Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A sad farewell to Antarctica, and New Year Eve in Buenos Aires

Leaving Half Moon Island, it was time to descend into the Drake Passage once more. We’d already been told that a storm was heading our way, and had even been given a pretty exact time for when we’d hit it. Our brilliant luck had finally run out, and we prepared for the return journey, securing all our belongings and making the most of the delicious food whilst we could still stomach it. The storm hit us hard. Our ship rocked and rolled, sending huge waves crashing against our window (and we were on the upper deck!) and making outside a strict no-go zone. Trying to walk around was like a comedy act – people tumbling over and grabbing railings whilst edging along corridors.

I didn’t cope with the violent movement very well at all, opting to spend one whole day in bed (along with about half the passengers) as we went through the worst. F, completely unaffected by sea sickness, visited the bridge, returning with pictures to show me what was happening up front. Sleeping was the most difficult part – even angling our mattresses with padded life jackets so we lay against the wall didn’t help much as we tossed left and right whilst attempting to grab some sleep.

Finally we came out on the other side, and spent a much more pleasant evening at the entrance of the Beagle Channel whilst waiting for a pilot to steer us in and back to the harbour. A final meal, an evening with the crew and our fellow passengers, and we were packing up once more before sadly disembarking early the following morning. The cruise was one of the most amazing adventures I’d ever been on, but the trip wasn’t quite over yet. After another couple of days in Ushuaia, jealously eyeing up anyone who looked even vaguely like they were preparing for a cruise, it was back on a plane to Buenos Aires, in time for New Year’s Eve and three more days of fun in the capital.

Unfortunately, things were not quite as smooth on our return. Our hostel (and the block surrounding it) had lost all power, and after trying to convince us that it would only be an hour or so until it returned, they eventually gave up and admitted that it could be days. Being New Year’s Eve, we knew we had little chance of finding somewhere else, so groped around in the dark changing into hot weather clothing before heading out for the evening. As usual, nothing kicked off until around 10pm, bars and restaurants deserted. On advice, we walked a mile or so to a large square, and finally spotted life – people drinking on the street, carnival dancers and their bands creating the atmosphere. After midnight and a great display of fireworks, we slowly made our way back, people in the apartments above us singing and calling greetings out of their windows, children playing in the street and even a couple, dressed only in towels, dancing in the road. Most people seemed to celebrate in their own houses, hosting parties, so the streets were relatively empty with huge bursts of colour occasionally breaking up the dark of the sky.

The following day, in typical BA fashion, was a write-off. We awoke early and managed to find ourselves a new hostel – with working power this time – noticing on the way that nothing was open. No shops, no restaurants…even McDonald's has locked the doors. We struggled to find any food all day, and didn’t even see a person on the streets until around 3pm. Luckily, in the late afternoon a local pizza restaurant opened, and we gratefully munched our way through as much food as we could manage. On our final day, we visited Palermo, a trendy neighbourhood boosting luscious parks and nice cafes. The temperature had really increased since we’d left into the mid 30s, and it was lovely to find some cooling shade and indulge in mountainous amount of ice-cream whilst watching people whizz past on rollerblades. Finally, we were back at the airport, waving goodbye to Argentina and preparing for the very long flight home.

Read about the rest of our Antarctic adventures here:

Taking a dip in the Antarctic sea
The day the whales came out to play
Wildlife and icebergs
The beginning of an Antarctic adventure

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