The last meal, breakfast, was memorable. It was one of many farewells and the chance for all of us to thank the crew who've made this remarkable experience possible. It was great to see the 'behind the scenes' operational crew get as much recognition as the Hotel Crew and Expedition Guides who spent most time with us. They're all vital to making this expedition happen from cast-off to dock.
This vessel had been our safe haven in a wild and remote place. Our travels had not really tested her (so lucky with weather) but she had excelled. One last walk from the cabin to the lounge, one last coffee from that magic revival machine!
A mooring line across our porthole was a sign the time had come to disembark.
Farewell us, the clients
I guess Antarctica, and the expense of getting there, attracts a certain type of person. Dr Karl as host probably further refines that selection set; many, most, were there because of him.
This is the first 'cruise' I've ever done, the first time I have visited Antarctica, but got the impression that it was a little different to most. Comments from the Expedition Team indicated a greater level of enthusiasm than is, perhaps, typical. Every activity, every lecture, everything, was fully subscribed.
It was wonderful to share this very special experience with an awesome bunch of people and make new friends. Speaking of which; special mention to cabinmate Dave. A blind allocated twin share is always a gamble when travelling solo (single premium unaffordable for me) but not this time. I appreciated his company & consideration throughout the trip.
The Expedition Team
In a word: awesome. I was blown away by the extent of their experience, academic and practical, and willingness to share their obvious love of Antarctica. All up we had about–as may have missed notes for a couple–eighteen lectures (not counting briefings) from the Expedition Crew on a wide variety of subjects.
Beyond that add countless hours of informal chats while guiding onshore, kayaking and zodiac touring, at meals and socialising onboard. Beyond being guides; they shared their passion, joy, and fears for this unique place. In part, they shared their lives and it was a privilege to get to know them.
|1||Claudia||[ZAF]||Expedition Leader||7||Koen||[NLD]||Expedition Guide|
|2||Pippa||[GBR]||Expedition Asst. Leader||8||Eduardo||[GTM]||Expedition Guide|
|3||Claudio||[ITA]||Expedition Guide||9||Martin||[GBR]||Mountaineering Guide|
|4||Lucas||[FRA]||Expedition Guide||10||Richard||[GBR]||Mountaineering Guide|
|5||Zet||[SWE]||Kayak Guide||11||Werner||[ZAF]||Photography Guide|
5, 9, 10, 3, 11, 12, 1
8, 6, 2, 7, 4
And this guy...
The Karl you hear on the radio (or podcasts in my case); friendly, immensely curious, ever willing to learn from everybody he meets, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm, is no act. That is Karl.
He added another nine full presentations, and other impromptu talks, bringing the total for the voyage to twenty-seven.
It's a privilege to spend time with him anywhere. To do it in such an astonishing, isolated, beautiful place with the support of Oceanwide's superb team and equipment and a bunch of like-minded travellers, an unforgettable experience.
Back to the Real World
We docked, where we departed, having sailed 1497.5 Nautical Miles. It was a cold overcast day, raining and windy, the most miserable weather of the whole trip! I suppose if it had to happen anywhere... but it made the farewells a bit rushed.
As with onboarding, we were not allowed to take our own luggage off the ship and would collect it later before heading to hotels. The only exception was those heading direct to the airport who took their luggage from the wharf.
Sheltering from the storm
As we scurried along the wharf, with time to kill before luggage collection and afternoon hotel check-in, a coffee seemed like a good idea. Dorothy & Jennie recommended 'RAMOS GENERALES' as had been there before we departed. What was once a General Store is now a fantastic Bar, Bistro and French bakery/patisserie. We arrived a few minutes before it opened, not the only ones from our ship as it turned out, and sheltered under an adjacent canopy until they beckoned us in.
Back to the digital world
It was time to warm up, reflect, and catch up with the world. Quite bizarre to turn the phone off Airplane Mode on December 5th, last connected on November 24th. Once I had checked there was nothing urgent to deal with, and sent the 'Hello World, still alive' Email/Facebook/Tweet was happy to leave dealing with a few weeks emails until later. Upon reflection, my self-imposed 'digital blackout' was a special part of the experience.
Lockie wasn't the only penguin coming home; Dorothy's Pinguino Jorge had done the trip too.
A coffee turned into two, a pastry or two, and then lunch (pizza for me). It was a pleasant surprise when Eduardo (Expedition Guide - Astronomer) arrived and joined us. He was on a break, while the ship was cleaned, between unloading and helping prepare for the next trip, even though he was returning home to Europe for a break, rather than sailing. The ship is turned around in a day! I was impressed with his drink order, a Submarino: take a small bar of dark Lindt chocolate, drop into a glass of hot milk, stir until melted... [Authors note: after writing this, remembering it, had to go make a Submarino!]
