Friday 20 November, 11.33am, Cooper Bay, South Georgia
Early mornings, packed days, late nights, and not a jot of writing done at all. Terrible skills. But do let me try and catch you up now, because it's our last day in South G and I should really make the effort.
It’s been utterly marvellous here, and I am a total South Georgia convert now. On our second day, I even manned up and dragged myself out of bed at 5am to do an excursion before breakfast to Fortuna Bay, which is one of the last parts of the route Ernest Shackleton walked across the mountains to Stromness. There were plans to do the last leg of the walk, but conditions just weren’t suitable. I was so not going to do it (5500m climbs and
Suzys do not mix), but when it was called off, Justin said I should lie and say I was, and I was really disappointed it had been cancelled, which made me giggle.
Anyway, Fortuna Bay was beautiful. We saw a lot more king penguins, and I had a great time
hanging out watching the chicks bumbling around after the adults. The weather was perfect, the mountains were beautiful, and I had a lot of fun running into people and then wandering off on my own. Beyond the people I hang out with the most – well,
let’s call a spade a spade, the people I get drunk with every night – I am on know-them-to-say-hey-to terms with most of the others on board, so I like meandering around and chatting.
In the afternoon we had one of my favourite landings, at Stromness whaling station, where Shackleton eventually wandered into town and raised the alarm for his men on Elephant Island.
Like many places on South Georgia, Stromness was an interesting juxtaposition between the abandoned manmade buildings and the animals and plants that had overrun the beach. There were a LOT of seals along the beach, which meant we had to walk in little groups so as to avoid Doing An Arturro, as it's become known over the course of the trip (ie. being bitten in the bum). I ended up walking along with Jacqui, Anna, Graham, Graham’s wife Debbie and his sister Kim, which was a lot of fun – the snow was
covering pretty much all of the plains we were walking across, but with these little hillocks peeping out, so we were jumping from one to the next over snow and puddles. Then we walked up this little hill and when we got to the top, Justin throwing one snowball at me turned into a big snowball fight of me, Jacqui and Anna vs Trish (Australian, 40s) and Dan (Australian, 32, and the videographer who is filming our journey), with Jamie dallying around throwing snowballs at anyone and everyone (although sadly failing to hit virtually
everyone. He may be pretty, but he is a BAD shot). Even though I ended up being repeatedly pelted with snow, and for some reason stood still and let Jamie put some down the back of my neck, it was a quality afternoon. Justin managed to sneak off after the first snowball, so I didn't get him back until we were nearly back at the Zodiacs when I caught up with him and squished snow on his head.
We’d barely arrived back and stripped off our waterproofs (and in my case, a few snowballs that I’d missed) before we were throwing them back on again to go Zodiac crusing in Prince Olav Harbour. Now with the Zodiacs, you can’t pick who you’re with, you just merrily queue and get on board the next boat in line. When you’re just getting a Zodiac to shore, that’s no biggie, because the max amount of time you’re going to be in one is maybe fifteen minutes, and you’ll be going pretty fast anyway so there’s no real chance to chat. With a cruise, however, you want
to get two things right: you want a good gang alongside you, and you want a good driver. The gang is easy enough to accomplish – just queue next to your friends – but the driver is trickier, because we've no control over it. Everyone’s definition of a good driver is different, of course, but mine is one who’s knowledgeable, has good banter, and most importantly, GOES FAST. Jamie is my ideal Zodiac driver because he fits all those criteria and more, but there are some other great ones – John is fast and funny, Flipper is fast and adorable, and Noz is a right laugh and a really good driver in bad conditions. Then there are some others who you maybe wouldn’t want to end up with – they’re nice enough people, but for
whatever reason, they just don’t work for me. Shelli seems to lack confidence when she’s driving, the doc is just laughably bad but you can’t help but love him because he has the biggest eyes in all the land, and Woody is perfectly competent and interesting but tends to tell me off. Like, a lot. So while part of me was interested to go with the main man on our first real Zodiac cruise, there was another part of me that heaved a little sigh when I counted ahead and realised that I’d be on Woody’s boat that day.
That being said, it was still a great cruise, and because Woody makes the rules, he can choose when to break them, so we went a little further in than some of the others had been able to and got to see a blonde fur seal, which was awesome. They’re not any different in terms of
classification, it’s just a pigmentation thing, but it was very nifty because none of the other Zodiacs got as close as we did. Sadly though, I kept up my winning ways with Woody, and got told off yet again. We pulled up alongside Jamie’s boat, they had a quick confab, and then we pulled away. As we started to pick up speed, Jamie was slightly ahead, so I immediately said, "Ooh, can we race them?!" to Woody. To which he paused, looked at me, and then answered, “...no.” I turned to Jacqui and muttered, “That’s me told then.” I can only presume he has now added Foolish Zodiac Behaviour to my charge sheet, which joins Excessive Noise At Dinner and Going Barefoot In Public Areas. Bad Suzy. Only coal for me this Christmas.
The Zodiac ride was great, as they all are, but this was the first one for me where I was really ready to get off by the time we arrived back at the ship, and it was nothing to do with my bollocking from the Woodster. I had not really anticipated how cold it was going to be whilst we weren’t moving around, and had underlayered significantly on my extremities. My arms, legs and core were all fine, as was my head, but my hands had gotten wet pretty early on and were getting colder and colder, and my feet were so cold by the time we arrived back that it actually hurt to walk. I was pretty scared I was going to slip on the gangway, in fact, because I couldn’t really grip the handrail properly and my feet felt like I had pins and needles, only the feeling wasn’t going away. Fortunately the ship is toasty warm, and once I got inside, I soon started to warm up, especially after I dashed off to wash my hands in warm water, Jacqui shouting a warning about chilblains after me that went pretty much unheeded the whole trip. Wow, I said the word “warm” a lot in that sentence, and yet I can’t see a better way of writing it right now. Plus I’m getting that thing where you look at a word so long it doesn’t really make sense anymore. Warm. Warm. WARM.
(Heh, Lisa is so pissing her sides right now, for reasons that no-one else will understand but which I shan’t repeat here because it’s not the best story and quite frankly I don’t come off that well in it.)
Anyway, after getting changed, I headed up to the bar, as is my wont, only to meet Flipper on the stairs and tell him very solemnly that I did not think I would be ordering an alcoholic drink when I got up there, even though it was happy hour. I required a warm beverage, so it was looking like the coffee route. And then I walked through the door and discovered that such resolutions were all for naught, because Hannah, in her wonderful evilness, had devised a hot toddy for that day’s happy hour cocktail. And, because we’d done three excursions, and the first had been at cock o’clock, she had even given it a pun-tastic name: Long Day Tod-day. I LOVE HER. I think she thought I was taking the piss because I was laughing my head off at the name, but what can I say, really bad jokes crease me up. What’s red and not there? No tomatoes! See, quality humour.