When we traveled to Antarctica in 2008, our guide had waxed eloquent about how much he hoped someday to visit Tristan da Cunha, the most remote human habitation on the planet. We had never heard of it, but Jim never forgot his comments. A year or so later Elderhostel advertised a cruise across the South Atlantic that included a stop at Tristan. Jim was sold. Mary Ellena was captivated by the chance to revisit Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands. So we signed up. It was the trip of a lifetime in more ways than one!
That evening we met most of our group at the airport for the flight to Argentina.
Lovely! The mechanism that used to close the petals at night is no longer working, but it is still beautiful.
Many locals strolled by and there were others across the boulevard playing soccer. Down the street young people were gathered outside the art museum.
It was the only ship in the harbor this late in the austral summer. All the rest had already left. We were about to leave on the "repositioning cruise" that would take the ship across the Atlantic for its summer season in the Mediterranean.
When we visited Ushuaia in December, 2008, the pier was crowded with passenger and cargo ships.
This not-so-little one is begging its parent to regurgitate dinner. Yum!
At this point the albatross chicks were starting to grow into their adult feathers.
Gentoos, which raise two chicks each breeding season, were the most numerous. This poor parent, who is being pursued by hungry brats, may be wishing he (or she) never heard of babies.
The adult bird is beginning the moult and can't even fish for itself let alone two demanding youngsters. They, on the other hand, are fully fledged and could find their own dinners.
Christ Church Cathedral in Port Stanley is the southernmost Anglican cathedral.
The whalebone arch comemmorates the commercial whaling activities administered from here in the first half of the 20th century.
The "Southern Skies" portion of the theme was provided by former astronaut Rick Hauck (L) and Rick Fienberg, editor emeritus of Sky and Telescope magazine.
They gave us entertaining and thoughtful lectures about space exploration and cosmology. Unfortunately we only had one night that was suitable for star-gazing.
The Wandering Albatross is the largest flying bird with a wingspan of up to 12 feet. (Scale is hard to judge at sea.) These beautiful birds are threatened by long line fishing.
We saw several albatross species on our travels.
These six small islands, inhabited only by sea birds, are located on the South Georgia ridge south of the Antarctic Convergence and 150 miles west of the main island.
This picture shows why we didn't have great star-gazing conditions.
The still picture is deceiving - the ship was tossing here!
The boardwalk had been built to protect the environment, but we weren't the only ones that found it a useful thoroughfare. Many Southern Fur Seals make their homes here.
We also saw nesting Wandering Albatrosses and the rare South Georgia Pipit.
Ken Wright (in blue) was one of the expedition staff. He is a naturalist from Lillooet, Canada.
Our next stop that day in the Bay of Isles was at Salisbury Plain to visit the King Penguin colony there.
This is one of the few flat areas on South Georgia and was briefly considered for an airstrip immediately after the Falklands War. Thankfully that idea died.
These friendly young penguins are shedding the brown fuzz that gives them the nickname "Oakum boys." They are hoping that Susan Fienberg will feed them.
The rest of us were content to munch on breakfast while the ship took us to Stromness where we picked up the hikers.
In addition to seals and penguins we also saw reindeer at this site.
Everyone then explored the old whaling station, which is now a museum. The large white building is the interpretive center (and gift shop), but the museum comprises all the remaining buildings and machinery. The local post office was also a popular destination.
South Georgia was the high point of our trip. I wish we had seen more of it in the sun.
Kings are unique in that their 18-month life-cycle means that a colony will have birds in all stages of mating, brooding eggs and feeding young chicks at the same time.
The rocks here are the oldest on South Georgia and date back to the massive Gondwana continent.
Numerous glaciers come down to the water and split off the ice that we cruised through almost to the end of the fjord.
Now we set our course for Tristan da Cunha.
The Falklands/South Georgia and South Africa have played pivotal roles in empire and our current destination, Tristan da Cunha is also a British outpost.
Personally, as a confirmed land-lubber, I found the Scopolamine patch worked well.
The passengers would gather for a favorite libation and the constant supply of finger food.
Pictured are Mair and Hugh Lewis, Merle Wexler and Jim.
There was also an extensive library on board, a jigsaw puzzle, satellite internet service and other games to amuse us.
Ten times around the promenade deck was a mile and many passengers put in their daily laps - even with the wind and spray from the waves.
It is part of an archipelago of four major islands: Tristan, Nightingale, Inaccessible and Gough, all of which were formed as the African plate moved over a "hot spot" beneath the ocean floor.
Tristan is the newest of the islands by a large margin - an estimated 200,000 years old.
It was too rough to land, so we cruised to Nightingale.
I'm standing on deck 4 overlooking deck 3. This was not the largest splash I saw before finally going inside to dry off.
Unfortunately the weather still prohibited a landing here.
The buildings are cabins where Tristan islanders may stay when they visit here to "get away from it all."
At the left of the picture low on the mountain slope may be seen the cinder cone from the 1961 eruption that forced the evacuation of the islanders to England. After the eruption died down, they returned. The current population is around 270.
Edinburgh has all the modern conveniences except credit cards.
On the morning of our 2nd day we did get to shore.
The paper is the local Lexington News-Gazette. Every year they ask travelers to take a copy on vacation and submit pictures. Yes, this one got published and we had our 15 minutes of fame.
The captain of our ship had been to the island five times before and this was the first time he actually got onshore. We were very lucky!
These are spares that have been secured against the strong winds that are so common here.
In the old days these boats would have been made of sealed and painted canvas. Nowadays they are made of fiberglass.
Several Tristaners traveled with us to Cape Town as did one Cape Town resident who had been vacationing on the island.
It would have been lovely to be able to eat outside more often, but the weather did not permit it more than about three days.
Our final destination is Cape Town - four days cruise away.
John Frick, the expedition leader, even gave several readings - including The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with its warning against harming albatrosses.
Some of us were looking forward to getting home. Others wished the cruise would never end.
We were to spend two days touring this area before catching our plane for the long ride back to the US.
It was a blessing to be in a harbor after one of our roughest cruising days and nights.
This "Cape Dutch" home at the Blaauwklippen winery was built in the late 17th century.
We also visited the town of Stellenbosch.
The government is struggling to provide decent housing for these residents, but the process is taking a long time because of a legacy of distrust and abuse.
In spite of what you may have learned in school, the Cape of Good Hope is NOT the southernmost point of Africa. That honor belongs to Cape Agulhas, which we did not visit.
Their "song" sounds exactly like a donkey's bray and they were once called "Jackass penguins" before they received a more polite designation.
They are similar to the Magellanic penguins that we saw in the Falklands.
There were many lovely vistas and the individual plants were beautiful as well. There were numerous habitats and a vast variety.
I could have spent many more hours here.
But we had a plane to catch.
I may travel the world over, but I don't think there is anyplace prettier than Rockbridge County, Virginia. Especially in the spring.
This is Poague Run at Windward Farm, where I once boarded my horses.