Tag Archives: #NationalGeographic

Tango in Argentina

On our way to Antarctica, we stopped into Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lynn prearranged a tango lesson . It’s Argentina — why not? We had been traveling for over 20 hours and got a chance to tour Buenos Aires, it’s a vibrant South American city — more about that later.

Our tango lesson started at 8:30 p.m. Imagine having very little sleep in the past 24 hours and you have to muster the energy for a dance lesson. She had booked a private lesson so it was just us and our 2 instructors. We videoed their fancy footwork, check them out:

Once we started taking lessons, we were re-energized and forgot that we were running on fumes. After our 1 hour private lesson, our instructors took us to 2 different Milongas (tango dance clubs). The first Milonga was more formal and absolutely crowded.

Men sat at tables on one side of the room while ladies sat at tables on the other side. To get a dance partner, a man stares at a woman across the room and if she nods, she is accepting his request for a dance. It’s not a pickup thing — they just love to tango! You would see young men dancing with older women and vice versa.

After dancing at the first club, our instructors told us about a totally different type of Milonga. It was for a younger crowd and was as much about young people hanging out socially than tango. But the dance floor was big and the place had a really hip vibe. Lynn danced with our instructor and they were amazing together. The club is called La Catedral:

Earlier in the day, we toured Buenos Aires starting at Casa Rosada — a government building in one of their famous squares:

The square was bustling with a band playing and Brazilian ladies in native dress.

Our next stop was Caminito (“little walkway” or “little path” in Spanish). This place acquired cultural significance because it inspired the music for the famous tango “Caminito” (1926), composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto.

After a bit of walking, we found a nice little watering hole called La Peru Caminito where we sampled local beer.

We ended our tour at Recoleta Cemetery, in the upscale Recoleta Barrio of Buenos Aires.
The cemetery includes graves of some of the most influential and important Argentinians, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters.

Internationally, Eva Perón is the best-known person buried in this cemetery. There’s also the tomb of Rufina Cambacérès who was buried alive. 

The thing I found most interesting is that many of the mausoleums  have glass where you can see the caskets inside. Odd.

After touring Buenos Aires and dancing Tango until 1 a.m. – we started our journey to the bottom of Argentina and the city located at the bottom of South America: Ushuaia. We left at first light but were able to catch some z’s on the 3 hour plane ride.

Ushuaia is located in Tierra del Fuego and is normally windy and rainy. We were lucky to arrive to beautiful weather. We visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park, just a few minutes outside of Ushuaia.

The national park has lots of hiking trails so we took time to stretch our legs while enjoying scenic vistas.

We then boarded a catamaran and cruised the Beagle Channel before leaving for Antarctica.

Alas, it was time to make our voyage to Antarctica — check out that blog here.

Polar Plunge into 33 degree Antarctic Water. Wait – What?

After 5 days in Antarctica, we continued our journey on day 6 along the Orleans Strait by kayaking Cierva Cove in Antarctica. It was our first really sunny day and surreal to be floating among whales and penguins.

We began following a humpback whale who was leisurely paddling through the cove.

Everywhere you turn, penguins were gracefully slicing through the frigid waters on a quest for krill.

This one almost jumped into our boat.

We were raided by a group of Vikings. Luckily they came in peace and offered hot chocolate with a splash of Jameson.

After a few hours on the water, we reembarked the ship. She’s quite photogenic, don’t you think?

We had just settled into our cabin when we heard an announcement over the speaker system “For those who want to do a polar plunge, report to the lower deck immediately“. Polar plunge, eh? What could go wrong? Well, they had a doctor on hand in case anything went awry. We had 150 people on the ship and about 20 staff — 37 of us crazy people elected to take the plunge. Don’t believe me? Here I am in action:

It was kinda like jumping into a slushie. As soon as I hit the water, every extremity froze as if to say “what the hell are you doing to me?”. Once I surfaced and made my way back to the boat, an extreme sensation of exhilaration covered my body, it was a fantastic feeling. Awaiting my return was a shot of schnapps. Ah, I can now feel my legs!

The next day, we made our way to Cuverville Island to Kayak with the penguins.

Our new friends, James and Don

After kayaking, we had the opportunity to hike up an 800 foot mountain for better views of the island. It was a bit slippery ascending the mountain but certainly worth the effort:

On the way back down, it was even more slippery so a friend and I decided to slide down on our butts to the bottom — we were laughing and enjoying the ride.

Our next stop was Useful Island where we enjoyed beautiful icebergs illuminating blue ice.

As we were taking the zodiac around Useful Island, there was a chinstrap penguin that was following our boat yelping like crazy. Then out of nowhere, he tried to jump into our boat!

Useful Island had lots of seals, here are just a few of the seals we saw during our journey.

We were really fortunate to see killer whales (type A, B1 and B2), humpback whales, and blue whales. I’m not talking about a few whales here and there. I bet we saw over 100 whales. For me, whale watching will never be the same.

The captain said that in 40 years of visiting Antarctica, he had never seen blue whales. That’s how special it was.

