Friday March 17, 2017

We had an early appointment on deck this morning. Braving the fierce, biting wind that was buffeting the Zaandam off the wild Southern Ocean, we wrapped ourselves in jackets, scarves, gloves and fluffy hats, and stood outside, cameras at the ready. The more adventurous amongst us had thought about it, dreamed about it, read books about it, tried to imagine it. And, finally, there it was … Cape Horn, at the very bottom of the South America … and we were actually going around it!

During that great seafaring era when majestic square-rigged clippers owned the oceans, it was Magellan’s fleet that first circled this insignificant-but-treacherous rock. Subsequently, until the Panama Canal was constructed, Cape Horn was the main shipping route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. But, more often than not, these are the wildest seas on the planet. And countless are the tales of the ancient and not-so-ancient mariners who risked their lives, reputations and ships attempting what we did.

At the flatter end of this island there’s a lighthouse, a monument to lost sailors, and a house. But if I was offered a week’s free holiday down here, I think I’d decline. However, we Kiwis came and conquered … and we’ve each got a certificate to prove it!

Yesterday afternoon, we docked at Ushuaia, doorstep of Tierra del Fuego – the ‘land of fire and ice’! And there’s a definite frontier feel about this Argentine outpost. It’s about as close as the civilised world gets to Antarctica, the ‘White Continent’, and it’s set in a stunning wilderness of rugged mountains, forests festooned with lichen, glacial peaks and shimmering lakes.

We took to the chilly waters of the Beagle Channel (named after Charles Darwin’s 1833 ship) in a catamaran, for an enjoyable look at this unique region and its wildlife: sea lions, fur seals and birds galore. A bit stinky up close? Definitely! But still kinda cute …

PEOPLE NEWS: Another happily oinking pink pig has found a new home:

  • Kathleen was duly granted our ‘Stand Out & Be Different’ Award – for purchasing a lovely fluffy knitted jacket, unique in all the world, from the Zaandam’s shop. She wore it last night, a vision in white, but discovered that at least 79 other women on board had done the same. We spotted these dress-alikes everywhere throughout the ship, looking for all the world like a netball team come to town!

COMING UP: The bleak and lonely Falkland Islands seem to be perched on the rim of the world’s edge – and that’s where we head next, to check out the inhabitants: 3000-plus Brits (and others), plus healthy colonies of penguins. So keep those lines open …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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