There are destinations that one sees unattainable, which become traveling dreams. From the moment we decided to fulfill our main dream: to leave everything to travel, it became clear that no other was impossible to fulfill. And the least impossible was one in white and gray. Crossing the Salar de Uyuni or seeing the moáis of Easter Island were important stages of our #LatTrip but, from the beginning, the only thing that marked the calendar was to reach Ushuaia while there were still boats to Antarctica. We already tell you that it is possible to travel to Antarctica and how to do it, today we will deal with sensations.
It is very difficult to explain the feelings we had while hiring our “excursion”: the nerves because the mail did not arrive with the information on the card and yes the bus that would take us to Ushuaia, the pressure for the expense involved, happiness for what That was coming. The expectation in Ushuaia, while we slept in Hotel Campanilla, was only going up while we were chatting with Françesc. He told us about the experiences of some of his guests while telling us how he had left, together with his wife Mercè, from Spain to set up a hotel at the End of the World, and what a cozy and pleasant hotel. but all of this was left behind when we felt the ground move under our feet and we realized that it would continue to do so for the next two weeks.
SOUTHERN PATH: THE DRAKE PASS, THE 60TH PARALLEL, THE ANTARCTIC POLAR CIRCLE AND BEYOND
The terrible step came to Drake. A step that even Sir Francis Drake himself never crossed. A new encounter of the waters like the Amazon, but here without changing color and between two gigantic oceans. We expected a terrible swing, that the ship nodded like a wild horse. We had heard many stories, the last one in the pharmacy where I bought Dramamine from a girl who worked on one of the boats, and we didn’t know if we would be prepared. For the first time use the level of the mobile that came to mark inclinations of 8 %. But we did not suffer, the desire to move forward for what awaited us kept us attentive to everything.
The stages were being fulfilled, once Drake passed the ship advanced. The 60º South parallel, the territorial limit of Antarctica, was surpassed over more or less calm waters. We cross the Antarctic Circle, parallel 66º 33 ′ 44 » South, and celebrate it by taking hot chocolate on deck. We arrived at 68º 14.3 ′ South and, if that had not seemed enough, that was where the real adventure began. The colors disappeared to give way to a world in gray, blue and white scales. A world that accepts us but is not ours. A world that allows us to enjoy its beauty but makes it clear that we are invited. A world that does not allow itself to be tamed and that sets the rules.
CAN YOU PUT WORDS TO BEAUTY?
Everyone has in mind that an iceberg is a huge block of ice, but how much is huge? Our first iceberg showed us that our imagination had fallen short. Our expedition ship and its 124 meters in length stayed in nothing. A block of ice, drifting, over 124 meters? Yes, that makes the sinking of the Titanic more “understandable.” At that first moment, after more than two days of navigation, the madness is unleashed on the ship and photo cameras begin to appear – that seems an exhibition of professional cameras and lenses capable of removing the hairs of the seals from a hundred meters away–.
Shortly after, without hearing Rodrigo de Triana shout “land insight”, the icebergs become a huge mass of ice … so huge that it is a glacier on the mainland. Horseshoe Island appeared in front of us. It was time to wear warm clothes, COAT: the tights under the snow pants, the two pairs of socks, the five layers of shirts, sweatshirts, and parka, two pairs of gloves and the hat. We would leave the ship to navigate among ice in the zodiacs. If the ship looked small, the zodiacs were simple specks in front of the huge glaciers. We did not stop to think about the safety talk – the second one we received – what to do if someone fell into the water or what to do if it was the patron of the zodiac. We just wanted to see all that up close, get out of the comfort of the boat to feel the cold in the face, take another step on our visit to Antarctica. Seals began to appear – Weddel, leopard, and crab – sea lions, elephants, humpback whales, southern rock whales, killer whales … not all the same day, not all at once, but all passed in front of our astonished eyes.
Enough? Do not! We wanted to step on Antarctica, touch that sixth continent. Our first contact with the land arrived on Peterman Island on the fifth day of navigation. Penguins. That is the word: penguins. Thousands of penguins. Friendly, clumsy on land, which makes them especially funny, scandalous – we arrived in the breeding season and there they were all calling their parents shouting for food – and dirty. The tranquility of the white continent disappeared as if by magic to give way to a deafening screaming and tons of guano. But it was our Antarctic moment, our dream fulfilled, our jump and everything was as it should be, with that point of reality that showed you were there beyond what you had hoped to find.
It was time to cross narrow passages between the peninsula and the islands when silence reigned on the bridge while the captain gave the orders without taking his eyes off the map. Outside, a dense fog let us see, from time to time, how huge walls of rock and ice surrounded us on both sides. The Lemaire Canal was one of the strengths of navigation, one of the most beautiful landscapes we would always remember … we saw it covered by fog, cold and with some snow, but those moments and what will always remain in our memory we saw. Our Antarctic experience did not let appear more colors than those bluish grays.
MADNESSES IN ANTARCTICA: POLAR PLUNGE
Everything was beautiful, everything impressed us, everything had us with our mouths open and our eyes wide. Every morning we pinched ourselves to confirm that everything was real – we still hadn’t seen the position in the bank … -. The possibility arose to make it more real: touch it. Until that time we had sailed – by boat and zodiac -, stepped on – the islands and the mainland -, heard – penguins, seals, and whales, but also avalanches and ice breaks in the glaciers – and smelled – have we already said that the penguins Are they very dirty? -. Always well-protected with our many layers of clothing. I needed to feel it in-depth, Feel it on the skin. It was time to do crazy things, because what else would you call jumping into the Antarctic ocean in a swimsuit? Well, there they call it more elegantly. Instead of saying Sick Madness, they call it Polar Plunge. But the result is the same: an explosion of pain inside your head when you dive into those waters at about a temperature
RETURNING TO USHUAIA
Everything good ends, even dreams, and after eight fabulous days in Antarctica, it was time to return. The Drake Pass was waiting for us again, but he was already an old acquaintance. You may think that depression became strong in us. No. The birds, to which we had not paid much attention to the outward journey eager to arrive as soon as possible, returned to surround our ship. The majestic albatrosses – the largest birds on the planet, even more so than the condors – and the petrels were planning around us and sometimes on our heads. It was the end of the animal kingdom party, of an animal kingdom that survives where we cannot – there are indeed permanent bases in Antarctica, but … -.
The Beagle Channel marked the end of the adventure and the time to disembark at the port of Ushuaia was the return to reality. A reality that we had left for two weeks to visit a different planet where neither the colors were the same. We had fulfilled a dream and lived it was better than dreaming.