A not all that funny thing happened on the way to Antarctica
The night before Blonde and Alternative Brunette were scheduled to meet with Quark representatives in our Buenos Aires hotel lobby to have our luggage be weighed (second only in humiliation to being weighed ourselves) we got an email that the cruise to Antarctica had been cancelled.
The ship had hit an iceberg at 3:30 the previous morning and, although all passengers and crew were uninjured, the ship wasn’t. Suddenly 200 excited, would-be Antarctica-bound travelers saw their dreams crash and most likely Quark saw their profits crash too.
We went through the traveler stages of grief – alcohol, anger, acceptance and finally, action. For the action phase we reached out to our new favorite people in the whole world – Swoop Patagonia – a UK-based collection of pathologically pleasant and helpful travel smarties. They had never heard of us (yes, we know that’s hard to imagine) but they started organizing an alternative trip for us literally within minutes of making contact.
Plan B – Swoop Patagonia swoops us off to Patagonia
It was too late to salvage Antarctica as our destination without massive cost and timing implications so we agreed, after 7 seconds of deliberation, to go to Patagonia instead. Quark got us to Ushuaia where the original cruise had been scheduled to depart. (There’s a story here but it reflects poorly on everyone involved, including us, so we are discreetly omitting it – for now).
3-day Patagonia cruise with Australis
Swoop Patagonia somehow found a cabin for us on the Stella Australis, a 5-year-old adventure cruise ship’s 3 day Discover Patagonia cruise. We went vomiting around Cape Horn at the bottom end of the western hemisphere and smoothly through the Beagle Channel and across the Strait of Magellan to Punta Arenas on the Chilean mainland. (The cruise was delightful and will get its own post as will most of our experiences, both those that involved vomiting and those that didn’t. This is merely an explanatory post re our disappearance and inaccurate expectation setting.)
Two days in a luxury yurt near Torres del Paines, Chile
Upon arrival in Punta Arenas we went through Customs for Chile, bumbled our way to the exit and found a man holding a sign with Blonde’s name on it. He wasn’t her parole officer or a former husband so we happily entrusted our lives to this total stranger with whom we did not share a common language. He’d been sent by Swoop Patagonia and that was good enough for us.
We were taken on a 4 hour drive to Patagonia Camp, an eco resort (sadly this meant there wasn’t any alcohol in the amenities so Blonde didn’t drink them as she usually does) of luxury yurts set in a forest overlooking Lake Toro. Our customized hike to see flora, fauna, birds, scenery and wildlife was scheduled for the following morning. We were then well fed, amply poured and happily retired for the day.
We both wanted to stay longer so we could enjoy more of the hearty yet pampered combo that has won Patagonia Camp so many awards, but it was time to swoop off to our next destination.
Three-ish days in El Calafate, Argentina
At least when we decamped from Patagonia Camp we left with “Curly” a driver whom we knew from the previous day. Like the trusting children we had become we left not knowing what lay ahead. Many times we felt as if we were on the American TV show The Amazing Race where other clueless people race around trying to figure out where they’re going and what to do when they get there. (Except in our case Swoop Patagonia actually knew all of the answers and communicated them to us but otherwise it was identical.)
When we crossed the border to Argentina we were quickly handed off by “Curly” to another unknown man with whom we didn’t share a common language. He didn’t look murderous and we were clearly not worth kidnapping, so what the heck.
The next day we had one of those “Hey dude, isn’t nature like really cool?” moments as we were fastened (well, just our boots, not really us) into crampons and trekked sportily on a glacier. At the conclusion we had Scotch on “the rocks” and life was truly good. Zoe, a BFF of Swoop Patagonia at Walk Patagonia arranged that outing for us.
We also had a boat ride past the glacier, a frenzied rush when we got back to town to see a bird preserve with wild flamingoes in the lake and then ate a small herd of Patagonian lambs. (We’re both good on lamb for about 15 years so don’t send us any.)
On our last morning in Patagonia we went to the Glaciarium which is, as you may be able to ascertain from the name, a museum about glaciers. To be fair we haven’t seen a lot of those so didn’t have a wide base of comparison but still decided that this one was excellent, if a tad pricey.
Our last adventurous outing (if you aren’t willing to put shopping in that category) was riding horses at El Galpon de Glaciar, a small hotel and large estancia owned by a hot Argentine stallion, Ricardo. He bantered, smoked, took pictures of us and rode his horse in geometric patterns as he charmingly endured us for an hour and a half ride on his property.
Back to our hotel, quick showers and off to catch a flight back to Buenos Aires.
It hadn’t been a cruise to Antarctica but it had been one hell of a good adventure. We both would have happily extended our time there for a week (at least if Ricardo was part of the deal).
We have lots and lots of good material we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks from these and other adventures but just wanted to offer a briefish explanation for veering off the previously announced plot line!
We are immensely grateful to the team at Swoop Patagonia that (almost) made highly skeptical Blonde believe in Guardian Angels.