Posted by: glenswatman | January 11, 2010

201001-10 ANTARCTICA cruise & BRAZIL



Happy New Year.  Having
stayed up until 3.30am seeing in the new year I am not surprised that Steve
does not want to get up and join me for breakfast at 8,30am.  His wake up calls is the start of the games
at 10am.  We are doing really well with
the games and so far have won 1 sweatshirt, 2 hats, 6 t-shirts and 2 mugs.  Unfortunately the trivia is a different story
and the team Steve goes with consistently come in second. At computer classes a
lady next to me has noticed my blog and asked if we could meet up for lunch as
she is a “lifestyle coach”.  Steve &
I meet up with Yvonne & Jim at the Rotterdam.  She asks many questions about how our
lifestyle evolved in order that she may help others and asks if she can link her
clients to my blog.  I am rather amused
by all this as I don’t think we have lifestyle coaches in England and could
never imagine diverting “trip money” to visit one in order to be encouraged to
travel!  Yvonne is surprised that I have
not had a personality profile done whereas I am surprised that in spite of her
having one done and being a lifestyle coach she still hasn’t arrived at a point
of living the life of their dreams.  Reckon
it is a job I could pull off should we ever have the need to work though. 



We wake up anchored in the FALKLAND ISLANDS just off Port
Stanley.  Our knowledge of the country
comes from news during the 1982 conflict so we are keen to look around.  All the tours to the battlefields and other sights
are overbooked so we will have to settle for a wander around town.  We previously made arrangements for Steve to
have his stitches removed at the hospital and although they have already been
taken out he would like a second opinion on progress.  HAL know about this and do a great job making
sure we get an early tender ashore.  The
first few houses are traditional style brick terrace with beautiful English
country gardens but an odd feature of brightly painted corrugated roofs.  Further along all the buildings have the same
roof construction but are nearly all prefabricated off metal and other than
brightly painted are not that attractive. 
The hospital is much like a very old British one with a mixture of
traditional features inside but up to date equipment.  At the nurses’ station they are expecting us
and soon deal with Steve’s hand.  Over
the last couple of days the healing has accelerated and nurse says he no longer
needs to keep it wrapped up but must exercise it.  Steve still has lots of tingling in it but
she thinks that is a good sign.  The area
of the stitches is difficult to move as there are such huge scabs forming but I
am sure a bit of mini golf, basketball and bean bag tossing will help that
along.   Although it is the middle of summer it is a
cool, drizzly miserable day.  Continuing
our walk along the shore we pass “the 1982 Liberation Monument”, “Royal Marine
Monument”, Government House, “Battle Memorial” and wreck of the Jhelum Ship
from 1849  en route to the Falklands
Islands Museum £3.  Although we knew
Falklands was a British colony it is still strange to be using our money,
seeing cars (almost all Land Rovers) driving on the left, people talking
English and so many things the same as Britain. 
It is good to chat to the locals and learn a bit more about the islands
and life here.  Seemingly like Britain
many years ago where no one locks doors and the only problems are a few drunks
at the pubs.  One of the museum guides
explains that when you are out driving round the islands and need the toilet
you just stop at any house, if no one is home you use the loo then just leave
the owners a “thank you” note.  The
island population is around 2300 and 1800 live here so the rest is very remote.
There is a good whalebone display in the garden of Mike Butcher, an ardent
anti-whaling campaigner; he also has a reindeer there.   We
walk the back streets past some interesting buildings and call in to “The Rose”
pub for a drink.  There is a huge
“Waitrose” supermarket where I have to buy some Cadbury’s chocolate.  Getting back onto the ship takes us over 1
1/2hours as there are big lines for the tenders and everyone wants to leave at
the least minute as our shore time has been so short.  Set sail an hour and half late at 2.30pm and
pass the beach of penguins as we head out to sea.  The Italian Canaletto restaurant is free but
you must book ahead.  We’ve arranged to
eat there with Gordy & Gayle and enjoy a different type of meal.  The skies are now blue and we have beautiful
warm sunshine but unfortunately Captain tells us we still have a GI problem on
board so won’t be able to use the swimming pool etc.  AT 7.30pm we have been invited to watch
Jessica & Gerry renew their vows after 41 days of marriage.  It is held in a cordoned off area of the
Crows Nest and a couple from the Philippines, Helen & Arnie, are doing the
same thing for their 25th wedding anniversary.  We are the only guests and feel quite
honoured as we get to meet and talk to Captain James Russell-Dunford
personally.  AT the late show
ventriloquist Ken with his duck Casey are very funny. 



Today we are invited to the “Captains Brunch” at 11.30am so I decide to
skip breakfast.  I spend a lot of time
trying to delete and sort the hundreds of photos we took in the Antarctic.  The morning quiz is “dingbat” style with a
picture that relates to a well known saying. 
Steve, Gerry & Jessica finally break their duck and, come first and win
water bottles.   At the brunch we all say
a quick hello to the captain on the way in. 
Out of the 1300 passengers 700 are “Mariners” and have cruised with HAL
before so the event has been split over two days.   After
our formal evening meal we enjoy a second show by Celeste and husband
John.  Gordy & Gayle had a flood in
their cabin and have been given a coffee card as part of the compensation so
they treat us to a gourmet coffee at the Exploration Bar to round off the day.



I decide to watch a cooking demonstration on making an apple strudel
and although I am unlikely to ever be in a place where I have all the
ingredients and facilities to make one I do enjoy the entertaining
presentation.  We meet Gerry &
Jessica for lunch in the Rotterdam; they are jumping ship tomorrow as they have
to get back to work.  The afternoon talk
tells us a little of the highlights of Buenos Aires and we are glad that we
will be able to return as it sounds very interesting.  We join Mike & Lenora for the Indonesian
afternoon tea, didn’t realise they ate scones with jam & cream in
Indonesia!  Our Aussie neighbour Robyn
invites us round to share her bottle of champagne before supper.  She is a lone backpacker and a really plucky
lady in our opinion.  The ship enters the
River Plate and we see the Montevideo as we cruise up towards Buenos
Aires.  The evening show is a mix of the
duck, comedian and guitarist, the duck being the best in our opinion!  Loved his joke about us all sailing on the
Virus Dam!



Buenos Aires capital of ARGENTINA and our first sighting is of piles
of containers at the port.  Disembarking
is very quick and a shuttle bus takes us to the end of the port area.  We are visiting a Couchsurfing friend and I
negotiate the taxi fare down from A$50 (8.50) to A$35 (£6).  Sandra lives in an apartment in the Palermo
district and we enjoy the drive there although we must re adjust to the Argentinean
style of driving.  Sandra is Uruguayan
and has recently been on holiday there so has lots to tell us for our upcoming
trip.  After catching up on a bit of
Internet we set out for a walk.  It is an
extremely hot day, 35C, so we try to find shade wherever possible.  Walking past a huge and impressive mosque we
notice you can do a tour on Tuesday and Thursday at 12.00.  With only 20 minutes to wait we figure it
should be worth in – wrong, it is beautiful outside but the tour is a kind of Islam
recruitment programme!  The Rose Park within
“Parque Tres de Febrero” is really attractive with a central lake and statues
of famous people including William Shakespeare. 
The parks seem to link one into another and all have fantastic
sculptures.  In the Recoleta area we are
lucky to find the butterfly exhibition is still on at the Centro Cultura de
Recoleta.  An outdoor area has been
closed in with net curtains and then filled with butterflies.  Nearby is the attractive Basilica de Nustra
Senora del Pilar but the main reason for visiting this area is the
cemetery.  Within it the star attraction
for tourists is Eva Peron’s family mausoleum. 
It is actually far less impressive than many of the others.  We amused to see a few tombs with air
chimneys and others with door knockers!  This
is a very wealthy cemetery and if the family does not pay its dues the coffins
are removed and the mausoleum is sold to someone else who then removes the
original names and starts adding their own family.  Unfortunately it is just too hot to spend as
long there as I would have liked as the narrow paths are stifling.  Sandra finishes our tour down on “Florida
Street” with the expensive shops selling polo gear and other things we would
love to buy – not.  Steve is feeling the
effects of the heat and with walking around his hand is aching so we decide to
get a taxi, A$14 (£2.35), back to the ship. 
You can tell by the cheaper price of the taxi just how far we have
walked.  We intend to return to Buenos
Aires in a few weeks time and will then do the central tourists sights so today
it has been lovely to chat to Sandra and see the area where she lives.  Back on board we are really happy that the
swimming pool is open so we can cool down.  
We skip the evening meal in a favour of the 7.30pm create your own pizza
session.  It is held at the back of the
ship on the rear open deck and they are putting up a big screen to show
“Evita”.  It is a balmy night and we
settle down on the sun loungers with our pizza. 
They are doing a half price beer special during the movie so we take
them up on the deal.  Unfortunately the
sky is looking stormy with lots of lightening but even before that becomes a
problem the mosquitoes drive us in to the regular theatre where they are
showing the same movie.  When we head up
to the geography quiz in the Crows Nest the heavens have opened up and we are
just turning to leave the port.   We come
second again, got beaten in the tie breaker of how many countries border the
Mediterranean Sea, we threw in 18 but the answer was 21.  Mr & Mrs Show is great fun.  Arnie & Helen from Manila take part along
with newlyweds and a Dutch couple married for 44 years, the winners. 



