Here I am, at the end of the world! Since writing this blog, I’ve been to Antarctica and back, and I can hardly believe it. Before I arrived in Antarctica, I didn’t know what to expect – now that I’m back, I don’t really know how to describe what I’ve seen. I’ll do my best. All I know is that the polar region has implanted itself deep in my heart, and already I’m aching to go back.
Lots of people asked me, have you always wanted to do this? And my answer? Actually, no. Antarctica felt to me . . . out of reach. After all the far flung places I’ve been, even Antarctica seemed like a step to far. For one, there’s the expense. For two, the distance. And three? Well, less than half a million people have ever stepped on Antarctica.
A key secret to my happiness, I’ve found, is to keep my goals realistic. That way, when I get to do something I never expected, I get to be totally surprised.
As a result, I was thoroughly unprepared for a trip to Antarctica. Many of the people I’ve met on board the ship Expedition have been looking forward to this trip for a year or more, but I was only able to book a week before launch, via Sarah Scott at Freestyle Adventure Travel. If there’s anyone out there looking to do a similar last minute trip to the seventh continent, I would thoroughly recommend dropping Sarah an email! She was super quick to respond, really helpful with all my questions, and unrelenting in her desire to get me on board a ship. This was the only ship I wanted to get on because it worked perfectly with my itinerary, and so I was not an easy, flexible customer. She also got me an amazing price, which helped make the decision very easy indeed.
The trip itself was run by G Adventures, a well-known Canadian travel company. Knowing that they were the ones running the show really put me at ease – and for good reason. The trip was impeccably run, and the staff went above and beyond to make sure we had an amazing Antarctic experience. Kudos to G – and I’m sure I’ll be on another one of their trips before long.
Even landing in Ushuaia was incredible. I got the 4:35am flight from Buenos Aires (not so fun), landing at 8am in Ushuaia, and as I stepped out of the airport I was gobsmacked by the views. It was a bright blue sky day, the air was fresh and crisp and huge snow-capped mountains surrounded the bay. I was enchanted.
Ushuaia is a home for adventurers, hikers and – of course – polar fanatics, and it caters to them. I was able to pick up a few last minute things (key of all: warm socks) to round out my polar wardrobe. I was lucky that Sarah (of Freestyle Adventure) was lending me the waterproof pants and gloves that I needed, while on board a parka and waterproof boots were provided. So as long as I had a few other layers, I was fine.
We boarded the ship, the Expedition, at about 4pm. My first impression of the ship was one of surprised delight – it is very well appointed, and my cabin (which I was to share with three unknown females) was spacious. I managed to secure a bottom bunk (my main priority) and luckily there was no quibbling about that. My three roommates were all lovely – two were travellers from Toronto (who knew each other) and the third was a woman from Arkansas.
We all headed up on deck before long, taking advantage of the beautiful clear skies. The excitement on board the ship was palpable – along with a little nervousness. We had the infamous Drake Passage ahead.
What would that bring for us?