I mean, they’re calling this day one of the tour but you’re in Ushuaia all day. It’s just the day most people are using to get to the city, get settled in and get their bearings. All we had to do was check out of our apartment, shuffle to the middle of town and check into Hotel Albatros, the hotel provided by G Adventures as part of day one. We were hoping to just abandon our bags until the official check in time of 2pm but they had a spare room so they put us in that with our G Adventures welcome pack.
Oh my gosh. That all went swimmingly. Obviously I’d spent the last week at least going over everything that could possibly go tits up because I’m a control freak and I’m not used to having everything done for me but so far, so good. Our names were on the list, we were expected. We were assigned a room on the first floor which was roughly as hot as the bowels of hell and we had no way to cool it down. Oh well. Guess we’d just melt then.
The rest of the day was spent getting increasingly nervous about the impending Covid test we all had to do. G Adventures were footing the bill and we were going to get it done at the hotel with everyone else. We’d spent literal hours on buses with people coughing and spluttering into their hands. You become very fucking aware of this when you’ve got nearly £7000 each riding on not breathing in someone’s Omicron. The Canadian couple stood in the queue behind us, Kim and David, had been waiting three years for this to happen and it all pivoted on this moment.
A swab was jabbed into one nostril… eventually anyway. Apparently my nose hairs have opinions about what’s being forced past them and the woman recoiled in horror when a sneeze was triggered. The now familiar test line appeared on the cartridge and when the second line didn’t appear the relief was palpable. That was that over with then. We waited to make sure Kim and David were fine and they were also plague free. Woo! Now I just had to fret that the boat had a hole in it, or I’d slip in the shower and impale an eyeball on the hot tap, or someone would have a heart attack halfway across the Drake Passage and we’d have to turn around.
We had dinner at a restaurant called Isabel that evening and it happened to overlook the dock. This was more luck than judgement but we’d been stalking our ship on Cruise Mapper and judging by where she was on the map that little blob on the horizon could well be her… she got closer and closer and yeah, that was our ship! How fucking exciting?! She very much seemed to have “staying afloat” on her list of things to do today so yay to that.
We had another large chunk of day in Ushuaia today but we’d already pretty much done everything we wanted to do. We did try El Museo del Fin del Mundo yesterday in an attempt to be cultural and all that but it didn’t blow us away. So we skipped the other museum in favour of tea and cake. We wandered aimlessly until 3.30pm when we strolled down to the meeting point and caught up with a few others.
Shit was getting real. It got realer when the bus trundled through the port and the realist when we finally walked up the gangway brandishing our boarding passes and stepped onto the little red ship that would be our home for the next ten days. We were directed to our cabin, a staff member pointed at a step and told us to be careful, I thanked him and promptly tripped over it. That was a good start then.
Oh my gosh, the cabin though! It’s really quite lovely with a fuck tonne of space and a big window for general gawping and our own little bathroom. This would do nicely. I refrained from employing my usual unpacking technique whereby I just explode my backpack all over the room, and I carefully placed everything in the various wardrobes and cupboards we’d been provided with. I am growing as a human.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in the lounge having a cuppa, meeting a few of the people we’d be sharing this adventure with, and being introduced to the expedition staff and a few other staff we’d be seeing every day. When Jay the bartender was introduced the room burst into applause. Right, so it’s that kind of boat then. Our expedition leader would the perpetually smiley Mario who I think we all immediately fell a little bit in love with. He added that he was also Hugs Master and if anyone needed a hug they should go and see him. We also had a mandatory briefing on what to do if it all went tits up.
We had a huge array of experts on everything from whales to birds to rocks and ice, everything you’d need for an Antarctic exploration. And when the anchor was raised, excitement rippled around the room. This was it! This was happening! Several people in the room had had their trip postponed two or three times. At least one person was stood on the dock back in 2020 ready to board when the call came in that Argentina was closed and everyone had a week to leave. I can only imagine how they were feeling as the ship pulled away and steered towards the Beagle Channel.
I’d already taken a seasickness tablet because I get seasick in the fucking bath. I’d heard Beagle Channel is meant to be okay but once you’re on the Drake Passage it all gets a bit vomity and we were scheduled to hit that at around midnight. The tablets turn my brain to cotton wool though, as we were sat at dinner I could feel tendrils of fog creeping through my skull. I went to bed pretty much as soon as I finished my food fully prepared to be violently jolted awake as soon as we hit the Drake Shake.
Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina to the Drake Passage