside, stops for 20 minutes to let you see a small waterfall and then drops you off in the middle of nowhere!! Fortunately, our taxi driver, Gabriel, was picking us up, but otherwise there is really is nowhere to visit!....and you catch the return train back to Ushuaia.

Gabriel had our trip worked out for us, through the National Park! It’s a well worn tourist trail but worth doing. First we went to the southernmost Post Office in the world and sent ( at great expense!!) postcards from the end of the world to the grandchildren!! It was a beautiful lake, made even better by the sunshine and clouds and huge birds ( South American Caracaras?? ) and we walked along the nature trail through the woods by the lake! Next stop, after a quick peer at the turbal ( peat bog) to our second stop. Another lake and a Visitors Centre, before going to Lake Acigami where we could walk back to the river!! Gabriel also stopped so that we could walk to Laguna Negra, very peaceful and totally silent and also a couple of viewpoints as well as a walk to the Beavers Dam. (Senda Castorera)

We then drove to the very end of the world, with a sign that says that you have reached the end of the Pan-American Highway and Alaska is 17,848 kilometres away! A quick drive up to the start of the walk to the glaciers and we were done!! The trip had lasted 6 hours so we paid him 130$ - still less than a ships trip for one person though!!

Had a well earned Cape Horn beer and treated ourselves to 1 hrs free wifi before walking back to the ship.

We were supposed to be leaving Ushuaia, along the Beagle Channel at 17.00pm but in the end didn’t leave until 18.30pm which meant by the time we got to Isla Martello, we could hear all the Penguins and only just about see them, as the light was going! Spent a good two hours whale watching (didn’t see any!!) but we did see some dusky dolphins and about a million storm petrels flying around and resting in large dark masses on the sea!

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1st March 2020

I have a lot of welsh friends who have been to Patagonia and stayed in Trelew . Would love to go - at least my lack of Spanish but my knowledge of Welsh would come in handy. Interesting that many things are unrepaired due to lack of money . Sounds like Greece . x

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