Tag Archives: Midlife Solo Travel

Neko Harbour, Almirante Brown and BBQ in Antarctica

2nd January 2017

I stayed in the lounge when we got back to Plancius from camping, didn’t think it would be nice to wake Marijke that early, so settled with a cuppa and book from the library until Andrew made his daily wake up call at 7am. “Good morning, good morning, it’s Monday 2nd January and the weather is clear with a slight breeze and the temperature is 3 degrees. Breakfast will be served in the dining room at 7:30 for those who want to join. I hope you all have a good day”. What a brilliant way to get us all up and going, better than an alarm any day!

This morning we landed at Neko Bay, our first landing on the continent of Antarctica, until now we’d been on the peninsular. A good snowshoe climb up the hill was the perfect excuse to sit in the snow and beautiful warm sun, watch penguins and look out over the bay at the glaciers, icebergs and of course Plancius. Also sketched for a while back near the shore and enjoyed a penguin visitor up close although by the time I realized and got my phone out for a photo he’d moved on to visit someone else.

The first polar plunge took place before we headed back for lunch. The doctor was on shore with his bag of tricks and zodiacs idled about 10 metres or so from the shore. I’d say about 20 people took the plunge, most only stayed in about half a minute, but one of the Chinese gents swam out past the zodiac and back. Lots of gasps and arm waving by the plungers and laughter and camera clicking by the onlookers. I was biding my time!

After lunch we had another split landing, half landed at Almirante Brown station first and the others took a long zodiac cruise around the bay. I was in Christophe’s zodiac and was awsestruck at the icebergs, the colours of the compressed ice was fascinating. I’ve seen lots of photos where the ice is a bright turquoise blue but there were also heaps with much deeper blues. They look like there’s lights shining through, and the colours under the water are every bit as gorgeous. The vast knowledge these guys have didn’t cease to amaze me the whole trip, and they are so enthusiastic it’s always entertaining to listen.

Our turn at Almirante Brown station was another chance to climb a hill for gorgeous views and then a snow slide back down. I was a bit boring there, only went part of the way but enjoyed poking around the buildings and old infrastructure.

Dinner tonight was special, a BBQ on the back deck with free drinks and gluhwein. It was also Katie’s birthday but she had to stand out there serving up our meals. The weather was actually freezing cold and windy, not at all like we’ve had before, but more typically Antarctic according to the crew. They keep commenting on how lucky we’ve been with weather and they hope we get to experience ‘proper’ Antarctica before we leave. I wasn’t keen or silly enough and had my BBQ in the dining room with other softies. I keep finding days and events with no photos because of the lost SD card, really disappointed I don’t have any of the keen ones, outside in beanies, gloves and everything else warm they could find, eating their burgers.

The mountaineers had an eventful morning, with the young Australian guy, Adam, from Melbourne having a scary incident. Unfortunately the crevassing proved problematic on the way down with him falling in one which required both Cube and Mal’s assistance to get him out.Poor guy was quite shaken and everyone was really shocked.

Think my big night out camping was taking its toll, dinner and an early night for me.

 

 

 

 

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Camping in Antarctica!

1st January 2017

What a way to start the new year! Another landing a Damoy Point in the morning for more snow, ice and penguins where I had my first experience of show-showing. I was surprised at how easy snowshoes made the trek up the hill, although I needed a quick lesson on how to put them on, very easy as it turns out, with 3 straps over the front and one behind the heel, just like a pair of sandals. Sadly, I took my small camera this morning, then on the last night of the cruise stupidly removed the SD card to download something from the laptop on board and consequently lost it! So no photos from here, but can’t resist adding others from yesterday!

I’m not sure if it’s the weather or I’m just layering extremely well but I keep having to take my big outer jacket off every time we land, even before I get to the top of a hill. The weather though is just beautiful, still around 4 degrees I think, but sunshine and no wind makes it feel much warmer.

