It has been 4 weeks since our epic journey to South America and Antarctica ended and we have now settled back into the routine of everyday, suburban life. It took about two weeks after we disembarked the cruise ship, for the earth to stop rocking under our feet and it was about a week after we landed back in Brisbane before our body clocks synchronised with the local time zone, but we have never recovered the whole day that went missing as, at 40,000 feet over the Pacific, the sun set on Sunday night and then rose on Tuesday morning.
Luckily the return flight on a LAN plane was far more pleasant than our flight there with Qantas.It was with trepidation that we boarded the return flight. Our ticket was with Qantas and their partner LAN. We wondered if a South American airline could compare favourably with an Australian one. Well, we were more than surprised to discover that it actually out-performed the Qantas service in every aspect. The plane was a brand, spanking new one, unlike the Qantas plane which had been built in the previous millennium. And unlike our Qantas flight, the entertainment system worked, the overhead lights worked and, in general, the whole experience was far more pleasant than our flight there with Qantas.
The only small glitch was our baggage decided to extend its vacation time and spend a day in Auckland, New Zealand on its way home. Our flight from Santiago was late departing and our scheduled 1.5 hours transit in Auckland shrank to less half an hour. Luckily, they held the ongoing plane long enough for the dozen passengers with the connecting flight to Brisbane, to make a mad dash through the airport and board the waiting plane; but unfortunately, not enough time to include their baggage. We felt sorry for the tourists who found themselves on foreign soil without so much as a toothbrush or a change of clothes while we were heading home to wardrobe full. And all that awaited us in our suitcases was dirty laundry.
All things considered, this was one of the most amazing adventures we have had. The sights we saw truly astonished us. Our luck held out, as at each leg of the journey we encountered great weather, mind blowing beauty and awesome natural wonders. The highlights included, of course, Antarctica where even the ship’s captain was astounded by our luck in being able to enter some regions that previously, due to bad weather, he had not been able to navigate.
The route the ship took in Antarctica.
Apart from a very rough patch after passing Cape Horn crossing to Antarctica, the seas were kind to us. To combat sea sickness, we wore Sea Bands, little wrist bands that apply pressure certain points to relieve the symptoms and they helped…..most the time.
The “Rotterdam” dining room on the M/S Zaandam offered, an all inclusive, huge variety of culinary delights and I even had the pleasure of tasting Escargot for the first time in my life; they were so delicious that I’m sorry I wasted 59 years before trying them.
As is often the case when you have a group of more than three females born in the 1940’s and 1950’s there will be, at least, two Susan’s. And so it was on board this ship; inevitably, at our shared dining table, we found, at least, one other Sue, Susan, Suzy or Suzanne sitting with us and this was at a table of only 6 to 8 different, random people each night, of which, usually 50% were male. Even our table steward was named Sue, although HE was Indonesian. A more charming chap you couldn’t imagine. He could speak half a dozen languages and loved it when I greeted him in Indonesian and delighted in replying to me in Dutch. Hubby thought he would confuse the poor lad and, one night, thanked him in Hebrew. “Todah”, Hubby said, only to have Sue reply straight back at him, without batting an eyelid, “ein b’ad ma” (the equivalent or “your welcome” in English). Well, hubby just about fell off his perch. Turns out there had been a group of 22 Israelis on a previous cruise and Sue had picked up numerous Hebrew expression. He wished us “Lila tov” each night, “Bokker tov” each morning, “B’tayavon” (Bon Appetit) as he seated us at our table.
The M/S Zaandam, carried 1312 passengers and an amazing 612 crew. Among the passengers on board, including us, were 213 Australians, 604 Americans, 132 Germans, 94 British, 41 Dutch, 30 odd Canadians, 12 Chinese and the balance was made up of over a dozen other nationalities. Proportionally, going by these numbers, based on a per-capita ratio, the Aussies outnumbered every other nation on board. To compete, for instance, there would have to have been over 3,500 Americans and a whopping 132,000 Chinese.
There were, of course, some anomalies in these figures, as we discovered when sitting at a table with 6 people of Asians appearance; when they asked where we were from, were delighted to find we all lived in the same city in Australia. It turned out that of the eight “Aussies” at the table, I was only one who had actually been born there. Another time, while soaking in one of the hot tubs on board, I was joined by, what appeared to be, 4 Indians (and not the North America “First Nation” variety). Until they told me, in heavy Indian accents, that they were all Londoners. Looks can be deceiving in this Global Village.
This is the final episode in the Antarctic Segals Blog. Our next great adventure is already in the pipeline and, as usual, will include a blog by yours truly. You can see it as it takes shape, click here to see it.