Antarctica…that’s a wrap

The final couple days on the trip to Antarctica were spend going back over the Drake Passage. We barely knew that’s where the ship was because the water was so calm, making it ‘Drake Lake.’ During this time we did lots of recap of the trip with our guides  and prepared to unfortunately finish the voyage.

At a certain time an unexpected announcement came over the PA system. Based on how fast we had been moving because of the very calm water, we were going to make a detour that is pretty rare. We were able to head over to Cape Horn! Stunning view, and it was amazing to have the water as calm as it was — many competitors in sailboat races would have loved these conditions.

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After being around Cape Horn for a bit we returned up the Beagle channel to port in Ushuaia. After disembarkation we toured  the city a small bit and then went to Tierra del Fuego. Absolutely gorgeous day for it and a nice way to wrap up the trip.

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And a quick view of Ushuaia from the deck:

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This was definitely an amazing trip. Not something you do every year, nor that you would do every couple. So glad I was able to check Antarctica off my list and that I have visited all seven continents. My biggest question now…what’s next?

*If you are interested in checking out this continent, I would highly recommend going through Quark Expeditions. They were amazing. You need to plan/book pretty far in advance, or at least it really helps to. This trip was booked 10+ months prior, and you don’t have to pay all at once. Happy to give more info.

 

Antarctica, Day 10…wow.

This was our final day of exploring on the trip. The next day we headed back towards the Drake Passage and the trip was going to wrap up. This day was absolutely amazing, all sun, light breeze and awesome views. We landed on Deception Island by way of Neptune’s Bellows.

There were buildings there from an old Norwegian whaling station and a British Antarctic Survey base. We also got to hike up this great hill and see for miles. Wanted to stay there…BBQ anybody, let’s just kick back here for a bit!

We also got to see more seals and Chinstrap Penguins for the first time!

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And videos, of course:

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And where we were, Day 10, March 9:

Antarctica, Day 9…landed!

We continued North and were on Day 9 of the trip. We only had two days left for exploring the area. We still had to set foot on the actual continent of Antarctica. All the others times we’d been on land it was islands. Today was going to be the day.

In the morning we ‘only’ took zodiacs ride. Brutal, right…we just got to check out scenery that way. But we were so eager to step on land that it was tough. We did see amazing icebergs, though, that gave unique colors, and seals and whales.

In the afternoon we set foot on land. Finally, I made it to the 7th continent! And, we weren’t warmly welcomed by a seal. This video barely shows how we had to handle it (the guides are the ones you can see). We were told if approached by a seal to put arms in the air and stay away. This went on for several minutes here and yes, hiking/ski poles started coming out. He would back down then come back to action.

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The log, Day 9, Mar 8:

 

Antarctica, Day 8…killer!

The start of this day was absolutely astonishing…lighter clouds than before and beautiful sun. We could not wait to get started. The first place was visited was Danco Island. This picture is part of the foundation of one of the buildings the used to be on the island.

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We walked around Danco for awhile and just had breathtaking views of the water, the mountains and saw some whales, while surrounded by penguins. Not far away, across the water, we saw an avalanche occur as well. We just heard an odd noise and then saw a large white cloud. Pretty cool — and we know nobody was at risk of injury.

When we boarded the zodiac from the island the fun really started. You do get to see whales while in Antarctica, but they are normally Humpbacks. Well, as we’re cruising along, something killer happen…we saw Killer Whales! Ok, so we already acted like kids when we saw ‘normal’ whales, this was like a once in a lifetime experience (very rare) to see down here. The kids in us erupted. I was able to catch a quick photo. Incredible.

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And some other pics of the day:

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Videos, too:

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And a rundown of spots on Day 8, 3/7:

Antarctica, Day 7…A Whale of a Good Time

So we’re all adults here. We’re all in Antarctica for the experience, the education. But at some times, we acted like we were five year olds. On most of the days we were (always) on the lookout for whales, but on the 7th day of the trip they happened to be spotted right near the ship. So we were on diligent lookout for them on the zodiacs.

We got very very close to a school of 3 of them.

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We would just sit there, watching, endlessly. We also just wanted the whales to jump out of the water and breach. We never had huge view of this, but still some spectacular scenes.

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And when the whale would start to come up from the water, all of us would scream with excitement like little kids. It was crazy. The guides probably just rolled their eyes at us.

The rest of this day we saw some amazing icebergs and more stunning views, along with more wildlife. This day was also the Polar Plunge! Jumped into the Southern Ocean. The water temp was 32 degrees — very refreshing. We plunged in, jump right back out, ran through the mud room, had a shot of whiskey then ran upstairs and jumped into the 85 degree pool. So nice!

 

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A some videos:

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And a summary of the day, Mar 6:

 

 

Antarctica, Day 6…ahh, penguins

Ok, so we go to zoos, we see pictures. Penguins are SOOO cute. This is the day of the real thing. We get to (start) see(ing) penguins. The key word there is start. Over the course of the next week all we did was see penguins.

Anyway, there is a rule in penguin land. You can not be closer than 5 meters to a penguin. Let them be in their habitat, it is their space. But, it they approach you, that is fine, the 5 meter rule is gone. You just need to be sure to let them do what they want..and don’t pet them!

So we make landing and all you see are these darn things. It’s tough to not be 5 meters away, so glad the rule doesn’t apply if they are near you.