We have to put our clocks forward 1-hour (2 hours behind
GMT).  Waking in the early hours the
river is very rough and there is a strong wind. 
It comes as no surprise when the Captain announces we will be late
arriving in Montevideo URUGUAY.  Things
get worse and by breakfast time we are still in the river opposite the
city.  The port was closed due to bad
weather and Captain is hoping they will re open it soon.   A
pilot comes aboard and the port opens but the wind suddenly gets stronger again
and we have to back off and abandoned the landing.  We return to bed and fester to the extent
that we even order a room service lunch. 
The laundry is now open and we manage to get one load done, very
reasonable at $2 (£1.20) was and $1 (60p) to dry.  With Jessica & Gerry no longer around I
am recruited to the trivia team, now renamed “missing Gerry & Jessica” and
now can’t even make second place! 
Arriving on board ship we were given gift vouchers for a free meal at
the Pinnacle Grill, normally a $20 (£13) pp surcharge.  It is a very posh restaurant and the steaks
are magnificent, huge, tasty and tender. 
The desserts are also amazing and I manage to get through a vanilla
soufflé then 2 of the chocolate volcanoes. 
Unfortunately I had forgotten all about the evenings “Dessert
Extravaganza” at the Lido Pool so can only look and drool over the chocolate
fountain and gateaux.  At least the
Motown Hour in the Crows Nest helps me work a bit of the overload off.



Along with our morning newspaper we get a letter from the Captain, apologising
about us missing Montevideo but telling us we will all get our port fees
refunded plus a free glass of champagne with dinner tonight.  He also talks about our cooperation during
the virus outbreak and as a token of appreciation they are having an open bar
from 4.30-8.00 on Saturday.   This may be
a problem as we are in port that night so it will be obvious who gets drunk
whereas at the moment we all look like we’ve had a few as we stagger around the
ship!  I will have to have an extra drink
to celebrate as it is also my sister Netty’s 50th birthday – how’s
that for an excuse?  We enjoy an
afternoon card session with Vic, Gwen & Louise followed by drinks in their
cabin before our last formal evening meal. 
Wind up the evening with the movie then the late show.



After breakfast in the Rotterdam we partake in the departure meeting
which includes some of the questions raised by guests such as, is the water in
the ships toilet sea water or fresh – why do they need to know.  Do the crew sleep on board?   Is there an elevator to take you from the
front of the ship to the back?  Do we
have to leave the ship to do the shore excursions?  After partaking in a few games we sit by the
pool learning the card game of hand and foot with Michael & Sally and Pat
& Beth, very much like Canasta. 
Steve comes 3rd in the Olympics and wins a picture frame,
mug, key ring and luggage tag.  The
evening show is excellent, Live Wire, and act from England with Claire on the
electric violin and Mike on the guitar. 
The final quiz of “Are you smarter than the Explorations Team” is really
funny and our group of 10 come out winners but no prize.      



My little sisters 50th birthday, boy if life flying by
quickly.  This morning we arrive in Rio
and the Captain has said it is a spectacular approach.  I wake at 5am, put the TV on to the bridge
camera and wait.  It is still dark and
Rio is lit up in the distance so I will linger in bed until it is worth getting
dressed and going out on deck.  I keep
glancing up at the TV but there is little to see, until I wake again at 8.30am
to see all the containers in the port!  Rio
de Janeiro, BRAZIL, is somewhere we have always wanted to visit, having seen so
many pictures of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.  We can actually see the statue on the hill
from the dining room but it looks smaller and less impressive than we expected.  Exchange rate is around Reals 3 = £1 and we need
to get off the ship to get come currency. 
Stern Jewellery Company offers a free shuttle bus, the catch being that
you must do a tour of their factory. 
This works out well as the factory is near Ipanema beach so we have a
long ride through the city to get there.  We are amazed by the amount of graffiti everywhere,
most of it black symbols but some is really nice art work.  The gem tour is not bad as you go at your own
pace with a headset.  As soon as we get
to the salesroom we explain to our personal shopper that we have no interest in
buying any of their beautiful pieces and she soon lets us pass through.  Walking down to Ipanema we are amazed to see
so many people walking the streets in their swimwear.  Far too many fat men in Speedo’s for my
liking but Steve is pretty happy to see the girls with their bum floss bikinis.  The beach is heaving with people, wall to
wall umbrellas so you could not get a tan even if you wanted to!  Of course it is weekend during the school
holidays but even so you would have to pay us to visit this kind of beach.  We walk along and Steve checks out the water
which is very warm.  We pick up some
money from an ATM, taking extra care to normal, and return to Sterns
store.  This time we are put into a car
with another couple from our ship and the journey back is along the back of
Ipanema and Copacabana Beach with a stop for photos of Sugarloaf Mountain.  First impression of Rio is that there are
some very nice tourist attractions but the sooner we can get them done and get
out of the busy city the better.  In the
evening we have the free bar from 5pm – 8pm and get a chance to have a last
drink with many of our new ship friends. 
We have time for a last game of cards with Vic, Gwen & Louise with
Neal making up the 6th.  Round
off the evening by watching Julia & Julia film in the showroom whilst
poking Steve to stop him snoring.


