Antarctica Day 22 – Ushuaia to Buenos Aires

It was a fairly early start to the day so that suitcases could be outside of the rooms by 07:30, with breakfast being squeezed in before this. After breakfast we said goodbye to those we had gotten to know over the past couple of weeks. We knew it was likely we could stay in touch with some of them as the boat had set up a spreadsheet for sharing email addresses a few days previous.

Once cabin keys had been exchanged for passports we could then disembark and collect our luggage before heading out into the town. For this 800 metre journey they actually unnecessarily booked transport for us – but they did take our main luggage and arrange a time to be picked up.

As we had some spare time before our flight we went to the Hotel Albatross to see if they could hold our camera bags for us whilst we went around town. Unfortunately, even though the previous driver had told us we could they didn’t let us. Instead we used the internet for just over an hour to catch up on the “real” world before heading out into the town.

Ushuaia Prison

Our first stop was at the museum which is located next to the naval base. Entry to tourists for this museum is 110 pesos, or US$12. The first part of this museum is for their maritime history and contains a number of model ships. From there it is into one of the wings of the old prison building which is dedicated to the buildings history; including stories of some prisoners. Upstairs in this wing is more on the prison, prisons elsewhere in the world, Antarctic history, penguins, and a gift shop.

The next part of the prison is the main hall which was marked out as a basketball court and had a couple of more wings off it. One of these was closed, but there were two more to look around. The first of these wings was an art gallery where local artists were selling their work, with the upstairs being more on history.

The final wing was left pretty much in it’s original state. The place was rundown and when looking up you could see holes in the wooden floorboards above. The upstairs was mostly closed off because of this, but you can still wander around the cells, and other parts of the ground floor which included their bathing and washroom areas. Whilst in here it started to rain outside – some of it seeping through the roof which was in disrepair.

Traction Engine

Outside of the museum there is a train and a traction engine, both previously used by the prison. As we still had a fair bit of time left we headed back to the main street to do some shopping for souvenirs and to find a place to eat.

After going into a couple of shops we ate at Andino Gourmet – the same place we’d eaten the first evening we’d gotten to Ushuaia. We both ordered a pizza, something the waiter was surprised about it seemed. It turns out they were quite large and intended for sharing but at 114 pesos they weren’t bad, and we managed all but about half of one. Whilst eating we saw the expedition leader and the atmospheric climate researcher walk passed the restaurant.

When walking around the town again we then managed to bump into two more passengers on separate occasions and some more of the crew. From the Sous Chef we heard that the other ship that had gone out, the Ortelius had broken down after 5 days. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them as it’s quite a trip to have cut short. It’s likely they wouldn’t have gone to the Antarctic peninsula in that time which left me wondering what the passengers would have done for the past week.

From one souvenir shop I got a plush penguin for my sister for 99 pesos, and from another got a fridge magnet for my parents for 75 pesos. I’d not really done much shopping for souvenirs this trip and could probably have bought more, but I knew my checked luggage and hand luggage were already too full.

For a while we waited outside the Hotel Albatross and after about 15 minutes the driver from earlier in the day returned to take us to the airport. This was a very quick drive and within minutes after arriving we’d checked our baggage and paid the US$5 airport tax. What surprised me here was that neither me nor my friend were charged for overweight baggage like we had been on the outward journey.

Once through security we were pleased to find that we could pass the time during the long wait with free Wi-Fi access. As it happened though this wait was longer than intended. At the time we should have been boarding we went through a door at gate 4, which is what the board said, and ended up in baggage claims. We got one of the staff to take us back to the waiting room and then thought we’d found the right queue but this was for another flight.

By this time the board said the flight was “pre-boarding” though there was no sign of movement towards attempting boarding, or indeed a plane waiting for us. Checking online I found that it had been delayed by 40 minutes, though after this time had passed it still wasn’t looking hopeful. By the time we left the gate the flight was more than an hour late.

Flying into Buenos Aires

During the flight they gave out the usual snacks and drinks and even had a reasonable entertainment system in that they had several TV episodes to keep us entertained for a portion of the journey. Once we landed we were only an hour late, and from touch down it took 30 minutes to get out of the airport to our lift. Most of this time though was sitting on the the plane waiting for them to open the door.

It was then a 20 minute drive from the airport to the Eurobuilding hotel, and once again we got a nice deluxe twin room. Due to the lateness of the arrival (it was gone 23:00) we were stuck for choices of places to eat so ordered some chicken and fries using room service.

By the time we were done and ready to sleep it was fast approaching 01:00 which meant not that long until we’d need to get up for the next leg of the journey home.

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