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Monday, 19 March 2018

Bragging Rights


The guys at gadventures are pretty special. Really, really made you feel they cared that you had the best possible time on board, on water, on land. Mind you they had Antarctica to lend a hand.

Special thanks to Sarah and Phil - our kayak guides, and to Lyn whose enthusiasm for penguins was such a joy to experience. To Kevin - our Canadian singer who could sing and play anything from the Beatles to sea shanties. To Jaune - who kept our cabin tidy and clean despite our efforts to undo his - and his ready smile.To the cooks and waiters who made meal times something to anticipate. To Yuri - for his great photographs.

To Norm and Mary Anne - surprised that they had a suite on board and proudly showed me around the space as big as our house! To Rob and Carol - lots of laughs. And to many more fellow travellers whose company we enjoyed on board ship and land.

The following are some of Yuri's 150 plus pictures of our trip...and my Kayaking certificate!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

"If You Want to Be A Polar Animal"

I had an e-mail from an old friend (all my friends are old!). Yesterday he attended a lecture on Antarctica at Wolfson College, Cambridge given by  Jonathan Shackleton,cousin of Sir Ernest. The talk was at the Trinity College Dublin Association (Cambridge Branch) Spring Event. Apparently JS is an alumni of Trinity. My friend said the talk was highly amusing - constantly being interrupted by the England - Ireland rugby score. 

As far as I'm aware my friend has never set foot in Ireland, and got his degree from Bristol so I'm at a loss to know how he managed to be organising talks for the Association. 

JS's talk was  cryptically titled "A Dead Man’s Friend: penguins, a priest and polar people". His books are published by Penguin!

It's been a strange two days back. I've difficulty sleeping but when I do, it's invariably about being on a boat and heading home. I fell asleep on the sofa the other day and it took me an age to figure out where I was. On waking I could have sworn I was in a cabin - I didn't  recognise our front room. I'm also feeling wonderfully well and, well, bouncy - that's the only way I can describe it. It's the Antarctic effect. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to go there and experience the sheer wonderfulness of the place. My mind's eye overflows with images of the bays, the ice, the mountains, sea and sky.

So I'm planning a return trip. I've already made contact with a company that offers a 17 day sailing trip - fly there, sail back and spend days camping on the Continent as well as loads of opportunities to kayak. It's hugely expensive and I'll have to send the missus out to work and line up the cats  for pussy shoots but that's my direction of travel.

In the immediate future it's more kayaking - in Finland or Norway or the River Lea!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Days of Wine and Roses

We’ve just taken off from Ushuaia. Sitting here I think about our flight down here such a short while ago. I try to capture the way I felt as we banked over the town and saw the mountains and the Beagle Channel below us. Yet I can’t. I assume I was full of anticipation – it was nearly the last stage before we well and truly headed for Antarctica. Also some relief – over 16 hrs. in the air and countless hours hanging around in airports – to be nearly there.

I don’t think I thought about kayaking in the Antarctic as we landed in Ushuaia. My naivety!  Believing that 2 hours on the Thames would prepare me for four fairly long sessions in icy waters, surrounded by icebergs, leopard seals and whales. The terror was still some days off. Three who’d signed up didn’t start or else only did the first trip. Did I really have the nerve to back out? It would have been brave and cowardly at the same time. The fear of loss of face overcame the physical fear of getting into the water.

I’m done with penguins. Don’t get me wrong they are lovely, but they stink. They nest on pretty unattractive sites and make them even worse by pooping all over the place - walking about is a nightmare. In addition, while you were meant to keep well out of their way they didn’t bother and would come right up close and stare at any piece of clothing, before an exploratory peck or two. The mixture of penguin poo and ice was deadly. I fell over twice and a couple of people did themselves a mischief and needed the close attentions of the ship’s doctor. If you’re over 65 you take your life in your own hands messing with penguin mess.

Antarctica was beyond special. For me it brought together all the fantastical stories of ice, giants and menacing mountains. The silence was so profound. If you raised your voice only slightly you feared starting an avalanche or disturbing a long slumbering giant hidden in the icy glaciers that were all around. Whales had a profound effect on everyone. Moving slowly, slipping effortlessly beneath the waters or splashing with their tails or fins: it was quite magical. And the icebergs, cut into all shapes and sizes by the sea, wind and the sun. There was so much to take in: so much to admire and wonder over – my brain grew tired having to process all that was new and unusual.

I should be satisfied, but we’re restless creatures. Always wanting more, wanting improvement, seeking newness. Which means I’m sort of planning what I’d like to do next. If it doesn’t seem too fanciful, what about a return trip, but next time in a smaller boat with many fewer companions? Then again, maybe seeing the missus and the four bundles of fur will make me realize that you don’t need to go half way around the world to find adventure, excitement and stimulation.


Coming into Buenos Aires we hit some bad turbulence. Dropping a few hundred feet and then rising again almost instantly has different effect on passengers. Some pray and wish a fond farewell to their loved ones. Others are like the cowboy captain in “Dr Stranglove” cheering madly as he heads for oblivion. I was the latter.

We soon found out the reason for the turbulence – a massive storm over BA. This meant we couldn’t land and we were at the tail end of a queue of planes in the air. The effect of loads of planes landing very close together was that the luggage handling facility went into melt down. Plane loads of passengers staring at empty, stationary baggage carosels and no sign of their luggage. The South Americans are an exciteable bunch and it looked at one point we might be witnessing the next revolution! After an hour, however, we had our luggage and were met by our very patient driver.

We were too tired to do anything extravagant that night it being about 9 pm before we’d showered and changed so we had a meal in the hotel and a couple of bottles of wine which we shared with a couple from Haywards Heath who were with us in Antarctica. The wine cost more than $50 a bottle – but what the heck is was an excellent Cabernet Franc and we’re on holiday – just.