Thursday, April 9, 2015

Falkland Islands and Montevideo

Grab this related post Widget!
We get up early again to observe our passage through Cape Horn, passing the imaginary boundary between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We learn that we are among .005 percent of the world's population who have done this. Pretty cool.

Another sea day means looking at that damned daily schedule of activities once again, checking off a few things and then proceeding to do none of them. At this point the previously ignored LGBT (we're so naive we didn't even know what the initials stand for) and "Friends of Bill W." (we've been told this is an AA group) gatherings are starting to look more appealing. Except we'd be tossed immediately from both groups.

We opt for room service coffee, the gym, a late breakfast after the Death Row crowds have thinned out, then an afternoon of who knows what. We hunker down to the max that evening, ordering room service, enjoying our last bottle of wine from Casablanca Valley, skipping the magic show, and hoping for a big day in the Falkland Islands before heading north to Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires.

Blue skies--calm waters--YES, we're getting off the ship for our big outing in the Falklands! We'd pushed all our chips to the center of the table, Vegas style, because we wanted to get up close and personal with penguins and when planning the trip this last stop looked like the best opportunity. Except we didn't know that dicey weather often kept passengers from coming ashore.

And except we almost didn't get to do the excursion anyway. Holland America does a lot of things right, but getting folks off the boat here wasn't one of them. Our excursion was leaving at a specific time because we had a long drive each way to the area where the penguins live.

For those of you who have never been on a cruise before, there are two disembarkation options--either the ship docks directly or shuttle boats called tenders transport passengers back and forth. Port Stanley in the Falklands is a tender port. It took us forever to get on a tender (in fact we had to demand to board ahead of our turn because we were running out of time), then we discovered that the ride to shore took a full 25 minutes.

We rushed off the boat and learned our guide had already left with the rest of the group. We were crushed. Fortunately everybody knows everybody in a town of 2000, and a local pointed to a lady and told us he thought she still had room on her tour. We inquired and she said, yes, she was waiting for passengers in the same predicament as us, but if they weren't on the next tender she absolutely had to leave and we could take their spots. Fortunately for us they weren't (sorry, anonymous folks) and we were off to Volunteer's Point where three different penguin species reside, including the gorgeous King penguin.

The terrain of the Falklands is vast and austere. It is often extremely windy and no native trees grow there.

Veins of granite-like rock run throughout the islands.

After a short drive on a paved road we zigged, zagged, and bumped our way across this rugged land in 4X4's for about an hour and a half. Then right on the coast there we were in penguin land.

All three species of penguins peacefully coexist in their own rookeries. The small Gentoo's live in burrows.

Magellan penguins are about a foot and a half high.

Then there are the magnificent King penguins. They walk around like Snoopy in Charlie Brown cartoons.

Like the animals on the Galapagos Islands, these birds have no fear of humans so you can get quite close.

What a once-in-a-lifetime privilege it was for us to observe so many of them in their native environment instead of seeing a couple of sad specimens in a zoo somewhere. It's molting season for the Magellan's.

You might notice all of the King penguin brown chicks are kept in clusters in the middle of the rookery.

We felt particularly blessed when told the perfect weather we enjoyed basically never happens there. It was only fitting, then, that this amazing sunset ended a glorious day.

Let's not dwell on the last two sea days before we arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay. If you've read the other posts you know our routine--meals, workouts, hot tub, drinks, naps, maybe a little reading, shows. We're about ready to exit the boat.

Sadly, Montevideo doesn't really resonate with us. Nothing really wrong with the city--it has all the requisite colonial architecture, parks, and museums.

It somehow just seemed so vanilla. And it was damned expensive, at least food-wise. Cynthia, a friend, and I ordered two big beers and four sausages. The bill was $41US!! Ouch.

I'm happy we visited, though, so I could take this awesome photo at a museum there.

The next week and final post of this series on our journey--Buenos Aires!

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