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Pre-cruisin': Tierra del Fuego
Antarctica, the Falklands, and South Georgia

Adelie penguins in love. Or perhaps just lust.Adelie penguins in love. Or perhaps just lust. (Nancy Golden)
Arriving in Ushuaia without delay allows for a play day before cruising. Mary Ann and Lynn booked a day of adventure at the National Park, while Linda, Brian, Erin, and I planned for a hike up the most gorgeous Martial Glacier. Gaston, our guide from Ushuaia Birdwatching, picked us up at our hotel, where he was promptly informed by Linda that if we did not see an Andean condor today, they would all see a grown woman cry. That grown woman being me, I was quite prepared to make good on that promise. (We also requested to see the elusive and secretive endemic ground dwelling white-bellied seed-snipe. We are a tough crowd.) The hike was spectacular and while there was no sign of the coveted seed-snipe, more importantly, there was no crying. In fact, after a very accommodating condor soared overhead and we all posed for pictures with our arms out making condor poses, I had already declared this to be the Greatest Vacation Ever. Which, it was pointed out to me, was a bold statement considering we were still on 'pre-cation'.

Later in the day, we hit downtown Ushuaia which, like many a city, consists mainly of two types of establishments: places to buy things and places to eat. We did a little of each, and along the way ran into our final companion, Anne. Anne had arrived safely that morning, but without a very important component of long-term travel to destinations that lack stores: her luggage. Remember that part about the boat leaving with or without you? It applies to luggage as well, unsympathetic to the fact that you've just spent the past few weeks assembling the perfect array of clothes and gear for your trip. With some hope of it still arriving, we decided it was too soon to reassemble her needs at the local Pata-gucci, and met up with Mary Ann and Lynn for our first dinner with the whole gang. It was likely at this time that we discovered our new favorite cerveza: the local Beagle Negra, brewed here in Ushuaia, along the Beagle Strait, where our boat would pick us up tomorrow. Beer once again proves to be the temporary solution to all of life's problems.

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