I must say though, as a group, we have vastly improved our lifejacketing skills!!!! Who’d have thought a few days ago it would be a simple 2 second task now, even grabbing the “tail”to bring up between your legs to clip in front – amazing creatures we are, lol.

Tag board on Plancius

Tag board on Plancius

Mind you, the tag system still has some way to go before we all remember to turn our cabin number over when we go off and on the boat! There’s always a call for the “card game” as they call it – these cabin numbers please go and turn your tag if you’re on-board, we won’t be moving until everyone is here!

Another fabulous lunch and it was off to our dual landing. After checking out the penguins for a while at Jougla Point I perched on a rock and sketched the view across the bay towards the buildings of Port Lockroy.

Then the exciting visit to the old base where we could explore the museum, buy souvenirs and post mail! The base was used in WWII by the British but abandoned until 1966 when it was renovated and now researches the effect of tourism on penguins as well as serving us tourists.

Penguin Post at Port Lockroy in Antarctica

Penguin Post at Port Lockroy in Antarctica

The penguins weren’t at all worried about us, there were so many of them with chicks it was just wonderful. Looking back I feel I didn’t take enough pics of the wildlife, but at the time I was so mesmerized by the landscape, they took second place. Of course, I took my passport to have it stamped, bought some souvenirs and postcards and posted them in the Penguin Post box.

At 9pm we got the call to head off for our night camping at Lefévre Point where there was a lone Adelie penguin waiting for us. He patrolled along a high ridge of snow just behind us all night and was still there to farewell us at 5 the next morning.

Well, what an experience, just getting from the zodiac on to dry land, or at least ice and snow, was a bit precarious and then sinking knee deep with some steps and finding hard ice with others was a tad challenging. Then the fun really began, find your spot and dig your little grave they said, it’ll be fun they said! Yeah right, I was having trouble keeping upright without trying to dig a bloody grave, lol. Nacho spent the night in the open like us but Christophe had a little tent; because he was camping 4 nights a week he wanted some luxury! These guys are amazing.

One of the funniest sights was a porta-potty sitting on the ice in front of a lone rock near the shore, not much privacy there. No wonder the guides kept stressing the lack of facilities and importance of “going” before we left Plancius.

The ‘grave’ is really just a shallow one, enough so you’re laying below the rest of the snow around you as protection from the wind. Having heard from last night’s campers the difficulty they had filling them in the next morning, most of ours were pretty shallow. Looking back at photos now I realize mine was nothing like a grave, my top half may have had some protection, just, but the other half was well and truly out in the open. I doubt I had any chance of doing it right.

If you thought that was difficult, just imagine this. You’ve got a big waterproof bag with all your dry sleeping gear and a bivvy bag to organize and the instructions for what went where had gone in one ear and out the other what seemed like days ago.

First you lay your bivvy bag in the grave and open it up, then a base mat, then blow up your next mat and lay it down, then lay down one sleeping bag, then another sleeping bag (hoping you have them in the correct order) and you’re done! Except, I kept walking, or more correctly falling, on things because of the soft snow and awkwardness of it all – and they’d done an amazing job of scaring me silly again about how if things got wet you’d end up freezing cold. But then you had to somehow get your knee high waterproof boots, outer jacket and waterproof pants off and get into this nest without getting anything wet, – and keep them dry too, and put them safely away in the big waterproof bag.I also had little packet hand-warmers to put between my 2 layers of socks and inside my gloves, I managed the feet ones then couldn’t find the hand ones, gave up looking as I was just getting more twisted. OMG it was so hilarious watching other people, I just can’t imagine how bad I looked, but it really was immense fun.

I eventually managed to plop myself down in the middle of my bed and was vainly struggling to straighten everything so I could get into it all when one of the young Swiss girls came along and asked if I wanted her to help tuck me in, must have looked pretty hopeless! She was lovely though, I said I’d be right but we both laughed and she helped with all the zips. By the time I’d got that far I was boiling; mind you, I had 2 pairs of socks, thermals top and bottom, windproof long pants, light merino top and down jacket on, so it’s really no wonder I didn’t feel the cold.

