When Mrs. Dalai speaks, I listen. And so, we are presently on a ship traversing the Drake Passage, and will indeed reach Antarctica by tomorrow morning.
Yes, it's getting colder...Supposedly the temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula itself will be in the low 30's Fahrenheit, not quite as bad as I expected.
We started the cruise in Valparaiso, Chile, heading down the west coast of South America, stopping at various ports in Chile, and then Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most city in the world.
From Puerto Montt, we bussed to the Pertohue Falls:
On the island of Chiloe', we visited a number of wooden churches, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, and these palafitos, houses on stilts, in the city of Castro.
From Punta Arenas, we took a speedboat to Magdalena Island, and finally saw penguins! There are a number of penguin species, and these are Magellenic, also known as Jack Ass Penguins.
There are a number of glaciers this far south, including this one in the Chilean Fjords:
And tomorrow, we reach our first adventure stop, Half Moon Island, in the South Shetlands just off the coast of Antarctica. We'll be here for a week, with an hour out on the ice each day. We've brought enough winter gear, including hand and foot warmers, to last a lifetime. Weather-wise, at least, I prefer my version of the South to this version of the South, but I must admit that the scenery here is much more dramatic.
You might wonder who would undertake such a trip; I certainly did. As you would guess, the passengers are by and large older, almost all are older than we are. Who else is going to take almost 4 weeks to make this trip? (The cruise goes on to the Brazilian Amazon and then to Florida for those who can take two MONTHS off.) The average is somewhere south of dead, but on its last run through this area, the ship had to leave the Antarctic on an emergency basis as two passengers took ill. There is NO way to evacuate someone whilst here. One of the two did not survive, I'm told, but was content to leave this Earth doing what he loved best. If I ran the cruise line, I would require medical certification before ever allowing anyone on this sort of cruise, but that's just me.
Part of the fun of this trip, however, is indeed the folks we meet. We've come to know the retired CEO of a large aircraft company, several self-made men (and women), the retired head of the Social Security equivalent of a major Scandinavian nation, and while I've not tried to disturb his privacy, a former presidential candidate and his perfectly-coiffured wife are on the trip as well. And there are the usual complement of folks we try to avoid. "You're from the SOUTH? We don't know anyone from the SOUTH. They don't think like WE do." "Morris!!!!!! They're all out of cucumbers at the salad bar! DO SOMETHING!" "We only get a few weeks off. Not like Jewish people who always have extra holidays..." Money doesn't buy class, it seems...
Anyway, we are on the first group to hit the land tomorrow, so off to bed. Stay tuned for the Penguin Report, coming to these pages very soon.