March 8th – Quark Expeditions, and we set sail!

The excitement levels are high! An early morning charter flight to Ushuaia, you have the whole day to arrive and board the ship. (And do not forget to put on your motion sickness patch at this point, it needs to be 12 hours before sailing). This is the beginning of ‘Antarctic explorer – discovering the 7th Continent’:

Before boarding onto our new home, we were once again tested for our health and sent up the gang way to join our fellow sailors and settle into our cabins. Quark staff were very welcoming and guided us through the ship to make us feel at home. They put on an incredible afternoon tea ‘spread’ in the Polaris lounge for arrivals which we later learn is part of the daily schedule.

Tonight, we set sail at 18:30 and leave the port of Ushuaia, a beautiful port to leave as we watch the surrounding mountains disappear into the distance and start our adventure!

Tonight, we sit down to a wonderful dinner and are welcomed on to the ship with open arms.  Afterward we meet in the Nautilus lounge and are introduced to the Expedition Team and head crew. Presentations start and we learn about the schedule for each day. Today is about meeting the staff, other sailors and getting to know your surrounding.

March 7 – Tango Time (Rojo)

Today I moved into the beautiful Hotel Emperador and started my ‘Quark Expeditions’ experience. Excellent staff and services at this lovely hotel. Today we would meet and ‘check in’ with Quark before taking our charter flight to Ushuaia the next day. While Covid 19 was something that the world was aware of, there were no cases in Argentina at the time.  Precautions were taken and each of us filled out a health form and had our temperatures taken.  I was set to start my Expedition!  Until then, it was time to check out the local community of ‘La Boca’ and by evening one of the best Tango shows in Buenos Aires: ‘Rojo Tango’.

La Boca is a working-class area with a cluster of attractions near the Riachuelo River. Steakhouses and street artists surround Caminito, a narrow alley flanked by brightly painted zinc shacks that evoke the district’s early immigrant days. A cauldron of noise on match days, La Bombonera is the home ground of Boca Juniors soccer team. Modern art museum Fundación Proa has temporary exhibits and views of the old docks.

Rojo Tango, a more cabaret style show, was the perfect way to spend an evening in Buenos Aires. Take a stroll along the beautiful waterways of the elegant Puerto Madero before making your way to the spectacular Faena Hotel. This property is a favourite of mine and absolutely takes your breath away. Host to Rojo Tango, as soon as you walk into the long hallway with a red rug and black horsehair bench, you know you’ve entered Faena’s fantastical world. From the Library Lounge, with its tufted leather sofas and crystal candelabras to the white-and-red Bistro Sur, with unicorn heads adorning the walls, the hotel’s restaurants and bars take theatrical design to new heights. Oh how I loved this property. Stay there or just visit. A glass of wine in the Piano bar is enough on its own for those who do not have the time to indulge 😊

March 6 – Arriving in Buenos Aires

YYC to Toronto via Santiago (Chile) for a quick stop I was now only hours from Argentina. As I flew over the Andes, I couldn’t stop thinking how very different they are to our own Rockies. Dry, baron and a rainbow of earthy colours.

On arrival into Buenos Aires I decided to start my adventure with a trip down memory lane.  We all have memories of being young and vibrant backpackers once upon a time.  This experience grows us and makes us into the people we are today. So I decided to spend my first night in the hostel I once loved so many years ago.  It was a humbling start to my adventure and had not changed one little bit….Apart from the fact their was no longer a computer room or line up to send an email Haha

All freshened up now and  it was time to find Luis’s home. A wonderful steakhouse experience in the home of a local Argentine. Always on the hunt for a unique experience to share…this is not your average steak experience. While it’s no secret what Argentine beef is worth around the world, visitors to Buenos Aires don’t always get the chance to experience an Argentine asado and its many rituals and traditions. Here at ‘Steaks by Luis’, they not only focus on high quality cuts grilled to perfection but also the entire experience. You participate in a typical Argentine asado and feel like you’re at Luis’ home. All while sitting around a big family table, and joining Luis alongside the grill or just kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the 5 course meal and wine  pairing event.

March 5 – Reflection

This is where the journey truly begins 😊  I was dropped off at YYC airport with time to spare.  I found a cozy little spot to watch the planes fly in with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Here is where I reflect and fathom where in the world I was actually headed…… 14 years ago I almost jumped on a ship to Antarctica, now the dream is really coming alive, the emotions are high and feelings of excitement all over my body!

