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2007 Aug by Jorge Sanchez
Tristan da Cunha is an archipelago composed by Tristan da Cunha Island (10 square kilometres) plus Gough, Inaccessible, Nightingale and two smaller ones. |
It is not easy to travel to Tristan da Cunha. The island has no airport and very few ships go there.
During the austral summer there are frequent cruises calling in that island in their way to or from Antarctica, and they allow a short transit in the island (a couple of hours). Unfortunately, due to the frequent treacherous conditions of the waters, they very rarely disembark the tourists to the island. There is no harbour in Tristan.
Better do not count on that possibility to visit Tristan da Cunha properly.
In fact, only three ships have a regular schedule to Tristan da Cunha, from Cape Town:
- SA Agulhas is a research ship and belongs to the South Africa Government. In exchange for the lease of Gough Island for meteorological purposes (six South African scientists live there permanently) they call in Tristan and in Gough Island during their journey to the South African bases in Antarctica and accept tourists. They will be disembarked in Tristan during three weeks, after that they will pick them up to return them to Cape Town.
The problem is that, perhaps, 3 weeks is a lot of time for an island inhabited by only 270 persons with seven family names. The only activities are climbing the volcano (2000 metres high) during the summer season, fishing lobsters with the natives (if you make friendship with them), or playing golf.
- Edinburgh is a fishing boat that travels to Tristan two o three times every year to fish lobsters around the archipelago. They only accept twelve passengers, but the local Tristans have preference, so, very often there are no places available for tourists. Furthermore, they will never confirm you the place. You have to risk until the last moment (that is why they never accept the payment of the journey until the last day, that is, 800 US dollars for a round trip journey, including meals). Sometimes the tourists travel to Cape Town, wait for days, and in the last moment their seats are cancelled owing to local Tristans wishing to get back home, or to a doctor who has to travel to Tristan.
- Kelso, another fishing boat, has better conditions on board (the cabins are more spacious). It also travels two or three times a year to Tristan.
If you chose the Edinburgh or the Kelso to travel to Tristan, then you will spend around one week in the island before going back to Cape Town (although you can arrange a longer stay, arriving, for instance, with a ship, and going back to Cape Town with another one two months later).
Calculate about 7 days for the westbound journey, and six days for the eastbound one. In winter the navigation takes longer (In August 2007 it took me 9 days to Tristan and 10 days back to Cape Town).
In Tristan there is a hostel. It costs 15 pounds per night. You can live with a family and then they will charge you 30 pounds per day with the three meals included.
I can only recommend you to stay with a family instead to live in the sad hostel alone. At least that is what I did and was very satisfied. They prepared me delicious lasagnes, lobsters, beers, chocolate handmade cakes… I was really spoilt by the Swans family where I lived.
Tristans really love visitors.
There is Internet, Post Office, a supermarket where you can buy food, a bar with swimming pool, and a cafeteria open in the evenings where you can play billiard while drinking a beer (or more!) or any liquor (whiskey is very popular among the locals).
