First an update on the incarceration:
I’m feeling a bit better today (Friday, February 14). The fever seems to be mostly gone and so far no real negative side effects for either one of us from the Tamiflu (it can cause stomach upset). I’m a bit depressed sitting here knowing I’m trapped in this room until tomorrow evening. I got a letter from Guest Relations confirming the quarantine and telling me, in a nice way, that actions would be taken if I violate the quarantine and leave the room. Apparently I can watch pay-per-view movies for free – woo-hoo. The wonderful concierge representative Steve has worked with for the interviews (Anca) sent me beautiful flowers.
By the way, for those that are interested, I did get a flu shot last October, but apparently there are other strains making the rounds. What’s also interesting about this is that in ordinary circumstances, I have often gone to work with the Flu and I know that fellow employees go to work when they are sick. You run into sick people in Church, at the grocery store, at schools, movie theaters and other public venues. There are sick people allowed onto airplanes all over the world. The negative publicity that cruise lines get for Norovirus and Influenza outbreaks have led to extraordinary measures that seem to have gone a bit “overboard” (pun intended), but I guess they don’t want a full-blown epidemic, especially with elderly passengers on board. I could have toughed it out, but I might have gotten worse, especially since I have asthma. We talked to an older gentleman at the medical facility who was having a follow-up exam and he told us that on another cruise, he tolerated a respiratory infection and ended up in the hospital for 15 days after he got home, so he wasn’t taking any chances this time when he started feeling ill. For the other folks on our small bus for our excursion yesterday, it’s probably too late for them as I was coughing and sneezing quite a lot. I suspect that all of the days at sea on this cruise (too many, actually, in our opinion and most of them necessitating being indoors) resulted in excessive exposure in closed conditions to other passengers or crew members who are sick. In retrospect, we also both recalled seeing that the lymph nodes in my neck seemed swollen starting late last week.
Steve was able to get one of the other members of our Roll Call to take over the tour in Montevideo tomorrow and our cancellation freed up space for two other folks who wanted to go. We won’t get to claim the country but I guess we’re not missing much. One of the other members of our Roll Call, Mic from Australia, has been laid up with a very badly swollen ankle (he aggravated an old sport injury); he and his wife have a long post-cruise extension planned to Iguazu Falls, Rio de Janeiro, and Macchu Picchu and all of them can be physically demanding, so we hope he can get better.
This is absolutely the last time we ever try to organize a private tour. We thought we did the nice thing by having notes delivered to all of the rooms of the folks going on the tour, only to find out that more than half of them had last-minute room upgrades and changes. I just got off the phone with some guy who could barely speak English who got one of the notes and thought he was invited on this tour. Grrr…
I will be absolutely stir crazy by this point tomorrow.
Now, on to other things from Wednesday and Thursday:
On Wednesday, we got a VIP invitation for a Bridge tour with the Captain himself! We enjoyed Captain Sympouris’ descriptions of how the azipods and bow thrusters work and how the ship must always be working against its #1 enemy, the wind. We also found out that the wind on Saturday morning in the southern Drake Passage as we got near the Schollert Channel in Antarctica was around 70 Knots, which is right at their “comfort limit” on this ship. This was obviously not advertised at the time. They actually considered not proceeding into the Gerlache strait and Paradise Bay because of the wind conditions, very cold temperatures and ice buildup on the ship, but they got a more favorable forecast from stations and ships in the area, so felt confident in going as planned. The crew has an Ice Master for this voyage, who understands the movement and flow of the ice in Antarctica. Fascinating!
Wednesday afternoon, we went to a lecture that was advertised as an overview of the Scott and Shackleton expeditions. Instead, the Cruise Director and lecturer spent most of the time interviewing the ship’s Ice Master, who is from Argentina, about an icebreaker rescue he was involved with in 2002 of a German supply ship that became trapped in ice south of the Shetland Islands during the Antarctic winter. This was quite interesting, but a little tedious as the Ice Master only spoke Spanish, so everything had to translated. The lecture on Scott and Shackleton was limited to about five minutes, which was probably a good thing as the lecturer, one “Mickey Live”, destroyed his credibility right away with slides prominently featuring the name “Earnest Shackleton” and also misspoke about some of the details of the Endurance expedition.
