Jan 22nd- 23rd
This has become our motto, and with good reason.
We are now at a place called 'The Neck' on Saunders Island, a spectacular peninsular between two hills, with glorious beaches on either side. The stretch in the middle is pretty much covered in penguins. And I have to admit, gazing out of the window and seeing them scattered across the land below, I had a proud (OK, possibly delusional) 'my people' moment.
From the opposite hill, to the left of my hat, you might just see our accommodation in the distance, a self-catering shack which can sleep 8 (in 4 bunk beds) but which Ursula and I, by chance, have all to ourselves. Plus the sea, beaches, surrounding countryside, ducks, cormorants, oystercatchers, albatrosses and, of course, penguins. Plus sunshine. No wonder there's a big, cheesy grin on my face!
While Ursula, camera poised, was patiently waiting for a miniature king penguin to emerge from the safe haven between its mother's feet, I had a thorough explore. This place is paradise. The colours, the brightness, the sculpted rocks and the wind-hewn shapes on the sand are extraordinary.
So are 'my people'. Here are a few of them: A rockhopper atop his special stone, who was as interested in me as I was in him; a gentoo frolicking in the clear, cool waves, and three jaunty kings dancing with synchronised flipper action.
One scruffy little gentoo chick had me in stitches. Every time I tried to photograph the trio of kings, who were posing beautifully, he scurried in front of them with triumphant squawks and perfect photo-bomber timing.
There are plenty of Magellanics here too. I love their particular quirk of going down on all fours, their flippers acting as front legs as they scuttle into the sea like turtles.
We dashed back to base briefly for sandwiches and dashed out again to make the most of being here. As the sun lowered toward the horizon, the beach shone like a mirror. Gulls wheeled overhead, their cries carried far in the wind. Penguin chicks were scampering about everywhere, chirruping with glee. Their parents' plumage glowed in the evening light and twinkled with droplets like jewels as they came ashore. Penguins gathered together, clusters of little, beaky silhouettes against the sky. We were utterly mesmerised as we wandered among them.
It was an evening of sheer magic, one of those times that fills you through and through with awe at the extraordinary wonders of this world.
In the morning we climbed up to the rockhopper colonies in the clefts of the hill. They do choose to nest in the most precarious places. It was a treat to see albatrosses again, this time amongst the cormorants and penguins in a giant jigsaw of black and white against the blue-green sea. Are these birds able to appreciate their sublimely beautiful home? I hope so. They certainly looked happy.