Falklands – Las Malvinas

Please note, not all of these pictures were taken by me. There were a lot of really excellent photographers on the trip, and some of them very kindly shared their best photos. Where possible I have attributed the picture taker, if it wasn’t me or Maaike.

First stop was the Falklands, starting with West Point and Saunders Islands.  The highlights of which were the Black Browed Albatross and magellanic penguins respectively. I’m not sure if it was a designed move or not, but, at most landings there were different options (long walk, short walk, cruising around in a zodiac etc.).  Anyway, at our first landing we had the long walk (chargers) option, and quite a lot of people signed up for it.  The walk was lead by Yvonne, a strong kiwi from Te Anau, and we certainly did charge up the hill… a good thing as it meant for subsequent trips people thought twice before signing up for the longer walks.

Anyway, lovely views, definitely liked the caracara on the top of the hill, and the morning tea that the people of West Point put on was amazing!

black_browed_albatrosscaracara_observingegg_that_did_not_make_itrockhopper disagreementsei_whaleAlbatross and chick on nest (photo by Jill Mellor) West Pointlong_tailed_meadowlarkmagellanic penguinwest_point_cakescaracaraDSC_0118zoom_caracaracaracara_talons

Then overnight the boat was moved to Stanley, and we spent a day wandering around, getting a feel for the place, sending some postcards, etc.  Now, that evening we were supposed to head to South Georgia, but, unfortunately the ship had to have a “stabiliser fin” fixed. I suspect it had been damaged by the iceberg from before, but I have no clue really. Now, unfortunately, while it should have been fixed while we were in Stanley, the airforce were using the airstrip, and so the specially chartered flight for the engineers couldn’t land.  That meant we had to stay a second night in Stanley.  It was interesting the passengers responses to this, quite a lot of people were upset, however, these things happen and there was bugger all the staff could have done about it. Take it up with management if you have to take it up with anyone.

OystercatcherThey love Maggie in the FalklandsBlue Whale Jawbones7-DSC_0166well done that gunSuper patriotic are the FalklandersMaaike TotemRock ships

Anyway, the unexpected stay gave us time to do a couple of historical tours around.  It was interesting to see the history of the 1982 invasion (liberation ?!?! ;) by Argentina. They’re still doing landmine clearing here.  Actually that was interesting – Metta, one of the expedition staff knows my cousin Thomas Nash from the cluster munitions coalition days, small world.  Here’s a picture (from later on) of Metta and I (deception island, but I leap ahead).  She gave a great lecture on the still existent landmines in the Falklands, obligations under the treaties etc.

Metta and I

Stanley definitely was aggressively “British” as you walked around, so many tributes to the war, to Margaret Thatcher, mini coopers and Land Rovers *eveywhere*. They did have a referendum to see whether the people wanted independence or not, and it was a 80%+ turnout, and 98% voted for it.. or something like that. Quite understandable, it must have been incredibly shocking to have a days warning of an invasion… horrible. That said, I feel Argentina has at least a small point in their claim to the Islands.  The British came along and kicked the indigenous off the island, so the whole idea of self determination seems moot if you’ve been planted there in the first place. Hey ho.

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Leaving Ushuaia.. for.. AAaaaaaannnnntttttttarctica

Finally, onto the boat. I’m a more nervous traveller than Maaike (well, more nervous in general).. so I was super super happy once we were on the boat and in the kind and strong arms of our wonderful friend Val, who had suggested that we should go on this particular cruise. We were shown on board and to our cabin. The cabin lady showing us to our room had a mini heart attack when she saw our room, as Val had sneaked in and decorated the room with a poster welcoming us, and writing on every accessible mirror!

Honestly, just feel so incredibly lucky to be able to able to have this experience. Steaming out of Ushuaia was a powerful moment, wondering what’ll happen next.

