A Journey through the Wonders of Argentina and the Frozen Antarctica

Day 1 - Dec 10, Sunday: From Dubai to Buenos Aires

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Early morning vibes as we left our home at 5 am for the Dubai Airport, anticipation fueling our excitement. The Airport Lounge welcomed us, providing a brief respite before the 8 am Emirates flight to Buenos Aires, with a technical stop in Rio for 90 minutes.


The 20-hour flight (24 hours including airport time) was a marathon of boredom and fatigue.  Bijili, managed to find solace in a few Netflix series and struck up engaging conversations with our co-passenger, a friendly soul from Argentina. Personally, I battled through two landings with persistent ear pain, making the journey more challenging.


Touching down in Buenos Aires around 6:30 pm, we navigated through immigration and promptly booked a cab to our haven, Hotel Holiday Inn. Our first brush with Argentine currency saw us exchanging 100 dollars for pesos. The hotel check-in was seamless, offering a promising outside view. With a quick stop at the self-assisted restaurant for a bite and a comforting cup of tea, we surrendered to sleep, ready to unravel Day 2.

Day 2 - Dec 11, Monday : Exploring Buenos Aires

Waking up to a new day in Buenos Aires, we kicked off with a somewhat average breakfast at Holiday Inn.

Our exploration of the city began with the convenience of Uber, offering comfort at an unexpectedly reasonable cost, thanks to the recent devaluation of the USD against the Argentine peso.


Our first stop was the renowned Teatro Colón, where we booked the 10 am English tour. Marveling at the architecture and intricate details like chandeliers and sculptures, we couldn't help but reminisce scenes from the Spanish Netflix series La Reina del Sur. A short stroll away, we encountered the iconic El Obelisco, a monumental structure that dominates the cityscape.


Later in the day, we reserved an evening slot for the Tango show at Tango Porteño, but not before a visit to the evocative Cementerio de la Recoleta. The cemetery, marked with road numbers, captivated us with its size, underground art, and extraordinary coffins.

Lunch brought us face-to-face with Argentina's Parrillada, a hearty but somewhat bland dish that surprised us with its massive quantity. Battling language barriers, I had to employ Google Translator to get the right-sized drink. Filled to the brim, we Ubered back to Holiday Inn, checked out, and transitioned to the grand Hotel Hilton


After a brief nap, our evening adventure began. We visited Floralis Generica, capturing vibrant photos under the bright 6 pm sunshine. The day unfolded further with a glimpse of the Argentine president near Casa Rosada, followed by dinner at Delhi Mahal, an Indian restaurant.


The highlight of the night was the Tango show at Tango Porteño, an immersive experience showcasing the mesmerizing Argentine national dance. The synchronized footwork and music left us in awe. The clock striking 11:30 pm signaled the end of an exceptional day, and we Ubered back to our hotel, savoring the memories etched in every step of our Buenos Aires exploration.


Day 3 - Dec 12, Tuesday: Buenos Aires & preparing for Antarctica Expeditions

Welcoming the morning with a sumptuous complimentary breakfast, we geared up for a crucial day in our Argentina and Antarctica adventure. Our Antarctica expedition with Hurtigruten Cruise was set to begin, and our first task was confirming details with the staff and collecting baggage tags. They informed us that our bags needed to be placed outside our rooms by 8 pm, and an early breakfast awaited us from 3 am to 4 am the next day. The bus to the airport was scheduled for 5 am.

With these instructions in mind, we ventured out and took an Uber to La Boca, a vibrant community known for its colorful houses and the famous pedestrian street, Caminito, where tango performances unfold. Our visit included a photo session with the Messi statue proudly holding the World Cup.

An Uber led us to the San Telmo market, a gem featuring authentic kiosks and shops offering typical food. Lunch, accompanied by a delightful Gin, added to the charm of the day.


An attempt to visit Diego Maradona's house faced setbacks as Uber declined, and local concerns about distance and safety thwarted our taxi plans. We opted for a nap back at the hotel. 

