Fin Del Mundo

January 22

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Eventually, we fell asleep, woken up during the night by the loud noise from ships and other times by the storm which ran over the town. We enjoyed the free breakfast consisting of incredibly sweet croissants and ham, accompanied by choice of green tea or another green tea. Sufficiently stuffed we packed our bags and dragged them down for storage as they shall be picked up by the boat staff during our sejour in the national park.

Our guide for the park was Maria, a truly unusual name around here. We got a very superficial introduction to the park, its geography, history and some of the landmarks. At one occasion a friendly gentleman from Britain insulted my camera: "Is this a 10D?" "Close, but no; it's a 1Ds" "Oh, I am verrry sorry!" (insert the best possible British accent here). We were both clearly humored.

We were dropped off at the hotel again and found our bags still there, which we used to exchange some things based on the needs of the hour. From here off we were, roaming the streets in search for lunch, which was soon found. Note to self, next time learn the proper tipping rules for the respective country of your visit. Yesterday's waitress of course got a very nice tip, being Typical Argentinean definitely helped; but what do you give to a big old guy who serves you potatoes drowned in cheese along with the excellent pepper steak? It was difficult, but I did my best, or so I think.

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We made it in time for the pickup to the meeting point - our hotel, with our bags still there. Soon Maria arrived, bedazzled about the bags but cheerful as ever, escorting us (and all the other people who had gathered there) to the three waiting busses. These busses drove us incredible 200m away to the ship, where we disembarked, dragged our luggage up the narrow walk, and lined up at check-in. Since we were the last people to book a cabin on this trip (booked in July) we could not be too picky with our accommodations on the main deck, also known as steerage. However, we were pleasantly surprised; besides, I got to share my bunk bed with my dear wife, unlike quite a few other unlucky people who were traveling alone and thus got stuck with a random stranger. It took us just a few minutes to "unpack" - which at least for me meant dumping the contents of my bag into the closet - and we were among the first to show up for the briefing.

This is where it hit us: we were about 20 years below the average age of the passengers, and let's say that I am using my age for this comparison and on top of that being very nice. But I guess this is another way to make us feel good about ourselves and our age. As  everyone was introducing themselves to everyone, one old guy (inappropriate language used on purpose) would shake everyone's hand except for Essan's, despite sitting directly next to her. Let's put it this way: Essan is definitely the only Asian female on board, and probably the only one within thousands of miles. There is an Asian gentleman from Australia on board, and from the looks of it feeling similarly out of place. Then again, who really cares.

We departed as on time as airlines could be proud of - with 30 minutes delay, taken out of the harbor by the Russian captain who skillfully spun the ship around through the harbor, just like a stunt driver would do with a car - only much, much slower. As promised, "about 20 minutes after departure" there was a life vest drill. Makes me wonder what the life expectancy is in this water: right now, in the Beagle channel, the water temperature is 12C, soon to drop dramatically, I am sure. Nevertheless, we passed.

After the drill there was dinner. Oh boy, was there dinner. Soup, salad (with smoked salmon and other goodies), chicken with mashed potatoes, chocolate mousse. I skipped the chicken, just in case I didn't deal all that well with the upcoming Drake Passage, which is commonly known as the roughest sea in the world, straight ahead. After dinner the passengers spread all around the numerous decks, observing the first penguins, dolphins, cormorants and of course the ah so scenic sunset. When it was finally dark we went to the ship's lounge to write our respective travelogues, where we were quite often asked about our two matching Powerbooks. How cute we were.

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