Thursday, February 25, 2016

In Search of Penguins, Falkland Islands

Magellanic Penguins

 It was crew change day and I decided to do something special while waiting for my flight.  Crew change, by the way, means that I am going home after a normal rotation of 4 weeks in the oil rig.  This time, the rig was located in the southern most part of the world, almost touching Antartica, it’s in the Falkland Islands, just about the tip of South America, near Chile.  The place is nothing quite like the places I’ve been to, the land is almost barren, there were no trees and the season is opposite to what I was used to.  I have lived and travelled all my life above the equator.  Furthermore, this is the first place where I first experienced SNOW, I was so thrilled when I felt the ice on my palms, it was a momentous event.  One of the best parts of my stay here was seeing the penguins in their natural habitat!

Gypsy Cove

 Before reaching the penguins, we passed by the Whalebone Cove.  There you can see actual whale bones which was quite interesting.  Whaling and sealing contributed to the early economic growth of the Falkland Islands. 

Whale bone

Upon walking farther, my companions and I encountered some nice rock formations and landscapes.

Beautiful landscape and rock formations

 The Falkland Islands is under the British government, however, the Argentinians also claimed them maybe because of the proximity.  History dictates that a war came into action between the two countries (1982) regarding ownership of the islands and one of the consequences were the land mines on the shore.  The Brits won the war eventually.

Land mines!  Be careful.

 After a long walk, we reached the Gypsy cove.  This is the place where you can appreciate the cute and awesome Magellanic penguins.  They are named after the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, who also discovered the Philippines.  Living all my life in the tropics, I had no idea how the penguins thrive.  My companions and I reached the area around 2 pm and at that time, as the locals reminded us, most of the penguins are out into the sea to fish.  Luckily, we were able to see some of them.  Apparently, the penguins borrow under the soil to breed, lay eggs and protect their youngsters.  The burrows are approximately 50 meters away from the shore.  They are considered good parents because they nurture their chicks to adulthood and the mother and father take shifts in watching the little ones.  They are also considered good wives and husbands because they only mate with the same partner and they can recognize their partner with the "mating call".

A cuddly and flightless bird.

We saw penguins inside the burrows and just like a child, we were so excited to take some pictures.  One penguin finally came out and I stealthily followed it towards the shore.  It walked like a baby who is trying to steady his gait.  It stood erect and ran to the beach with its wings flapping at its sides, definitely like the ones you see in the movies.   I ran towards the penguin when it swam to the sea and disappeared.   I didn’t realized that I was already in the beach and I was already in the restricted part of the bay.  The sand was pure white, white as sugar and fine as sugar, it was magnificent!  God really made wondrous things.

An adult Magellanic penguin stands 2 feet tall.

The island also boasts of another wildlife, the seals!  They look so lazy, maybe in real life they really are.  

The lazy-looking seals.

Time really flies when you are having fun.  My companions already told me that it is time to go back.  We walked one hour and 30 minutes to our mini hotel but it seemed like two hours to me.   I had fun, the penguins were great.  In my life, I thought, I would only see them in the movies but there I was, face to face with the waddling flightless birds.

The start of a long walk to our mini-hotel.  The British, the Canadian and the French.
 I wrote this blog aboard Cathay Pacific Airlines, which was a 13-14 hours flight from London to Hong Kong.  The airline offered excellent white wine.  If there is a term for “drunk dialing” then this is considered to be “drunk blogging”.  I hope you have enjoyed my words which was half inspired by alcohol!  

The penguin and me.

Photo credits:  Some of the photos were taken by our Chief Engineer, Pal Eikrem, with his Nikon camera and the rest were taken by the author using a mobile camera, Lenovo S920.  You should be able to see the difference.  LOL!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Cebu and Beyond

Best Western Sand Bar Resort, Mactan, Cebu, Philippines

This is my version of a travel blog.  It was my dream to travel to other places ever since I was a child.  I became ecstatic when my career shift lead me to my dream.  I started traveling late 2013 and my eyes were opened to a whole new world (just like the song but without the magic carpet).  

