Leaving the Falkland Islands behind us we steamed (diesel-ed?)into the night, and when I awoke next morning I discovered that my porthole was blocked by something, for no sun was getting in. I pulled the curtain back only to discover that the object blocking my view was a view.
We were heading towards Cape Horn and making our tentative way through a narrow channel whose banks seemed to plunge straight down into the sea. It seemed that only a few feet from our flanks icy waterfalls cascaded from terrific heights to the shores below.
I hurriedly changed and went up onto deck 12 where I joined many other passengers wrapped up against the cold, most of whom were touting cameras with lenses of various lengths and girths (I am sure that a psychologist would come to some very interesting conclusions: I myself have a little compact model from Olympus…..)
All morning, all day, we made slow progress through the ever changing scenery as cormorants and other sea birds accompanied us, swooping close to the waves and dipping their wingtips in for fun. Massive glaciers hove into view and we all tried to remember our ‘O’ level geography lessons, glibly pulling out such terms as ‘terminal moraine’ as if we all had 1st class degrees in the subject.
At mid morning the bows were aimed towards a narrow channel with an island on one side, the mainland on the other and the most perfect Toblerone-shaped mountain dead ahead. We were at Cape Horn and for the next couple of hours we lazily circumnavigated the Isla Hornos (darned if I can work out what THAT means).
I am reliably informed by one who knows that having passed the Cape from East to West I am now eligible to have a hoop in my right ear. Although as we went all the way round the island maybe I’m allowed one in the left ear as well, and another in my nose.
It was the most extraordinary thing but the terrain on the northern side of the island was almost exactly the same as the North Sutor which guards the Cromarty Firth in the Highlands of Scotland, where Liz and I retreat to each year.
As we turned south, so we seemed to pass The Needles from the Isle of White, and I began to doubt whether P&O had brought us to South America at all, and that this was all a great plot to save fuel.
Any doubts of our position on the globe were swept away however when we finished our circle and the captain guided Aurora towards The Beagle Channel. In the distance were massive snow capped peaks of the Southern Andes, which brought forth more ‘O’ level geography memories such as the well remembered joke:
Teacher: ‘Where are the Andes?’
Pupil: ‘At the end of the Armies!’
I had to feel sorry for those who were giving lectures during the day for very few people ventured from the decks, terrified that they might miss that perfect view.
Into the evening we sailed and so the sun shone brightly and the views remained spectacular.
The routine of life on board continued, and we all dressed for dinner, squirted alcohol hand sanitizer onto our hands, and rubbed them like hundreds of Uriah Heeps. Into the restaurant we went, greetings were exchanged, menus consulted, choices made. With remarkable haste the amazing meals were served and the noise of the chat grew in proportion to the amount of bottles that were uncorked.
Starters, salads, soups, main courses, deserts, cheese boards, coffee and mints came and went and slowly the restaurant began to empty as the guests made their way through the ship to watch Victor Michael, who was performing in the Curzon that night, but sadly for Victor the theatre remained sparsely populated because alongside the ship dolphins and whales had been spotted. There are many things that performers can overcome, but what they cannot compete with are cute dolphins and majestic whales: sometimes it is just a question of excepting defeat!
Into another night we sailed, and it had to have been one of the most remarkable day’s travelling that I have ever experienced – I had no idea that we would get so close and personal to the scenery and it left an impression that I will never forget.
In my final blog post from this trip I will talk about my time on board, and my shows.