Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Question: What do you get when you mix grilled Argentinian beef, chimichurri sauce, tango, penguins and then find yourself at the end of the world?
Answer: Tsung Tsin South American trip. On April 7, 2017, 62 members and friends all flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina to embark on a 21-day cruise and land tour. This capital has a European flavour, having been discovered by Spain in the 1500's.
Highlights were the cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, the delicious Argentinian beef, and the Dinner and Tango show. And as I write this, some of our TTA members are taking Tango and Salsa dancing lessons on the ship. Hopefully, Valerie, you are learning enough to start classes at TTA?
April 12th - Our first cruise stop - Montevideo, Uruguay. There, we went on a private 4-1/2 hour tour with blond hair, blue eyes Gonsalo, who told us that he was related to the famous Casanova. Coincidentally, one of the workers on the ship, who is of African descent, also has this same surname. One can only assume that old Casanova was running wild all over the world. Uruguay is a secular country, having separated church and state in 1861. An amazing fact is that most of its leaders were members of the Freemason society and all along the city, there is evidence and references to the secret society which has governed this small country since its birth. Montevideo is rated as having the highest quality of life of any city in Latin America, and the most liberal, having legalized abortion and marijuana use.
April 14th - our next stop is Puerto de Madryn, a city twinned with Nefyn, a small town in North Wales, resulting in an enduring link with Welsh culture since the Welsh settled in Argentina in 1865.
This city is in Argentine Patagonia and has a 'Magellan' Penguin colony. After seeing the documentary March of the Penguins, I had envisioned thousands of these cute birds waddling on the shores towards the sea. Before the tour started, we were warned that we may not see them as this was the end of the season, and they would be well on their way to vacating Punta Tombo, a natural protected area where 800,000 to a million penguins live at the height of the mating season. Surprisingly, we saw quite a few and learned so much about them. Penguins live for about 25 years - females mate at 5 years old, males at 8, are monogamous, and singularly return yearly to the same nest. At the time we went, the remaining Penguins were still shedding their feathers before they return to the sea. The authorities do worry about their future, as the birds are fighting with the big fishing trawlers for anchovies - their main food.
We have six sea days, and our group keeps busy with dance, exercise classes, towel animal folding classes, the spa, travel lectures, shopping, more shopping, bingo, the 10,000 steps walking group, the dominoes and bridge group, and the mahjong group which did not bring a set from Canada and are unable to find the one elusive set which the ship tells us is somewhere between Decks 5, 7, 10 and 12, and which may also be missing a few tiles. The casino is not really giving any payouts,although one of our group was very lucky the first night we could play. But, our main activity is eating, and walking to the many restaurants to eat. Sadly, we are eating so much, TTA exec Shirley is wondering why her pants seem to be shrinking.
If it wasn't for the war between Argentina and Britain, it is possible that we would not know about the Falkland Islands. Not much to see in its capital, Port Stanley, except a lot of souvenir shops, whaling and maritime museums.There is a 'King' penguin colony here.The islands have over 3,000 inhabitants - excluding those affiliated with the British military presence. For every one inhabitant, there are also 137 sheep. Understandingly, its main industries are mutton, wool and tourism.
The ship went around Cape Horn yesterday.This is where two oceans - Atlantic and Pacific converge. Temperature was in the 50's(F), and extremely windy on deck. We landed on Ushuaia this morning. For those who don't know, this is considered the end of the world as it is at the southernmost tip,across from the Strait of Magellan. It is cold as it is only 620 miles from Antarctica. Ushuaia is in Argentina and borders with Chile. We toured the Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) National Park - which is reminiscent of Banff National Park in B.C. It is beautiful country with lots of fauna, and is usually the starting point for most Antarctic expeditions. It is reported that the Argentine government imported some 50 Canadian beavers to Ushuaia in 1946 with the intention of starting a beaver fur industry. However,without its natural predators, like wolves and bears, the beaver population now numbers 100,000, and has become a 'dam-n' serious problem in the park.
April 19th - Punta Arenas, Chile. This is the southernmost city in Chile and had its humble beginnings as a penal colony near the Straits of Magellan. Until the Panama Canal was built in 1914, the Strait of Magellan was the main shipping route for commercial vessels travelling between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Today is Chile's National Census Day and a public holiday. As passengers transiting Chile on this day, we are also required to fill out a Census survey. Some of us are wondering if we are declared honorary Chileans for this day.We have encountered some seriously bad weather travelling through the Straits and Chilean Fjords, which forced most of us to secure our breakables, and to take Gravol. Some waves were as high as 21 feet. But that didn't stop us on April 20th from celebrating our tour director, Merryl's BIG birthday at a private party. I am not sure if it was our dancing to non-stop reggae and soca music,courtesy of Raymond's playlist, or the waves making the ship rock like crazy, but the party continued on the Dazzles dance floor way into the night.
Our next port was Puerto Chacabuco, where Mother Nature has sculpted out shimmering lakes, flowing rivers and the stark beauty of the Andean Peaks. Not much to do here, except buy some souvenirs and enjoy Nature at its best.
Puerto Montt - our last port before disembarking,is in southern Chile's Lake District and is known as the gateway to the Andes Mountains and the Patagonia's fjords. Most of the group took a 4-hour tour to see Calbuco,an active volcano, waterfalls and beautiful scenery. On our way back to the ship,the Oriental Restaurant turned out not to be Chinese, but served some delicious seafood anyway.
April 25th - we were scheduled to leave the ship in Valparaiso, but as it turns out - an imminent labour strike forced us to San Antoine instead. Fortunately for us, we missed the 6.4 (on the richter sale) earthquake which struck Valparaiso that morning. Apparently, Chile experiences a lot of seismic tremors every day. Clive is not sure he wants to return to this part of the world after hearing that information.
Santiago, sunshine and warm weather - a good combination. After googling the top three places you must see, we walked and took the funicular to Cerro San Cristobal, (#2) which gives you the best sweeping views of Santiago, and has a beautiful snowy white statue of the Virgin Mary. At the Mercado Central (Central market), (#3) we ate a 120 US$ seafood platter. #1 was the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Santiago, where there is the Metropolitan Cathedral which is open to everyone. We actually walked over 15,000 steps that day- enough to burn offsome of the calories we gained on the ship.Have no doubt - the majority of us gained a few pounds in the 15 days we were sailing.
The last night of our trip was spent at the BaliHai Dinner/Show. Star of the show was Eddie Chin, who did a Hawaiian dance,shocking all the patrons with his belly actions! Good for you, Eddie!
As I look back on this trip, I can truly say that all of us had a great time. Although the weather wasn't as good as we would have liked, the camaraderie more than made up for it. Once again, thank you Merryl and Distinguished Travel for doing a great job. Next stop is South Pacific!
For more pictures from our South American Cruise go to our Gallery!