Wednesday evening, we skipped dinner again (at this point I was really not feeling very good and was probably running a temperature and Steve felt he was eating too much) but we did go to the show, which was the Argentine Pampas Devils. These four extremely talented individuals (two men, two women) performed a variety of tangos, did amazing stunts with bolos (rope with wood balls on the end that they slap onto the floor), did great drumming sets and also did other types of dances. Very entertaining! The bolos are actually used for hunting.
On Thursday, we arose very early to do our long shore excursion to the Valdės Peninsula. I did a quick shot of NyQuil and made sure there were some Ricola lozenges in my purse. We were docked in Puerto Madryn, which is located almost exactly halfway between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, in the vast Patagonia region of Argentina. This area is very arid and flat and the terrain is reminiscent of the Australian Outback or the west Texas countryside near Midland-Odessa or Amarillo. Our tour was to the Punta Norte region of the peninsula; the peninsula is a huge wildlife reserve and also home to several large sheep ranches (estancias).
Our first stop was at the nice, new visitor’s center (a great potty stop). The center has a little museum with some specimens of wildlife and a large whale skeleton. Just before we reached the center, we saw our first Guanacos wandering around (we saw many of these creatures before the end of the day). These cousins of the Llama, Alpaca, and Vicuña are very attractive, with cream and brown wool and they are the second-largest of these Western Hemisphere members of the camel family. Other wild animals that live on these plains that we saw included the Patagonian Cavy, a large rodent that resembles a killer rabbit blended with a guinea pig, an armadillo and Rheas. Steve saw Rheas twice on our way back (I was in a fever fog at that point so I missed them); these are the large flightless South American birds that are similar to the ostrich. I also saw a fox and apparently there are Pumas in the area. Since there are sheep ranches everywhere, we saw lots of sheep and also saw a genuine gaucho on horseback tending his property with his herding dog accompanying him.
After we left the visitor’s center we turned onto a gravel road to head north. We had a long drive on this dusty road to an overlook where we could observe beaches with sea lions. There were hundreds of noisy animals on the beach in all directions, protecting their new pups. The males were quite spectacular animals and bellowed loudly; one male was carefully guarding a pile of sea lion pups. This is one of the areas where Orcas come right up into the beach to grab unsuspecting sea lion pups and we were glad we didn’t see this brutal spectacle. After this stop, we headed to the penguin rookery, which is located on the San Lorenzo estancia. This rookery is home to thousands of Magellan penguins, the funny medium-sized penguins who like temperate climates (and hence populate a lot of zoos). These penguins look a lot like the African or jackass penguins we saw in South Africa in 2009. We walked on a trail through the rookery, which extends back from the beach for a kilometer or more. This was a lot of fun, as the silly birds would walk right in front of you or actually had nests in the middle of the trail. The young penguins are getting to the ugly molting stage, but were still adorable. The birds were very noisy and curious; I found that if you gently talked to them they would cock their heads back and forth and take a step closer, as if they wanted to understand. It was nice and warm in the sun and I enjoyed the walk even though I wasn’t feeling well. I finally got my close-ups of penguins on this trip!
After the walk around the rookery, we headed to the estancia for lunch. The food was pretty bland, actually, and included roast lamb, lamb empanadas (no flavor at all that I could detect) and a caramel dessert. There was wine as well, which I normally love but I only had a little bit. We then started the long drive back to the Port and the rest is history as I went to medical when we got back, Oh, and it cost us $350 for the medical adventure. Time to check the travel insurance.
There will be very little else to report on for this trip, except for our shore excursion on Sunday in Buenos Aires on the way to the airport. I am hoping for four things:
1) Release from this quarantine tomorrow evening;
2) No side effects from the Tamiflu;
3) Steve avoids catching this nasty stuff;
4) An on-time and event-free journey home Sunday evening. I want to go home very badly now; as far as I’m concerned the trip is over.