In the evening, we strolled across the iconic Puente de la Mujer, the Buenos Aires Bridge, with both sides of the roads buzzing with music from the Bar & Restaurants. Returning to the hotel, we ordered room service for an early dinner, eagerly anticipating the start of our expedition. Resting up, we eagerly awaited the next chapter


Day 4  - Dec 13, Wednesday: Ushering in the Antarctica Expedition

Excitement filled the air as we began the day early, kicking off the much-anticipated cruise tour with Hurtigruten. The day commenced at 3 am, and after a hearty breakfast, we hopped on bus no 5, reaching the airport within 45 minutes. Our tour guide briefed us on the upcoming activities, setting the stage for the adventure. 

Boarding the chartered flight around 7 am, we touched down in Ushuaia at approximately 10:30 am. Stepping out of the airport, we were greeted by the chilly weather, prompting the immediate donning of gloves, caps, and fleece jackets. The temperature hovered around 3 to 4 degrees Celsius as we embarked on a Ushuaia sightseeing tour organized by the cruise


The highlight of the tour was Tierra del Fuego National Park, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes featuring coastlines, forests, glaciers, lakes, mountains, and waterfalls. Fagnano and Roca lakes, nestled within the park's borders, provided picturesque backdrops for memorable photo stops


We made a special stop at the End of the World Post Office, where we dropped a postcard to my dad in my hometown in India. The uncertainty of its journey's duration added an extra layer of anticipation

A delightful lunch at a local restaurant featured Empanada, Quiche, and cupcake delights, fueling us for the continued exploration. 


Around 3 pm, the scenic Ushuaia port welcomed us, and there it stood—our expedition vessel, the MS Fridtjof Nansen. The meticulous planning by Hurtigruten ensured a smooth check-in process, orchestrating the arrival of buses in batches. Within minutes, we found ourselves inside the ship, our baggage safely stowed outside our superior room, XTD 831, complete with a spacious balcony. The excitement was palpable as we explored various floors, capturing moments with photos before settling into our home for the next 12 days.


At 6 pm, the Captain invited us to a welcome drink at Level 10, the Explorer Lounge. Gathered with the other 399 guests, we enjoyed the warm welcome speech and clinked glasses to the adventure ahead. Dinner at the Aune Restaurant followed, accompanied by a refreshing beer. The ship smoothly sailed through the Beagle Channel towards the Drake Passage.

As the day transitioned into a perpetual twilight, we closed the curtains and retired to bed, ready to embrace the enchanting journey awaiting us in the days to come


Day 5  - Dec 14,  Thursday: Conquering the Drake Passage

Awakening to the ship's rhythmic dance through the Drake Passage, we embraced the reality of navigating one of the most challenging maritime routes. The passage is notorious for its powerful currents and towering waves, reaching up to 20 feet (6 m), making it a formidable journey for ships.

As the morning progressed, the sea became increasingly rough during high tide. Undeterred, we explored the ship's various floors, reveling in the thrill of the turbulent waters. However, as the afternoon unfolded, the infamous sea sickness made its presence felt. Even Bijili surrendered, and vomiting became an unwelcome companion. Thankfully, we had brought tablets, and additional supplies were available at the reception.


In the afternoon, a briefing session outlined our upcoming landings and group assignments. The 399 guests were organized into 12 groups, and we found ourselves part of the GAINT PETRELS. The expedition crew demonstrated exceptional planning, ensuring everything aligned seamlessly.

Later in the evening, Captain's words brought relief as he assured us that by the following evening, we would near the Antarctica Peninsula, where the waters would calm. The day concluded with dinner at the Aune Restaurant, followed by a night of navigating the rough Drake Passage in our swinging beds.


Day 6  - Dec 15,  Friday : Navigating the Drake Passage

Waking up to the familiar rhythm of the ship, we found ourselves still in the midst of the challenging Drake Passage. Motion sickness affected a significant portion of the guests, with many partners missing due to the relentless swaying. Despite the conditions, I continued to explore different areas of the ship, while Bijili battled with seasickness.

Anticipation filled the air as we were originally scheduled to reach Antarctica's waters in the afternoon. However, due to rough weather conditions, the captain informed us of a delay, assuring that we would enter calm waters later in the night. In preparation for the upcoming landings, we collected our boots for the next day.

In the evening, a briefing session revealed our first landing destination – Gerlache Strait in the morning and Orne Harbour in the afternoon. Our group was set to land at 6 pm, but the success of these plans hinged on the unpredictable Antarctic weather. Fingers crossed, we hoped for favorable conditions, knowing that a Plan B was in place if needed.

After a satisfying dinner, we closed the curtains with the sun still shining in the perpetual twilight of the Antarctic summer night, eagerly awaiting the next chapter on Day 7.


Day 7  - Dec 16,  Saturday : Gerlache Strait and Orne Harbour

Awakening on the seventh day of our Antarctic expedition unveiled a mesmerizing panorama. The morning sunlight illuminated a tranquil sea, surrounded by icebergs, glaciers, and snow-covered mountains in a kaleidoscope of colors. Enthralled by this beauty, I roused Bijili to join me on the balcony, where colossal icebergs and majestic glaciers awaited our first gaze.


Rushing to the top deck, we reveled in an expansive view after a delightful breakfast, the ship gracefully navigating the legendary Gerlache Strait. Nestled in the Antarctic Peninsula, between Anvers Island and the Danco Coast, the Gerlache Strait beckoned with its spiky blue icebergs and promises of humpback whale sightings.

Our morning took a luxurious turn as we immersed ourselves in the Jacuzzi, gazing upon the mesmerizing Gerlache Strait. With the sun's warmth embracing us, I even dipped into a warm swimming pool facing the Strait, a moment of indulgence amid the pristine Antarctic surroundings.


Post-lunch, our vessel set a course for Orne Harbour, a narrow inlet into the west coast of Graham Land, famed for its shimmering glaciers and pristine white landscapes. Anticipation grew for our first landing.

Donning thermal gear and boots, our group gathered at 5 pm for the scheduled 6 pm landing. Boarding the Zodiac, we coasted to the shore, marking our initial steps on Antarctic soil. This symbolic landing completed our quest to set foot on all seven continents. An unplanned, spirited hike led us to a mountain summit, where a lively penguin colony awaited. The joyous moments lingered as we retraced our steps to the Zodiac and then to the ship.

Day 7 concluded with a gratifying dinner, marking the end of an extraordinary day in Antarctica. The anticipation for Day 8 filled us with excitement for more adventures in this pristine polar paradise.


Day 8  - Dec 17,  Sunday : Neko Harbour and Paradise Bay

Our eighth day in Antarctica dawned with the awe-inspiring spectacle of Neko Harbour. Renowned for its striking glacier, occasionally calving ice, the site also hosts around 250 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins. Being the first group scheduled for landing, we eagerly embarked on our Zodiac adventure after a hearty breakfast.

Navigating through a mesh of penguin highways, we found ourselves in close proximity to these fascinating creatures. A memorable encounter unfolded as a penguin strolled along its designated highway, pausing to gaze at us before continuing on its way. Amidst this lively scene, we also spotted a relaxed seal basking in the Antarctic ambiance. Spending precious moments in this penguin-populated landscape, we seized the opportunity to hold a small banner adorned with the Antarctica map, capturing a photograph that would etch this experience into our memories.


After a fulfilling excursion, we returned to the ship and set sail for the afternoon destination – Paradise Bay. This pristine spot in Antarctica boasts breathtaking reflections of mountains and glaciers in the calm waters, offering an unparalleled sense of tranquility.

The cruise allowed us to get up close to magnificent glaciers, witnessing their cavings and carvings. Amidst the icy surroundings, a vocal penguin atop a glacier provided a delightful and entertaining moment. The expedition crew even handed us an ice block, affording us the unique opportunity to hold and photograph this frozen relic.

As the day wound down, we returned to the ship, relishing a satisfying dinner before retiring for the night. Day 9 promises new adventures in this extraordinary Antarctic journey.


Day 9  - Dec 18,  Monday : A Snowfall Surprise and Charcot Charm

Day 9 commenced with a delightful surprise – a change in weather, ushered in by the early morning sight of ice on the balcony railings. A closer inspection revealed that it was SNOWING !!!. Eagerly stepping outside, we embraced our inaugural experience of snow rain, becoming the first to explore the upper deck. Clad in waterproof gear, we reveled in the enchanting snowfall, a first-time encounter that etched itself into our memories. Following this snowy interlude, we returned inside for a warm and hearty breakfast.


Our intended destination for the day was Port Charcot, a sheltered bay on the western side of Booth Island, forming part of the western side of the Lemaire Channel along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. However, the location proved windy, challenging the ship's anchoring capabilities. Despite the weather's reluctance to cooperate, we received a call for a landing later in the evening.

Boarding the Zodiac, we experienced a unique landing amidst numerous penguin colonies. As we ascended a mountain, a breathtaking view of a bay unfolded on the other side. The hiking length was considerable, though less steep, offering a perfect balance. Grateful for the opportunity to make this landing despite the windy conditions, we spent an hour exploring the landscape before returning to the ship. The day concluded with a dinner filled with shared stories and the satisfaction of having experienced our first snow rain.


Day 10  - Dec 19,  Tuesday :  Windy Challenges and Damoy Delights

Day 10 greeted us with heavy rain, intense winds, and rough seas. As the 4th day of our 5-day sojourn in Antarctica, our plans to visit Port Lockroy faced the brunt of the harsh weather conditions.

Port Lockroy, a cluster of three buildings, prominently featuring Bransfield House, was inaccessible due to the inclement weather. Despite this setback, a resilient team from Port Lockroy joined us on the ship, offering a unique opportunity for an insightful interaction with the dedicated researchers. This impromptu session provided valuable insights into the daily lives of scientists and researchers navigating the challenges of the Antarctic climate.


In the afternoon, following lunch, we embarked on a landing at Damoy Point. The Zodiac journey to the landing site was met with formidable winds, leading to a comical yet impressive incident – Bijili's cap took flight, gracefully floating in the Antarctic waters. Alerting the Zodiac pilot, a strategic retrieval operation ensued, drawing applause from fellow passengers. The landing continued with the discovery of Damoy Point Hut, a well-preserved structure holding scientific equipment and artifacts, designated as a Historic Site or Monument.

Our time spent exploring Damoy Point was a testament to the varied conditions Antarctica could present, from windy challenges to unique delights. Satisfied with a successful landing despite the weather, we returned to the ship, concluding the day with a hearty dinner and reflections on the diverse weather experiences in Antarctica.


Day 11  - Dec 20,  Wednesday :  Deception Island Delights

Good morning greeted us on Day 11, revealing a brilliant sun, clear skies, and scattered clouds, creating the perfect backdrop for capturing memorable photos on the top deck. Our location for the day was Deception Island, nestled in the South Shetland Islands near the Antarctic Peninsula, renowned for its expansive and usually "safe" natural harbor, occasionally influenced by the underlying active volcano. This island, a caldera of an active volcano, had experienced significant damage to local scientific stations in 1967 and 1969 but has since become a popular tourist destination. Our group was scheduled for Afternoon landing and  morning conditions were too good to go for photography session on top deck.


In the afternoon, we seized the opportunity for our final landing at Deception Island, exploring an area distinct in color due to ash-layered glaciers, possibly influenced by the nearby volcano. The hiking conditions were favorable, with no ice to navigate. While the starting point of the hike was steep, the descent was assisted by two crew members who aided Bijili in negotiating the descent to the waters.

