Every evening we would have a cocktail and watch the sunset over the Atlantic with absolutely nothing to impede the view. It was spectacular.
After two and a half days on the boat, Laurie and I were excited for our first port of call, the Falkland Islands. This little island in the middle of nowhere actually belongs to the United Kingdom, so they speak English and use the pound as their currency. That is pretty much the most exciting fact about the Falkland Islands. That, and the fact that sheep out number people 3 - 1. We didn’t have anything planned, so we just wandered the little town, and were done in only a few hours. It was probably the most boring place I have ever been.
Our next port of call was Antarctica. I was a bit disappointed because when we originally booked the cruise, we were actually going to be docking in Paradise Bay, Antarctica but changes to the law now prevented us from doing so. Antarctica is the most untouched place on the face of the earth, and it is important to protect its ecological surroundings. As of 2012, large cruise ships are no longer allowed to enter into Antarctic waters, to help preserve its environment. We were the last cruise ship of the 2011 season and therefore the last cruise ship ever to sail to Antarctica. Tourist boats are still allowed, but only small ones. When we were looking at prices, these trips ranged from $16,000 to $25,000 for 10 days. Way too much for me…I could travel the world for a year with that kind of cash!! Tourism to Antarctica has risen exponentially in the last 10 years and has left a lasting impact on the pristine environment. These recent changes will help preserve the ecosystem, but will drastically increase the prices for tourism to Antarctica. To date, of the over 7 billion people on this earth, only 600,000 of them have ever been to Antarctica. And I am one of those people.
We were going to be cruising by Elephant Island, Antarctica at 7 am, so we put on nearly all the clothes in our bags and were up having breakfast by 6 am. I did not want to miss a thing!! One look out the window and my heart fell in my chest. It was so cloudy and foggy you could not see anything but grey haze out the window. We ate breakfast and then got a spot inside on the observation deck.
|Laurie bundled up...inside. It was that cold!!|
As we got closer to Antarctica, the fog started to fade away. My first glimpse of the last continent was a bright white iceberg that seemed to glow in the greyness of the sky.
The water was rough, tossing the huge ship from side to side. Chunks of ice floated all around in the water, bobbing like rubber duckies in the bathtub. The fog lifted even more, and I could see the barren land of ice and rock. It looked absolutely inhospitable and amazing.
I could not stand to be looking at this through the window any longer. I pulled my toque down, nearly covering my eyes and zipped my jacket up to the top. I was going to brave the Antarctic weather. I ran up the stairs to the outdoor observation deck and was nearly blown off the boat.
|Being blown away...and wearing nearly everything in my backpack|
The winds were so strong that I could not breathe if I faced into it. But this was a once in a life time experience, so I stared out at the end of the world and turned my head when I needed to breathe. It was beautiful and intense. Most people in the world would never get to see this sight. That alone was awe inspiring. The land was nearly black, mountainous rock; the snow was stark white and made for such a sharp contrast. There was an ice sheet that jutted out of the land and stretched on for miles and miles. It is difficult to describe in words and impossible to capture in a picture. It truly is one of those things that you need to see to understand.
Looking off one side of the ship, you could see a dark and scary storm cloud moving in at an alarmingly fast pace. It was moving faster than the ship and was quickly impeding our view of Antarctica. When we couldn’t see anymore, Laurie and I decided to have a nap while we cruised our way to Paradise Bay, Antarctica.
|That damn cloud!!!|
I awoke a few hours later to an announcement. Due to a storm, we could not venture any further into Antarctic waters. The waves were 24 feet high and were going to get higher. Paradise Bay was experiencing a blizzard and visibility was zero. It was not safe for the ship to proceed. With no visibility, we risked hitting an iceberg, destroying part of the fragile environment, and possibly suffering the same fate as the Titanic. That storm cloud I saw earlier was the reason I could not make it any further into Antarctica.
At first, I was really upset. We had paid so much money for this cruise, and I had not been able to see what I wanted to. After speaking with other guests, I came to understand, that because Antarctica is so extreme and remote, this happens often. You put your fate in the hands of the weather, and cannot win every time. At least I was lucky and was able to see anything at all. So, even though it was not everything I expected, I checked Antarctica off on my list of continents. Six down, one to go!! Then I proceeded to look into Antarctica trips from New Zealand. I need to see more.
Since we had turned back early from Antarctica, we arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina a day early and had two days to explore the little town. Ushuaia is considered “the end of the world” or “fin del mundo” in Spanish. It is the southern most city in the world.
There was a lot to do here, and we spent the first day wandering around, taking a tour of the city and marvelling at the beauty of this little town. On one side it is framed by the beauty of the Atlantic, on another side the breathtaking, snow capped Andes and on the other side, the National Park of Tierra del Fuego.
|The City of Ushuaia|
On our second day we went on a tour to Beagle Channel (where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet). We set sail on a yacht, decked out in some serious boating gear, consisting of pylon orange, XXXL water proof jackets and pants.
The first stop was an island where sea lions and flying penguins hung out. The flying penguins are apparently penguins that got part way through the evolution process but not all the way. They look exactly like the non evolved penguins, but had reached the evolutionary point that allowed them to fly. We went for a hike on an island and learned about the natives, who were nomadic naked canoers. Westerners killed them off with disease and guns.
As we left Ushuaia, we sailed around Cape Horn, Chile. For some reason, the cruise gave us certificates saying that we have been to Cape Horn. Not sure why…or why we didn’t get them for Antarctica too.
We had a few more days at sea, then reached Puerto Madryn, Argentina. We were back into the tropical weather and finally, for the first time on this trip, I was able to put my toes in the sand. We spent most of the day walking along the beach.
Next we headed over to Montevideo, Uruguay. It was the 21st country I have been to. We walked around the city, saw the touristy sights and walked along the beach boardwalk. It was a Sunday and most things were closed, so we were only there for a few hours.
The next day, we were arriving back in Buenos Aires and were no longer going to be living in the lap of luxury. It was back to the backpacker life, with cramped dorms, dirty bathrooms and chocolate-less pillows.
Up next, Iguazu Falls and the quest for Brazilian visas.
Join me as I TRAVEL MY LIFE AWAY!!!