This blog was initially made only to showcase my home city (Cebu) and the other places that I have explored.  However, as I evolve as a writer, I realized that a blog can reach out to all kinds of people around the world.  It made me think that this can be a medium to help others.  It would be a perfect Miss Universe answer and a cliche but I do want to make things better, I do want to make this world a better place.  I have learned many things during my travels and I hope to impart them to my readers.  I am a medical doctor so I also give out medical advice from time to time.

Food, beach, travels, events and interesting sites are all featured here.  Since this is my personal blog, I also write some of my personal thoughts on just about anything.  Do enjoy reading!

Love on top at Uncle Butch's farm in Busay, Cebu.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

London at Night

London Eye

"London is magical at night" enthusiastically spoken by my friend when we strolled the city at 6pm.   I do agree!  The temperature was perfect, it was around 10-13 deg Celsius (autumn), and the lights lit up the city.  The hotel I was staying was in Gatwick, so I had to take the train to reach central London.  The trip was approximately one hour from Gatwick to Victoria Station.  When I reached there, I prayed that Shyalla and Aylona will be there waiting for me, if not, I'd be lost in this big city.  Shyalla, my classmate in med school, is a doctor in the Philippines and I'm very lucky that she was also in London visiting her sister, Aylona.  I had two free tour guides and later on, free dinner too, lucky!

We took the tube (AKA train) to Westminster Station to reach Big Ben.  This is one of the most prominent landmark in London.  You have to see Big Ben if you are in London.  It is the great clock tower at the north end of the palace of Westminster in London.  Its official name is Elizabeth Tower.  This tower was completed on 1858 and it is the second largest chiming clock in the world.

Big Ben

Then we crossed the famous bridge, where the last scene of the latest James Bond movie, Spectre, was shot.  Our next destination was the Coca-Cola London Eye, which is another must-see spot.  It is just a few steps away from Big Ben.  It is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel.  Because of its huge size, you can see it when you are in the airplane.  What a great sight, the lights are marvelous at night.

A small garden behind the London Eye

For our dinner, we went to Southbank station and ate at Wagamama, a Japanese restaurant but also serves other Asian menu.  Nice place and great food.  What was strange to me was that they encourage the customers to pay online or pay using credit/debit card, not cash. 

Wagamama Restaurant

After our hearty meal, we went to Waterloo Station to take the northern line train to London Bridge.  There were still so many tourists walking around, almost all nationalities in the world can be found in London.  The parks are clean, a good place to rest especially if you have been walking around like what we were doing or you can also read a book like that gentleman in the picture. 

The tourists and the reader

Before arriving at the Tower Bridge, we passed a great spot near The Shard.  It is the tallest skyscraper in London.  It stands tall and royal, like a space ship counting down to take off.  Click, click, click … then off to the next tourist attraction.

The Shard

The Tower Bridge (official name of London bridge) is a drawbridge, the central portion opens up to allow passage of a ship.  I was lucky enough to witness the event.  The bridge crosses the River Thames.  When we were at the bridge itself, I gazed upon the city, it really looked magical with all its light.  I am saying this because I felt the magic inside.  Being in London is a dream coming true.  Dreams really do come true.  I discovered the technique how to do that 3 years ago, ask me how by leaving a comment (wink)!  I am still mastering that technique.

London Bridge / Tower Bridge

After the Tower Bridge, it was time for me to go back to Victoria Station because it was already late in the evening.  I said my farewell to the wonderful sisters and thanked them for their time.  At the station, I was a bit confused which train to take because there were four or five of them and if I take the wrong train, I would end up somewhere far from my destination.  I tried to look for signs but there were none.  Fortunately, an Asian man came near and I asked him.  He said I am in the right train.  When we were seated he asked me about my nationality, I said I am Filipino, he is too!  What a coincidence.  We had a good talk to pass the time, I felt less homesick.

Thank you for your time, Shyalla and Aylona.

I finally found my way to the hotel after the train ride.  One mission completed.  Next mission is the “penguins”, not in Madagascar but in the Falkland Islands, my next journey.  See you in my next article.