Friday, January 5, 2018

Post Silver Explorer post

Aaand it's back to harsh reality today - up early for the last breakfast, we got back to the cabin suite to find Ivy and Ralte busy stripping the beds. Our suitcases, put out last night, were gone already (to be next encountered on the carousel at Buenos Aires' domestic airport). The bing-bong on the PA that up till now has signalled an interesting - even exciting - message from Tim or the Captain this morning gave us our literal marching orders, and our cards were swiped for the last time as we left the ship with no ceremony other than the expedition leaders lined up to shake our hands at the bottom of the gangplank. No trumpets, no banners, nothing.

It would have been slight consolation to have had the hour and a half that was mentioned at one point for a bit of a look around Ushuaia, bit in the end it was not much more than half an hour. Most of the shops were shut, not opening till 10am, but there was still plenty of interest: brightly-coloured houses, a wide range of architectural styles including half-timbered and Austrian, there were a couple of museums, the waterfront, a Hard Rock Café, various monuments including one to Eva Péron, and to the Malvinas dead. On our bus tour back before the cruise, I'd seen lots of declarations, official and not, about the Malvinas being Argentinian, but had no time to find any to photograph this morning.

And then we were into the tedium of travel: Ushuaia airport, waiting, being bussed out onto the LATAM charter flight and squeezing into a 777-300 with absolutely no leg-room, even for a shortie like me. It didn't help that the Swiss woman in front of me reclined her seat fully straight away, got crabby when I asked her to lift it when the breakfast service began, and then slammed it back the moment the food was cleared. Well. There was my entertainment for the flight sorted. I spent the next three hours randomly poking and pushing the back of her seat as I crossed and uncrossed my legs and genuinely tried to fit them into the tiny space. Of course she objected, increasingly angrily, but I merely smiled and pointed out that if she moved it forward just a bit, we could both be comfortable. She actually shouted and shook the back of my own seat at one point, before eventually and suddenly giving in, and relinquishing the full recline. Win! (Selfish, inconsiderate cow.) (Her, not me, natch.)

The rest of the journey was uneventful. Silversea herded us into different coaches at BA domestic airport and ours headed off to the international airport, Ezeiza, a ring-road journey that the guide said would take 40 minutes "because tomorrow is a holiday". Turned out, because tomorrow was a holiday, everyone was on the road not giving way to anyone else, and the trip took two hours. But that was ok, because we had eight hours before our flight left just after midnight. Sadly, we were too early even to check in, so we parked ourselves at a café upstairs not far from a Malvinas memorial (that explained "The immediate cause [of the Malvinas Islands War] was the fight for sovereignty of these islands, taken by force in 1833 and dominated since then by the United Kingdom.") In contrast, there was also a Hard Rock Café with clothing once owned by Prince, Elvis, Michael Jackson and Elton John.

The airport is new and fancy, and we had ample chance to experience it because the VIP lounge would only allow us in as Priority Pass card holders after 11pm. So we sat and watched as the remaining few Silver Explorer passengers guests (and staff crew) dispersed in various directions, the Americans amongst them grimly anticipating delays and discomforts associated with a storm that was bringing sub-Antarctic temperatures and conditions to shocked eastern cities.

None of that for us. We eventually boarded NZ31, pleased to be in familiar surroundings again, and settled into this much roomier 777-200 for our 12-hour flight (again, a much shorter journey than for many others on the Silver Explorer, which was a nice novelty). We took off over the lights of the astonishingly huge city, flew uneventfully south-west, crossed the Date Line while sleeping and landed around 5.30am. We then took a horrendously, hideously expensive taxi to the city ($80, instead of the $38 out there), had a short wait for the ferry which we shared with umpteen eager cyclists aiming to "do a thousand metres" (total climb) on a 50km route, and got a cheerful taxi back to our house which, despite an exceptionally powerful storm hurtling through yesterday, was still standing unscathed. Always good.

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