25 January 2010



goodbyes on the old Macalvi-- the Club de Yates, where our immigration-inspector friend joins us for a last goodbye and some more stamps in our passports. it seems, at this point, as if we know everyone in the town, both in uniform and office, and in street clothes with families. all are there to see us off, even fluffy Luli, who gets into trouble with another small dog running around the deck of the Macalvi. Gaby shuts her in the van. a few minutes later, there is a persistent honking, then a long, desperate beeeeeeeeep! and we all look up to see Luli at the wheel of the white van, leaning on the wheel.

a speedy ride in a covered zodiac, extremely choppy at first, like a mechanical bull-ride, then calmer, and progressively colder as we head west. after more than an hour, we dock incongruously next to a massive cruise ship in the port of ushuaia. I gape at the activity: shipping crates, planes, catamarans, ships of all nationalities and sizes. the clear kelpy water is glazed with oil and scum. exhaust fumes sting in my nostrils.

refugees from the wilderness, having left the anachronism of the tiny, peaceful comun naval, we've landed up in what seems to be one of the busiest ports of international tourism. there are a striking number of people over sixty. it seems that traveling to the extreme southern hemisphere is even more of a craze than i'd envisioned. the streets teem with people, cars, flatbed trucks, antarctic tourist offices, pictures of penguins and seals, glossy shopping bags. I see a single black dog traipse across the square with a giant piece of bloody red meat swinging from its jaw.

the distance across to Puerto Navarino is massive. Lynne Cox is a superheroine. I feel our little there-and-back shrink in comparison with her six-mile, three-hour channel charge.

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