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Humma, humma--so gorgeous!

No photos; my phone isn't hooked up. I'll figure this out later!


Nov. 4, 9:33


We were at dinner—sleepy dinner—when the engines fired up. Without announcement, we left the dock at Punto Kitty Litter. Everyone cleared their PVC test (even Angela) and Chile let us go. FREEDOM!


NOTE: Found out the next day from Lucho that the PVC tests haven’t even come back in yet; Chile let us go because a Chilean news crew showed up on the dock at Punto Arenas to film the Explorer not being allowed to leave; everyone wants tourism back for the region. That pressure, apparently, was what forced Chile to let us go before the test results are in. So we could still, theoretically, be grounded…but Lucho didn’t seem too concerned.


Had a very nice dinner with Marianne, Song, and Sandy. Marianne and Song are friends, they adopted Sandy last night, and allowed me to horn my way in tonight. We have all been through the death of our husbands, except for Sandy who went through the death of his wife. A jolly evening all the same!


And now I’m going to go to sleep. It’s unclear exactly where we’re going; Lucho the expedition leader said it would take too long to explain; he’ll tell us tomorrow—but we WILL be in Zokiaks. Also, the numbers were wrong; there are only 61 passengers. And 91 crew. It’s going to be a very luxurious expedition!



Nov. 5, 8:32am


It’s going to be hard to keep a journal during daylight hours; every moment I’m not drinking in the landscape feels like a missed opportunity.


Woke up at 5; the Toblerone mountain was outside my window. Went on deck in shirtsleeves; so gorgeous. Said to the naturalist “I would be the first one to die in this part of the world,” which he obviously thought was a very odd thing to say.


To the photographer I said “Jesus Christ—there should be a soundtrack.” Which HE thought was an odd thing to say.


Got tea. Drank it in the library. Returned to cabin for jacket and hat. Got more tea. Sat at the bow until forced inside for breakfast. Ate with Mary Ellen, Bob, and Mike. Very nice people; entertaining.


About to go to the mandatory Zodiak briefing; we’re hitting the surface of the water in a few hours. Thought my iPhone wasn’t up to the task, but the photos I haven’t been able to resist taking have been pretty good!


Dang.


We’re going through broken ice now, admiring waterfalls down the fjord walls. Of all the people on the bow, I saw the humpback whale’s plume first. Yay, me!



Nov. 5. 11:48am


Have just returned from my first Zodiak tour of a fjord; it was breathtaking. So gorgeous. We all thumped down to the “mud room” in our oversized rubber boots, waterproof pants, and distressingly hard life jackets—but once loaded onto the Zodiak, our gracelessness mattered none at all.


Since there are so few passengers, there were only eight guests in my Zodiak; Lucho was our guide, and we persuaded him to tell us some of what’s coming—something called “the narrows” that means I need to stake out a place in the bow tomorrow afternoon by around 3pm.


We saw ashy-headed geese and glaciers calving into the Hyatt Fjord. Some other Zodiaks spotted a leopard seal, but we didn’t. And we saw rocky ledges disappearing into icy-cold water that were so in need of fairies or some other mystical residents… all the other travelers with me were so focused on their cameras and geology and yes, but what KIND of goose is that that I did not share with them my certainty that fairies were ducking down behind the rocks… Didn’t matter. We were all happy.


I took photos with my iPhone when I couldn’t resist, but mostly I did my best to see what was in front of me, instead of seeing the screen in front of me. The mountains towering overhead were snow-covered, and incredible cataracts of snowmelt ran down the rocks in breathtaking swoops and drops and the occasional fountain jetting away from the wall of rock by the force of the drop; it was astonishingly lovely. And RANDOM. I’m so used to every landscape architect in the northern hemisphere trying to recreate what was lying around in Patagonia, unheralded and not at all impressed with itself. Huge, flat boulders line the shore; each one of them would be trucked into a northern Virginia garden and sold to the grateful homeowner for a ton of money. Not here. Here they’re just the after-effects of glaciers moving through the landscape at their epoch-long speeds.


I suppose it will become normal for me to see all this space without a single millionaire’s stilt house built into the side of the fjord—but it is not normal YET. There is NO ONE out here. One of the naturalists said to the others, “Wow—we’re really all alone out here,” by which I think she meant that in years past, there have been more boats wandering around peering at calving glaciers. So perhaps I’m seeing this landscape at the height of its possible isolation.


As we puttered past a pair of ashy-headed geese perched picturesquely on a ledge, they took off flying (to the utter delight of the photographers, all of whom then immediately checked in with the others; did you get it? Did you? To make sure no one else did better than they did), and Lucho commented that those geese are usually indifferent to the presence of humans—“but pretty much no one’s been through here in two years, so they’re not used to us.”


Dang. That sort of puts things into perspective!


I am now starving. Lunch isn’t for another half an hour; grr. The dining room has butt-pincher chairs, which is annoying—but so far, that’s about the only thing that HAS been annoying since I’ve gotten on the ship. I passed Lucho’s assistant this morning and told her “You can’t tell because I’m wearing a mask, but I am grinning right now” because it’s so alien and gorgeous here. I am the Inigo Montoya of the National Geographic Explorer. (Literary reference of a dubious nature.)

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