So my trip has begun. I am on the road for just under three months, visiting Argentina, Chile, Falkland Islands, Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru. However, my real challenge is to get to Antarctica, the white continent. I began on 20th January and flew to Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina via Texas, USA. Four relaxing days were spent with friend I had met six years ago when in Africa. Rodrigo and Inma showed me around B.A, took me to great restaurants for meat, which is beef in Argentina, and made me feel like part of their family. It was hot in Buenos in the mid 30s Celsius, but my next trip took me to colder temperatures.
On 25th January, I caught a 6 AM flight to Ushuaia, the most southern city in the world and waited!!! This was my second visit to Argentina and I had stayed in Ushuaia before so I knew what to visit and where to go. I stayed at hostel Cruz de Sur in the centre, a great place with very friendly staff. I told them on arrival I was searching for a boat to Antarctica, all the companies I had contacted when in the UK had requested I take a companion or pay double for a guide. They were all charging too much. However, the guys, Alexandro and Vicie at Cruz de Sur, were able to help. They contacted a company that had a cruise leaving on 28th January for nine nights. I had to pay for a personal guide but the cost was much less than I had been quoted by other companies. I decided it was worth paying and prepared for what I hoped would be an amazing adventure.
Writing this blog 12 days later, I can confirm it was, and much more amazing than I could ever have a imagined. The ship was called M.V. Ushuaia, 85 metres long approximately with a forty person crew and staff. The passengers numbered in all sixty four, with another twenty joining later, but more about that further down. I took plenty of gear, warm hat, two different pairs of gloves, a couple of pairs of trousers with warm linings and tops and jumpers made with material designed to keep one warm in the cold and cool in the heat. I also had a fleece jacket and a water resistant jacket and water proof trousers. We were all given rubber boots and life jackets on board for the various landings.
On the afternoon of 28th January 2011, I went off on my adventure to Antarctica. Leandro from near Buenos Aires, Argentina, was my guide and companion for the entire trip and I must say now he was a star. We shared a cabin together and he looked after me as if I was his own son. He took photos of me in the various locations, of wildlife, described the animals in their habitat in broad detail and ensured I had a fantastic time and experience. I cannot thank him and the rest of the staff on board the Ushuaia enough. I met many of the passengers during the cruise and many became friends and although suffered my odd sense of humour seemed to cope with me for the majority of the trip.
It was fun, going to lectures about nature and the continent, hearing about the penguins we would spot and smell and hear in my case, god all the penguin poo!! It was so informative and interesting. Dannies, Andrea and the others all gave tremendous informative lectures.
After two days crossing Drakes Passage, really a large expanse of the Southern Atlantic Ocean, looking for Albatrosses and Petrels and trying to tell the difference between a royal and a wondering Albatross, we eventually arrived in the Southern Shetlands, the most northern part of Antarctica. On the early evening of the second day, we made our first landing by Zodiac, rubber inflatable boat, to Half Moon Island.
So I finally set foot on the Antarctic, was so emotional as I stepped from the sea onto the rocky pebbled beach, what a frill to reach the last of the seven continents. The next instalment of my adventure will have to wait for another week. Happy reading to all who experienced the trip with me, many, many thanks for an amazing time…