Archive for the ‘Antarctica’ Category

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Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands: Part 5 – Packing

March 28, 2012

I spent a lot of time thinking (and worrying) about what to pack for this trip. Our tour company gave us a list, but I found more helpful lists online. Most of the lists I found online had similar items on them, so instead of a detailed list, I’ll mention some specific things.

My Top Tips

This packing and tips list is great. We didn’t travel with that company, and I don’t know anything about them, but I got some good information from their list. My favorite tip from that list was to bring handkerchiefs. My nose runs a lot in cold weather, and I tissues can get away from me when I’m wearing mittens. I brought a bunch of men’s handkerchiefs and found that they were easy to handle with mittens, nice and large, and soft on my nose. They were also handy for drying off my glasses and camera. I washed them out in the sink at night and dried them on the clothesline in our bathroom.

One tip I saw on a lot of sites is that it’s not as cold as you think, but it’s windier. This proved to be true, and I’ll add that it was also wetter than I expected. I was prepared for wind, but not prepared for being pelted by cold rain in the Falklands and South Georgia. Not exactly pleasant, but I knew this wasn’t a tropical vacation! Waterproof everything (coat, boots, pants, mittens) is a must, and the waterproof gear helped a lot with the wind.

Along with waterproof mittens, I bought some stretchy gloves that I could wear under the mittens or on their own. They kept my hands covered and allowed me to operate my camera.

Sunblock for your face and lips is essential. We forgot to reapply sunblock one afternoon and quickly burned. Someone on our trip had a miserable-looking case of sunburned lips. In Antarctica, the ice and snow and water reflect the sun and can toast your skin quickly.

This isn’t exactly a glamour trip, but some beauty products are in order, such as moisturizer! It’s dry outside and on the ship. I brought a big tube of some really nice body lotion (Bliss Body Butter) and my super-duper winter face moisturizer. Hydrate from the inside too – I brought a water bottle. They did provide moisturizer and water bottles on the ship, but I like to have my own stuff.

Space Bags. As Seen on TV! These were an impulse buy, but I liked them because they compacted my clothes and they helped me to organize my items. I will definitely use them again on future trips.

You can’t go on a trip this long without dealing with laundry. I washed some clothes by hand, both in the (tiny) sink and by putting clothes, detergent, and water in a gigantic zipper bag and swishing it around to wash it. That’s my least-favorite thing to do, but it’s worth it because laundry costs can add up quickly. We did send pants and pullover tops to the ship’s laundry.

I think it goes without saying that you should be prepared for motion sickness. I brought prescription scopolamine patches, meclizine (aka Bonine), anti-nausea tablets, and ginger candy. Everyone is different, and of course, you should talk to your doctor. I am very sensitive to motion and spent a lot of time hoping I’d be OK and wouldn’t regret the trip.  I also tried out the scopolamine patch ahead of time and knew that it had some side effects and that I didn’t want to wear the patch constantly if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Some days, the patch was necessary! Other days, I was fine with meclizine. On the rough days, we saw a lot of trays of tea and broth being delivered to cabins. I’m happy to report that I did not miss a meal! When there was a lot of motion, I spent most of my time sitting in our cabin reading, but I was fine with that and happy not to be ill.

You’ll need some entertainment for the airplane and for days at sea. I stocked up my iPad with a lot of books and a few movies, and we brought more movies on a laptop. On the days with rough seas, I was really happy to have a variety of books to read to pass the time. And there was some time to pass – a couple of days, we were woken up at 4am, feeling like we were going to roll out of bed. There was no way I was getting back to sleep, so out came the iPad. They did offer a lot of lectures on our ship, and we attended many of them, but there weren’t live shows or gambling or limbo contests like you would find on a large cruise ship. You do need to be able to entertain yourself.

What I Wish I’d Brought

I didn’t bring a face mask, but that would have been nice to have to protect my face from the wind.

You will need waterproof boots. Some ships provide them, but ours didn’t, so we needed to buy them ahead of time and bring them along. We got some basic knee-high waterproof boots at a local farm supply store. They worked great and were comfortable to walk in, but if I did this again, I’d get insulated “arctic” boots. My feet were cold, even with foot warmers.

What I Brought But Didn’t Need (or didn’t need so much of)

I brought workout clothes to use in the ship’s fitness room. We had about 6 days at sea, and I planned to exercise on those days. Well, those days at sea ranged from sort of rough to really rough, and after stopping in to visit the fitness room, I realized that I was doing good if I could just walk around the ship – there was no way I was going to be able to walk on a treadmill or ride an exercise bike without falling off and/or getting sick from the motion.

I brought too many instant hand and foot warmers, and too much long underwear, but since there’s no way to know how cold it will be or how cold you’ll feel, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I always overpack snacks when I travel. I had quite a stash of granola bars, salted nuts, cocoa almonds, hard candy, and gum. Again, better safe than sorry!

That wraps up my posts on this trip. You can find all of them in my Antarctica category.

