Random musings from the front line (well, more like the support trench, or perhaps the castle 10 miles away, supping Chateau Lafite with the General Staff) in the battle for curiosity, inertia, grammar and a Dachshund called Colin.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merkin's South American Adventure

Well, I'm back. What a trip! Although I spent the majority of the time acting as a cross between a Butlins Redcoat and a dashing rent-a-dinner-host, it was still an amazing experience, on a vessel that can only be decribed as a floating 5* hotel. My main job was to help that day's selection of several dozen charming, but not-exactly-mobile, septugenarians on and off my allocated coach for their daily excursion, counting them in the process - woe betide the Tour Escort who mislaid a passenger! Anyway, armed with my cheapo digital camera I tried my hardest to capture my favourite parts of my cruise in the artiest way possible. I am fully aware that if I were to sign up to a whizzy photo hosting service like Flickr, I'd probably be booted off for incompetence, but I'm rather pleased with most of the following images as they do, after all, remind me exactly what I saw over the last 3 weeks.


First stop was Buenos Aires, which now is the proud holder of the prestigious title "Merkin's Favourite City". It reminded me of a more laid back (and safer feeling) Barcelona, and the crumbling architecture and non-intimidating bars made me feel like I was wandering through a city just before it is discovered by trendy jet-setters (again!). And as long as no-one mentions the Falklands, then the locals are the friendliest, most pro-British charming individuals then you could hope to meet. The photo above is of "Floralis Generica", which as far as I could tell is an 18 ton sculpture paid entirely by a local power company and their architect (Eduardo Catalano?). Looking like a massive tulip, the best thing about it is that it closes at sunset, and the stamens light up an eery red, until sunrise when it opens up again. Cool!


Sticking in Argentina, this is a shot of an amazing lake called the "Lago Escondido", about an hour north of Ushuaia (the southernmost port in South America). Escondido means "hidden" in Spanish, as until the Argentinians built the 2000 mile long "National Route 3" from the very north of the country to the very south, no-one knew it was there. Possibly the quietest (in terms of noise) place I have ever been anywhere in the world - I sat on that rickety jetty for about an hour just thinking. Very zen.


This was the highlight of my trip - sailing up a fjord off the Beagle Channel (the route through the Tierra del Fuego archipelago discovered by HMS BEAGLE) to see the amazing Garibaldi Glacier. It took my breath away, and although we were only 100m away from it in a 31,000 ton ship, the water beneath us was still 100m deep! You could actually taste the freshness of the air - and after a lump of floating ice was recovered from the water, a select few of us managed to taste the freshness of the glacial melt water. Mmmmmmmm. My favourite photograph.


As a seafarer, one of the great moments of the trip was rounding Cape Horn - the southernmost point of South America (although there are a few islets slightly further offshore) and a notoriously treacherous piece of water. On the chart you can see at least 100 wrecks in no more than 1 square mile area - I hate to think how many thousands of people perished beneath this very spot that I took the photo - but we were incredibly lucky to find a benign day, in a narrow window of current and weather that allowed us to get less than half a mile away. Apparently, according to nautical tradition this now means I can put one foot onto any ship's dining table - the other can be plonked there when I round the Cape of Good Hope.


After 4 different excursions to penguin colonies, I became slightly blase about the little critters - but here are my favourite - the cute little Gentoo Penguins of the Falklands. They actually walk like a 70s comedian doing a bad impression of a penguin walk and are completely fearless of humans so you can get very close to them. The Magellanic Penguins of Tierra del Fuego weren't nearly as sociable - I guess that's British good manners for you....


Our cruise ship was too large to get into Port Stanley, so we spent our few days off the Falklands at anchor in the shadow of 8 Second World War guns. I just liked this photograph for purely immature reasons. Boom!


The final picture of my cruise is of the recreation of the fort (called Fort Buelnes) at the southernmost settlement on mainland South America. However, life wasn't exactly easy at this place and most settlers died of starvation. Eventually the survivors found a different place nearby with better prospects, so they deserted their original location and built a new, slightly northerly city called Punta Arenas instead. Mind you, they could have given themselves a fighting chance by naming their original town something other than "Port Famine"...

13 Rants & Replies:

Blogger garfer said...

You missed out the most important bit. What were the steaks like in Buenos Aries?

My cousin is in the Falklands with the RAF at the moment. You could have waved at him from the ship.

7:36 pm, December 19, 2005

 
Blogger Inexplicable DeVice said...

Floralis Generica looks spectacular! An amazing photograph. However, how much did you have to pay those midgets to dress up as penguins?

9:27 am, December 20, 2005

 
Blogger Merkin said...

Oh yes - the steaks! I went to a fantastic steak place in the "Puerto Madera"(?) area of Buenos Aires where I paid about £5 for a huge meal of grilled chitterlings, 3 different cuts of meat and accompanying sweetbreads etc. Mmmmmmmmm - amazing! Oh, bad luck about your cousin Garfer - I hope he recovers from having to wear that horrible uniform soon. I recommend a diet of dark blue...

Midgets were very cheap IdV - it was getting them to mate that cost the money. Dwarf porn - sweet!

9:32 am, December 20, 2005

 
Blogger Mark Gamon said...

The Beagle Channel? Cape Horn?

Do you have ANY idea how jealous I am?

Damn. D'you think the Navy'll still take me, at 53?

Don't answer that...

12:36 pm, December 21, 2005

 
Blogger Wyndham said...

Glad to have you back, Merkin, just in time for the really cold weather.

5:06 pm, December 21, 2005

 
Blogger patroclus said...

Merkin, you are without a doubt the most glamorous adventurer-type person that I know (well, you know, *know* in the internet sense...). Very well done. Excellent photgraphs. Extremely jealous. Great to have you back though!

No juicy gossip regarding the mysterious travelling companion, I notice...

7:11 pm, December 21, 2005

 
Blogger Aginoth said...

Wow, looks like a good time was had, spectacular pictures. I'm not jealous at all...honest....

7:27 pm, December 21, 2005

 
Blogger Merkin said...

Gawd - you guys *BLUSH*. Yes, it was amazing, but it's great to be back home to my freezing house. Anyone know any tips for cheap double glazing?!

7:46 pm, December 22, 2005

 
Blogger WordWhiz said...

Wow! What fabulous photos! What a trip! I was going to gripe about not having received a post card, but these photos are better than some stinkin' post card!

Welcome back and have a wonderful holiday!!!

9:52 pm, December 22, 2005

 
Blogger surly girl said...

what ship was that then?

2:55 pm, January 05, 2006

 
Blogger Merkin said...

I'm not 100% sure I'm allowed to say. Put it this way - in Ancient Greece, she would have been named "Athena 2"...

3:05 pm, January 05, 2006

 
Blogger surly girl said...

eh? email me - i demand to know. (not that i care about that sort of thing. oh no. not me)

8:18 pm, January 05, 2006

 
Blogger Sal said...

caption to pic N-1:

"aargh!! that cannon's so big it uses cruise liners as cannon balls!"

4:53 pm, January 06, 2006

 

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