Friday, 16 May 2014

Penguin Rookery, Ushuahia, Argentina

The trip was advertised as a catamaran adventure to a penguin rookery.  On the ship you have a ticket that tells you the meeting place and time and someone with a white paddle held high walks you down to the motor coach or boat.  In this case by the time we got there another group ad loaded before us, so of the 225 seats not many were left.  Greg sat on the top of the boat which is like sitting on the top of one of the hop-on hop-off coaches – pretty windy when the wind motor is started and the trip heads off for a 2 ½ hour ride up to the rookery.  We were promised that there would be places that sea lions slept out on rocks and told that we were to watch for whales, but all of that would be dependent on the animals.  “Which side of the boat to the whales like,” someone had asked.  “If you are on the starboard side, they are on the port side,” was the answer.  Truthfully, we saw a family of beautiful orca whales, which is unusual for that bay.  And the sea lions could be smelled first and seen later.

The trip reminded me of a trip I took on the barge at Shuswap in the early 1960’s.  The hills and mountains roll by.  The water changes colour.  The pace is leisurely.  We watched an albatross fly back and forth over the tail of the boat, swooping down, turning, flying back over us – magnificent for those who braved the cold outside the deck:  Wyona, Greg, me, a German traveler and his dad who came out occasionally, a disabled woman who tucked herself  into the corner where the cabin met the deck.  She only moved when someone would help her get up.  After an hour Wyona and I had everything we had brought in the way of clothing, wrapped around us, and she was sharing one of her gloves, so that we both had one warm hand and one cold hand.  The art teacher from the boat huddle between the three of us for a while, since we were using the body heat that would transmit itself hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder between us.

“Do you want to go inside yet,” Wyona kept asking.  I like the adventure to all of the senses: the wind on my skin, the sound of the water, my hair blowing across my mouth or flying straight behind.  Greg went inside and bought a sandwich – just one, for old time’s sake.  It was $5.00 and must be a sandwich that is well known, since it is the one that we ate when we went to the other penguin rookery.  “No.  You can’t make me eat that.”  I could still remember the first one I ate.  “This one is different,” said Greg. “No mayonnaise.”

Wyona, today with a buffet tucked away in her travel bag, provided cheese, rye bread, cake, Coke.  Any surprise I can think of she can pull for somewhere.  “I bet you don’t have any chocolate.” 

“Oh yes, I do.”

Those who had the preferred seat in the cabins were 4 across on each side of a table with no room to bend or move.  They sat that way for 5 hours – worse than an airplane.  Now we froze on the outside, but had all of the other advantages – really living in nature!  Our toes so cold we didn't know if we would ever feel them again, our faces windburned from the sun, our best logical powers heightened as we tried to figure out how to maximize a blanket we borrowed from someone inside, making a blanket for one cover all three of our legs.

In the elevator and then again at a pre-dinner reception, I asked people what trips they took today.  Both couples had taken the Penguin Rookery Adventure and said politely, it was nice but I don’t think we would do it again.

Not us.  We would do it again.  With more blankets.

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