I never showed this picture to family before the trip, but, here’s a pic of Val standing next to a rather large hole in the boat, from 2 trips previous. From an iceberg. You really are out there ;)

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Ushuaia and around

Flew into Ushuaia the “southernmost city in the world” in preparation for the departure on our Antarctic cruise. We had lined up AirBnB again, and Maaike had certainly done some good research here, finding a keen hiker (and co-incidentally Dutch). Jack – he was awesome, taking us on a hike that same afternoon!. I must admit, while I had dressed fairly appropriately, I think I may need to invest in some better gloves.. mind just aren’t up to the job. There was an amount of bush-bashing, and, while the weather did clear when we got to the top (enough to take pictures).. when the wind got up on the way back down again, I was a little bit cold!! Keen to be better prepared next time.

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Technically, we didn’t go walking with Jack, or at least, he went walking with his dogs and we went along too… definitely not guiding (here be regulations ;)

Still, a lovely introduction to Ushuaia, Jack really was the perfect perfect host for us. Furnishing us with lots of information, decent internet ;). The next day, or maybe the day after, he dropped us off to the start of another hike, and we did this quite nice ~5 hour hike up to Lag de los tempranos. Which sounds to me like “lake of in time” .. or something like that. My Spanish is still awful, something I want to partially correct on the cruise, given time.

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Anyway, it was a lovely little walk (kml file)

The linked KML file above is not beautifully accurate, as I wanted not to use all the batteries all at once! however, it’s enough to get you started.

So yes, great walk, great host. Other than that, didn’t spend that much time in Ushuaia proper this time, when we’re back from the cruise there’ll be time for that.

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Oh, did make a few timelapses with the pi – I thought this one came out ok :)

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Bueno Buenos Aires

Flew into Buenos Aires on Air New Zealand, nice, as they’ve only just started flying in. Anyway, after reading the guide book, and partly because we were pretty tired, decided to take a taxi into town. The taxi company was nice enough to let us phone the AirBnB host to make sure she knew we were coming. Anyway, all worked out fine. Sure it’s a little more expensive getting a taxi, however, I think it’s fair enough to be gentle on yourself the first few days after getting into a completely different timezone and in a foreign language to boot.

our first AirBnB

The host was lovely, met us at the door, suggested places to go for dinner etc. All good. Not having pesos (yet) we just used dollars. It’s an interesting old place Argentina. There are, I think, 5 different (American) dollar exchange rates in use. For our use case as a tourist, only two matter. The official exchange rate (9 Pesos to 1 Dollar) and the “blue dollar”. Not officially available to tourists, but, you get about 14 Pesos to the dollar if you exchange with these people. It’s a very easy place to get ripped off though, so you really want to ask a local and then take their advice. Lots of examples of people getting 1000 Peso notes (don’t exist any more) etc. etc. Our guy I think tricked/haggled us down a little (from 14 to 13.5) saying that they’d rather $100 notes to $50 notes.. however, someone else said this was correct. Anyway, moral of the story is, if you’re going to travel in Argentina, bring a lot of dollars with you. * (as of this writing, before Antarctica, this was true, however, the president has changed and I’m 99% sure the official exchange rate is now 13:1, so much better.

Also, Argentina is a lot more expensive than I was thinking it was going to be… purely through ignorance mind you, it is a fully developed (if somewhat corrupt) country.

Anyway, we spent our one full day wandering around, seeing the “Pink Palace” (presidential house). They were setting up for speeches etc. as Kirchener had just lost the election. Interesting times. We also went to to the cemetery which had been recommended. An odd place to walk around, lots of the cognoscenti of BA are here.. some now in ruins. The grave of Eva Peron (of Evita) is here. It’s quite the maze, I wonder how many films it is in! would make a great set.