Our final day of our 2,068 nautical mile journey landed us at Port Lockroy — a research station that has a working post office! We mailed a few postcards just to see how long it will take to be delivered (most likely 12 weeks).

Recap

This was an amazing journey and it tops our list of travel. I didn’t mention the 12 naturalists and scientists that accompanied us on our trip. They graciously provided presentations about their discoveries and the state of the earth. Global warming is certainly real. One of the scientists gave a compelling presentation on what could be done to curb global warming and it was enlightening.

We also had a guest speaker, Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the first man (Tenzing Norgay) to summit Mt. Everest. He provided an amazing presentation about his father and also shared with us his adventures (he has also summited Mt. Everest).

I’ll leave you with a video that recaps our trip, I hope you enjoyed learning more about Antarctica!

You visited Antarctica? Why?

When I told friends we were visiting Antarctica, the first question was WHY? Let’s cast aside the fact that this was my 7th and final continent to visit — in the coming blogs I hope the answer to WHY is evident.

On our flight from Atlanta, a lady sat next to us and told us she had flown over 1 million miles. We didn’t think much about it but later overheard her say she was going to Antarctica. We then learned that she was a National Geographic photographer and would be aboard our ship! Her name was Susan Seubert, an awarding winning photographer. We became fast friends and came to appreciate her savvy with the camera and her incredible gift. Her pictures have graced the covers of many magazines. We knew this was going to be an epic trip.

We started our trip at the end of the world — Ushuaia, Argentina — at the bottom of South America. We boarded the Lindblad Explorer | National Geographic ship and set out for our 2 day journey across the infamous Drake Passage. The Drake Passage can be a perilous journey due to high waves but we were lucky to have relatively smooth seas.

Geographically, Antarctica is at the bottom of the earth and is directly south of South America.

Here is how it looks if you tilted the globe looking directly into the South Pole:

You won’t find hotels, homes or shops in Antarctica — it is only inhabited by scientists, researchers and support staff from many countries. Signed in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was put in place by 12 countries who agreed to keep Antarctica peaceful and open to scientific research. This is where much of the studies regarding global warming are conducted.

After 2 days of sailing, we reached Iceberg A57a — 10 miles of floating tabular ice.

Icebergs are created as they slide off land’s surface into the sea. They are named by the area in which they came (Antarctica is divided into 4 quadrants; A/B/C/D) and are sequenced based on the number of icebergs from that quadrant. So A57a represents the 57th iceberg to slide off land in the A quadrant. Why the small “a” at the end? This particular iceberg slid off the land in a huge chunk and then divided into 2 pieces larger than 10 miles wide — therefore it became 2 icebergs (A57a and A57b).

A few hours later, we reached False Bay in the South Shetland Islands. We hopped on a zodiac and encountered our first Leopard seal. This place was teaming with them — we saw at least 5 or 6. Leopard seals love to eat krill and wait for it — penguins.

After celebrating our first Antarctic experience, we awoke to a new adventure — we had reached the Antarctic peninsula at Paulette Island. As we anchored off shore, we could hear loud squawks and could faintly see over 200,00 small dots on the island.

Look closely at the dots on the land — it’s over 200,000 Adelie penguins!

We made our way to Brown Bluff — another island just off the Antarctic mainland.

Here we encountered a new species of penguin — Gentoo. They are curious and will walk right up to you.

Just looking around – we were surrounded by glaciers, icebergs, penguins and incredible beauty — very surreal.

As we traversed from island to island, we saw whales, albatross, penguins and icebergs. We reached Snow Hill Island where a group of scientists were camping for 2 weeks to study the impact of an iceberg that broke away from the island about 20 years ago.

In 1902, a group of scientists built a wooden hut known as Nordenskiöld House and the group of Argentine scientists were reinforcing the hut. We were able to go in and visit the inside of the hut — this small space slept 6 people! As the iceberg broke off, thousands of 20 million year old fossils emerged and they were still uncovering them as we visited.

After leaving Snow Hill Island, we spotted our first blue whale. Blue whales are the largest whale on earth and we had an up-close encounter.

After sailing for a few hours, the ship captain revved the ship up and pointed the bow of the ship towards a huge ice sheet on Admiral T Sound. The boat penetrated the ice sheet and came to rest about 50 yards into the ice sheet. Now that’s not something you experience every day!

We jumped on the zodiac and made our way to the ice sheet where everyone spent a hour exploring. In the picture below, that is Susan Seubert (the award winning National Geographic photographer) in the middle. She took the picture of us jumping in the air using my iPhone.

After reembarking the ship, we had a BBQ at the stern of the boat. How cool is that?

Recap

After 2 days of traversing the Drake Passage and 3 days visiting islands, we still had lots more in store. Keep following our blog and we will continue the story.

This trip was epic and was the first trips we’ve taken where most of the people on trip were as well (or better) traveled than us. For most of the passengers, this was also their 7th continent to visit and we were able to share stories about common trips we’ve taken. It’s as if we were with “our peeps” — adventurers and wanderers.

Here a quick video that gives you more of a sense of what we discovered in our first 5 days: