A Sleepy Town…

DAY FOUR (Feb 19)

We awake and have a full day to walk around and check out this sleepy city but most of our concerns are focused on what do we do if our luggage does not show up.  Breakfast at the hotel is simple, pastries, a couple slices of ham and drinks of your choosing.  I’d do something creative for some eggs but it seems that is a difficult commodity to find at the End of the World. But the views from the breakfast room are really good and we can see the Port and even the sun is making an attempt to break through the clouds, alas unsuccessfully so.  So with bellies full once again and our stress levels high with the prospect of having no luggage, we head off into town and find a grocery store that sells different aspects of clothing.

The day shines bright, not!  Overcast and drizzly, but not terrible.  The airlines has assured us they will replace anything we need so we seek out some of the basics, underwear and socks.  The sizes are all based on European sizes and they run different than US sizes.  This is our first time having to replace these items in a foreign country and it is more than a little daunting to find the right items and I wonder if I will become a soprano before this trip is over.

We carry our latest acquisitions back to the hotel and contact the airlines again.  But their understanding of our plight seems to be lacking.  There aren’t many flights that come in to this part of the world from the US and we continually plead with them to get our luggage delivered.  We inform them of our guidelines that we have to turn our luggage in to the ship the following morning and our hopes are dwindled once again.  One person on the airlines end, upon hearing that we are getting on a ship, even suggested that they can deliver our luggage to our first Port.  We quizzically told them, “Yeah, you do that!”.  Since there are no “Ports” in Antarctica (except Port Lockroy, the little British Post Office), it showed us the mentality we were working with.  But we are told our luggage is scheduled to arrive today by 1:00PM!

We make our way down to the Port and buy tickets for the City Tour bus but we discover that acquiring Argentinean Pesos will be to our advantage.  It seems that the few chances we have had to spend money in Argentina, everyone takes US Dollars and is happy to do so.  I’ve discovered why, it’s because the exchange rate that small vendors charge is much higher than the actual value.  So after we get our Tour Tickets, we seek out a Cambio (Money Exchange) and we find one a couple blocks away and we arm ourselves with Pesos.  We walk back to the Tour Bus with the pipe dream of getting a front row seat but it is not to be had because we were not willing to sit in the bus for an hour and we needed time to get Pesos anyway. We watch a small plane make its way lazily into the local airport and take a scant few photos of town, even getting a glimpse of our Expedition Ship that has arrived in Port!

So here we are, in the middle of the bus, top row (A double-decker) waiting for the bus to fill up and the Tour to start.  It seems I have developed an issue with a toenail as I haven’t been able to properly cleanse, groom and take care of personal hygiene because all my toiletries are in my lost luggage, so being tucked back in a seat out of prying eyes has it’s advantages. I get to fuss with my sore toe somewhat privately.  Our luggage is supposed to arrive by 1:00PM this afternoon.  We’re hoping that is does because that will take a great weight off our shoulders and I will be able to take care of my toe and we can keep moving on.  So now for the City Tour to begin!

This town has a local University, restaurants that catch our eye, we see soccer practice in the rain and the local Rugby Club! A local park with its own lake, views of the rugged Patagonian Andes standing tall above the city assaults our senses and shows us the amazing place Ushuaia is!

The City Tour commences and we get an overview of this fun little city down at the End of the World.  It is picturesque and quaint with quiet streets and scenic overviews.  They take us up into the hills and down to the port and tell us all about this place that started as a Penal Colony.  After all, it is a perfect place to put the dregs of society with little hope of them escaping anywhere.  They instead turned the place into a thriving city with a bustling economy! Flag displays and a local shipyard where the bus stops for 15 minutes so we can get photos of this magical place. We pass by the local marina and look over the town and mountains that seem fresh out of a post card. There’s even a casino in town! A beached boat museum and street art catch the camera’s eye and the bus arrives back at the Port and we get off. I have to notice as I do everywhere we travel, telephone poles and wire configurations that would drive an electrical engineer crazy!

We commence walking around town, checking out the streets and views, coming across the Maritime Museum and prison. Looking back at the Port through the streets, we see our Expedition ship is sitting there patiently waiting for us. The local Naval Hospital and a set of Navy Ships that look different from any we’ve seen before are interesting sights.

Different buildings and street views capture our attention as well as a local bus decorated as a Prison Train and our eyes and cameras are entertained. The small storm has dropped snow in the mountains and give them a totally different look from what we saw from the plane as we arrived here!

The Tour completed, we walk into town and find lunch. Elee gets a ‘Hermone Queso Sandwich’ that doesn’t impress.  I order ‘King Crab Ravioli’ that does impress!  This town is known for its King Crab so I guess that was the better choice.  We actually put Elee’s sandwich bread to good use to ‘mop up’ the sauce from the ravioli!

Now back to our hotel in hopes our luggage is there!  If our bags don’t arrive, maybe we’ll come home equipped with name brand stuff!. Found a North Face Store that wants $200.00 for their cheapest shoes! Fleece Lined Pants, only $250.00. In our luggage, we have all of these things in multiples and we didn’t spend much more than 10-20% of those prices!  Well, you guessed it.  Our luggage is not at the hotel as promised.  Devastation sets in.  Not sure if we are experiencing anger, depression or a bit of both.  How can we get on an Expedition Ship to Antarctica tomorrow without all the clothing and other supplies we spent 6 plus months acquiring?

So we spend a couple hours in our hotel trying to relax.  We both take a short nap.  But, unable to sleep, I sit at my laptop and edit some of my pictures that I took this morning on the City Tour.  Anyone who knows me will understand that is one way I relax, editing my photos.  I get to block out the real world and play in my world of Color, Contrast and Composition, my 3-C’s.  I rarely can get enough of this when I travel.  I can do this somewhat mindlessly and think about what I need to do as the pictures fly by my eyes and travel through my brain.

Ok, the worst case scenario has occurred regarding our lost luggage.  Our luggage is nowhere to be found!  We decide to grab a cab to the local airport to see if the luggage maybe arrived and got stalled in the airport. So Elee, bless her heart, gets on the phone to the airlines, both in the USA and the Argentinean airlines that we traveled on.  USA airlines says the luggage is in Ushuaia and Argentinean airlines says it never left the USA.  Who to believe?  Probably Argentina because the luggage is not in sight.  Not only don’t they have it, but it turns out the US Airlines is or has lied to us and it seems that no one has a clue of their whereabouts. The airlines says it was delivered to the local airport down here in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and Ushuaia Airport says it has not left Miami.  We can’t understand why it even went to Miami for it should have gone from Atlanta to Buenos Aires.  One person even found something that says it was loaded onto Air France to Buenos Aires.  Go figure.  Bottom line is IT’S NOT HERE!!! It is now 4:00PM and we have to turn our luggage in at 9:30AM tomorrow to be loaded on our ship.

So we spot a steward holding up a sign in the airport identifying our Expedition Ship.  We approach her and ask who we should speak to about not boarding the ship as we don’t feel we could do that without luggage.  She assures us we can make it work and she puts us on a bus that is heading for our hotel anyway for a late afternoon safety briefing.  They all assure us that we can get what we need in town. We attend the briefing and they assure us we have the info we need so we leave and off we go into town to start buying replacement stuff.  We have weighed our options and realized that our chances of ever making this trip again, considering the logistics and complexities of arranging it, even paid for by the airlines or someone else, are slim to none.  We have so much planned to do in the next 5 years that it likely won’t happen again. (This should give all you Blog Followers something to look forward to, LOL)

So off to shop.  In the rain.  Not drench you rain, but keep you damp rain. We find an Adventure/Trekking store named “The Scandinavian” and buy 2 new suitcases and start filling the cases with new clothing and gear made by “Columbia” The North Face” etc. High end stuff that we would never buy at home because of the cost, but it sure seems like some nice stuff. But we have to get everything from underwear on up.

I have to admit, when the sales people tried to inform us of the price of some things, it was kind of fun to tell them “We don’t care! We’re not the ones paying for it!”  We just went through the store and they had two employees catering on each of us. “Here, this fits, I’ll take it!” or “Give me one of each color, I’m going to be there 14 days!”.  The store closed at 8:00PM and we kept them busy until almost 9:00PM.  But we were their biggest customers in months and they treated us like royalty and even gave us 20% off, but that still gave them a great profit!

So 92,000 Argentine Pesos later (approximately $3000 US), we have two suitcases full of clothing and it still doesn’t satisfy our needs for the trip so there will be more shopping tomorrow!  But we are exhausted so we wheel our new suitcases down the streets of this quaint little town at 9 o’clock at night amidst onlookers that gawk and stare at us, likely thinking, “Who are these Newbie Tourists coming down the road?”  But they are friendly as all people we meet and no one questions us.   Probably have 20-40,000 Pesos left to spend.  For those of you that are currency challenged (like us), we have spent over $3000.00 US Dollars already and likely have $500-1000 left to spend.

So we ask the clerk in the clothing store for a restaurant recommendation and he tells us about a place down the street, “Ramos Generales” and gives us directions.  We find the restaurant where the greeters tell us to put our bags in the front, next to the front door and they usher us to a back room, out of sight of our bags (Oh, the horror!)  It turns out this was a General Store of sorts with a very homey feel and we are impressed. The place is filled with customers and live music is playing!  But we are exhausted and out of sight of our $92,000 Pesos worth of new gear and we both sigh and resign ourselves to whatever fate shall meet us.  So we look at each other and grin.  It will be what it will be.  Elee orders Rabbit and I order Lamb.  Absolutely delicious food and friendly staff abounds around us.  Live music plays in the next room and is clearly heard by all.  Even bits and pieces of Peruvian Pipe Music plays (which we fell in love with several years ago in Peru) and all is good for the moment.

And we know there will be compromises because we already spent 6 months at home acquiring the right items for us. And we find ourselves making lists while sitting in a restaurant after shopping to see what we don’t have yet. We will turn in 3 out of 4 bags for the boat in the morning and shop to fill the last. We have been given a deadline of 5 PM to show up at the boat with the final bag.

Ohlala! There’s a Sale! I wonder if it will help us? Oh well, it was a fun thought (And Storefront for that matter!)

Gotta love this town though! So much so that we’ll throw it a kiss! MUAA! And a store threw one back! LOL

Who can tell us where to buy handwarmers in Ushuaia! That and sock liners, etc, it’s proving a challenge but one we have to take on. The Airlines claims they will reimburse us for our losses. Let’s hope they’re ready for the bill! Oh wait, we have a retired lawyer in the family with extra time on her hands! But that story has yet to be written.

So off we go to back to our hotel. Our bags are still sitting undisturbed by the front door of the restaurant, much to our delight. We ask the restaurant staff to call a taxi for us and we sit on our bags in front of the restaurant and wait for the taxi to arrive. A few minutes later and 203 Argentinian Pesos poorer ($4.53 US), we are en route to the hotel, exhausted yet excited and thrilled that our trip is not a total failure. If we had paid the taxi in US Dollars, it probably would have been $10.00, so our move to acquire Pesos was a smart one! We bed down and set our alarms to get up early to finish our shopping.

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