This day we also saw seals and whales. The seal that is in several of the pictures in the Leopard Seal, which we saw quite a few of, and the can be quite aggressive. A very involved day!

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And some videos from this day, all about penguins:

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Summary of the day, Day 6, March 5.

7th Continent, Antarctica, first stages

For the past several years I have done a major trip each year. I always want to explore a new country when I go, and hopefully a new continent. This year I finally got to visit the one I had been hoping for, Antarctica. I was supposed to go a couple years back but there was a problem with the vessel I was supposed to travel on so the trip was cancelled about 6 weeks before it was going to take place. I had therefore been anticipating this trip for even longer.

I have been above the Arctic Circle, so on this trip my goal was to go on the far end of the other side of the earth, the Polar/Antarctic Circle. After extensive research and suggestions, the best company to do this through was Quark Expeditions with the Crossing the Circle: Southern Expedition. You get to see so much that the area has to offer. You start in Ushuaia, Argentina, angle SW via the Drake Passage, drop below the Circle, then head back NE between islands and the tip of Antarctica before heading back to Ushuaia (the southern most city in the world).

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The trip had 200 passengers and 150 crew members. The cabins were good size, the food was well above par and the education we received on history, biology, ecology and more was amazing. You could barely have a moment to yourself on this trip.

Crossing the Drake Passage can rarely be forecast. It could be Drake Lake or Drake Shake. The rating of conditions is normally done an a scale of 1-10. On the way south, we were about a 4-5. Jumping forward, on the way back, total Drake Lake…would give it a 1, super calm.

We left Ushuaia on the afternoon of Wednesday, 2/28, got out to the passage that evening and were through it a couple days. Nothing too much to see during that time, but lots of education. We saw our first iceberg on Day 3 of the trip, or Friday.

Some of the highlights of these first few days.

 

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After all this, the fun truly started.

Yellowstone

Finally got to visit Yellowstone National Park when I was in Wyoming this year. The size of it is just amazing, so much to explore. The trip was primarily driving, with a few stops along the way.

Was able to take in Old Faithful. We had about half hour to wait before seeing it, which meant we were able to snag front row seats. It was such a beautiful day outside that waiting was not a problem. As the geyser started to erupt, it took some time before the tallest one came about, then it lived up to expectations.

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Lunch was enjoyed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill, after watching Old Faithful. Enjoyed a Smoked Bison Bratwurst Sandwich and local brew.

Throughout the rest of the park (and before seeing Old Faithful), we soaked in so many sights. Pictures barely do them justice:

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Shortly before leaving the park, we saw wildlife! I was not zooming in on the bison, and I was ‘far’ away, still in the car. Some crazy people were literally at arm’s length from the animal and almost looked to be petting him.

 

 

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As the day wrapped up, we left the park in Montana. To get back to Jackson, had to go back through Idaho, so a nice 3-state day. Loved the Yellowstone trip!

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This thing they call a Rodeo

Finally got to see a Rodeo. Garth Brooks came to mind with two of his songs when I walked towards the event — both Rodeo and Beaches of Cheyenne, since I was in (Jackson,) WY watching all this take place.

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The cowboy boots were set by those attending, I just didn’t happen to have my hat with me.

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Had never seen all the ins and out of this great event, from hearing the announcer, the amazing country music, the cowboys and the animals.

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Great night in Jackson, will definitely check out another one, either there or where I happen to find another when in town.

Satt, Reykjavik, Iceland

Our final night in Reykjavik, Iceland was short & sweet. We returned from Greenland and had just 12+ hours, including sleeping and getting to the airport the next morning, which was over an hour away. So it was just a matter of enjoying a final dinner. We decided to just stick with what was in the hotel, because we weren’t really near anything. The restaurant was Satt, which is Icelandic for true.

 

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As we read over the whole menu, we opted for an appetizer, the Bruschetta 2150 kr.

Grilled sourdough bread, smoked salmon, watercress

This sounds great and a nice way to start off the meal. Well, after waiting a long time, it came out. You can see to the far right that there is a bit of cream colored stuff. Well, they add a dairy-based spread on top of the bread before topping it with the salmon. This was frustrating because it’s not noted in the description and I had told the waiter I was lactose intolerant when asking questions about the menu overall. Once the bruschetta eventually came out again (honestly about 20 minutes, and the place wasn’t busy), it was quite good.

 

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Main courses at the table came down to:

Risotto — Fennel, tomatoes, fava beans, herb salad, Parmesan cream 2790 kr.
Good, traditional risotto, per the one who enjoyed it.

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My main course was a 1/2 Satt House Salad with Chicken, 1890 kr. Nice and filling — delicious, huge croutons. A good basic salad.

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We had also ordered a half carafe of wine to go with this, some Drostdy Hof Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact. Nice body to this, not overly heavy for a cab, and some nice fruit notes.

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When we had problems with the bruschetta, the manager came over to apologize. And it took so long to get the bruschetta that our wine was gone (and we were not drinking quickly). She very kindly brought us a 2nd carafe (that was topped to the brim, so more than the normal amount) and it was comped, as was the bruschetta. While our waiter wasn’t up to par, the service from the manager was outstanding.

So, we had a final meal in Iceland, have had better meals, have had worse. It was mostly the service from the waiter that made it not great.

I will also say, their brunch the next day was quite nice, so their food is decent.