A little over 6 weeks ago I left home, on two wildly exciting voyages which included Chilean Fjordland and Antarctica. Coronavirus had just been announced in China, but who would have imagined how this virus was about to change global dynamics. In the interim satellite images indicate clear air over China on account of factories being closed, rather like the Beijing Olympics. Some Chinese nationals raced back to Canada for treatment, leading to increased cases in Canada. Sitting on a cruise ship approaching Montevideo in Uruguay, my thoughts are akin to a runaway train. The cruise industry is in crisis, Viking and Princess have cancelled all cruises for the following 45-60 days. No doubting other lines will follow. Various tourism expos cancelled in similar fashion, along with many countries banning gatherings of people numbering more than 500. Reports abound of panic buying, and folks stocking up on various supplies. Travel plans affected massively, and of course all we are thinking about is – are we going to be allowed to fly home? Enough of all that.
These two journeys have been sublime, with a wonderful team, and great guests onboard a beautiful vessel. Distances are huge hereabouts, and we have covered 5000 nautical miles or 9000 km on each journey, to include the Falkland Islands. Visiting New Island was an unexpected bonus, on the extreme western flank of the Falklands. We landed on a white sandy beach alongside the wreck of the Protector 111 wooden minesweeper, and walked up to wild, unspoiled, windswept cliffs where Rockhopper Penguins and Black-browsed Albatross nest. The large, grey, fluffy Albatross chicks unmoved by our presence. The oceans and weather have been kind to us, including 4 Drake Crossings. The rough one seems a distant memory now. I regularly implore those afraid of a rough Drake crossing never to allow that thought to preclude them the unimaginable delight of visiting the Great White Continent. Please. On average 3 or 4 out of 10 crossings are rough, so the odds are good and stacked in your favour for a smooth ride. Modern ships with stabilisers along with technology, and the ability to skirt bad weather/storm systems has revolutionised crossing the Drake Passage. In my experience most guests are disappointed not to have at least some rough seas – it is “expected” on an Antarctic journey?
The camaraderie and atmosphere within this team is great, and the guests regularly comment on it. A wonderful privilege to work with genuinely friendly professional folk, who have made me feel welcome within their ranks from the get-go. My Tilley hat makes me instantly recognisable. For one Zodiac tour I opted not to wear it and nobody knew who I was! The drysuits are homogeneous so we all recognise one another by our headgear. Brandon Payne, my cabinmate from Bergvliet, and seasoned kayak guide, is one of the nicest, most positive people I have ever met. Ever-smiling, with a kind word for everyone around him, Brandon is a delight to be around. We have many laughs together, and I look forward to our continued association. The all-round abilities of these youngsters staggers me. There is little Brandon cannot do very well. Seabourn are fortunate to have him, along with many others on their Expedition Team.
Having dreamed for many years of one day visiting Antarctica, it is very difficult to conceive that this is now my annual reality, and I feel abundantly blessed.
Tomorrow I don my shorts and begin my journey home, God and Coronavirus willing…