By 0800 we had walked 400 meters from the ship to board smaller craft that would take us through the narrower channels of the Danube Delta. The idea for the early start was that birds and wildlife would be more active earlier in the morning. Our ship guide, Natalia, was bundled up in a coat but had not warned us of a possible morning chill on the delta which was indeed the case. But this is the only fault I can find with her during our two weeks with the group. Thus, I give a pass on this oversight.
When entering a main channel of the delta the previous day I was encouraged by the profusion of birdlife on a couple of lagoon-like areas we passed. I expected more today as we took to the delta’s back roads. However, the wildlife guide on the chartered boat made an ominous statement as we boarded to the effect that we would see a lot of birds if there were any still around.
It turns out that most of the birds that pass here are migratory birds and by the end of August they have began moving further south. One knowledgeable Aussie birder said she saw 28 different species during our 3.5 hour cruise and I take her word for it. However, there were no large, visually dramatic flocks. I sure we saw as many discarded plastic bottles on the shores of the delta as we saw birds in the surrounding vegetation. The main entertainment for me was not odd bird we saw but the few dozen anglers who were fishing from the banks of the channels. They were oddly outfitted and dressed providing a modicum of entertainment during an otherwise boring and chilly exploration. After our midday return to the ship, we began the long slow journey back to the Black Sea.
Tonight we had the most miserable of all affairs on a cruise, the Captain’s Dinner with all the speeches of gratitude and good tidings between crew and passengers. The leader of the French contingent was the most verbose of the speech givers and several passengers consumed more than one of the free shots of vodka that were being handed out by a crew bartender as the Frenchman had his say. I suspect the bartender had cranked down a few shots himself before he began passing them out to the passengers.
We survived the ordeal of the French orator and settled in to reasonably good dinner, the main course of which was, not surprisingly, Chicken Kiev. We had ice cream for dessert that was an adequate substitute for vodka for me.
Just about every evening I have spent on the Black Sea over the years provides a marvelous sunset. Tonight was no exception. And, as the sun descending over Romania, a sliver of a new moon appeared in the southern sky.
Small as it is, this is my 12th consecutive night in the same bed and I have not had to pack and unpack the entire time. This is a luxury I will not experience again until I return home in mid-January.