Review: Why you could never trust the weather reports on Teletext, and what to see in Punta Arenas
- Credit: Archant
The cruise around Cape Horn was always set to be an adventure, writes Andrea Powell.
And so it proved. We saw much, not least the stunning scenery around Puerto Montt, known as Chile’s Lake District.
Punta Arenas and the penguins had thrown up an interesting debate at home before leaving. For those who remembered the Round The World weather on Teletext, Hubby and I were eagerly watching it flip around to discover our clothing needs for our trip. Santiago – quite cold; Puerto Montt – bit cold; Puerto Madryn – cold; Falklands – definitely cold; Montevideo – still cold; Puntarenas – 27 degrees? Well, if that was the case we would need sun things. How unexpected.
We have all heard of “the wrong” Grenada in the Caribbean and Granada in Spain. Well, we had well and truly got “the wrong” Punta Arenas’. Instead of the hot Costa Rican coast – the temperature given on good old Teletext ? we were of course going to the cooler climes of Chile (honestly, no pun intended this time!) and Punta Arenas, as opposed to Puntarenas!
We had wondered how penguins were surviving in such heat, but it was not until we actually arrived at our port that we realised our naïve error. Thank goodness we were not sailing the ship!
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It was then on to the “End of the World”, Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park. One day of a cruise stop was never going to be enough for many of these spectacular ports and this one was no exception. The wildlife and mountainous surroundings were truly fabulous.
Another evening and another wonderful surprise. We had returned to our room to get a cardigan – the air conditioning a bit too fierce. We ended up missing the musical show but instead enjoyed a thrilling sail past the Amalia Glacier. The beautiful blue ice, extending from high in the sky all the way down to the cold sea below, contrasting with the stark, black, rocky landscape.
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Then there was Cape Horn itself. On such a large ship, over 100,000 tonnes, the waves below barely had an impact. So when we were advised we could not proceed around Cape Horn because a pilot vessel could not connect with the ship to get the pilot on board, we just thought he had instead decided on an easy evening watching TV, maybe...
Far from it. After a couple of hours, and it considered safe, the pilot vessel approached our much larger ship. It was only upon seeing this tiny boat being tossed around like a ball in a swimming pool that we realised how much shelter and protection our gigantic cruise ship gave us from the constant barrage of waves. It was a true feat of skill to get this man on board, and amazing to see.
Montevideo I am sure is a really nice little port. However, all I remember of that day was rain. The picture postcard beaches were barely visible through the mizzle as we peered through the windows of our coach.
For me, one of the highlights was still to come. Or so I thought. Buenos Aires had always been something of a mystical must see for me. The Recoleta Cemetery of Eva Peron, the whole “Spanishness” of the city, the opera house, the tango (not quite sure whether I imagined Hubby and I arm in arm, tangoing up July 9 Avenue with a rose in my mouth) and of course the notoriety of its connection with the Falklands.
We had booked a city tour before our flight home that afternoon. Only as we waited for our pick-up were we informed that, due to our flight timing being too early, we would not now be able to go on the tour.
I was quite disappointed. Four hours in Buenos Aires airport was not really the ending I wanted to an otherwise brilliant trip. But never mind.
As we arrived at the airport the pile of cruise cases was instantly recognisable. Hurrying over, we were looking for pink labels. But they were nowhere to be seen. Asking one of the assistants, we were advised that more were to follow. We settled in to wait. After all, we had a good four hours to kill even before check-in. The flight was not until 5pm. It was only 10am.
As the hours passed, we eagerly met every vehicle that arrived, looking longingly for our missing bags. But nothing. Periodically, alongside a handful of other “pink” passengers, we enquired of any and every member of staff who appeared. Every time the same response – there is more to come.
Clearly, given the limited space in which to unload 4,000-plus suitcases, there needed to be some kind of priority unloading. The problem was, our luggage had gone on the “Out All Day On Trip” pile, whereas it should have been on the “Straight to the Airport” pile.
As check-in opened, and still no cases, there was an element of frustration. With such a long flight, I really wanted to sit next to Hubby (better the devil you know?) and also have a window seat. But without luggage we were unable to check in.
With less than two hours before the flight, I was beginning to get a bit desperate. There were still half a dozen of us without our luggage. I strode confidently up to one of the helpers, determined not to take no for an answer this time.
“Wait there,” he promised and ran off. A couple of minutes later he reappeared with a van. Brilliant, I thought. At last. “Jump in, jump in.” He beckoned a couple of us over. Not for one second considering the absurdity of the situation – jumping into a van in the middle of Buenos Aires airport with a total stranger – I waved enthusiastically as we sped past a totally bemused and slightly nervous Hubby.
Only then did I consider I had no idea where we were going. I glanced at my fellow cruise passenger. He did not seem worried. It was bound to be OK. Wasn’t it?
Our destination was in fact an airport car park. And in it a fleet of vans. And in each one about 150 cases packed so tightly together it was a bit like Ker-Plunk – move one and the whole lot fell to the floor. And, in this haystack, two maroon cases with the name Powell on – the needles. And now about an hour until the plane was due to depart.
To be fair, the Argentinian helpers were fantastic. The speed with which they emptied the vans, the hopeful glances at us every time a purple or red (my fellow passenger’s) case was unearthed, the disappointment as we shook our heads.
I was getting quite nervous about missing our flight. Even if it meant we did not have our belongings, I decided I would rather get home. My fellow passenger, though, had other ideas. “Last one,” I tried to insist.
As the men emptied the umpteenth van we spotted sight of maroon. That familiar tape with our name on it had never been such a welcome sight. My fellow passenger was still refusing to budge. In fact, to this day I still do not know if he made that flight. I never saw him again.
One of the helpers leapt into another van to transport me back to the terminal. About 45 minutes to go...
He struck up a pleasant conversation. How was the cruise? Perfectly amiable stuff. Where are you from? Having let “England” slip from my lips, only then did I realise what I had said. It being an American ship, it became clear this man thought I was from America.
Fortunately, we were now at the terminal. Whilst he was still pleasant, I am sure I sensed a change of mood. I was just glad my mad adventure was over. As I sank into my seat ? breathless, having had seconds to spare before the gate closed and having run from check-in ? it had never seemed so comfortable.
Hubby knew better than to chastise – I could do that in my own mind perfectly well. I was just glad everything had ended well. My enthusiastic wave to Hubby at the airport now seemed a tad misplaced, whilst he had not only wondered what to do but also where on earth I was being taken.
As for Buenos Aires, I still want to go back. I have a tango up July 9 Avenue outstanding!
• Andrea Powell is owner and managing director of Idelo Travel in Ipswich. Contact: 01473 231181