The hotel in Torres del Paine transferred us back to Punta Arenas by van along with 2 other couples who were going on the same cruise. We spent about 7 hours with them between the journey and waiting to be able to board so we learned quite a lot about each other and began the cruise with new friends. One couple, Hans and Rena, were in their 70s (actually Hans was 80) and had travelled absolutely everywhere! They amazed us with their endless energy and fabulous stores from their 50 years of travelling. The other couple, Jeff and Midge, were celebrating their 30th anniversary and on holiday from their teaching positions. We finally boarded the ship around 6pm. It accommodated about 125 passengers normally but only 88 (representing 15 different countries with very few Americans) for our voyage and was nice with 2 lounges and a dining room. It was very simple but cozy.
On the morning of April 1, a dream woke me up. I opened my eyes and there was a dim reddish glow in the room. I quickly realized that the glow was from the beginning of a glorious sunrise. As I watched from our cabin window, I heard a splash outside and thought at first it was fish jumping. then I realized it was a seal playing and the little guy played there right by our window all morning! I was so excited that Raj even woke up and we went to the top deck to watch the sunrise (and the seal)! Our first stop was Ainsworth Bay and it was our first experience with the zodiac boats that took us to shore each time reached our destination (each place we went was too remote to have a port or even a dock).
We went on a guided hike that was actually really boring, as our guide was a fungus freak and kept stopping to take pictures of mushrooms and to tell us ALL about them… To each their own, but we were falling asleep standing up. That is, until, we nearly tripped over an enormous Elephant Seal! Although he only lay there, he entertained us well and we were SO close (which was great except for the rather vile smell). When we finally tore ourselves away to return to the ship, we were greeted on the shore with our choice of whisky or hot chocolate. Not a bad morning, huh? That afternoon, we stopped at Tucker Island and took a zodiac ride for about an hour around the island and saw dozens and dozens of penguins! They were so cute and again, very close to us. When we returned back to ship, very satisfied to have seen so much on the first day, we were again greeted by seals playing outside our window. We must have watched them for an hour – there were several of them having a fabulous time playing and jumping and diving – it was absolutely fantastic! That night we also met some other travelers from Paris. They were great to talk with and 2 of them had us beat for sure – they were 6 months into a 1 year sabbatical (which, btw, is mandatory for companies to allow in France after only 3 years of working for the same place and after 6 years they will actually pay 20% of your salary while you are away!!!).
The next day we went to Pia Glacier which was nice, but didn’t compare to the Grey Glacier we had just seen the week before. Then we began our voyage toward Cape Horn (the most southern place before Antarctica – a mere 500 miles) The water became very very rough and although we are both usually okay with a bit of rocking, we were relieved that the ship was giving out motion-sickness pills – especially when we saw other passengers leaning over the side of the boat the next morning). Unfortunately, when we did arrive at Cape Horn, the waters were still ridiculous and therefore, we were unable to disembark on the zodiacs to go to the island. Instead, we sailed around the south end into the Drake Passage (where the Pacific and Atlantic meet) and officially crossed the 56th parallel 🙂 Amazingly, a few hours later we found ourselves in the most calm waters imaginable (much calmer than lake Lanier!) and had one final night on board where we took it upon ourselves to educate the bartender how to make a proper dirty martini; a few of the other passengers were very pleased to benefit from this! The following morning, we awoke at port in Ushuaia, a very cute town and the southern most city in South America, where we caught our flight to Buenos Aires.