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On the Way to Patagonia and Antarctica

Thi

This is a universal truth: There are people in this world who are just DYING for the presenter to finish up and say “Now—are there any questions?”


These people do not have a question; that is to be clearly understood. What they have is an absolutely burning desire to demonstrate to the speaker AND THE OTHER LISTENERS that “I know about this subject, too.”


If slightly subtle, they will phrase the demonstration of their knowledge in the form of a question, which usually begins “Wouldn’t you agree that…” After which everyone else heaves a huge sigh and wonders if they can sneak out the back door.


I am not saying that this kind of person is drawn to a Lindblad/Nat Geo cruise to Patagonia and Antarctica, because we haven’t even had a presentation yet. But I am saying that I recognized a certain tone of voice on the shuttle bus from the Miami airport to the hotel where we enter our quarantine bubble--and I have my suspicions.


I’ve checked into my “day room” at a Hilton, where I can sit without a mask (and in my case, without shoes) for a few hours. That’s how long it will take for the rapid COVID test I just had to render its verdict. Then I head down to the ballroom, where Lindblad has set up a base camp. We’re going to have an “Affidavit party,” so we can all jump neatly through the hoops set up for us by the nation of Chile, who is VERY concerned that we germy Americans don’t bring our virus-laden sneezes into the country. And who can blame them?


I tried to fill out the affidavit yesterday, once I got my first COVID test back (there are at least two tests, you know; one is the rapid test that makes my son shake his head. “Lots of false positives on that one, Mom,” so I’m mildly paranoid—that’s the one I had about half an hour ago. And one is the one I took two days ago, with a name that is something like PVC, although that can’t be right because that’s a kind of pipe.)


Where was I?


Right. I got my PVC test back (negative! Yay me!) and went to fill out the form on the Chilean website. Lindblad had sent exhaustive instructions on how to fill it out, which was nice of them… except they left out several key answers. Like… which border entry control name did I want? There were four options; a little frantic Googling informed me that these were airports in Chile. Two of the options were for an airport way to the north, up by Peru. One was for an airport kinda down from there; still pretty northern. One was for Santiago, which is about a thousand miles north of Punto Arenas, where I’m landing tomorrow morning. NONE of these options seemed like a good choice for my “border entry control name.” And the Lindblad information had left that category blank. So I did, too.


Wrong. Please fill in this information. Jeez. You can call Lindblad to ask, but they’re swamped. The last question I had, I was on the phone for a solid hour before someone picked up.


Also—what airline was I taking into Punto Arenas? Lindblad has chartered a plane, so I don’t know the airline, and I certainly don’t know the flight number. Neither did Lindblad. Anyway, when I checked in today I said “Does it surprise you to know that I was unable to fill out my affidavit?” and all three of the people behind the table shouted “No! We’re having an affidavit party at 3:00.” I get the feeling Lindblad is a LITTLE cheesed off by this situation…


I must say—as glorious as it is to take off my mask after seven hours, the truly refreshing aspect of this room is that I have taken off my shoes and socks. NOW I FEEL FABULOUS. I don’t see how people can possibly think with shoes on. I married into a family of tender-footed souls (tender soles); they are unable to understand my reluctance to be shod. We watch each other from across the room like a particularly fascinating exhibit in a zoo.


I just ducked down to the hotel lobby (YES, I wore my shoes!) to get something to drink (hydration is essential on these expeditions, donchano). I was waiting for the elevator when I noticed that the guy waiting with me was wearing a Lindblad staff shirt. “Oh,” sez I, known for my witty banter, “I’m on your ship!”


He introduced himself; he has a great Kiwi accent. His name is Tua, and the staff bios they sent me had already informed me that Tua is a real rara avis. He is (and try figuring out how to work THIS into your resume!) an “internationally acclaimed traditional master navigator.” He has crossed oceans IN A CANOE without modern navigation aids. HOLY SHIT. He does it, and I’m quoting, “using an ancient navigational system based on careful observations of celestial bodies (sun, moon, and stars) as well as ocean swells, flight patterns of birds, and other natural markers.”


I mean—COME ON. Where else would I meet such a person? I had one very fast elevator ride with him and I hope I did not scare him with my glee at meeting him, but I am really looking forward to hearing what that guy has to say!


I did NOT whip out my phone and make him pose for a photo so I could blog with his photo because then he would have been confirmed in the opinion that I am some kind of nut…but there’s some kind of presentation at 4 today (after the affidavit party), and I’ll bet there’s a reason why Tua is here in Miami instead of waiting on the ship at the very bottom of Chile. I’ll sneak a photo.


Of a guy in a Miami hotel ballroom with a lavalier mike. OH the wild beauty of Patagonia…


I met a woman and her sister-in-law (there was a brother/husband in there, but I never actually met him). One of them is Joyce and the other is Sandy. They’re very nice. I either twice called Sandy “Joyce” or I twice called Joyce “Sandy;” I can’t remember which. All I know is that I was so consistently wrong that for the rest of the trip, I shall have to refer to both of them as “Oh, hi!” We all have name badges, but I’ve never thought that was very useful. The writing is too small; for the name tag to be useful, I have to walk up to people, closely examine their left boob, and then say “Oh, Sandy! Hi!” like I was the skillful woman who runs the mammogram machine.


In conclusion: Florida. Jeez. I do NOT like it here. I mean, I love the bottom of Florida; I love that it’s one hugely-wide river flowing into the sea. The Everglades; man—THAT’s some wilderness. But I loathe the carving up of soggy land onto which is relentlessly built endless strip malls and golf courses and huge hotels fronting on canals no one uses. This is not my kind of happy.

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