I’d lost my glasses case with the hand warmers so slept with glasses on all night, all the better to peek out with every now and then. Was just settling in when I felt drips on my face. What the? Pulled my bivvy bag further up over my face. Next thing was pitter patter on the bivvy bag, pulled it back for another peek and, guess what? It was snowing!!!! How exciting – what more could I ask for? It was just perfect, not too much, just a little every now and then.

I tried rolling on to my side a couple of times but kept getting twisted in my sleeping bags so slept like a board most of the night. By about 2 though my butt was so sore I persevered and got on to my side, next thing I knew, Nacho, one of our camping guides was waking us up – 4:30 had arrived and we had to pack up and leave.

So, it was all done in reverse, not quite as difficult or hilarious but entertaining all the same. Thankfully the ice wasn’t rock hard and filling in the graves didn’t take long or too much effort at all. A sad goodbye to our campground and Adelie penguin, quick trip back to Plancius in the zodiac and it was all just a memory – but what a memory, camping on the ice in Antarctica, with falling snow and patrolling penguin thrown in for good measure. Priceless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helloooo again Britain!!

17th to 24th May 2013

The ferry crossing back to England from Dublin to Holyhead, wasn’t half as exciting as the one going over a couple of weeks ago – smaller ferry, been there, done that, ho-hum! I had a couple of old guys asking me directions when we arrived, I felt like telling them they were taking their life in their hands asking for directions from me – after my track record in Ireland, I think I might be navigationally challenged. I pretty much lost two days travelling as I stayed in Bangor that night then headed up to Kendall the following day. I was also cutting it fine with my accommodation; I only received confirmation about it when I was on the train; it would have been an interesting afternoon if it didn’t work out, wouldn’t it.

Everyone kept telling me I had to go to the Lakes District in England, don’t miss it. Do you know what it’s like when everyone tells you about a place that is wonderful, you should go there , it’s great, yadayada….. and then you go there and wonder what were they on about……  Well, that didn’t happen with the Lakes District – it was wonderful.

The place I was going to, Wood Cottage, was situated somewhere called Yard 26 Kirkland, Kendall. I’d never heard of something called a “Yard” as part of an address and had no idea what it meant. I got a cab from the rail station thinking a cabbie would know where it was; but no, he just stopped somewhere in the vicinity, asked someone at a shop if they knew where it was, with no success, and then he just left me there. I had a few shops as markers for finding the cottage so I knew I was in the general area; I eventually found the front entrance to Yard 26, but it was locked and of course I had no key. I asked at a couple of the shops but no-one could help at all. It’s unbelievable that in such a small place the locals don’t know where an address is two metres away. So, I rang the landlord for further directions; he was a lovely man, but, fair dinkum, his directions were really not good. I know what this sounds like but this time it wasn’t me. I have drawn a totally dodgy mudmap to show you how I had to get there,  (I know, I know, too much spare time) and he didn’t even tell me I had to walk down Chapel Lane!!

Anyhow, Wood Cottage was a gorgeous little one bedroom cottage, with a bathroom and bedroom downstairs and kitchen, dining and lounge-room upstairs and I had a wonderful week staying there. I couldn’t believe the extras they provided, there was bread, fruit, cereal, you name it, it was there – and a glass bottle of milk; I don’t think I’ve seen milk in a glass bottle since I was a kid. I silently apologized to the landlord for whinging about his terrible directions once I had made myself at home. I had a couple of lazy days, read a book, saw a movie, just recharged and enjoyed not having to pack up and move; mind you, I was getting itchy feet again though after that.

Okay, I promise, no more stories about not finding my way – from here on in, I keep them to myself – unless of course they make good reading!!

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