Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Scenic Cruising Puerto Madryn

We were forewarned that Puerto Madryn maybe a bit iffy.  Under blue skies, the city looked calm and welcoming but the offshore winds and ocean swells told a different story.  To make it look like they were at least trying, we made the 2 hour sailing up into the bay, made a 360 and sailed back out following the recommendation of the local pilot....

Oh Oh.... someone didn't get the email...  As it is a greater risk that we wouldn't make the Falklands it was decided that our pilots for the Cape and the fjords would join us in Puerto Madryn.  Oops back we go... well what else is there to do when you have a whole day up your sleeve.... Like a child poking it's tongue out, once more the city teased us "Ha Ha ….. look what you are missing out on"

Once the pilots were safely transferred from their boat we were again heading out to sea with our fingers and toes crossed that we would make it into Stanley.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Half a day in Buenos Aires

Today was our last opportunity to see anymore of this city.  Having to be back on board by 11am it really didn't leave much time to explore too far...

Taking the atrocious traffic into account we decided our best plan of attack was to leave as early as possible and grab a taxi to our furthest point to which we could walk back to the ship without relying on the road system.

Plaza de Mayo was this point. Named after the month that Argentina gained it independence, this square is framed with many important buildings.  Beautiful architecture that could rival any European city.  Running along the eastern side stands the impressive Casa Rosada.  Named for it's distinctive colour, is the residence and offices of the current President.  It is also from these balconies that Eva Peron addressed her ardent followers.

White scarfs painted on the ground  symbolise the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  Starting in the late 1970's, woman who had a child that "disappeared" during the military dictatorship gathered here each in week in hopes that their protests would shed a light a on what had happened them. Believed to have been over 30,000 of them mostly under the age of 35 ...  Jailed, tortured and killed to this day they still look for answers, and not just for their own children, but grandchildren that may have been born during captivity and given away.

The cities Cathedral looked more like a roman temple than a church and we would of missed its beautiful interior if it wasn't for our determination to find it....

From there we walked to Florida St, a pedestrian walkway which is also one of the shopping hubs of the city.  Wanting to see wonderful ceilings of Galleries Pacifico, we had to kill some time while we waited for it to open.  So it was coffee all round.

The whole street is lined with beautiful buildings, many once built as private mansions.  In the evening it turns into a mini Las Ramblas with tango dancers, street performers and living statues.

Things started getting eerie as we neared the end of the Avenue.  A low chant of "Cambio Cambio" filled the air.  Shady looking men repeating this word over and over again as you pass by..  Are they begging, are they trying to lure us into something untoward.  Luckily Mr Google put us straight and basically it means "change".  Well put into context they are money changers, black market at that, offering better rates than the banks.

Plaza San Martin is more a green space than Plaza de Mayo with gardens parks to stroll through. It also comes with a small fence playground for dogs.

We had to walk through the park to make our way back to the ship.  Passing the main railway station, with the reputation of being the pick pockets paradise.  Whilst standing at the traffic lights waiting to cross, concerned well meaning locals indicated to us to put our phones away, hold on to our bags, and to keep walking, don't stop.

It seemed another shemozzle was before us as we entered the cruise terminal.  Shrouded in darkness, there was no electricity.  Shouldn't have be
en a problem, but this meant that the security scanners were also not working.  Manual checking of bags didn't last very long as the queue to join the ships in port grew longer and longer.  Alas common sense prevailed and we were allowed to pass allowing leaving all screening up to the ship to complete....

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Last Tango in Buenos Aires

So there we are, standing out front of the cruise terminal in our sweaty clothes, conscious of all the groups gathering in their finery, obviously all heading to the same place.

Originally we were told by Tangol, the agency that we had booked through, that we would need to make our own way to the restaurant, La Ventana.  But at the 11th hour they must of put all their bookings together and realised that there where quite a few different groups booked and sent a van to pick us up.

Once seated at the table and with the help of the low lighting we were able to disguise our poor dress choice.  The venue reminded me of the small restaurant in Paris we went to for our Can Can show.
Long tables running perpendicular to the stage stretched the length of the hall.  Once seated waiters fussed about you quickly taking your selections from the fixed menu, pouring our included wine and reminding you that TIPS are not included.

The show was excellent with a variety of  music, singers, tango dancers and even a gaucho showing off his skills with his boleadoras....

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Don't Cry for me Buenos Aires

The logistics todays would have caused a nightmare for the guest administration team.  How many flights would have had to have been rescheduled for those getting off today, let alone the terminal full of people wanting to get on. You just knew there were going to be even more issues when we saw that because of the tide baggage was off loaded by conveyer belt and not as swiftly with the usual forklifts and cages.  But I am ahead of myself.

The one benefit of the a later sail in is that the sun is higher and the skies are bluer.  Making our way into the labyrinth that was the port area you could see where accidents happen. Narrow are the channels that large ships like ours have to manoeuvre to moor at their berths. The damaged MSC ship was still in port and visible was the nasty gash left by it's sister ship.

A ticketed system was once again used to get everyone off the ship and onto the shuttles that transported us to the terminal.  As we walked through the terminal you could hear the hundreds of people impatiently waiting to embark today.
The Damaged MSC Ship

Later we heard that the delay in baggage cause a big issue as disembarking guests waited ages for their luggage to turn up.

