No more black coffee

When Mark and I finished our cruise of Norway and left the MS Finnmarken in Kirkenes, I had a bad case of sea legs for a good twenty-four hours after. Although the ship had frequent ports of call where we had opportunities to get off and explore the towns, I could not get used to being on solid ground once the cruise was over. I never had wobbly legs during our ports of call, however. Once off the ship I constantly felt my body swaying back and forth, and I even contemplated asking Mark to take a good look at me and tell me if this was actually happening.

I was very worried that I would suffer a worse case of sea legs once the Agulhas II arrived at Tristan. In this case there were no ports of call during our entire week on the rough south Atlantic, a far more rocky trip than the cruise along Norway’s coast. Once the helicopter landed on Tristan’s terra firma, I wondered if my legs would collapse under me, or if I would stagger like a drunk (which didn’t take long to actually happen).

My legs were fine and I suffered no shaky equilibrium at all. I was quite surprised, as I was preparing myself for a good three days of leaning against walls as I walked down halls.

Prices in Tristan are cheaper than in Cape Town, and compared to Toronto, Cape Town’s prices are dirt cheap. I spent only 86p for a beer at the Albatross Bar and it costs 35p to mail a postcard. That is an incredibly low price to pay considering the route mail takes to get to its eventual destination. Maybe the cost of postage is so low as compensation for it being anything but efficient. I bought some oversized postcards which would cost extra if mailed from Canada. I enquired what the rate was to mail these kinds of cards. There was no special rate, and they too cost only 35p. I would like to find out who among the 50+ people on my postcard list receives his card first.

Nights here are freezing, yet yesterday my blood didn’t turn to ice. I am bundled up like an Antarctic explorer. I wear a short-sleeve shirt, then a long-sleeve shirt over that. I then put on a hooded sweatshirt and do the hood up tight, like Kenny from “South Park”. Below the waist I wear underwear, my sleep pants and socks, with the sleep pants tucked into the socks so they don’t slide up exposing my legs. I have the comforter and bedspread wrapped around me as tight as a papoose, and only open up the sheets a crack when I start to run out of air. While I am not looking forward to the day I leave Tristan, I am however looking forward to the heated cabin of the Agulhas II.

There is a café in the post office and museum, recently renamed Café da Cunha, as well as a small café in a separate building next to Prince Philip Hall. This café features prominently in tourist photos because the word CAFÉ appears in gigantic black letters on the side of the brick building. At least those letters were black up until yesterday morning. Tristan’s famous café now has CAFÉ freshly painted in red letters, as well as a whole new cream paint job for the whole building.

My bedroom suffers a pervasive dampness. I noticed the day I arrived that some papers I had placed on my dresser had become cold and wet. They dried out fine when I laid them out flat. Clean clothes from the dresser feel clammy when I put them on and my towel is never completely dry. I have been here for two weeks already so I should solve this problem by asking for a fresh towel. This must be the way it is on Tristan.

Today was sunny so I embarked on another long hike. I started out wearing three layers, having learned that one must be prepared for all kinds of weather. However by the time my hike was over, I was down to no layers. I walked to the northeast, past the dump, Pigbite and all the way to Big Point. The dump is built into, and camouflaged by the lava flow from the 1961 eruption. There are a lot of old cars, electronic equipment, computers, and beer bottles beyond belief. Big Point is the easternmost point that is visible from the settlement. A very narrow stony ledge lies at the base of the cliff at Big Point yet it is extremely dangerous to cross over to the other side as waves crash into this cliff all the time, as I well witnessed. I sat on the top of a cliff gazing at the waves rushing ashore as albatrosses glided past me. They rose from below the cliff and crested the top where I had stopped to sun myself and eat lunch. It is quite an incredible sight to see these enormous birds come up out of nowhere and hover motionlessly right next to you.

This evening was a reception at Prince Philip Hall given by the Chief Islander Ian Lavarello on behalf of the Agulhas II passengers and their host families. Mr. Lavarello thanked the visitors and those who came to work on various projects. He also thanked us for contributing to the local economy, and even thanked those of us who spent money on stamps. At the reception I had the warm pleasure of meeting Mrs. Isobel Swain for the first time. Mrs. Swain was a young woman at the time of the 1961 eruption and she gave interviews to the press upon the evacuation of the entire island to England. These interviews are still around today, 52 years later, on YouTube, and I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed hearing her testimonials about life on Tristan and what the evacuation experience was like for the Tristanians. Mrs. Swain was beautiful and charming to talk to. Meeting Mrs. Swain was a must for me on Tristan.

Tristan gains a sizable chunk of its foreign income from stamp sales. I am sure that some of the stamps they produce never see the light of day in actual use by being licked and affixed to an envelope. I sure put the very patient post office staff to work on three separate occasions by selecting various denominations of stamps to total 35p. I made an exception to my usual do-not-use-one-stamp-when-you-can-use-six rule when I saw some special editions of 35p issues that I simply could not pass up. Most of the postcards I have sent are adorned with at least three different stamps, and some cards have as many as six.

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