Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You say Falklands, I say Malvinas

Tomato, Tomahto – let’s call the whole thing off.

When we arrived in Ushuia, Argentina we were there were a series of signs along the pier, including this one:


Just so you’re clear on where the Argentineans stand on the whole affair. When we booked this cruise we were more interested in the Chilean and Argentinean aspects of the tour, and didn’t really think too much about the Falkland Islands. And when the Veendam made its passage from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso in late November/early December  they were not able to dock at Port Stanley due to the wind, which happens about 40% of the time. But as the Falklands drew closer the buzz on the ship was kind of excited. People were excited to be visiting this remote area, with its dramatic history. We arrived early on our day and the wind was down so off we went. We had a tour booked to take us to see penguins, of which I will write later. The little corner of the Falkland Islands that we saw turned out to be very interesting and the Falklands visit turned out to be a highlight of our cruise.

Of course no sooner did we put to shore than the wind picked up. Our guide said that the day previous had been uncommonly warm – 20 degrees and still (isn’t it always the case that we should have been there yesterday?) By the time we made our tour and got back to Port Stanley the wind was blowing terrifically. Or, more likely, normally. Tendering from the ship had been suspended for a time and further shore leave had been cancelled for passengers. We wanted to look around the town, but could hardly walk about. We did, however, get blown into the local pub.


Typical English pub (with Christmas decorations) inside.


What that man will do for a beer!

The Veendam uses its big lifeboats for tender vessels. On the way back to the ship we had quite the wild ride – there were what seemed like big waves and it was bouncy enough. They had us really packed in to try and cut down on the number of trips required. And then we passed from the inner harbour to where the ship was moored. Yikes! The front windows kept nosing under the waves, there was water sloshing on the floor and except for some nervous giggles it was very quiet. But, the sailors and crew of the Veendam did a fantastic job of getting us safely back – they stood out on the gangway in the wind and the spray and made sure we kept our footing, they managed the tender docking carefully at both ends. It was exemplary service under very trying conditions. If we had arrived even a few hours later they would not have put us ashore. We were very lucky to have our shore excursions, and to be brought back safely. The whole process was quite protracted – we were to leave port at 4:00 and they finally headed out at 6:15, so we’ve been steaming along quite smartly since then.

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