Disembarkation is very swift and we get off a little early.  Our Couchsurfing host is waiting for us Sergio
with his wife Lisette and son Gabriel. 
Straight away off they take us off on a tour and up towards Christ the
Redeemer.  We chat a lot en route and see
many areas off the city.  There is
another mountain near to the statue and although it is hazy we get superb views
of the city and across to the statue. 
Driving up to the statue the road is clogged with cars and parking
impossible.  Sergio thinks we will be
better returning to visit during the week. 
He suggests we head south of the city to some of the quieter
beaches.  Unfortunately although we enjoy
the drive down there the beaches are still very busy and parking impossible.  It is clear to see that Brazilians love to
visit the beach even if they have little elbow room once they are there.  Sergio manages to find a parking spot near
another beach where we can look up to the “Two Brothers” mountains and see hang
gliders jumping off.  We have already
realised that in Brazil lots of youths act as parking attendants and wave you
into a space for a tip but here we also see them putting cardboard on your windshield
to protect against the sun.  Nearer the
city Sergio drives us up another mountain for excellent views over Ipanema
Beach.  Rio has a superb setting with
lots of small round top mountains, miles of beautiful beaches and lots of
bays.  One thing that has surprised us is
how much “jungle like” green vegetation there is everywhere.  In the same area we see a new memorial to the
Air France flight that went down last year as many passengers were from
here.  Back in the city we drive into the
Rio carnival area.  Today the floats and
parade no longer go around the city but all gather in a long street lined with
terraced seats.  It is an amazing area
and lots of work is being done.  One of
the workers tells us tonight there is going to be a rehersal and it is free so
maybe we will get chance to see the poor mans version.  We drivepast a sign showing the temperature
to be 40C but with the humidity it feels even higher.  Rio Maracana Stadium Stadium is our next
stop.  This is the place that holds the
record for the largest crowd, just short of 200,000.  It is being renovated for the Olympics and
the World Cup Footaball.  There is a walk
of fame with many famous players footprints. 
There is a huge bridge linking the city with Niteroi and from it we get
fine views of the port with the Veendam and other ships.  We see oil rigs in dock for maintainance and
lots of ships being built.  It is a nice
drive on the other side past lots of attractive beaches but Sergio says the
water is polluted.  We stop for a meal at
a busy restaurant and have our first chance to try the Brazilian buffet
system.  Once you are seated your are
each give a ticket on which they mark your drinks order.  You then take the ticket to the buffet and at
the end have your plate weighed and a price sticker based on the weight is
added to your ticket.  At around 3.30pm
we arrive at the family home.  It is in a
gated community on a hill with glimpses of the beach.  We have our own room with bathroom and are
very happy to be here.  In the afternoon
Steve has a nap whilst I sit out by the pool. 
Their daughter Beatrice, 12 going on 17, is there along with her friend
Beatrice.  The pool water is like a warm
bath but it is still very nice to take a nap. 
I sit out in the shade and Lisette brings out drinks and snacks whilst
Sergio helps me with our onward trip.  Just
after 7pm we head back towards Rio.  En
route we see many cars broken down having over heated on the hills.  We are surprised to see the Veendam still in
port. The area around carnival street is crazy, traffic is backed up and
parking is impossible.  Sergio tries down
lots of side streets and it is lucky he knows the city as we often veer into
bad areas where he knows not to linger. 
Eventually we give up but we can already see that we would not like to
be anywhere near here for the real thing. 
It looks worse than a major football final.  We’ve caught up with Sergio’s sisters family
and together decide to return to Niteroi. 
Again parking is difficult but in the end people take a risk and park in
the outside lane of the dual carriageway. 
It is a balmy evening and very pleasant walking along the promenade
behind the beach and people watching. 
Sergio’s sister Leyla has a toddler Maria Clare who loves to check out
all the other children and dogs.  Her
husband Raymon has brought along some beers so Steve is very happy to partake
and amazed that you can stroll along drinking alcohol.  Looks like we are going to enjoy our time in
Brazil if today is anything to go by.



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