South America on Wheels

The last thing you want to do five days before you set off on a trip is to fall and fracture your leg. Last December I did just that. The doctor wanted to put me in a hard cast but agreed to a walking cast if I promised to keep off my feet, easy to do as it really hurt to put any pressure on my leg.

The next morning I headed to Shoppers, got fitted for a boot, and rented a wheelchair with a brace to keep my leg elevated, as well as crutches for a three week period, all for a very reasonable price. I was all fitted out and ready to go on our trip to South America & Antarctica. This was my first, and hopefully only, experience traveling by wheelchair.

Air Canada was very accommodating, allowing me and my husband to pre board on the flight with my leg stretched forward like a battering ram. They gave us a much needed bulkhead seat enabling me to keep my leg elevated all the way to Santiago Chile.

There our hotel staff were very helpful and we managed a few obstacles at the hotel quite well. For two days we discovered the sights of Santiago, with our driver and guide willing to take my wheelchair out anytime I needed it. A second storey lunch (no elevator) for our group, saw me eating on the main level with the locals and that turned out to be a real treat.

There was lots to see from the front seat of the bus, as the next day we were off to Valparaiso, the port for Santiago, and a lovely city itself. Most of the group took the funicular ride for the picturesque view. Along with a few others, I stayed on the bus and was treated to a tour of other sights before we all boarded our ship.

Our Holland America ship had a special handicapped bus that took us to the ship, something like the wheel trans buses. The water at dockside was low which made the gangway very steep and impossible for me to climb, so the steward pushed me all the way up (poor guy). On board I was lucky to get a handicapped cabin, which was wonderful, as I could wheel my chair right into the shower. Everyone on board was great, with added attention from the crew. The dining room staff always made sure we had a good table with a view. They had special places in the show and in the movie theater for wheelchairs. So being handicapped on board was a piece of cake. I got to meet a lot more people as everyone was interested in what happened to me. They often offered to push me when I was wandering around on my own, (Bernie was off playing bridge) going to hear a lecture or wandering through the shops on board (a favorite pastime of mine).

The highlight of this sailing was definitely Antarctica. It truly is a wonderland. Amazing ice sculptures drifted by the ship with penguins or seals playing on the ice. Some islands had thousands of penguins on the shore and although everyone seemed to be on the many decks, there was a sort of hush and tranquility about, with only the clicks of cameras as background noise.

We were sad to leave this peace on earth to continue our sail along to the Falkland Islands, Montevideo to Buenos Aires where our cruise ended. We still had another couple of night in Buenos Aires, with some sightseeing, a tango show and a little shopping. A wonderful handicapped room with a wheel in show made my stop a piece of cake.

The trip was a great way for me to recuperate. I was able to just relax, with many people to look after my every need, lots to do and see, and no time to think about my poor old leg. I was finally able to ditch the wheelchair, and was able to walk with the walking cast and a walking stick (a big one).

I highly recommend this cruise. Our Ballantrae group and their friends gave it a huge thumbs up. For myself, having now experienced the challenge of traveling with limited mobility, I say to you, if you are willing to try it, then do it. I would like to end with a quote from an Asian Proverb: “It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times”.

Have bag will travel!!