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Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands: Part 4 – Side Trip to Iguazu Falls

March 25, 2012

When you’re going on a 3 week trip, what’s a couple of extra days? That was my reasoning when I decided to add a side trip to our trip to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. I love waterfalls, and when I found out we’d be in Buenos Aires for this trip, I looked into what it would take to visit Iguazu Falls. To get there we flew from Buenos Aires to Iguazu Falls, which was a 1.5 hour flight. That was on top of a long overnight flight and then a ride across the city to transfer from the international airport to the domestic airport. We crashed at our hotel that day, but the next day we saw this!

Iguazu Falls is on the border of Argentina and Brazil, and both countries have access to the falls. There is much debate over which side is best, and a lot of people insist that it must be seen from both sides. We decided to just visit the Argentinian side, and while I don’t know what we missed by skipping Brazil, what we did see was spectacular.  If you want to learn more about Iguazu Falls, check out World of Waterfalls, which is a great site with tons of information and ideas for your waterfall bucket list.

I can’t say enough good things about Iguazu National Park. The trails were well-marked, it was clean, and there were a lot of bathrooms! The employees were friendly and helpful. Though I think it’s a good thing we didn’t have any complaints.

Iguazu is actually a series of falls almost two miles long. Walkways throughout the park take you to various viewpoints, some up high and some at water level. We took a boat ride that took us right up to the falls, giving us an up-close and very wet experience. They gave us a dry bag for our cameras and other belongings, and my husband had the fabulous idea to put our shoes in the dry bag too. I was soggy after the ride, but so happy to be wearing dry shoes and socks.

The beautiful butterflies in the park loved me and landed on my shirt throughout the day. I thought it was the color of my shirt, or perhaps that I was a butterfly whisperer, but eventually I had to face the fact that I spilled jelly on my shirt at breakfast and apparently hadn’t washed it out as well as I thought! Well, now I know that butterflies like jelly and that I have no hidden butterfly-attracting talent.

The park was very serious about not feeding the animals. This sign sends a clear message not to feed the Coatis.

We did see a few Coatis, but didn’t get a good photo. We also saw this cool bird!

And this pretty flower.

We spent two days at the park, which was more than enough, but we were glad to have plenty of time to explore and to walk on the nature trails in addition to seeing the falls. When we flew back to Buenos Aires, we literally had a couple of hours to walk around the city before meeting up with our tour group to start the next part of our trip. So what did we do with our limited time in Buenos Aires? We ate gelato, of course! A while before our trip, I saw an article in National Geographic Traveler magazine that mentioned a couple of gelato places in Buenos Aires. I mapped their locations and found that one of them, Arkakao was a five-minute walk from our hotel. It was meant to be! The staff was so friendly and willing to translate the flavors, but I didn’t need too much help with that. Ice cream is the international language and I speak it fluently.

Mine is on the left: dark chocolate and coconut. My husband had raspberry and caramel. It was a sweet end to the side-trip part of our trip before heading off to another continent.

Next, I’ll wrap up this trip with some packing tips.

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Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands: Part 3 – Falkland Islands

March 11, 2012

On November 10, 2011, it was with great excitement that I wrote in my travel journal “First penguin!” The Falkland Islands were the first stop on our trip, followed by South Georgia and then Antarctica, and on our first day there, on Carcass Island, we were welcomed by penguins. In the Falklands we saw two kinds of penguins that I haven’t covered in my other posts about the trip.

First up: Magellanic penguins, which we saw on Carcass Island.

I won’t leave you hanging. The other type of penguin that we saw was the Rockhopper, which were on West Point Island. I probably shouldn’t pick favorites, but since I know none of the penguins are reading this, I’ll admit that I think the Rockhoppers were the cutest. The crazy hair won me over!

Also on Carcass Island, we saw the Upland Goose.

And this guy. I made a note that it’s a rare raptor, but I don’t know the name of it. Bird watchers, you have my respect – I just can’t keep up with all the birds.

Here’s an albatross in flight. The wingspan of an albatross is about 10 feet. Big wingspan, big droppings – I’ll spare you the photo of what happened to me, but let’s just say that I’m grateful I had my hood up!

It was a nice day, yet not quite as tropical as this photo makes it look. It was pretty windy most of the time.

In Stanley, the capital, we took a bus tour of the city and spent some time walking around town on our own. There were lots of gift shops, so I bought a few things and sent some postcards.We visited the Falkland Islands museum, where I looked longingly at this trunk. Oh, for the days when there were no checked bag fees!

Our tour guide passed around this landmine, a reminder of the war between the UK and Argentina.This one was inactive, thankfully.

Here’s the whalebone arch. These are jaw bones from two Blue whales. We did see some whales on the trip, but nothing nearly that large.

Whales or not, the penguins were still the star of the show for me.

I’ve covered all of the ports of call on our trip, but there’s more to come!

