antarctica, and some joshua tree too! travel blog

spectacular sunset, day 1

spectacular sunset, day 2. approximately 10:30pm

one last photo out of my hotel breakfast area in ushuaia......what a...

my ship - holds just 116 passengers

loose pups in ushuaia. all well fed and friendly. they definitely have...

So it’s Monday evening as I sit down to write this and I’ve been on the ship, the Ortelius, for just over 24 hours. First order of business: the internet connection on the ship, which uses satellite, is VERY sketchy. Most of the time it’s hard to connect or the signal is blocked. So I’m writing this offline and am not sure when I’ll be able to post it – there may be several days worth of journal by the time I can submit it. And most importantly – although I have photos to share, it’s very expensive to buy additional data. So this post is likely to be accompanied by only a few pictures, or even none at all, depending on the speed of the connection and the additional cost. I apologize in advance and will surely post more when I get back stateside, for those who are willing to revisit.

I can’t believe my good fortune so far. I used an adventure travel outfitter, Swoop UK, to book on my behalf with Oceanwide Explorations, the ship operator. There were only a few spots left and I selected a twin cabin. It was assumed I’d have a mystery roommate for the 9 days, another single traveler. I got onto the ship fairly early on Sunday and selected the bed I thought would be best – and as the ship pulled away from the dock, no one had shown up in my room! So to this point, and hopefully throughout the journey, I’ve got the place to myself. (Some of the singles on board said they’d paid an additional 70% to have a room of their own......) I suppose it’s possible that, if some of these other singles got thrown together with someone they don’t like, the captain could move them into my room. But so far, so good.

And further, I came to realize that I have a better room than most. Mine has a fridge, a coffeepot, a couple of complimentary bottles of wine I won’t use, etc. As I was talking to some of my shipmates from the UK, they were complaining about having nothing like that in their room, so I gave away the coffeepot, the tea and the cups/saucers/spoons. In comparing notes with other travelers, I guess mine is one of the few rooms with a working fridge so I can keep my water and diet coke cold. I must have been upgraded somehow.

My last piece of good fortune is, I’m not seasick like many of the people. There’s not much going on today and tomorrow, as we’re crossing the Drake passage in the Southern Ocean, so they’ve had a few seminars and things to keep us occupied. The attendance has been spotty, even at the meals, because so many people are ill. A large portion of those who aren’t ill had taken precautions like wearing the patch, taking Dramamine, and wearing the wrist band; some folks are doing all three! And I’ve done absolutely nothing; I brought some Dramamine and a Seaband but decided not to use them pre-emptively because I was pretty sure I’d be OK. And I am.

What’s also helping is that, so far, the trip has been relatively smooth for this stretch of ocean. Waves are only about 2-3 meters and, although the ship is rockin’ and rollin’, it could be far worse. On Sunday morning before I boarded, I ran into some passengers who just disembarked from the previous trip on the Ortelius. They told me they’d only gotten to land on Antarctica once before the captain decided to head back due to poor weather forecast. And the captain, with 10 years experience with this ship operator, went on to tell us during the intro that it was the worst trip they’d ever had – 14 meter (46 foot) waves at one point, all whipped up by the storm that caused my wind issues mentioned in the previous blog posting. So this crossing, we’re getting the exact opposite weather – super smooth and forecasted to stay that way at least until we get down to the Antarctic peninsula.

I’m still in shorts and a t-shirt, although I don’t stay outside too long – it’s been in the low to mid-40s with a bit of rain this morning. Inside it’s nice and warm so this is perfect attire, as they’d advertised; I’m definitely not the only one in shorts. Today the staff had to warn us not to run around on the deck with flip-flops on, so some people are taking it to the extreme. Probably them kids......guess I failed to mention that there are about 20 or so teenage boys from some private school in Sydney. Other than during the safety demo and exercise, they haven’t been too disruptive. (During the exercise there were several people ready to shove a couple of ‘em overboard so we could have a real demonstration!)

On the wildlife front, not too much happening as you’d expect. There have been several large albatrosses (albatri?) following the ship so some of the birdwatchers are pretty excited. Impressive wingspan. This morning I saw a whale not too far off, heading in the other direction. Guess he’d had his krill fill and was heading back to warmer waters.

Meeting lots of people from all over the world. The meals (excellent, by the way!) are in a dining room with just enough seating for everyone. So you come in and sit wherever, usually with a new set of people each meal, and chaat. (Little pun there; the head chef is Indian. No curry yet but I’m hoping.) I’ve met several women from the UK, a few Swiss, two Dutch guys that had been professional poker players and had a very interesting story about why they quit, and some Aussies as well as a number of Americans. Even met a couple from the Bay Area that work in Silicon Valley, she with Google and he with a self-driving car startup. (Interesting conversation on THAT topic!) The staff (guides, experts) tend to hang out in the lounge which seems to be the place for socialization. Think I’m heading up there now to see who I can talk to......update: just shot a few sunset pictures at 10:30pm. They look even better on my phone than in real life; pink sea, low clouds. Hope to post one or two.

Thanks for reading!

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