Graveyardcorridors of the deadwhat a place for a bond movieEva Perongraveyard denguestatue

We also ate at Cabana Las Lilas which our friend Val had recommended. Maaike’s parents had very kindly given us some $$ to spend on a dinner, as we were unable to make their 40th wedding anniversary. We had a fantastic dinner and a very nice bottle. I had a mini panic attack thinking that I’d ordered a bottle 10x as much as I had meant to, fortunately it was OK! I blame the jetlag. Anyway, lovely dinner, many thanks Meneer en Mevrouw Jongerius :)

yum dinner

Saw this bridge on the way home, very very similar to the one in Dublin. Turns out it is by the same architect. That’s value pricing that is ;)

value based pricing

central BABA churchThe pink palacecars and more carsbiggest obelisk in the world. Maybe

Then it was time to head down to the bottom of South America, to Ushuaia, gateway to Antarctica.

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Go! Move! Shift!

Move along, get along, move along, get along, Go! Move! Shift! (lyrics from above)

Well, I always knew when getting hitched to Maaike that my comfortable happy life was ultimately doomed ;) heh, still, ’tis through discomfort that we grow. Anyway, Maaike is very much keen on travel, I am too, but more of a 1-2 month term than longer. Anyway, negotiations were entered into, though I think I was misled.. it started as “lets go for 3-6 months” (this was agreed to)… then, quickly turned into “but I’ll ask for 9 months” and then “I’ll ask for a year, but I’ll be happy with less”. CPIT agreed to the year, so a year it is. Maaike was able to put her job on hold for a year, I had to quit mine. Sure it is lovely to be off travelling for a year, no doubt about it, and really, who is going to give you any sort of sympathy when you say you’re off travelling for a year, but, I’d be lying if I said I was as open to change as Maaike is!

So, I handed in notice at Resolve, my colleagues made me a most excellent card:

Leaving card from RD

The reason this is so excellent – it’s how I quit (without saving) in my editor of choice – vim. I hope it’d be fair to say that it wasn’t a comment on my coding to suggest that I quit without saving. For the record, I’d be more of a :wq kinda guy, or ZZ, or or or ;)

Anyway, I will miss Resolve, really excellent colleagues, interesting work that I thoroughly enjoyed (Problem-Attic being a highlight, as probably was the GapFiller project), great communication, perks like learning lunch and an excellent coffee machine, learning materials ready to hand…. no, it was a great place to be and I’ll miss the banter.

Also, I sold the van. My friend Michelle made a cake to celebrate/commiserate the event.

bye bye van

It was an interesting thing selling the van. I think most people were surprised that I’d get anything for it other than a couple of tins of baked beans. I had, in my head, that it was still worth heaps, and I was selling at the right time too (high season). I did end up selling it for $2,300, though I would have liked a little more. It was old sure, 1985, but it was still going fine and the engine seemed good. I told it to a German tourist. Interestingly, as soon as I’d sold it (he’d already haggled me down $200 and I’d already dropped the price a lot) he started saying that there was lots wrong with it, leaks etc. Frankly I was quite surprised by this as I’d just used it for driving to Ohau, to Picton (for the QC biking trip) and all around town for the last week dropping things off.. he even went so far as to ask me would I buy it back! So, maybe I did get a good price, hard to know. I’m not sure what we’ll get when we get back to NZ, but I must say, I like having a big box on wheels, at least until the point at which we buy a house and aren’t moving around so much. It did leave a slightly sour taste though, as I did think it was a decent van, and I did want the buyer to have a good time touring around in it. I offered to pay 1/2 of the cost of a repair for specific safety issues that he said the van had. I said only if he took it to my mechanic, and only if he said the work was necessary. I haven’t heard back yet, so I’m assuming that all is well and that he was just having a complain. We shall see.

The time up to leaving flew by, moving everything out of the house (Maaike was still having to work unfortunately, so I was quite busy running around). Getting jabs (boosters, Hep, Rabies…) etc.

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We have been lucky to have wonderful friends who have been willing to use & store our stuff for a year, so we didn’t have to shell out for storage. Maaike had the bright idea to make a big list of all our stuff and see what things people would take. Worked out very well – far better than my sceptical self thought it would ;)

And then it was time to leave, first step Argentina, back Jan 2017.

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