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Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands: Part 2 – South Georgia

February 25, 2012

Before planning our trip to Antarctica, I don’t think I’d heard of South Georgia. It comes up often in stories of Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer, but if I learned about him in school, it was long forgotten. Now that I’ve been there, I can say that it was worth the trip. And it was quite a trip: from the tip of South America, it took a day to sail to the Falkland Islands. From there, it took two days to sail to South Georgia. We were out there.

When I wrote about Antarctica, I included photos of Adelie, Gentoo, and Chinstrap penguins. In South Georgia, we saw King Penguins:

Lots and lots of King penguins. This photo is from Salisbury Plain, which was our first stop in South Georgia. I came to see penguins, and I was not disappointed! The brown fuzzy ones are called Oakum Boys, but I call them the teenagers. They’re pretty big but not yet full-grown and don’t have their adult feathers yet.

We also saw Macaroni penguins in Hercules Bay.

I’m not a birdwatcher, but it’s always interesting to see different types of birds in other parts of the world. Here’s a baby Albatross sitting in a nest on Prion Island. Albatrosses are huge, so even the baby is pretty big.

We also saw the elusive South Georgia Pipit. I don’t have a photo of it, but the bird expert on our ship was really excited about this bird. It’s South Georgia’s only songbird and is threatened by rats. Rats were introduced to South Georgia by ships, and now there are measures to prevent further infestation (which is great, because I hope there were no rats on our ship!). We didn’t see any rats in South Georgia, but we did see some Reindeer. Reindeer were introduced by humans and are not native to South Georgia. They also don’t quite look like Santa’s Reindeer.

We also saw lots of super-cute baby Elephant seals (note that the babies were about 400 pounds).

And full-grown Elephant seals. They were fine as long as you stayed out of their way.

Plus a lot of Fur seals, which look regal, but stay out of their way or they will come after you! There weren’t any injuries in our group, but they showed us photos of a mangled hand as a warning not to get too close to the Fur seals.

We also visited Stromness and Grytviken, both of which are former whaling stations. In Grytviken, we visited Shackleton’s grave and toasted him with whiskey. At least I’m pretty sure it was whiskey…it was cold, windy, and rainy, and I appreciated the burst of warmth from the alcohol. But nice weather wasn’t one of the selling points of this trip. The scenery and the wildlife more than made up for the weather.

Still to come…the Falkland Islands, featuring two more kinds of penguins.

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Antarctica, South Georgia, Falkland Islands: Part 1 – Antarctica

January 26, 2012

Back in mid-December, I mentioned that my husband and I took a month-long trip to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands in November. It would have been fun to blog along the way during the trip, but we didn’t want to advertise that our house was empty for a month, plus internet access was really expensive. In hindsight, I should have written posts along the way and then posted them when we got home. Next time I guess! For now, I thought I’d try to sum it up with some photos, starting with Antarctica.

Did you see the movie March of the Penguins? I loved watching them slide on their stomachs in the movie, and was really excited to see it in person. This is an Adelie penguin at Brown Bluff. The day we visited Brown Bluff was the only super-cold day of the trip. Before we got off the ship, we were advised to “put on everything that you own,” so I knew it was going to be bad! It was our first day in Antarctica, and I think everyone got pretty worried about the weather.

After Brown Bluff, we really lucked out with the weather. Most days were around the freezing mark, sunny, and no wind. We had a great day in Neko Harbour, which I think is one of the prettiest places we visited. It felt great to take my parka off!

Speaking of gorgeous weather, it was nice enough to go kayaking in Paradise Bay. We had to navigate through some ice, but there was no wind and the water was smooth. This was our first time in a double kayak, and after unsuccessfully trying to coordinate our paddling, I discovered the solution: let my husband do all the paddling and the steering! Heck, next time I’m not even going to bother taking a paddle; it just got in my way.

We had some rough seas between South Georgia and Antarctica. A prescription motion sickness patch got me through that…barely. Our ship’s chief engineer didn’t fare so well – he broke his hip and had to be flown to Chile on a medevac flight. The flight departed from King George Island, which is home to Chilean and Russian research stations. This Russian Orthodox church was built in Siberia, then taken apart and shipped to King George Island to be reconstructed. It’s tiny, but I don’t think they get large crowds for church in Antarctica!

A Gentoo penguin hopped up to check out a camera in Dorian Bay.

In Port Lockroy, there’s a small museum at a former British base. One of the items was a cookbook…with a recipe for Casserole of Penguin Breasts! That’s one recipe I will not be blogging.

Penguins, like this Chinstrap penguin in Dorian Bay, are no longer on the menu.

Along with all the penguins, there was a lot of ice. A ship sailing these waters needs to be able to break through some ice.

We got up close to some gorgeous scenery, including this cave-like iceberg.

These photos are just the tip of the iceberg (ha ha), but hopefully give you an idea of some of the beautiful scenery in the Antarctic peninsula. We saw seven(!) kinds of penguins on the trip – I’ll cover the other four in my South Georgia and Falkland Islands posts.

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