Thursday, 26 January 2017

Punta Arenas

Sorry about the little pause in blogging everyone; I had a very nice few days away from the ship when we arrived in Punta Arenas. It was absolutely glorious. I stayed in a hotel called La Yegua Loca (the Crazy Mare- make of that what you will) which was great. All the rooms seem to have been themed. Mine was “El Lechero” which means The Dairy and not “The Lecher” as my father rather unkindly suggested. It was all very tastefully decorated though, so rather than calling it cowboy kitsch I’m going to call it gaucho-chic and just say that it was wonderful to have an enormous double bed even if, after months at sea, I huddled in a corner of it and didn’t starfish as planned. I had a shower that I could use without handholds...Luxury indeed.
Gaucho chic or estancia style?

Our first evening in Punta Arenas was great. I went with a number of the scientists to the Sky Bar in Dreams hotel. The bar is several floors up in the hotel which means that it commands a beautiful view out to sea or over the city. The toilets were no exception to this; the wall of the cubicle was glass from floor to ceiling with a lovely view of down-town Punta Arenas. This led to the slightly anxious hope that the glass was definitely one-way only. Or it would have been an anxious thought, had I not just had a negroni and a White Russian and was therefore more amused by the fact that I had coined the phrase “a poo with a view.” I shared this with everyone and kept nudging them until they smiled gently and told me, “yes, it was very witty Helen.”
As to the White Russian, I have absolutely no idea how The Dude drank so many of them in the Big Lebowski because they are exceptionally sticky and sickly. But we followed that up with an amazing meal of steak and shell fish at a restaurant across the road and I retired for the night sated and giggling quietly to myself. The food in Punta Arenas was incredible. The galley staff do a wonderful job of preserving the veggies that we get on board so we do have fresh vegetables for a long time.  However, after two months at sea...suffice to say that this salsa thing that Chileans eat with bread at the start of every meal? Well the fresh tomato and garlic was like a poem on my tongue.
I inflicted my Spanish on a lot of people. Our first night in Punta, we were on our way out of the security gate at the port when an irate security guard began shouting at the scientists ahead of me. Regrettably he didn’t speak English and they didn’t speak Spanish, so things were getting a trifle fraught until I sauntered forwards, a devil-may-care smile on my lips and enquired “Hay una problema?”/Is there a problem? (I may have been slightly less cool than that. But hey, this is my version of events!)It turned out that our security guard, possibly after clocking our nationality, was requesting that we try not to return to the port completely trashed. I may have mis-translated at first- I thought he was telling us not to bring alcohol back to the ship which seemed like a reasonable thing to say in view of customs- but I worked out later that he really meant not to come back intoxicated. What a lovely reputation Brits abroad do have!
And it’s really just a shame that GCSE Spanish didn’t prepare me to have that conversation. I remember how to planchar mi ropa/to iron my clothes, but strangely no one ever taught me how to say “Honestly, we won’t come back trolleyed.” What a gap in my education. And to continue on this theme, I have never had to discuss ironing my clothes with a Spanish speaking person; I am morally at peace with being crumpled. However I do like a grilled steak, and the word “planchar” means both to iron and to grill which does make me wonder if Spanish speakers think that they are grilling their clothes or ironing their steaks.
Regardless, I had a wonderful time babbling in Spanish at the poor defenceless populace. Mostly they were very kind and tried not to be too visibly distressed by the way I was mangling their mother tongue. I don’t like to acknowledge defeat though, so even when the people I was speaking to could clearly speak English very well, I still insisted on using Spanish. To the slightly crazy point where if I had forgotten a word I chose to mime it rather than just give way and speak English. Yeah, I know. I’m strange.
I visited a Chilean cemetery which was oddly enjoyable. Lots of mausoleums in which to wait out eternity.  
Mausoleums in the cemetery

Peace in your tomb

And I trundled around the Silesian Museum of Patagonia which was like a homage to the taxidermists’ art. The first floor was filled with slightly unnerving glassy stares from stuffed Patagonian wildlife. But I wasn’t able to linger for long because I was chased along by an exceptionally noisy family who clearly failed to grasp the meaning of the word “silencio” on the walls. I contented myself by sighing heavily and glaring at them in a wonderfully English-passive-aggressive fashion. The lower floor of the museum is devoted to the natural history of Patagonia. The upper floors have some interesting information on the indigenous populations whose numbers were decimated by “first guns and then syphilis and tuberculosis.” Patagonia had gold and lots of animals with nice skins and so people flocked to Patagonia and the locals didn’t stand much of a chance.
In the days that followed I went for very nice walks, ate a huge amount of food and finally succumbed to the cold that one of the Rothera doctors so kindly bequeathed me when he hugged me goodbye. He is dead to me. (Only joking Tom!)
I ate a lot. Like, a very lot.

I then returned my snotty self to the ship and was made aware of just how lucky I am. Waiting for me were a few surprises; parcels from my Mum and Dad; chocolates from the deck engineer’s mum, Elizabeth; chocolates from Victoria’s Dad, and finally a massive parcel from Kerri, my buddy from the first cruise. Thank you very much to those kind people; it means a huge amount to me. It’s surprisingly hard each time a crew change happens and the people that I’ve grown to know get off the ship and head for home whilst I keep sailing. I wouldn’t change this for the world; this is my choice and it is a wonderful job. But to know that people were thinking of me meant a huge amount and I just wanted to say a very heartfelt thank you. Thank you.


  1. You rock and deserve all of those treats and more to make you feel as wonderful as you are xx

    1. Thank you very much kind lady! I smell wonderfully edible this morning and have incredibly soft skin. Everyone sailing with me sends their thanks also, lol. So nice to feel girly! Hx