Friday, 2 January 2009

Day 6 January 2nd 2009

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We paid the hotel bill this morning and the two or three currency nature of the Argentinean economy was clearly evidenced. It helps to be very quick with mental arithmetic in multiple currencies - if you have this ability, then you can make quite a saving.

When we checked in, we were quoted a room rate in US$. When we checked out we were presented a bill in Argentinean Pesos (which helpfully uses the same $ sign so you always have to check which currency you are being quoted in). However we were told that we could pay the room rate in US$ for which we would get 3.5 Pesos to the Dollar but the extras (phone, Internet, food etc) would be charged at 3.2 Pesos to the Dollar therefore it would be better to pay the extras in local currency and the room rate in US $. As a result of all of this mental currency gymnastics, we saved quite a bit on the room rate (but gained multiple invoices in various currencies plus contra invoices for change given).

Getting money out of an ATM (if you can find one which has money in it) is never simple although the machines do seem to recognise that one has a UK card and therefore offer to translate into English automatically. The official exchange rate is 4.7 Pesos to the £ but the ATMs give 5 Pesos to the £ so the moral is always use ATMs not the currency exchanges (there are always very very long queues at the exchanges anyway, the one at the airport this afternoon was offering only 4.2 Pesos to the £). Shops and cafes will accept payment in US$ (at different rates) and also Euro. Bills can always be paid in combinations of multiple currencies and the shop staff / waiters seem to cope quite easily.

Forged currency is quite common in Argentina - the main culprit is the 100Pesos note, new US dollar bills up to 50$ in value are welcome, over that they are regarded with suspicion.

Travelling to Ushuaia: If you suffer from low blood pressure or have "slow digestive transit" then it seems that travelling in Argentina is certain to cure both. Our flight which was originally at 10:30 was changed three times to 14:30 and the departure airport was also changed. We did not know about the last time change or airport change until having sat in the hotel lobby from 15 mins before pickup time to 15 minutes after we phoned the travel agency somewhat concerned having imagined we were going to miss our flight and therefore the boat. They told us that they had forgotten to tell us that they were now coming to pick us up at 11:30, we were going to the international airport rather than the domestic, we were flying via Rio Gallegos (not sure where that is nor what country it is in), that we had to check in at one terminal and then walk to another to get the flight, that the gate we were flying from was not officially signposted (sitting in it now we can see why they might not want to admit it exists) etc etc.

The downside to this is that we will get at least five hours less time in Ushuaia and we had decided to do a number of things as soon as we arrived which are now out of the question.

Update: We got to Ushuaia without going to Rio Gallegos (the airline map shows it is a town at the southern end of Patagonia). Maybe the pilot changed his mind but it definitely said that was where is was going on the airline screen. From information given as we got off the plane, we think it might have been going on there next.

The approach to Ushuaia is quite spectacular - we came in over the mountains of southern Chile (past Punta Arenas) and then you seem to swoop along the channels between mountains before coming into the airport over the sea. The tops of the mountains are still snow covered (these are the mountains overlooking the Beagle Channel)

Beagle Channel and Mountains

and we think we flew over frozen lakes and rivers although it was hard to tell. The landscape looks beautifully barren and wild and very very rough.

The town has a real "end of the earth wild feel" and Ushuaia plays on that a lot.

How Ushuaia sees itself

The first thing that strikes you when you get off the plane is the wind and the cold (although we saw a magnificent display of lupins in a garden on the sea front,

Lupins(2) Ushuaia

the second thing the eclectic architecture (anything goes)

Ecectic Architecture (1)

Eclectic Architecture (2)

and the third thing the fact that they clearly are focused on tourists (the shops, the tax free outlets, the prices etc).

Our room at the Hotel Albatross

Hotel Albatross

seems almost as large as our house in York. We have a large bedroom,

Hotel Bedroom

a second bedroom cum living room,

Hotel Sitting Room

storage space and a bathroom.

Having attended a briefing on "getting onto the boat" and listened to a number of stupid questions from people who cannot read information given to them months ago, we went to a local traditional Irish pub for a drink

Irish Pub Ushuaia

of home made beer

Pat in Irish Pub

and then out for a meal where Pat ate 60% of half of a lamb

Pat and her Lamb

cooked on a Parilla

Lamb on a Parillada

Early in the morning we are going to the National Park, then back to the town, lunch and then go to the boat for departure at around 1800. Sea sickness tablets are recommended as one of the courses at dinner!

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year to you both - I am so jealous of your travels! Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos!