Two Ships: The Lady Rose and the Modesta Victoria

Aboard the MV Lady Rose in 2004

I have always liked Canada. While we were losing our minds and preparing for a second Civil War, Canada remained itself—calm, reasonable, sane. One of the highlights of my 20014 trip to British Columbia was an all-day cruise from Port Alberni to Bamfield and back. The Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound extends for many miles of isolated houses and logging camps, many of which were supplied by the packet freighter MV Lady Rose. I understand the ship is no longer being used for that purpose. On the plus side, she is at Tofino awaiting restoration at Jamie’s Whaling Station.

There is something about small ships that intrigues me. In Argentina, I took the Modesta Victoria on Lago Nahuel Huapi to Los Arrayanes National Park. The Modesta Victoria was built around the same time as the MV Lady Rose, though in the Netherlands rather than Glasgow. The Modesta victoria has recently celebrated 75 years of navigation on Lago Nahuel Huapi, which sits in the foothills of the Andes in Argentinian Patagonia.

The Modesta Victoria at Anchor

My day cruises aboard both ships were among the highlights of both vacations. The Alberni Inlet was lovely, abounding in bears and other wildlife. And the Modesta Victoria’s cruise to Los Arrayanes was spectacular. It is said (though probably this is a myth) that the orange trunks of the Arrayanes trees were the inspiration for the forest in Walt Disney’s Bambi.

I’m Not Finished with Argentina!

The South Atlantic Near Ushuaia

The South Atlantic Near Ushuaia

Even while I am planning my Ecuador trip, I am hinking of returning to Argentina. It is almost like another home to me, after three visits. This time, I am interested in traveling down RN 3 along the South Atlantic from Buenos Aires all the way down to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia (in Argentina) and Punta Arenas (in Chile). That is slightly over 3,000 kilometers. I may even fly to Puerto Williams in Chile, the absolute southernmost inhabited town in the world. Then I would fly back to Buenos Aires.

Along the way there would be the following stops:

  • Bahia Blanca with its famous Museo del Puerto de Ingeniero White.
  • The twin cities of Carmen de Patagones and Viedma, separated by the Rio Negro.
  • Puerto Madryn, which I visited with Martine in 2011 and perhaps some of the Welsh colonies around Trelew and Gaiman.
  • Comodoro Rivadavia, the industrial port from which Argentina launched the 1982 Falklands (Malvinas) war.
  • Puerto Deseado, visited by Magellan and Charles Darwin, called by naturalist Francisco Perito Moreno “the most picturesque place on the eastern Patagonian coast.”
  • Puerto San Julian, where both Magellan and Sir Francis Drake suppressed mutinies by executing the ringleaders.
  • Rio Gallegos, a key southern transportation hub and an old wool and petroleum shipment center. From here I can go to Punta Arenas (Chile) and see the Torres del Paine and the Fitzroy Massif. And from there, I could fly to Puerto Williams (a bit pricey, but comes with great bragging rights).
  • Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, where I’ve been twice and which I love. I’ll even stay at the same place, the Posada del Fin del Mundo owned by my friend Ana Bermudez.
The South Atlantic Is Not for Swimmers

The South Atlantic Is Not for Swimmers

Now that I’ve come to understand the long distance buses in Argentina, I know I’ll be able to travel in comfort and at a relatively low price. The longest stretches would be between Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia and between Buenos Aires and Bahia Blanca.

Except for Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn, and Ushuaia, most of the above cities are off the tourist route. I could live with that.

Land of Dinosaurs

Exhibit at Trelew’s Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio

Exhibit at Trelew’s Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio

The first book I ever read about Patagonia was George Gaylord Simpson’s Attending Marvels: A Patagonian Journal, about the paleontologist’s search for dinosaur bones in that windy desert that forms most of Argentina’s South. A sparsely populated country (less than one person per square mile), Patagonia preserves its paleontological heritage better than most populated places.

Near Nequén, there are three active digs that a tourist can visit. In Trelew, there is the attractive Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio. Even the airport at Trelew has dinosaur bones on display.

Last September, CBS announced the discovery of substantial dinosaur remains for Dreadnoughtus schrani, which lived 77 million years ago, measured 85 feet long, and weighed in at 65 tons—heavier than a Boeing 737. (I wonder whether it was a vegetarian.)

I probably will not spend much time digging for fossils on my next trip to Argentina, but it’s always fun to see what others have dug up in that desolate land.

 

 

Tarnmoor’s ABCs: Patagonia and Penguins

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

Killing Two Birds With One Stone, So To Speak

I was so very impressed by Czeslaw Milosz’s book Milosz’s ABC’s. There, in the form of a brief and alphabetically-ordered personal encyclopedia, was the story of the life of a Nobel Prize winning poet, of the people, places, and things that meant the most to him. Because his origins were so far away (Lithuania and Poland) and so long ago (1920s and 1930s), there were relatively few entries that resonated personally with me. Except it was sad to see so many fascinating people who, unknown today, died during the war under unknown circumstances.

My own ABCs consist of places I have loved (Iceland), things I feared (Earthquakes), writers I have admired (Chesterton, Balzac, Proust, and Borges); things associated with my past life (Cleveland and Dartmouth College), people who have influenced me (John F. Kennedy), foods I love (Olives), and things I love to do (Automobiles and Books). This blog entry is my own humble attempt to imitate a writer whom I have read on and off for thirty years without having sated my curiosity. Consequently, over the months to come, you will see a number of postings under the heading “Tarnmoor’s ABCs” that will attempt to do for my life what Milosz accomplished for his. To see my other entries under this category, hit the tag below marked “ABCs”. I don’t guarantee that I will use up all 26 letters of the alphabet, but I’ll do my best. Today the letter is “P” for both Patagonia and Penguins, which kind of go together in my mind.

Above is a photo I snapped on Isla Martillo, which lies on the Beagle Channel in Argentina’s Tierra Del Fuego. I had always wanted to go to Patagonia, ever since I read Paul Theroux’s The Old Patagonian Express and, even more, Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia. It was one of those places at the end of the earth. About six hundred miles south of Isla Martillo lies the Antarctic Peninsula. Even farther north lies Buenos Aires and the heavily populated temperate territories of Argentina.

Martine and I have always loved penguins. There was something helpless and cute about them, even though their fishy smell made them somewhat less than huggable. I think I was only able to get Martine to come with me to Patagonia if I could take her to places where she could walk among penguins in the wild. Although past “expeditionary” vacations in search of puffins and moose turned up a blank, I was able to deliver on the penguins—in spades. Isla Martillo was a small penguin rookery that was fascinating, and Punta Tombo in the State of Chubut was even more spectacular. We were there right around the time, to the day, that the Magellanic penguins were hatching. Our trip there was one of the happiest experiences of my life.

Do I want to go back to Patagonia? Absolutely. I’ve been there twice: The first time, on my own, I broke my shoulder by slipping on the ice in Ushuaia … but the second time was a charm.

Life always seems brighter when you could go to far places that you love.