Sunday 22 November, 1.28pm, still on the way to Antarctica
All good things must come to an end, no matter how much you kick and scream and say "But I don't WANT to go!" Our time in South Georgia is at an end. Sad news indeed, because it was a truly astonishing place, and I am sad about the landings we missed, although pleased as punch about how many we got to do – David told us that he was the expedition leader once on a trip that left Ushuaia, went to South Georgia for a week, and nobody got off the boat until they got back to Ushuaia. The weather was just against them the whole time. I feel very sorry for people who’ve suffered such a bitter defeat at the hands of the sea gods (not to be confused with the Zodiac gods), but secretly thrilled that the same didn’t happen to us.
On our last day in South G, we didn’t do any landings ourselves, but we were far from bored. In the morning, we had a Zodiac cruise around Cooper Bay in search of macaroni penguins (leading Justin and Jamie to chorus “Hey, Macaroni” to the tune of the Macarena every time we went anywhere near one. I was threatening them both with actual bodily harm by the end). It was extremely enjoyable, my favourite Zodiac cruise yet – the first one, with Solan in Stanley, was great, but I’d forgotten to put my fleece on so I was just wearing my t-shirt and jacket, so I was pretty chilly by the time we got back, and on the second one, round Prince Olav Harbour with Woody, my feet were in a severe amount of pain from the cold. This one was beautiful sunshine, not much wind, tons of wildlife, and in my
boat I had for the first time, myself, Justin, Andrea and Daphne, plus Naughty Girl Laraine (Aussie, 63, does not look it at ALL) and laconic Alex from Peregrine. And as mentioned above, we were driven by the charming Jamie. Throw in some nonsensical conversation between myself and Daphne about the International Penguin Conference (borne out of seeing chinstrap penguins porpoising with gentoos) and the elephant seal kayaking instructor (borne out of some mad chat we’d had earlier in the week the origins of which now escape me but which was very very funny), and Cooper Bay was the place to be in my opinion.
After lunch, we did a ship cruise through the Drygalski Fjord, which was just incredible. You
stay onboard the Vavilov, but the Captain takes the ship through very slowly and calmly so that you can see everything, it’s not too cold because again, the windchill is drastically reduced, and because everyone is on deck watching, you can wander around talking to people and having all sorts of fun. I was on the top deck with Daphne and Jackie, as well as a load of other people, such as this guy called Nick who makes me die with laughter because he is fantastically posh and seems to hate everyone and everything in a thoroughly good natured sort of way, if you can understand that. He’s sort of a cross between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Clarkson – he’s a tinker, and you can’t help but love him all the same. After a while chatting with those guys, I noticed Jacqui and Anna were actually sunbathing on the bow, so scurried downstairs to take the piss.
After the ship cruise, we saddled up for another Zodiac cruise, and I was gratified to discover that once again, the Zodiac gods had smiled on me and I was in Jamie’s boat, but this time with my other favourite group, the Robertsons. Jacqui had produced this fantastic green and yellow zinc stuff from somewhere, which I was dying to put on but didn’t get round to. She put some on Jamie though, and again, the stoutest of crushes can waver when looking at a man wearing inexpertly applied fluorescent green sunscreen all round his mouth. Bless.
That afternoon’s cruise around Larsen Harbour was beautiful – Daphne was doing her first proper kayaking trip, which looked fun but cost an extra thousand dollars, and since I prefer zipping
about in the Zodiacs anyway, I deemed it not worth the cash. Anyway, we came up alongside them, Jamie joking about flipping them which I would have been into until I realised that I liked pretty much everyone doing the kayaking (Jackie, Fraser, Deb, Sue and Karen were all in there too). We saw this amazing little ice cave, we saw Weddell seals (another new species for the mental rolodex), we got stuck in the kelp and had to use the oars, and we did all of this in blazing sunshine. Once again, I can’t believe how lucky we got in terms of weather. We are far too badly behaved to deserve all this good fortune.
After our return to the boat, we hung out admiring the icebergs from the deck for a bit, before heading off to dinner and then to the bar. There’s a guy onboard called David Sinclair, who is
many things – a photographer, a party animal, and bloody gorgeous being just three of them. Anyway, it was his birthday, which we had actually begun celebrating the night before (because it was already his birthday in Oz). In fact, I think he may have been instrumental in getting Brett to let us play with his paint. Since it was still his birthday in our time zone, we continued with the shenanigans that night – making a birthday last about 38 hours is a skill, to be sure. I don’t recall exactly what occurred, but I do remember he and Hannah filled water glasses, put them on their heads, and then danced around for quite some time. The balance those two have while tipsy is astonishing. Thoroughly excellent evening.