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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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.

WY, oh, WY

Simple highlights from a trip to Wyoming earlier this year. From cowboy, bars, or cowboy bars, to moose, mountains and beautiful scenery. This was when there were fires in MT, ID and elsewhere, around Labor Day and some of these picture don’t capture what exactly the sky looked like (in a bad sense). Some days it was opaque, others it was hazy. Regardless, love this state, summer or winter.

 

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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.

Wrapping up Greenland

The final day in Greenland meant there was a lot to do. We took a beautiful boat ride, during which we were supposed to see whales. This was in early June, but whales don’t tend to come out until July. Nonetheless, the scenery was amazing. Can’t parallel it.

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That night for dinner we wrapped it up with a meal dinner at Restaurant Ulo, which is in Hotel Arctic. They were having one of their special dinners where it offers pretty much all local fare providing for a true taste of Greenland. What was missing were veggies (unless you grabbed lettuce from displays).

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I was able to get pictures of most of the stuff, some labeled, some not. Overall pretty darn good. There was reindeer, halibut, mussels, shrimp, whale skin, snowcrab, dried whale, and much more.

This last night in Greenland, we got to stay in an igloo! So, ok, we didn’t make a big pile of snow, but nonetheless, so much fun!

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The next day, we left this amazing island, with view of ice and snow below. I can’t wait to go back and explore other cities. While there, we found out their tourism is growing greatly and I have found/checked out their (very good) website. So much to explore on this island. Add it to your list, and let me know when you go and if you need a travel companion, I’m game!

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An evening & night in Ilulissat

As we continued exploring the city, more cuisine came about. On the 2nd night there, we dined at Inuit Cafe (they don’t have a true website and their Facebook page doesn’t have much, which is why I went with the Trip Advisor link). It was ranked very high among local restaurants and had two of the things I’d been wanted to try — Whale Steak and Reindeer.

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The restaurant was just a very local one and could get quite busy. It was one where if you don’t have a reservation you go order at the counter and they give you a number to put on your table. We had made a reservation so we could get special treatment, but I still had lots of questions about the menu, so went to the counter and just ordered there.

As mentioned, we ordered whale steak and reindeer and split each one. In Iceland we’d has a small serving of whale. It was quite tasty. This was definitely a different cut of whale and was quite tough and chewy. Not all that exciting. The reindeer was nice and lean, but a bit overcooked. Nonethless, a nice pleasant dinner of something you don’t get at home.

After dinner we had a night cruise. It started at 10:30pm, while the sun was still shining, and was just amazing. We finished around 12:00am in broad daylight. We saw amazing scenery, icebergs, sky, glaciers…words can’t describe it.

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This is not sunset, I was just playing with my camera on this one.

Tasting & Exploring Ilulissat

When we arrived in Ilulissat, there was the need for some quick food before exploring the town on Day 1. The most common thing we had for the few days we were there were the sandwiches at the hotel. They were absolutely delicious and revolved around 3 choices; smoked halibut, shrimp and reindeer. Just simple ingredients and amazing taste.

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After fueling, we headed into town. Most things were walkable, though there were quite the hills. If needed, there was a shuttle bus back to the hotel, but it only ran every 30 minutes, and you could likely get back to the hotel by then. There were also a ton of cabs there, for a small town. And, in this town you don’t go anywhere but the town because the only way in/out is by boat or plane.

Some of the scenery, with the video being my favorite:

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The houses & buildings aren’t so colorful because of the potentially dark winters. It’s historical and was to help residents identify buildings. The colors ID’ed the function of the building: Commercial houses were red; hospitals were yellow; police stations were black; the phone company was green and fish factories were blue. Those don’t necessarily apply now and residents can just paint their houses any color they like. It just makes the town vibrant!

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At one point, sled dogs were nearly equal in population to humans (3,500 to 4,500 humans). But in mid-2016, the was a distemper outbreak and this wiped out a good amount of the dogs. They are working the rebuild the population and this could take awhile, as this is recent.

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