I've been home almost 3 weeks now so I figure it's about time I posted some pictures and blogged about the Antarctica trip. First of all, it was a magical trip. I'd not do it again, like I would Africa, but I'd also not trade the experience for anything. I went with Grand Circle Travel. I've traveled with them before and I like the quality of the trips they offer. The price isn't the lowest but not the most expensive either. I think the people that travel with them and the quality of their program directors is what sets them apart. My "pot luck roommate" was great. We got along so well we have decided to travel to Croatia together in 2014, so that speaks volumes of how well we were matched. Another thing that Grand Circle does is offer pre and post trips to maximize your travel dollar. For the Antarctica trip, the pre trip was to the Patagonia Region of Argentina. After a one day in Buenos Aires we flew into Bariloche. The area is basically the lake district of the Argentine and Chilean Andes. We did lots of hikes and saw incredible scenery.
We took several means of transportation to reach the tops of the mountains. Gondolas, Cog railroad and buses.
All afforded views of different lakes and mountains.
The weather in Bariloche is perhaps some of the wildest in the world. We were there in their summer season, but the temps were in the 40's and 50's during the day and it snowed in the mountains at night when the town would get rain. The winds were strong and there was no "in the middle weather" It was either bright sunshine (sparse) or blustery cold and driving, wind driven rain. And even with the sun shining that wind made it seem much colder.
We went horse-back riding in the steppes of the Andes. That "dust" you see blowing was actually volcanic ash from a volcanic eruption in Chile several years ago. (I believe at some point, we were only about 6 miles from the Chilean border.) That ash was a killer. It was so thick that many of the sheep that graze in the steppes were killed.
We spent 5 days in Bariloche and then flew back to Buenos Aires to meet up with the folks that did not take the pre trip. We spent 2 days touring Buenos Aires. There were some interesting places but for the most part, I thought it a big dirty city. I'd been there for a day several years back and thought the same thing then, so things haven't changed much! The La Boca district is interesting during the day, but I understand you don't want to be there after dark.
We saw Evita's grave. Still a draw for many Argentinians who leave daily flowers.
From Buenas Aires we flew down to Ushuaia, the southernmost inhabited city in the world. This is also in the Patagonia region so we were back to crazy weather. We figured it was God's way of preparing us for the weather we would be experiencing in Antarctica. This is a picture of me at the end of the Pan American Highway. A LONG way from Alaska where is starts!
And here's a picture of "The end of the world". It's a post office where you can get your passport stamped and send post cards. It truly IS the end of the world, sitting out there in the channel!
Just beyond that is the Beagle Straits, named after Charles Darwin's boat the Beagle. He explored South America but I don't think he ever got down this far. He was mostly in the Galapagos. We traveled through the Beagle Channel on our way to the Drake Passage.
We spent 2 days in Ushuaia and boarded our Expedition Ship the Corinthian II. Our suite was very nice. We had a nice couch and chair and a rather large bathroom compared to typical cruise ship dimensions. In other words you could bend over in the shower to pick up the soap you dropped!
The ship accommodated 100 guests along with the program directors and the Expedition Team. It was specially reinforced to cope with the icy waters of Antarctica. We departed Ushuaia and began to settle into our accommodations. We had dinner on board and returned to our cabins to get ready for two days in the Drake Passage. What the picture of the cabin doesn't show you is that when we returned to our cabin after dinner, the beds had been turned down and revealed that there were seat belts to secure yourself in the bed. A precursor of things to come!!!
To be continued!