Carolyn Broadwell - Travel Tidbits - Dec 2003 - Jun 2004

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Oceans, Islands and Africa

Last night I watched the video of our Atlantic Odyssey trip from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the Canary Islands. I know I was there; I'm in some of the footage, but it still seems impossible! Pinch, pinch, pinch!

We saw penguins in countless numbers, although there are estimates in the hundreds of thousands for two of the rookeries, especially for the King penguins, who certainly stole the show for being spectacular! They have white fronts, black backs, shading to grey, and the most incredible yellow, orange and black markings on their heads! There were also several other types, with the most amusing being the Magellanic (I think I am remembering it correctly) being the most amusing, as they have funny "eyebrows" that stick out inches from their heads, and bobble around. There were also rockhoppers, (also with bobbling eyebrows) who do just that - hop up the rocks to move around. The others all walk with a very peculiar gait...

On the trip we had five naturalists; an expedition leader (also a naturalist); and a historian. They were all really experts! Retired profs and reseachers mostly, and all very engaging. They've found a way to keep up with their loved professions, and also to travel, which they all obviously loved doing, too.

We saw several different kinds of whales. The naturalists were really excited, as some were pretty rare, but I have to confess; about all we saw from the surface were bumps in the water and blowing. Well, once we saw the tail...

Now, the dolphins were more exciting! At one time we were surrounded by over 300! (Naturalist' count.) We could see those! Also spinner dolphins, (lots, too) who go out of the water and spin in the air!

At South Georgia we were innundated with fur seal pups in the hundreds, too, and they are adorable - when they aren't threatening you. Which some of them did! Learning how to defend, of course, but a bit scary all the same. Mostly we watched them play, and they were irresistable doing that. Our undersea specialist also took videos of them playing under water, too.

Birds - well, I think I could become a bird watcher in some of the places we were. We were within inches of many chicks, and they absolutely were unafraid - unless we got just that bit too close, in which case their fear or defensive mechanism came into play. The albatrosses especially - Oh! they are magnificent, and big enough to see, and sort of float by slowly so you can appreciate them.

Lots of other wild life, too much to ennumerate, and all awe inspiring, even if you weren't a dedicated nature lover. But then there was the scenery (also nature, of course), which varied from dramatic mountains, glaciers, icebergs (really awe inspiring), and the sea itself, to islands - all volcanic in origin - that were wild, green, and lush, to absolutly dramatically bare! Each was as different as could be, and that surprised me! I really don't know what I was expecting, but it probably wasn't such variety!

In several of the archipelagos, we explored more than one island. Many of our landings were with Zodiacs - an adventure in itself. Sometimes they were pretty wild, with the sea and the ship at quite different levels, making for a fairly dangerous tranfer from one to the other, then getting ashore on rough and rocky coasts, but the crew and staff had it down pat on how to do it for our safety. (They'd have to, given the type of passengers - lots of rich old folks, who probably know how to sue - and the places they took us.

They also took us for Zodiac "cruises" for the scenery and around rocky places where birds nested. And they had a method of using two Zodiacs with a platform in between for swimming, which we did just below the equator! Water below an unknown depth! No danger of diving and hitting the bottom! A little scary for a non-confident swimmer like me, but I wasn't going to pass up that chance!

Oh yes! In South Georgia I kayaked! They had sea kayaks that are virtually tip-proof, and it was simply incredible to kayak among the icebergs!

I nearly forgot; St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled was really neat! We even saw his grave with no one buried there now. The Brits allowed the French to take him to Paris, where he is now. But they fly a French flag over both the empty grave, and the house where he spent his last years. (It's legally French territory.)

Also of interest in St Helena is "Jacob's ladder" of 699 steps from a fort on the cliff down to the garrison below. The soup was prepared above, and the delivery service was performed by a man who put his feet on the rail on one side, and wrapped his arms around the rail on the other side, then put the soup on his belly (suspended between the two rails) and slid down to the bottom! (Then had to climb back up!)

At Cape Verde (I'm not even going to try to give an island by island account), which was one of my favorites, we visited Fogo, a very new volcano. The most recent eruption was in 1991 (I think I remember correctly), and there was lots of ash everywhere. And now they are growing grapes there, and making wine! (Not up to Napa standards, certainly!)

Cape Verde was our last stop before we disembarked at Las Palmas. I stayed there one day only, in order to ship home my antarctic warm clothes, including rubber boots, then flew to Morocco.

Well! This is a different world, and takes some getting used to. I was very tentative at first, as I had heard so many stories about being hassled by touts and beggars, but those mostly were about Tanger (where we lived back in '59-61), and I've had almost none in Rabat or Casablanca. I went first to Rabat, as I came to Morocco for my Mauritanian visa, and that is where the embassy is. Well, I went there, only to be told that the consulate, where one gets visas, is in Casablanca. There is an excellent shuttle train service between the two cities, so the next day I went to Casa..., and got the visa in two hours, with absolutely no problems - not even the ones the web sites and guide books mention! And decided I liked Casablanca, and the hotel I was in in Rabat was over my budget, so I came here. I also have a contact here with "Humphrei Bogart" which has not yet materialized, but will be interesting if it does. The hotel here is quite comfortable, if a little less luxurious, but very noisy! Last night, besides the singing (Arabic) and general hub bub, there was one looong sound that would have given Eve (can't remember her last name, and am not sure I even have the first name right) of the Vagina Monologues a great variation on her ending...(You'll have to have seen it to know what I am refering to! Or use your imagination...I refuse to be more specific!

I'm going on three hours on this computer, and am getting pretty stiff, as it is a little cold here (but absolutely beautiful - like California), so this will have to do for now.

I do wish all of my friends could share this with me! I am so very, very lucky to be able to see and do all of this!

I leave in two days for Mauritania...a really new experience!


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