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South America Trip - Part 5

Around The Horn - Ushuaia, Argentina, Falkland Islands, Montevideo, Uruguay, Buenos Aires Last week, we wrote about seeing penguin Glenn Miller near Punta Arenas, Chile. Since then, we’ve stopped in five interesting ports, and now our 34-day San Diego to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, cruise has come to an end. We arrived in Rio Wednesday, rented a car and drove 6 ½ hours to Itamambuca Beach, about 180 miles south of Rio. We will spend two weeks here. More on these next two weeks next week. The main takeaway from the cruise: how fortunate we were with the weather and sea conditions in this part of South America. We thought the weather might be so bad that we would be forced to skip ports. We were prepared for rough seas and ice-chilling weather; neither materialized. Our first port after Punta Arenas was Ushuaia, Argentina, which is the southernmost city in the world. To get there we cruised for two days on the Strait of Magellan, through Glacier Alley, viewing snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and beautiful glaciers with a blue hue. We had been briefed on board that Ushuaia might be almost a ghost town since we were arriving there on a Sunday, which was also election day in Argentina. Bundled up in winter coats, gloves and scarves, passengers aboard the MS Zaandam were prepared for the worst in going ashore. We knew weather here can change in minutes. But what a surprise. The sun was out and the weather in the mid-50s. I saw a few passengers go ashore in shorts, which was more for bravado than fashion. The first place in Ushuaia that tourists go is the “End of the World” sign, which is in a park near the shoreline. It’s the busiest place in town for photos.

Ushuaia fin del mundo sign

fin del mundo (end of the world) sign in Ushuaia, Argentina Greta and I walked the downtown streets for nearly three hours. The place was teeming with folks. Bars, restaurants, and shops were open, happy to see the first cruise ship of the season in port. Most of the time, we carried our winter coats. When the sun ducked behind a cloud, we put them back on. Delightful, wonderful people in Ushuaia, a hip city; we hadn’t expected that. The next stop was Stanley, Falkland Islands. A steward in the ship’s dining room told me that two years before, in the five Holland America cruises that scheduled a stop in this port, passengers could only go ashore once, due treacherous winds. Stanley is a tender port, where you can only reach the city from the ship by taking smaller boats; the ship dropped anchor two miles away.

Falkland Islands welcome to sign

Arriving at Stanley, Falkland Islands, a tropical paradise for an hour or two When Greta and I stepped off the tender boat at the dock in Stanley, we couldn’t believe our luck. The sun was out; we had to unzip our winter coats. We stopped for coffee and to use the wifi at a café called Bittersweet. “What time do you close today?” I asked the owner.

“When we run out of fish and chips,” he answered. Stanley is British through and through. While walking around this cute city, we checked out the Globe Tavern, a true British pub. It was packed with Brits; you couldn’t move in the place. England retained control of the Falkland Islands in the war with Argentina in 1982. Christ Church, the most southern Anglican Church in the world is filled with memorial plaques of Brits who fought in WWI and WWII, and in the war with Argentina. It was interesting to read the messages on the plaques. The next port was nearly 1,000 miles north of the Falklands, Montevideo, Uruguay. We’d visited here 10 years prior. We decided to walk into the city. Within 10 minutes, the rain started. We entered a restaurant that advertised coffee on a chalk board. Turns out, the restaurant, Urbani, served the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had. And they had a powerful wifi signal.

bienvenidos montevideo uruguay harbor sign

Montevideo Uruguay Port Welcome sign The rain was coming down in buckets with wind gusts of 60-70 mph. We stayed for lunch. We had been there for three hours hoping the rain would let up. We asked our server to call us a taxi, to take us back to the ship. The cab company wouldn’t answer their phone—too busy. The ship was scheduled to depart in two hours. We had no choice: put the ponchos on and walk back to the ship.

Once on board, we made a beeline to the hot tub. We didn’t see much of Montevideo. The next day was a sharp contrast to the previous day. In Buenos Aires, the sun was out, temperature near 70—a welcome change to Cape Horn. Buenos Aires is known as “The Paris of the South.” It’s big, diverse, beautiful and fascinating. We only had a few hours so we decided to take a Hop On, Hop Off bus around the city. We sat in the upper, open deck. This is a great way to see as much of a city as possible in a limited time. Each site is described via earphones. For 3 and ½ hours, we never left the bus. When the tour ended, we both felt exhilarated. We saw the “pink building” where Eva Peron lived and spoke to thousands from an upstairs balcony. We saw the oldest restaurant in Buenos Aires, Café Tortoni (founded 1858), where we had seen a tango show on our previous visit.

Buenos Aires pink building

The pink building in Buenos Aires As the ship sailed away, we raised a glass of wine, while standing on the stern deck, saying, “To Buenos Aires, one of the great cities in the world.” Our final port, before arriving in Rio, was Punte del Este, Uruguay. This is a resort city, with hundreds of high-rise apartments on sandy beaches. There isn’t much history here. We visited its most famous landmark, a statue in the sand called, “The Hand.”

Tourist attraction Punte del Este, El Mano, hand in the sand We had a wonderful trip with amazing weather. You get spoiled on a cruise ship: three meals a day, all you can eat. Now that we are in Itamabuca Beach for two weeks, staying at a beach house, who is going to prepare our meals? Oops, time for me to put an apron on and head for the kitchen, Greta would like her morning coffee.

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