There is a Catholic and an Anglican Churches........................................................................................... IN SPANISH, GOUGH ISLAND: ISLAS GOUGH E INACCESIBLE UNESCO describe de la siguiente guisa este Patrimonio de la Humanidad: Situadas al sur del Atlántico, la isla de Gough y la isla Inaccesible figuran entre los ecosistemas insulares y marinos de la zona templada fría menos alterados por la presencia del ser humano. Ambas islas poseen imponentes acantilados que se yerguen como altas torres en medio del océano y albergan una de las colonias de pájaros marinos más importantes del planeta. Además, presentan la característica de que no se ha introducido ningún mamífero en ellas. La isla de Gough alberga doce especies endémicas de plantas y dos de aves terrestres: la gallereta y el semillero de Gough. Por su parte, la isla Inaccesible cuenta con dos especies endémicas de aves, ocho de plantas y diez de invertebrados como mínimo. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- En septiembre del año 2007 viajé en un barco pescador (Edinburgh of the Seven Seas) desde Ciudad del Cabo a la isla de Tristán da Cunha. La travesía duró diez días debido a los malos vientos y oleaje. Debido a la abrupta orografía de la montañosa isla, el barco tuvo que echar ancla a unos 100 metros del puerto y mediante una jaula descender a los pasajeros hasta una barcaza de la comunidad isleña que había venido a recogernos. Éramos solo 10 pasajeros, todos “tristanos”, excepto yo. Me quedé en casa de los nativos. La reserva y el permiso los había gestionado por adelantado con el gobierno de la isla de Tristán da Cunha por medio de correos electrónicos. El pago lo efectuaría in situ. Tuve tiempo de hacer trekkings, entablar amistades, asistir a misa el domingo, comprar un cirio, y divisar la Isla Inaccesible, situada justo frente a Tristán da Cunha (ver fotos décima y undécima). Tras diez días de estancia en Tristán da Cunha, el barco había pescado suficientes langostas y embarqué de regreso a Ciudad del Cabo, donde doce días más tarde debía volar de regreso a Barcelona, España. Pero a las pocas horas de haber iniciado el regreso a Sudáfrica llegó un comunicado desde la naviera del barco, ordenando al capitán del Edinburgh of the Seven Seas de hacer una escala de emergencia en la Isla de Gough, pues un meteorólogo se había vuelto loco. El capitán alteró el rumbo dirigiéndose hacia la isla de Gough. Yo le rogué que me permitiera desembarcar en la isla, pero él rehusó todas las veces que insistí, alegando que era peligroso y se jugaba su puesto de trabajo si me sucedía algún siniestro; nunca dio su brazo a torcer. Era la medianoche cuando llegamos a Gough y una lancha zodiac con dos pescadores fue a buscar el meteorólogo enajenado. Yo me quedé mirando la escena, con rabia por no haber podido ir allí. A decir verdad, el enajenado, vestido con una camisa de fuerza, estaba ya abajo, y de haber ido a Gough no habría podido subir por un tipo de ascensor arriba, donde se halla la base meteorológica. Pero, igualmente, me habría gustado “pisar” la isla y no conformarme con sólo verla desde la distancia. Esa noche el capitán echó ancla frente a Gough y zarparíamos de madrugada. Ese desvío supuso una pérdida de dos días de tiempo y, en consecuencia, perdí mi billete de avión de regreso a Barcelona, en España. Me pregunto: si un turista viene a Barcelona y visita la Sagrada Familia por fuera, todas sus fachadas, pero se asusta de la larga cola para comprar un billete para ver su interior, o bien no quiere pagar el excesivo precio del billete, y no entra ¿ello cuenta como “visita” de la Sagrada Familia? Pues ese fue mi caso con las islas Inaccesible y Gough. Pero al menos las vi, y hasta observé cómo sus aves endémicas sobrevolaban Gough y graznaban al ver humanos sobre el Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Eso es mejor que nada ¿no? ................
2004 Jan by Ted Cookson
"A Cruise to Tristan da Cunha Island in the South Atlantic 15-28 January 2004 via the RMS St. Helena" written for the expatriate community in Cairo, Egypt by Ted Cookson in February 2004. |
The British island of Tristan da Cunha ("TDC"), 1,750 miles (2,816 km) southwest of Cape Town and 1,450 miles (2,333 km) southwest of St. Helena Island, is the most remote inhabited island in the world. Roughly midway between Cape Town and Montevideo and situated just east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, TDC rises spectacularly some 18,000 feet (5,486 meters) from the seabed; and its peak, snow-covered during the Southern Hemisphere winter, lies 6,760 feet (2,060 meters) above sea level.
Discovered by the Portuguese admiral Tristao da Cunha in 1506, TDC has been inhabited almost continuously since 1810 due to the activities of sealers who operated in the South Atlantic during the nineteenth century. A small British garrison was also placed on the island during the early years of Napoleon?s captivity on ?nearby? St. Helena.