Eduardo asked about highlights; I said the camping and was amazed he knew, and loved, the (obscure) Vangelis Antarctica soundtrack I had listened to that night. Talking about the soundtrack connection to the second excursion of my trip, Iguazu Falls, he said 'The Mission', even citing 'Gabriel's Oboe' as a favourite of his.
The Metallica Ortelius link
The bar on Ortelius was called the Krill 'em All Bar'. A name given to it by Metallica, riffing their first (1983) album 'KILL 'EM ALL', along with the gift if this copper & stainless-steel sign. In 2013 Ortelius transported them and their gear to perform the FREEZE 'EM ALL concert at the Argentine Carlini Station.
The café had a magazine in its collection with an article about the concert!
Back to Hotel Tolkeyen
Collected the bags then it was back to a familiar hotel, where I stayed pre-departure, but a room overlooking Beagle Channel this time. It is quite a big hotel but nobody else from the ship was staying there. As with last time seemed to be mostly Argentinian travellers, and groups, from what I could tell.
One group were heading off to explore Patagonia in this Rotel: a truck & trailer with sleeping capsules. Had been told about these being used in Europe but never seen one before.
It was still very windy but passing rain and sun through broken clouds made the view interesting.
Departing aircraft were spot lit by the sun, against the background clouds, shot out the room window!
Dinner was pre-trip Déjà vu; same restaurant and (since it had been a while since the Antarctic BBQ) another steak. This time my Spanish had improved to the point where I think 'rare' was understood; although the steak was closer to what I'd call medium rare.
Plane scare but got there
The flight to Buenos Aires was unremarkable, once on the plane. The airport portion of the journey was spiced up by a power failure which made it slow getting through security scanning. Finally arrived at the gate about 10 minutes after the boarding pass time to see an aircraft being pushed back, ready to taxi!
I wasn't alone, several others–including Spanish speakers (so not just my poor language)–were confused too. We found a screen (they still use the small TV type) and that our gate had been changed while we were navigating security. It was another flight departing...
Having arrived at the correct gate found several familiar faces from a certain ship.
Hello, Buenos Aires!*
For me, while planning this trip, B.A. was more a logistical necessity than a significant destination. My first awareness of Argentina (beyond soccer/football or Formula 1) was probably seeing Evita (1982** when I was 16) and a certain war. The view out the aircraft window, the domestic Aeroparque Jorge Newbery airport is remarkably close to the city, was my first sight of Buenos Aires as never really left the Ezeiza International Airport which is well out of town (22 km south of the city).
I'd gone with World Expeditions recommendation of Bristol Hotel, and was very happy with it.
It was nice, affordable, and in a great location; midway along Avenida 9 de Julio, the incredibly broad (~110 m) Avenue which bisects central Buenos Aires.
Car, bus, bike lanes and pedestrians mix on the Avenue; the underground Metro runs beneath. Although it takes several legs to get across a wide pedestrian central reservation, with small park areas & trees for shade, makes this road quite a pleasant pedestrian space.
I spent the afternoon wandering and arranged a city tour for tomorrow. Was impressed with the public spaces. Lots of pedestrian spaces, former roads, and impressively clean. In comparison central Auckland seems very motor vehicle centric and grubby.
Impressive European style architecture, malls in Christmas mode.
I didn't 'McD', took the shot for the '$249 combo' (~nz$9) price, but other food got more than just photographic attention...
Some lovely parks, Plaza San Martín below. Nice to escape the heat (~30°c) but the odd drop of 'rain' (on a fine sunny day) would prove to be 'liquid' coming from overhead insects!
Jacaranda trees in bloom added colour.
I had a nice freshly made vegetarian pasta dinner, something different as still full of last night's steak, and gelato after. Odd to watch the giant food hall advertising screen opposite repeatedly playing the same 2-minute Mercedes truck advertisement. Seemed like a strange place to chase commercial truck sales.
I didn't go to the Teatro Colón (Columbus Theatre), the main opera house, but it looked amazing on the outside. It is considered one of the ten best opera houses in the world by National Geographic.
Nearly home, lots of walking, at the end of a lovely, but long, day. Tomorrow would be a chance to venture further afield using another mode of transport. I hope I haven't forgotten how to...
* Do I need to credit Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice for this heading?
Day 12 – 5th December 2019 | Disembarkation, Ushuaia, Argentina
GPS position at 1400: 54°49‘S 68°17‘W | Air Temp: 9°C | Wind: Var F1 | Sea state: Smooth