08 November 2009

The Falklands

Since the previous post we have moved a long way. The trip has taken turns, both for the worse and for the better. I will take the better first and last, and mention the worse in the middle.
Our next stop after Buenos Aires was Puerto Madryn. A harbour city of 100.000 people situated by the bay Golfo Nuevo. A dusty place at our time there, and probably most of the time. The Argentinian steppe goes all the way down to the ocean, and doesn't even allow a sliver of greener country towards the beach. There are long, shallow beaches everywhere, and the harbour of Puerto Madryn is just two long piers erected far into the water.

After a very short night in a Madryn hotel, we were stirred at 5:00 AM, stacked into a bus at 6:00 AM and hauled along around the Golfo Nuevo to a place called Puerto Piramides. Like Madryn, it wasn't much of a Puerto, but nonetheless the starting point for all official whale safaris in the area. Unlike Madryn, the Piramides is situated within the nature park of the Valdez peninsula; a UNESCO world heritage area with strict regulations on tourism. Strict as in "No camping outside designated areas" and "No walking outside of marked paths". Yet there are sheep ranches in the area, and most if not all land is private property with fences to restrict the movements of sheep.

The whale safari was no disappointment. We were on the water for a couple of hours, watching the social interplay between a Right Whale mother and her calf. Photographically I fumbled a lot and got back with mostly useless images. The swaying boat, the constant competition for the best spot to photograph from, and the unfamiliar behaviour of the subjects all contributed to confuse the hell out of me. But I think I got a couple that will survive posting on the blog when I get the chance.

After the whale safari and a short visit to a Magellan penguin colony, we boarded the expedition ship, and left Argentina in the afternoon. Some time after dark we got caught up in strong winds and big, rolling waves. I don't remember much of it. Slept my way through the first night and most of the following day, dozed through the second night and spent the second morning finally emptying my stomach. Not much to let go of, but it released the tension for a while each time. The ship's doctor patched me up with a scopolamin plaster, and it seems to work. Much to my surprise.

At the time of writing we have arrived at the Falklands. First stop was Carcass Island, where we were invited to tea by the local residents. I skipped that, in favour of photographing a plethora of bird species that weren't really afraid of humans at all. Got lots of nice bird portraits. Took some landscape shots too, but the light wasn't the best for that.

Second stop at the Falklands was Saunders Island, with penguin colonies aplenty. Rockhoppers, King, and Gentoo penguins. Skuas, cormorants and albatrosses were also present and photogenic.

Right now it's Sunday morning, I'm sitting in the lounge at the Malvina hotel in Port Stanley, accessing Internet through a local wireless hotspot that I had to pay outrageously much to get access to. But it's cheaper than the satellite phone text-only option onboard the ship anyway. I have tried to upload some images, but the outgoing bandwidth of the connection is too small, I don't get them through.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story, very interesting.
I am waiting for your pictures.
Hope you to have a good trip from Islas Malvinas to the south.
Remeber Shackelton had not a very good trip, but at least, he carried Tío Peppe Sherry for the bad moments.
Good luck

Alunfoto said...

I brought Shackleton's "South!" for reading in quiet moments, but didn't get around to open it until the return flight between Ushuaia and Buenos Aires. In the mean time one of our guides told us all about Shackleton, and we got to visit his grave at Grytviken, South Georgia. I think it's fair to say that if I'd brought a good sherry for the same purpose, I would not have had any moments justifying even a single sip. :-)