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.

Antarctica, Day 5

We have now started to go back to the North on our trip, visiting Prospect Point and Fish Islands. This was one of the days where is was truly just cold. The temp proper wasn’t bad but it wasn’t very pleasant out.

We still saw a good amount of wildlife and a good amount of ice. One of the fascinating thing was moving forward in the zodiacs through the big chunks of ice. Just hearing and feeling them.

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And a simple video of the ice and as we going through it in the zodiac.

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Antarctica, Day 4…another circle!

Crossing the Drake Passage took up days 1-3 on the trip. So now we’re at Day 4.

The start of Day 4 was crossing the Antarctic/Polar Circle! We had a great way to celebrate this — champagne! Also, notice all the number on the white board below. The Polar Circle isn’t always the same, it will shift. Something we learned. You can also read about it here, or the quick piece of info —

The position of the Antarctic Circle is not fixed; as of 4 June 2018, it runs 66°33′47.2″ south of the Equator.[1] (as you see, it’s different from when I was there). Its latitude depends on the Earth’s axial tilt, which fluctuates within a margin of 2° over a 40,000-year period, due to tidal forces resulting from the orbit of the Moon.[2] Consequently, the Antarctic Circle is currently drifting southwards at a speed of about 15 m (49 ft) per year.

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Now we were also ready to start getting off the ship. We would be in zodiacs to ride around in the Southern Ocean (area) and walk on land. Amazing scenery that pictures don’t quite do justice to (though I have so many to show).

Now, this also entailed putting on a couple layers, big poofy coats and hefty boots. This being said, it wasn’t brutally cold. The lowest it got was 32F (0C). There was one day that wasn’t super pleasant. There were days the were overcast and some with light snow, but it was their start to fall, so not bad.

 

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And some video of what we were seeing.

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And this is the summary of the day, Mar 3.

 

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.

La Buena Vida, Ft Collins, CO

Another Mexican place I have checked out in Fort Collins is La Buena Vida. Have driven by it a lot and heard great reviews so needed to try it first hand.

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As normal at this type of restaurant, one must order guacamole to begin, as well as some margaritas. Both were great! The guac was just chunky enough and the drinks were just perfect. Went so well with the chips & salsa we’d already received.

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For the rest of the meal, I opted for the Ensalada de Pollo – Grilled chicken, lettuce, onion, cucumber, tomato, sauteed apple and pumkin seeds. Served with Lime dressing.

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The other person at the table went with Enchiladas. And at lunch you can choose how many enchiladas you’d like, so they went with one chicken enchilada, which comes served with rice and black beans, topped with red sauce.

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The salad was amazing! The apples were so unique…nothing I’d had in a salad at a Mexican restaurant before, then the pumpkin seeds, too? And the chicken could not have been more perfectly grilled. Loved the whole thing.

The enchilada was apparently quite good. Nice sauce and perfect lunch size.

Great place, will also have to check it out (again) for Happy Hour. Salud!