The correct pronunciation of the Portuguese admiral's name is "tristan da koon'yah." However, the modern-day inhabitants pronounce the name of their island "tristan da koo'nah."
I have been fascinated by the geography and history of remote TDC since
I began collecting stamps as a young teenager in the early 1960?s. In 1999 I joined the St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Philatelic Society. But it was my passion to complete the list of 317 world destinations compiled by the 1,500-member Travelers' Century Club of Los Angeles which recently drove me to take a 13-day cruise round trip from Cape Town to TDC on a luxury cargo vessel, the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena (?RMS?).
Launched in 1989 by HRH The Prince Andrew, the RMS was the first vessel to be purpose-built for the shipping service to U. K.?s South Atlantic islands of St. Helena, Ascension and TDC. In addition, it was the first passenger ship to be constructed in Britain since the QE2 had been built two decades earlier.
As we sailed out of Cape Town Harbor, the view from the deck of the RMS was stunning. Cape Town, with dramatic Table Mountain behind, is the most beautiful port in the world. Half way to Cape Point, the RMS turned abruptly and headed toward TDC which lay about 1,748 miles (2,812 km) to the west.
TDC, a dependency of St. Helena, is administered by the governor of that island, to whom a permanent administrator on TDC reports. The current governor, H. E. David Hollamby, was also on board the RMS for its final round trip sailing to TDC. Although the RMS has a capacity of 128 passengers, only 57 were on board for this cruise, along with 56 crew members. And the RMS was carrying only 38 metric tons of cargo to TDC even though the ship has a cargo capacity of 2,030 metric tons. Sadly, Governor Hollamby said that it had become impossible to justify the expense of the annual RMS voyage to TDC when usage was so low.
Due to rain and clouds on the morning of 21 January, TDC could not be seen until the RMS was only about two miles (3 km) away! Africa Pilot, published by the U. K. Hydrographic Office, says that TDC, at 37 degrees, 7 minutes S., 12 degrees 18 minutes W., is a "truncated cone about 6 miles in diameter with its sides rising at an angle of about 45 degrees to a central peak 2,060 meters in height. The sides of the island consist of walls of inaccessible cliffs from 300 meters to 610 meters in height which rise, except on its northwest side, directly from the sea. On this side there is, in front of the cliffs, a comparatively low grassy slope from 30 meters to 60 meters high which terminates in Herald Point, the northwest extremity of the island. The sides of the mountain mass as far as the central dome are covered with brushwood intermixed with ferns and long grass. But above 1500 meters, coinciding with the normal upper level of clouds, the mountains consist of loose stones and volcanic rubble with occasional rocks and boulders."
The RMS dropped anchor off Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, TDC's only settlement. Formerly called Somerset, Edinburgh had been renamed after the 1867 visit of HRH The Prince Albert, second son of Queen Victoria. Interestingly, the current Duke of Edinburgh, HRH The Prince Philip, also visited TDC. The population of Edinburgh is 285.
Upon our arrival, some of the crew began fishing off the poop deck for yellowfish and five fingers using hooks and lines with bait; and it seemed as if they were pulling in one fish after the next. As soon as one fish was snagged, hauled in and placed in a plastic sack, each fisherman re-baited and awaited the next bite, which didn't take long. The waters off TDC are simply teeming with fish.
The first boat out to the RMS carried the administrator, the island?s only policeman and three immigration officials who sat at a table in the main lounge where passengers who wished to go ashore paid a Sterling 15 (USD 28) landing fee. Passports were stamped using a rubber stamp with a design showing a yellow-nosed albatross (known locally as a "mollymauk"), the silhouette of the island and the British crown along with the words, "Tristan da Cunha - South Atlantic."