This location also hosted the planned Polar Plunge, an adventurous feat embraced by many despite the frigid water temperatures. Braving the cold, we immersed ourselves knee-deep in the water, clad in waterproof pants. With the completion of this incomplete plunge, we boarded the Zodiac and returned to the ship, concluding our Antarctica landing adventure on a high note.

Day 12 awaits as we embark on the return journey through the Drake Passage, reflecting on the extraordinary experiences and memories created during our time in this pristine polar realm.


Day 12  - Dec 21,  Thursday :  Nautical Insights  and  Technological Marvels

Having concluded our series of landings, the ship set sail towards Ushuaia via the Drake Passage on Day 12. The apprehension about the notorious Drake Passage seemed less pronounced this time, with many passengers, including Bijili, adapting to the sea conditions.

Morning conversations with fellow travelers set the tone for the day, fostering connections and shared experiences. In the afternoon, our curiosity led us to a Ship Engine and Bridge tour. As engineers, this was particularly intriguing, delving into the intricacies of the hybrid ship Fridtjof Nansen. The tour highlighted the ship's self-sufficiency, equipped with a battery for specific usage, along with insights into the Desalination, Sewage, and Recycling plants.

The colossal Rolls-Royce engines left a lasting impression, and in the Bridge tour, the captain elucidated the ship's cutting-edge technologies. The Dynamic Positioning System, steering clear of conventional steering mechanisms, showcased the ship's ability to navigate smoothly on autopilot.


In the evening, the expedition team briefed us on the plan for our return journey, including a flight to Buenos Aires and disembarkation in Ushuaia on Day 14. The night concluded with a screening of the Norwegian movie "Roald Amundsen," offering a glimpse into the daring polar explorations of the early 20th century.

As we retired for the night, we could see the sun peeping out at midnight on the horizon and the anticipation heightened with just one day remaining on our extraordinary journey.


Day 13  - Dec 22,  Friday: Homeward Bound Preparations

As our voyage through the Drake Passage neared its end on Day 13, the captain anticipated reaching calm waters and entering the Beagle Channel by evening. The day began with a task reflecting responsible tourism: returning and cleaning our expedition boots. This meticulous process ensures that no non-native species are inadvertently introduced to Antarctica, preserving its pristine ecosystem for future visitors.

Post the boot return, relaxation ensued at the Deck 10 lounge, offering a serene vantage point for reflection


The evening brought a heartwarming program involving the entire crew. Each staff member, from the culinary team to those maintaining the engine room, was introduced. A touch of festive spirit infused the air with a Christmas song, fitting for the approaching holiday season.

The highlight of the evening was a Q&A session, where guests, seasoned travelers with a wealth of experiences, engaged with the captain, Chief Engineer, F&B Manager, and Expedition Team leader. The questions, rich with curiosity and insight, created an informative dialogue, enhancing our understanding of the ship's workings and the intricacies of polar expeditions.

Later, at 8 PM, the logistics of departure took center stage as guests were required to place their check-in baggage outside their cabins. The evening ended with the bittersweet task of repacking, knowing that our Antarctic adventure was drawing to a close. The next day held the promise of a brief sightseeing tour of Ushuaia town before our departure.


Day 14  - Dec 23,  Saturday:  Farewell to Ushuaia and Return to Buenos Aires

Our final morning aboard the Fridtjof Nansen greeted us with a view of Ushuaia bathed in bright sunlight. Breakfast at Aune Restaurant marked the end of our daily routine, and we bid farewell to the attentive waitstaff and F&B Manager who had become familiar faces during our expedition.

Heading to the top deck, we absorbed the picturesque panorama of Ushuaia, capturing the scenic town through numerous photos and videos. The sense of closure loomed as we prepared to disembark and explore Ushuaia on a guided tour.


At 8:30 AM, we boarded a bus with a tour guide who acquainted us with the town's history and highlights. A visit to the post office allowed us to stamp our passports with the cherished Antarctica imprint. Casual window shopping in local gift shops followed, providing glimpses of Ushuaia's cultural offerings.

