By Christmas Eve, I am really missing McKean, who is in Austria on a mission for the LDS Church. It's always been hard to have it feel like Christmas when one of the boys is missing. Ski reminds me that the last time we were all together for Christmas was 2008. Ski was in the Ukraine in the Peace Corps in 2009, then in the midwest with his girlfriend in 2010. Spencer was in Russia on a mission in 2011 & 2012. I can't wait until the day when we can all be in the same place together on Christmas Day which may possibly be in 2014.
Mike, Spencer and I attend the Interdenominational Service where we sing 5-6 Christmas Hymns and hear some readings out of the Bible. That is really nice. We have dinner in the steak house restaurant on board the ship. The steaks are just so-so but the conversation is lovely and we talk nostagically about Christmas' past. The whole ship is decorated for Christmas and there is Christmas music playing 24/7. Some of the music is bizarre like the carol about what Christmas presents your going to buy your Dad or the one about Christmas cookies. About 1/4 of the songs they play we have never heard before.
After 3 days aboard ship, we arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile. None of the excursions on the cruise appealed to us so I looked on Trip Advisor (love that site) for something that would be both physical and different from our normal activities. Kayaking in the Strait of Magellan seemed like it fit both criteria. When we arrive it is about 34 degrees outside with lots of wind. For the most part we are prepared for the cold temps, except Ski and Spencer have no hats with them so we do a little hat shopping at the port. Ski finds a great Chilean hat which he ends up wearing on over half of the cruise. We wouldn't see temperatures above 50 degrees for about 6-7 more days. Welcome to summer in the southern part of South America.
Cristian from Kayak Agua Fresco picks us up and introduces us to our guides Claudia and Ricardo who we like instantly.
We have an additional group member, Claire, who is a biology post-doc from Scotland. They take us to the Agua Fresco farm house where we suit up in dry suits which we are very grateful for. I think all of us are a little concerned about the cold and getting wet but the dry suits are fabulous and keep us nice and toasty during our adventure. The beach area where we are launching from is only about a 10 minute drive away. Once there we unload the 2 person kayaks and receive some instruction from Claudia. I've only kayaked once before so I was glad that Mike is running the rutter. That takes a little finesse, not my strong suit. None of my cameras are water proof so I don't dare bring them with us, which makes me sad because it is a beautiful day and you can never have too many pictures.
Once we hit the water, Mike and I fall into a rhythm pretty quickly. All the weight training I've been doing that past year paid off. It wasn't long before we were in front. Ski and Spencer have to work pretty hard to keep up with us. It's always a good feeling when you can keep up with or outpace your 20+ year old sons.
There is a pretty strong tailwind going out. That coupled with the blue sky gives me the euphoric feeling of skimming across the water, much akin to the birds that fly right over the surface nearby. That euphoria disappears when we turn around after about 45 minutes and head directly into the wind. We had moved in pretty close to the shore so we won't be swept out to sea. My glasses are coated with sea spray, so I don't see the big rock right under the surface until we are stuck on top of it. That is embarrassing as is the ensuing battle to dislodge ourselves. When we finally get off, the boys are a good distance ahead. WE gird up and dig deep to get up the speed to catch up and pass them again. Mike is determined not to let them beat us. Even when Ricardo tells us to hang back a bit until he is on the beach, Mike still can't stop himself from pushing ahead. He is so competitive.
After pulling our kayaks back up on the beach we ask Claire to take a couple photos of all of us. It felt good, especially after the previous three days of consuming way too much food aboard ship and doing too little exercise to have worked up some sort of appetite.
Upon returning to the farmhouse, we strip off our dry suits and retire to the dining room where homemade fried wontons dusted with powdered sugar and a very yummy cake await us. There was a little potbellied stove in the center that I sit by to dispel the chill in the air. We visit with Claire about her adventures trekking in Argentina and her upcoming 2nd post doc where she will be studying the behavior of birds. It was a lovely way to spend Christmas...but I'm still missing Mick. After we get dropped off back at the port we walk into town. Nothing is open due to the holiday. There are a few vendors with carts around the main square. We buy a couple scarves, a hat for Spencer and a deck of cards. We also read that if you touch the toe of the statue it means that you'll come back to Punta Arenas. We want to return as some day we play to go to Antartica and this is the port where a lot of the ship leave from.
Once back on board the ship we decide to skip dressing up to go to the formal dining room in favor of eating at the buffet and playing some shuffleboard and cards. It is a stress free meal and everyones mood is light. Ski has some mussels for dinner. Mike has lox with capers. I have dried figs, nuts and cheese. A very eclectic Christmas Day meal. Spencer has 4 desserts. Now, if that doesn't say you're on vacation, I don't know what does. Merry Christmas!