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Travel Experience – Antarctic Adventure
By tour guest, Deirdre
Departure day had arrived for my Top of Bucket List adventure!
And what an adventure it turned out to be!!!
Including the challenge of packing into 23kgs the clothing needed to traverse between Hot Humid 38deg to Dry Cold -4deg.
Our small group departed Warragul for overnight at the airport Park Royal Hotel for our early morning departure to Sydney, then on to Santiago arriving early evening in Buenos Aries (BA).
No rest for the wicked and we were off to a typical Argentinean Restaurant where I have to say the steak was magnificent.
Early morning departure for a short flight to Iguazu Falls! In the middle of the jungle we find a Sheraton Hotel with our balcony room views overlooking the dense tropical canopy with the mist rising from the thunderous falls.
A vast variety of wildlife, including an elusive “Gator”, was seen as we walked through the national park accompanied by local guide Maria.
My photography skills can be challenged at times, however very excited to capture a rarely seen Toucan (curved orange beak).
We experience thunderous tropical downpours interspersed with brilliant sunshine as we walked the over water pathways (that seemed to go on forever) through the dense vegetation, across vast expanses of Gator-filled fast flowing water ending up at The Devils Throat. A visually breathtaking sea of loud swirling waters that just fell over a precipice and disappeared into the depths below!
Dressed as supposedly waterproof inflated orange blimps, a zodiac-like boat drove us all at speed up stream and bored directly into the base of the falls itself!!!
Iguazu was quite the experience – took your breath away. I could have stayed longer – maybe next time.
Departed all too soon and arrived back in Buenos Aries for a few days to see the local sights including Recoleta Cemetery – resting place of Eva Peron. Experienced the art of Tango (not personally) and then had a trip 100kms north of Buenos Aries to Santa Susanna ranch to partake in traditional style horse riding (enough said about that!) another Tango show, great hospitality and of course the Traditional Argentinean BBQ!
Leaving the warmth of BA we flew south to El Calafarte for a couple of nights – colder brisk weather greeted us, just to get us primed for the Antarctic adventure to come… So much to see!
From a boat ride to the face of Perito Merino Glacier in the “Parque Nacional Los Glaciares” where we saw much calving of the ice shelf, to the spectacular walk around the edge of the glacier listening to the creaking and groaning of the constantly moving ice, the scenery was spectacular. The weather had been kind to us thank goodness and the day was topped off with a delicious local lamb BBQ!
Departing El Calafarte we flew further south to Ushuaia – commonly referred to as El Fin Del Mondo – the End of the World and were guided through Tierra Del Fuego National Park (very close to the Chilean/Argentinian border). The Falklands war is still very fresh in the minds of many older locals as we evidenced by monuments and landmarks in the vicinity of the Port. Ushuaia was the Argentinean Port used heavily during the war and sensitive issues ran just below the surface during local conversations.
Eagles, swans, magnificent vistas. We took a boat ride out into Beagle channel to see penguin, colony and fur seals sunning themselves on the rocks. What can I say!
With bags packed and spirits high we left Ushuaia to board our home for the next 12 days – The Sea Adventurer.
With safety briefings, accommodation and dinner service sorted we head off down the Beagle Channel into the highly anticipated Drake Passage – to clear Cape Horn and cross to the Antarctic continent. Our entry into the passage was delayed for a few hours (unbeknown to us ) as we subsequently found out , the weather was not welcoming at the time we were due to enter and for the comfort and safety of Ship and passengers we ended up briefly heading more towards New Zealand.
When ice was first sighted there was much excitement felt by all as we neared our destination and all passengers celebrated on deck at the bow of the ship with a glass or three of bubbles and the feeling was euphoric. We couldn’t have been happier.
In the ensuing days, cruising through sheltered calm, still waters of the Antarctic Peninsula we cracked our way through sea ice, eyes searching for wildlife. We were not disappointed. Lounging Crabeater and Weddell seals basking on sea ice shelves as we slowly passed by; frolicking penguins keen to avoid the ever vigilant Sea Lions always on the hunt for food and the odd whale or two cruising past our ship.
We had been blessed by sunshine crisp days and little wind as we toured in Zodiacs daily; made many “wet” landings at places that included penguin colonies, deserted (for the winter) British/ Italian/ Argentinean Research Bases with ample opportunity to experience the AWESOMENESS of this majestic, magnificent, pristine environment.
The adventurous amongst us climbed to high elevations whilst others chose quiet contemplation gazing across this diverse, fragile environment.
In Wilhelmina Bay we saw so many whales – it was hard to know which way to look! Whales breached right next to the ship; protective mothers with offspring giving us “the eye” as they came to check “Us” out. Whales moving in packs to circle krill then surfacing with mouth wide open to gather them up to feast!
Sensational sights, including sailing into a Caldera at Deception Island – a Volcano that is still active today – where an abandoned whaling station was decimated by an eruption a decade or two ago. The rocky beach was peppered with fur seals and we picked our way through giving them plenty of space!!
We were fortunate our return trip across the Drake was calm (for the Passage that is) and back to Ushuaia we headed. Our Antarctic component nearly over… but such amazing memories…..
Flew back to Santiago via BA for some more local sights and Jacquey treats then regrouped for our flight home via Auckland.
Once again this has been an extraordinary trip, expertly organised by Jacquey and her great Team at Gippsland Travel. As a group we had the opportunity to have many wonderful and varied experiences yet also at various times to partake in our own exploration – it is a great way to travel!
Many thanks to my fellow explorers, our guides, exploration team and of course Jacquey for a wonderful adventure.