Around 10 AM, we proceeded to Ushuaia Airport, boarding our chartered flight at 11:30 AM. By 2:45 PM, we landed in Buenos Aires, bidding farewell to our fellow expedition members. A prepaid taxi took us to Hilton, where we checked in smoothly and opted for a late checkout the next day.


With a brief nap to rejuvenate, we ventured out for some last-minute shopping, exploring nearby shops and taking a leisurely 20-minute walk to Florida Avenue. Despite most shops being closed due to the late hour, we embraced the vibrant city atmosphere. Returning to Hilton via Uber, we enjoyed beer alongside Puente de Mujer before concluding the day with a delightful dinner at the hotel.

As the curtain fell on our final day in Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, anticipation lingered for the journey back to Dubai on Day 15.


Day 15  - Dec 24,  Sunday :  Farewell to Buenos Aires and Homeward Bound

Waking up on our last day in Buenos Aires, we opted for a relaxed breakfast ordered to our room, finding that one portion generously served two. Around 10 AM, we ventured to Florida Avenue via Uber, experiencing a slight drizzle.

Exploring various leather factory shops, we selected bags and gathered Buenos Aires souvenirs for our close ones. Bijili found elegant pendants for both herself and relatives. Returning to the hotel around 2 PM, we commenced packing for our journey back home.

At 6 PM, a taxi transported us to the airport, reaching around 6:45 PM. Smooth check-in led us to a unique immigration process, introducing us to the intricacies of Buenos Aires Airport. After overcoming the surprise immigration section after the security, we enjoyed some snacks and a small drink in the lounge, anticipating a long 20-hour flight ahead.

Departing at approximately 10:30 PM, our flight charted a course towards Rio for a technical stop. Amidst the extended journey, we landed in Dubai on Dec 25th around 11:30 PM local time. Navigating through immigration and baggage collection, we took a taxi, arriving home at 1 AM. This extraordinary 15 to 16-day expedition, spanning Dubai, Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Antarctica, and back, etched memories of adventure and discovery, marking it as one of our most cherished and impactful journeys.


Embarking on a 15-day journey away from home after a prolonged hiatus, we discovered a vibrant tapestry of new experiences and forged friendships that made this expedition to Argentina and Antarctica truly exceptional. Interacting with fellow travelers revealed a community of positive-minded individuals, a refreshing change from encounters with negativity in the past.

Hurtigruten, the orchestrator of our adventure, stood out with meticulous planning that efficiently navigated queues and minimized waiting times during check-ins. While the cuisine was delectable, our South Indian taste buds craved a bit more spice, a sentiment we conveyed, along with constructive feedback on cocktail standards.

The unsung heroes of the expedition were the dedicated members of the expedition team, tirelessly ensuring smooth landings, offering informative briefings, and braving the harsh Antarctic conditions to make our experience unforgettable. Their professionalism and friendliness created a camaraderie that transcended the boundaries of the journey.

A heartfelt appreciation extends to Payal from Eduoutings, our local partner in Dubai, who handled the complete tour impeccably. Payal took our case personally, guiding us through the intricacies of the visa process, medical clearance, and all other documentation required for the expedition. Her involvement, including securing the coveted XTD 831 cabin, showcased exceptional dedication. Any query or confusion was promptly addressed, making our journey seamless.

Argentina, with its vibrant colors and amiable people, complemented the Antarctic leg of our adventure beautifully. The warmth and cooperation of the locals made our stay memorable, with no hint of scams or ulterior motives.

In retrospect, this journey ranks among our best tours, a testament to the remarkable destinations, the extraordinary people we encountered, and the seamless orchestration by Hurtigruten and Eduoutings. As we reminisce about the camaraderie forged on this odyssey, we are left with a treasure trove of memories that will resonate for a lifetime.

Posted by Kiran Arjun - 10-01-2024

This blog's narrative and structure wouldn't have been possible without the assistance of ChatGPT,  which brilliantly transformed my thoughts into words. Kudos to technology for making stortelling more accessible !