Due to our late arrival we had decided that we had no option but the cancel the city tour we had arranged for the day.  We had an evening dinner and tango show booked and we were being picked up at 6pm.

So instead we opted to catch a taxi and head out to La Boca.

La Boca, what can I say, this is the most bohemian and artsy part of town. Becoming more and more popular with tourists thanks to it's El Caminito, meaning "Little Walkway".
 A thriving street with artists selling their art, buskers playing music and lots of market stalls selling wares of every variety. Colourful houses line the street, and kerbside cafes invite you to sit, have a drink and some offering performances carried out by talented tango dancers hoping to be discovered.  Argentina meets little Italy seems to be the flavour of this district.
Street art at every turn, with most buildings adorned with funky statues depicting Argentina's most famous, and then there is the amazing relief sculptures that decorate many of the walls, each telling a story from the districts past.


So now time is moving fast, so we set out to find a taxi to get us back to the terminal in time to shower, change and head out to our dinner.   Who ever thought 90 mins was not enough to cover a 20 min trip.  Traffic in BA is atrocious ....  walking seems faster as you sit in traffic that is at a standstill.
Shower and change! .... you jest, we were lucky to make it back in time to meet our transfer! As others came off the ship neatly dressed and smelling like roses, we in our sweaty shorts, t-shirts and joggers hoped that there was no dress code and hoped that the venue would be dimly lit!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Rejoining the Ship in Montevideo

It was an early start to get to the airport for our flight to Montevideo.  It was one of those flights that our plane just flew in an arc.... once we reached our flying altitude we were starting our descent.

Our guide was waiting for us for our short tour of the city as we exited the terminal.   Our first stop was at the Montevideo sign …..  every place in South America seems to have one of these.  From here you looked back across to Pocitos, one of Montevideo's popular beaches and very much like any holiday resort town with it's water front lined with one high-rise after to another.  Actually driving to get to this point if felt like we could have been in any suburb in Australia.

Montevideo relies heavily on tourism and just as the Gold Coast is to Australia, Montevideo is to Argentina.  It is very popular with the Argentinians as is not rich in beautiful beach fronts.

Next was the La Carreta monument, a sculpture created in recognition of the Ox cart drivers of the past.  It was here at the small market that something else caught our eye,  Was it the cannabis flavoured Mate ( South American style tea ) or was it the stall owner proudly wearing his Acca Dacca t-shirt?

Legal Weed in Uruguay.  Don't get excited you can't fly in and buy yourself a stash!!  You have to be a resident for this privilege.  You must register first and each purchase is recorded... Pass your 40grm limit per month and they will come after you!

Visiting a small indoor market was a welcomed relief as by now we were all starting feel a little hungry and in need of a coffee hit...

Plaza Independencia, Montevideo's most important square with many important, political and cultural buildings surrounding it was our next stop. It is also the point where the new city meets the old.

The last stop of the formal part of our tour was Plaza Matriz, the oldest plaza in Montivideo. This  square was in walking distance from the ship,  as it was here that we started to see some familiar faces...  A small antique market was in full swing but the highlight is the Metropolitan Cathedral just across the road.

Once back at the port we decided to reboard and drop off our bags and then head back our for a spot of lunch....
We walked along a small pedestrian street lined with cafe's, bars and artesian shops to soak up a little of the atmosphere...  we stopped at a small wine bar for an enjoyable drink and light tapas...

Now this is what happens when you are not on the ship to see the port lecture for this stop... not one street across was the Mercado del Puerto.. the Port Market!....  OMG think Barcelona's Boqueria, but on a smaller scale....  BBQ's as far as the eye can see...  Meat of every colour and shape cooking over the red hot coals... the smell was just divine… this was an opportunity missed.  I mean where else can you find wine in a six pack!!

Well surprise, surprise,  yet another late sailing... but this one came with consequences!
In most case scenarios a late sail away is due to not enough passengers back on board, but this case it was too many were on board!

So we have 2 passengers who under the passport they are travelling on require Argentinian Visa's. If Princess deal with it the same as we do, they would have been allowed to board, but had signed a waiver saying that if they don't obtain a visa by a certain port, they agree to be off loaded..  No valid visa's were produced and we couldn't sail until they had debarked.  In some instances immigration laws will not even allow a ship to enter it's waters if there are illegal aliens on board and if they do Cruise Lines occur significant fines.

Constant announcements were made for these passengers to present themselves, security and officers were running around the ship with their pictures trying to locate where they may be hiding.

After 2 hours witnesses on deck told of two passengers being escorted off the ship and whisked away just before we dropped our lines and set our course for Buenos Aires.  Ship rumours.... they were hiding in a friends cabin... well you think that would have been one of the first places they would look!

Not long out of the port and we hear the dreaded bells that signal an announcement by the Captain....

Now remember in a previous blog entry I mention the brown water that surrounded Buenos Aires, that is because the city sits on a river plate.  One deep channel in, same deep channel going out, single file only... we had missed our time slot, so we will be a few hours late arriving.

But wait there is more, another development,  in the tight waterways around the argentinian port, as one MSC ship was docked another was attempting to manoeuvre pass when a freak gust of wind blew it straight into the stationary ship.... ugg... more delays as now all traffic had come to a halt...

Our expected time was arrival was 2pm..... so much for our overnighter!