Governor Hollamby's official party was in the first boat to go ashore. I was in the first of two other passenger boats after that. The use of a rope ladder and safety harness off the RMS in a heavy swell made it very slow going. Passengers had been warned how dangerous it can be to disembark and embark using the rope ladder as one?s foot can be crushed between the RMS and one of the small boats. During the past 20 years no passenger injuries had ever resulted from the use of a rope ladder on the RMS at TDC. But in 2003 one crew member did break his foot.
Edinburgh's shallow Calshot Harbor was named after the former Royal Air Force station near Southampton where the Tristanians had lived for about a year following their evacuation after a volcanic eruption on TDC in 1961. Calshot Harbor's two jetties had been sturdily constructed of double-ended anchor-shaped concrete blocks.
Removing the life vest I had worn ashore in the boat, I walked up the paved road to the often-photographed sign which reads, "Welcome to the Remotest Island - Tristan da Cunha - South Atlantic." Adjacent to that sign is a marker which points the direction and mileage to various points around the globe: Nightingale Island is 22 miles (35 km) away, the Falkland Islands are 2,166 miles (3,485 km) away and London is 5,337 miles (8,587 km) away.
After visiting the post office, I walked to the three-room museum and handicraft center. The museum featured a copy of the flag of Jonathan Lambert, an American who had declared himself emperor of the "Islands of Refreshment" (TDC) in 1811. The ensign of the Duke of Edinburgh, which last flew at TDC during the January 1957 royal visit of HRH The Prince Philip, was also displayed. In addition, a cannon ball and various old rusted implements were shown. In another room unique TDC wingless moths were displayed as were various geological specimens, a TDC crayfish (fishing for crayfish, or rock lobster, is the mainstay of the economy) and even the head of a rare Tasman whale which had once beached in the TDC Archipelago. In that same room was a photocopy obtained from the British Museum of TDC's original constitution which dated back to 1817.
Then I went by the Rectory to the Residency, where the administrator resides. There a vintage cannon rests on the well-manicured lawn near the flagpole from which the Union Jack flies.
Behind the Residency is a 9-hole golf course. Apparently a spare set of golf clubs at the Residency can be borrowed, and a certificate is issued to those who have played the course. Blue TDC Golf Club ties were also sold as souvenirs on the island.
As I walked up the paved lane along the side of the Residency, I noticed a number of canvas sailboats which had been tied down there with ropes in order to prevent their being blown about by strong winds.
My next stop was Prince Philip Hall, the community center. The roof of this building was blown off during a hurricane which struck Edinburgh in May 2001. Currently the school hall nearby is used for community gatherings.
I walked through the paved lanes of the settlement past many small houses with lovely flowers in their gardens. The most prominent of the flowers were the hydrangeas. Strolling along, I was struck by the large number of automobiles parked in the driveways. Most vehicles seemed to have 4-wheel drive capability, but I did notice one small sedan car too. Painted bright red, it seemed a bit out of place. There was also a farm tractor with a flatbed trailer in Edinburgh.
Then I crossed a small stream and struck out across a daisy-filled cow pasture toward the lava cone formed by the eruption which began in October 1961. After climbing over a low lava rock wall and skirting a few inquisitive cows grazing in the fields, I hiked up along the grassy ravine adjacent to the volcanic cone, following some well-trodden cow paths. About half way up I turned and took a photograph over the settlement.
From my high vantage point I could also see Edinburgh's small water reservoir to my left at the base of the steep cliffs. The water drunk on TDC is precipitation that has fallen high on the mountain in the form of rain or snow and has filtered down through the basalt, finally emanating from a spring near the settlement. Those who have drunk TDC water say that it has a fine taste.
In January 2004 I enjoyed a unique cruise on the final voyage of the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena (?RMS?) round trip from Cape Town to the remote British island of Tristan da Cunha ("TDC"), roughly midway between Cape Town and Montevideo.