From the Outback to the Tropics

Today I was efficient with my time. After flying from Kununurra back to Perth, I jumped straight on a red eye and flew to Cairns arriving at 6 in the morning!   Not just a ‘hop skip and a jump’ to cross Australia.  I literally flew across the country leaving bright red rugged outback and entering lush green beautiful rainforest! I had arrived in the Tropics! First point of call……..a meat pie!

 

Kimberley Spirit Tours

Waking up early to the sound of birds chirping and smells of being in the wilderness is something I miss dearly about Australia. What a great way to start the day…and also a lot cooler to get motivated! Today we were spoiled with another scenic flight back to Kununurra over the Bungle Bungles, if you were lucky….sitting on the other side of the plane for a new perspective!

Today we met ‘Scotty’ the owner of Kimberley Spirit Tours and author of ‘100 things to see in The Kimberley!” He is a local guide with knowledge, passion and excitement for the place he calls home. We discovered the country, wildlife and culture in a very comfortable 4WD Isuzu truck ensuring we had a more personalized experience. We crossed the famous ‘Ord River’ that floods in the summer, visited the ‘mini bungle bungles’ – Hidden Valley National Park, had a taste of a local whisky and hit up one of the biggest Boab trees I have ever seen before departing to the airport. Another great day in WA!

Bungle Bungles

Today was THE BEST!  My favourite day exploring the breathtaking Bungle Bungles in Purnululu National Park!  Yet another scenic flight in a little 10-seater and our first magical glance at one of the most fascinating geological landmarks across Australia. The bright orange and black stripes across the beehive-shaped towers are clearly visible as you approach from the air. We also flew over Kununurra, magnificent Ord River, Lake Argyle, Lissadell station, Texas Downs station and the rugged Osmond Range.

And what better way to get amongst the beehive domes than taking a guided walk through the mesmerizing Cathedral Gorge. Here in the shade of the gorge we could enjoy a picnic lunch.

This wasn’t enough for me…..I opted to take yet another flight in a door-less helicopter to sweep further into the range, where a hidden world of gorges and pools are revealed, with fan palms clinging precariously to walls and crevices in the rock. After this adrenaline rush it was time to head to the ‘Bungle Bungle Savannah Lodge’ for another afternoon ‘dip’ to cool off in the pool.  What a special day this was…

Lake Argyle and Surrounds

Today was a full-day cultural experience! We went on the ‘jaliwang journey’ while taking a scenic flight to the aboriginal town of Warmun, took a tour around Argyle pink diamond mine, had lunch in the bush, cruised the waters of Lake Argyle and ended the day with a ‘dip’ in the water to cool off while watching the sunset on the bright red rock cliffs of the Kimberly region. Lake Argyle is Australia’s largest freshwater lake and is set among some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. A picture hardly does it justice.

Today was a jam packed day and my first real ‘taste’ of the Kimberly region. It certainly did not disappoint with its beautiful landscapes, colours, wildlife and history.

Kununurra: the Heart of the Kimberly

After a day of travel with 2 flights via Broome we flew over the beautiful Cable Beach to join our flight to Kununurra with Airnorth, the major aviation operator in Northern Australia.
This flight was our first taste of the vast distances the Kimberly region has to offer. While flying from the west to the East of the Kimberly region you see just how rugged this land really is. After arriving at Kununurra country club resort, it was time to go straight to dinner. The night falls quickly in this part of Australia. We headed to the ‘pumphouse’ restaurant, built in 1963 and originally used as a pump station, it is located right by the picturesque Lake Kununurra.

Kununurra and the East Kimberly region is filled with some of western Australia’s most prized natural attractions, which I am super excited to share with you 😊

 

Australian Tourism Exchange 2019

Tourism Australia really knows how to put on a successful event!

The Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) is Australia’s largest annual travel and tourism business-to-business event and brings together Australian tourism businesses, and tourism wholesalers and retailers from around the world through a combination of scheduled business appointments and networking events.

Around 1,500 Australian seller delegates from approximately 550 companies, 650 key buyer delegates from over 30 countries, and 70 international and Australian media outlet representatives attended this global event April 8-12. Organised by Tourism Australia in partnership with Tourism Western Australia, ATE19 took place at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and Karen was in attendance.

After a week of meeting over 100 people, the week ended off with a party downtown watching the sunset over the city.