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Musings in Orange

Friday, November 19—10:52 AM


As I pack my bag in desultory fashion, I’m filled with musing.


The people I’ve met on this ship have much in common, of course—we all wanted to explore a new place (or return to a favorite spot) without a casino on board. We actively chose a cruise line that would refer to our vacation as an “expedition.” We like the presence of hot and cold running naturalists.


But we’re extremely different, too. There were those who fomented mask rebellion almost immediately (figuring that four concurrent COVID tests ought to be enough proof that we were good), and those who were self-professed rule-followers who were irked that the mask mandate was only enforced for five days. There were practitioners of shamanism and alternative medicines, and there were oil industry executives. There were fragile, frail people who never wanted to miss a thing—and there were able-bodied slugs like me who expended as much energy as required and not an erg more.


But as I pack, I have realized that every single one of us will share this in common in the months and years to come:


WE WILL WATCH THE WEATHER FORECASTS EAGERLY EACH WINTER SO WE CAN PUT ON OUR FLARE ORANGE PARKAS WITH THE LINDBLAD PATCHES AND SAY TO OUR FRIENDS, OH, THIS OLD THING?



I know that I’ve looked better than I do in this photo, but I present it because this was the BEGINNING of the day when the sun got me; after this point, I look like a raccoon in reverse, with everything below my sunglasses burned crispy and an unnatural poutiness to my lips from the blisters swelling below the surface. Yes—this IS now a flattering photo. Hard to imagine, huh?!


When we get home, it will be awesome to wear the parka WITHOUT the life preserver, with the tail that fastened between the legs and made a distinctive cross across the back. I noticed—late to the party, but still I got there) that when we load into the Zodiaks, two able-bodied seamen standing in the boat guide us by our hands while the third guy, to the left and still on the ship, has a fast handhold on the strap of the life preserver. So not just a floatation device after all!


We’re ALMOST through Drake’s Passage, which has varied from “wheehah!” to “Damn—how am I going to climb those stairs with this rocking and rolling going on underfoot?” Delightful Peggy noted that she was afraid she was going to be rolled right out of bed last night. The double rooms have beds arranged from bow to stern, while the singles go abeam. So the motion that threatened to put her on the floor was a perfect cradle rock for me; I slept like the dead, waking only very rarely to giggle at the motion.


Alex, queen of the mud room, just gave us our “disembarkation” briefing for tomorrow. (Her official title is assistant expedition leader, but she’s the one who gets us onto and off the Zodiaks or kayaks safely and we love her for it.) The endurance challenge just got an order of magnitude worse, and for some reason that satisfies something in me. Perverse. Listen:


The original plan was: Lindblad hires a charter plane to get us from Ushuaia, Argentina (which received a 100% vote from the residents of cabin 106 as the best damned use of vowels in any place name ever) to Miami. This unwinds the clock wound up on the way down, when the same charter took us from Miami to Punto Arenas, Chile. The plane holds some 220 people; we’ll have about 70 people on the flight. People in steerage were happy to stretch out over three middle seats to sleep.


When we left, 17 days ago, the US TSA agreed that Ushuaia was an acceptable point of departure for a flight to the US. What happened in those intervening 17 days? Did someone in Ushuaia tweet about the big, bad US? Who knows. The point is, flights directly from Ushuaia are no longer allowed to land in the US. Great.


So what’s the plan now?


Okay—now we’re flying from Ushuaia to Santiago, Chile. Because Chile’s okay with the TSA? Yes—the US is good with Chile, which is lucky because the charter company wants to change out their crew there anyway. But (large screeching noise indicating black ice on the highway) Chile is no longer allowing anyone in or out again. We made it in just in the nick of time on the way down, apparently.


The TSA likes Chile, but Chile doesn’t like the US.


So after the crew change (during which time we will remain very firmly aboard the plane—“It should only take two hours. We hope.”), then the plane flies to—where? Go on. Guess.


Nassau.


The Bahamas.


Because the culture shock in going from Antarctica to Miami wasn’t quite sharp enough for karma.


We’ll get to Nassau at around 3 in the morning (“we hope”). At this stop we DO get off the plane, for some kind of screening and security processing. Like what? It’s unclear. Another nose swab? Could be. Maybe. (The next nasal prodding happens this afternoon at 2—is that for Argentina’s benefit, or for the US’s? I honestly can’t remember anymore.)


After that, we get back on the same plane “for a short hop to Miami.” We arrive at around 7 AM (“we hope”) and go through customs. My flight to DC is at noon. It won’t take much of a delay to derail me entirely—but lovely Anita my travel agent (and sister-by-choice) booked my flights through Lindblad. So if something gets screwed up, Lindblad will help me fix it. And honestly, flights from Miami to DC are not hard to come by, so I’m not too worried about it. Still—tomorrow WILL be a very long day.


But we do get (for reasons that are unclear) 70 minutes in the Ushuaia Maritime Museum before we go to the airport. Am I excited by this? Well, I have sort of been craving a little museum-ing…but I’m a little nervous that this will feature exhibits devoted to the whales we’ve killed or the fur seals we’ve killed or the Siberian ponies that died in their traces or the dogs we named and loved and THEN killed. So I approach this cultural opportunity with moderate suspicion… What are the chances that they’ll have a gift shop with something that would entertain my son, who turns 23 today? Perhaps a harpoon. THAT should please the TSA.



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