During my eight hours in TDC's only settlement, Edinburgh, which has a population of 285, I wandered into Jane's Café, the island?s only restaurant, where I found a number of other RMS passengers enjoying drinks, sandwiches and dessert. As crayfish (rock lobster) is the mainstay of TDC?s economy, it was not surprising that crayfish sandwiches were sold at the café. Chocolate sponge cake, beer and soft drinks were also available. The proprietress took little notice of me as she continued her knitting. A notice to the island?s 285 residents posted on the cafe's bulletin board by the dental nurse warned that appointments for the upcoming dental visit had to be made at the hospital before 28 January 2004. Outside Jane's Cafe were the only public W. C.?s in Edinburgh.
As I found the door unlocked, I photographed the interior of the empty Roman Catholic Church nearby. Although I had passed the Rectory earlier, I never did find Edinburgh's Anglican Church which is said to contain an old photograph of Queen Victoria.
Continuing my walk, I passed Camogli Hospital. The operating room and the X-ray machine in this facility suffered severe damage in a 2001 hurricane. Nowadays from the outside one would never guess that the hurricane had caused one-quarter of the building to collapse.
At the far end of Edinburgh is a typical British bus stop sign. Walking down the cement road beyond the sign, I found myself at the bottom of a steep, dry ravine. In rainy times I imagined that this gulch must turn into a raging torrent of water, pushing boulders in its path. The road was not paved across the floor of the gulch, but the cement did continue again up the far bank. I continued to the top of the far embankment and saw a wide expanse of grassland ahead. The paved road extended all the way beyond the grassy cinder cone in the distance to the Potato Patches which lie some 2 1/2 miles (4 km) away. There islanders cultivate potatoes and other crops. And I have read that on Friday afternoons a vehicle does in fact take residents from the Edinburgh bus stop to their "weekend homes" in the potato patches!
Then I walked to the school on the opposite side of Edinburgh. Along the way I took photographs of some of the settlement's dogs. Though I passed many dogs today, not a single animal barked at me and only one even came up to sniff me. In the school hall I purchased a first day cover from one of the women selling handicrafts and souvenirs. I also made a donation to the headmistress for the school.
Beyond the school toward the lava flow lie three graveyards surrounded by low lava rock walls. One graveyard is Anglican, another is Roman Catholic and a third is apparently for Freemasons. All graves appeared to be well-tended and most were covered with cut flowers. Outside the lava walls cows grazed lazily in the fields.
As I had heard that rockhopper penguins could sometimes be seen at Pigbite, the beach beyond the 1961 lava flow, I next wandered in that direction. The half hour walk over the lava flow to a beach with large boulders revealed where TDC's outdated heavy equipment and various pieces of scrap metal had been junked. This is also where TDC's garbage is burned.
While I never did find any penguins, my walk over to the beach was an interesting one. On the side of the road in the direction of Edinburgh I noticed huge fissures in the lava. These fissures could only have been created by earthquakes. Then when I reached the far side of the lava flow I saw a small waterfall created by a spring emanating from a point low on the cliff. The wind was gusting strongly as I stepped over a small brook and began to walk across a grassy field. There I was able to photograph a few skuas resting in a depression. The large birds let me approach more closely than I had expected, but eventually they rose and floated away in the wind.
From the beach I returned to Edinburgh. Realizing that I was hungry, I dropped into the local supermarket to purchase a small imported apple for eight pence. The supermarket stocks many types of canned goods and dry goods plus frozen items and even handicrafts, including knitted sweaters. While the fruit and vegetable department was nothing like back home, that was perfectly understandable, considering its location. In general, though, I was surprised at just how much variety was available at the supermarket. Adjacent to it were other stores selling plumbing and electrical goods.
In the early evening a final boat removed all passengers who wished to return to the RMS. I often prefer to be one of the last persons to enter a small boat in order to avoid having to rock and roll while waiting for all the other passengers to board. Consequently, because of my physical position in the boat, sometimes I am one of the first people to disembark.
That was the case this time. When I climbed the rope ladder up into the RMS, the small boat was sitting relatively still in the water. But I had to hang around to wait for my backpack to be lifted up along with all the other loose passenger gear. So I was in a good position to hear the horror stories told by those pale passengers who did not disembark until the very end. Apparently shortly after I climbed the rope ladder the wind had shifted, causing the small boat to begin to flip around fairly violently.
What kind of person would ever consider taking a 13-day round trip cruise from Cape Town to TDC, you might wonder?
The RMS passenger list included Jan and Kirsten, a Norwegian couple who seemed to specialize in traveling to obscure places. Jan showed me his passport which even contained a visa for the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which surrounded by Azerbaijan. This enclave is not on the Travelers' Century Club list and, interestingly, Jan and Kirsten had never even heard of the Travelers' Century Club.
TDC was the 286th Travelers' Century Club destination for George, a retired American doctor. After Cape Town he planned to spend five days on Rodrigues Island, a dependency of Mauritius, before flying home to San Diego via the Kalahari and the Algarve. George was finishing a five-month trip in fulfillment of his quest. And, though we are fellow Travelers' Century Club members, George's quest was much more involved than my own. In addition to traveling to all 317 world destinations on the Travelers' Century Club list, he was also trying to visit all of the world's major natural features such as deserts, etc.
Richard, the only other American on board, planned to travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway next year from Moscow to Vladivostok. Like a surprising number of others on board, he was a repeat passenger on the RMS, having previously sailed to St. Helena and Ascension.
Walter, one of a number of Germans on the RMS, was the Hamburg-based producer of the German television crew. He once spent a week filming on Jan Mayen Land, a Norwegian island situated between Spitzbergen and Iceland, and had also traveled to remote parts of Iran and Oman. Incidentally, Walter, who once worked in Cairo as a journalist and is married to a Palestinian, was the only other Arabic speaker on board aside from myself.
Stan, a retired professor of Canadian studies from Fredericton, NB, had been involved with philately since the age of six. His interest in postal history led him to visit some stamp shops in Cape Town prior to the cruise in order to check out their covers.
Others, like South Africans James and Tara, booked at the last minute and benefited from a 50% fare discount.
John, a discriminating traveler from London, planned to take an 80-day round-the-world cruise on the Oriana next year.
There were five Swiss on the RMS. Jean, Yves and Leopoldine, three friends from Geneva, were avid sailors who, in their younger days, used to sail their yacht around Europe at every opportunity. Stefan, from Zurich, was an experienced and sophisticated traveler who had rented a house and car for a week-long holiday in a seaside suburb of Cape Town nearly every Northern Hemisphere winter for the last 15 years. He confided that South Africa represented excellent value for the Swiss.
Stefan's lively and inquisitive friend Yalgin, of Turkish extraction but with a Swiss passport, was interested in odd destinations. Yalgin, who collected airline sickness bags, entertained us at dinner one night with stories about Busingen and Campione d?al Italia, German and Italian enclaves in Switzerland, respectively, and about Samnaun, a Swiss town which must be accessed from Austria as no direct road connection exists with Switzerland.
Dacre, a former pilot for British Airways and later, after retirement, with Singapore Airlines, and his wife Ann were booked on the RMS all the way north to Ascension. Both spent their childhood years in Chile, where they met. Dacre was fascinated by the controls on the bridge, and our captain took special pleasure in explaining the instruments to him. Dacre collected old airline timetables, some of which are apparently very valuable.
The remaining passengers were mostly British but with a number of Germans and South Africans also in evidence. Surprisingly, several elderly British were on the passenger list. Some were traveling alone. Eve mentioned that she had taken the RMS to St. Helena on another occasion and came along on this cruise to TDC as the captain had told her how interesting TDC was.
In spite of their varied travel experiences, most passengers felt that this cruise to Tristan da Cunha on the RMS St. Helena was a unique experience which they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Manager - Maadi
Egypt Panorama Tours
22 April 2007