Antarctica #1 – Ushuaia and Sailing the Drakes Passage – February 2009

Unexpected Surprise at 5:00am – Leaving Buenos Aires:

-I have now learned to never expect a normal or easy departure for any flight!  After waking up at 5am to catch my 6:40am flight to Ushuaia, I thought it would be easy to roll out of bed, call for a taxi and head down to the street.  What I wasn`t prepared for was the elevator being out of order in the morning, and I had my large bag (now down to 24 kilos/54 pounds), plus a duffel bag of extra cold weather items for Antarctica, plus a box of wine and my day bag.  I knew I could manage it with the elevator, but going down seven, yes seven flights of stairs half asleep at 5:15 in the morning, wasn`t my idea of a wake up work out.  Lucky for me, the guy on duty at the hostel saw my stuff and said he wanted to help me, which I first said no need but he insisted and carried my biggest bag down all the stairs.  It was so sweet of him and a huge help to me to save me two trips.

-After a three and a half hour flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, I immediately felt a temperature change from hot to cold, and I knew this wasn`t even cold yet!  We were told it was 8 degrees Celsius (about 46 F).

-After meeting a few people at the airport that would be on my boat, I shared a taxi to my hotel with a brother and sister from Australia who were sweet.  I was excited to have a hotel for a night, and it was a 4 star hotel on top of that.  So early in the morning, all I wanted was to relax and watch a little TV, but to my sadness….my TV wasn`t working and was all snow.  I didn`t know if the hotel didn`t get reception and after calling the front desk, they came and fixed it and I was able to enjoy the oldest and junkiest TV ever (including “The Apprentice – from Los Angeles a few years ago” and Beverly Hills 90210 – not the new season, we are talking about Brandon and Andrea from sophomore year!)

-I knew I needed to run a few errands in town at the grocery store and then picking up my rental clothes (parka and pants).  The grocery store is always a funny experience.  One of the things I wanted was wine.  I wanted to bring my own wine on my cruise as I have been disappointed with wine selection in the past or the prices are too high.  As I learned years ago in Santa Barbara (with all of our sorority parties on boats), one of the best ways to avoid sea sickness is to keep drinking alcohol as it helps with the equilibrium and those of us that were drinking a lot, didn`t get sea sick (and those that were not drinking got sick).  So I planned to have my stash of wine in my cabin.

-I was able to find some great wines, reserve wines as well and even found the Andeluna wine that my dad, brother and I liked so much from the Uco Valley in Mendoza as I was told it was sold at this one store in Ushuaia and I found it.  Funny part when I bought some wine at the grocery store, I choose the nicer wines and they all had sensors on them as they were over 50 pesos ($15).  So I was carrying 5 bottles to the counter with sensors and I was getting looks from others in line, but I didn`t care.  I also wanted to get a bottle of champagne so I could pop it on my birthday as we should be arriving in Antarctica on my birthday and that`s a fun thing to celebrate once in my life.

-Later that afternoon, my hotel roommate arrived.  I had no idea who I would get for the night, but I expected someone older as I figured many retired people go to Antarctica.  To my surprise, I met Jasmine.  She was 25 years old, from Los Angeles, and just quit her job and started a round the world trip – and was just two weeks in.  After some talking, she was bright eyed and eager to learn from my experience as there were many things she never thought about or considered to help her on my travels, so I got to be her guardian angel and share my words of wisdom and hopefully help her from trouble further down the road.

-Jasmine also was eager to learn about everything and we just talked and talked.  Then she got her first wine tasting lesson from me.  She really hasn`t ever tasted wine and didn`t know much about it and was curious to learn, so she got her basic course as I opened my only bottle of white wine that my dad didn`t want to carry back to the states.  I will say, this Andeluna Chardonnay was so smooth and such a great bottle of wine, and perfect to use to teach someone about wine.  So all in all, Jasmine and I had a great night of talking, drinking, enjoying dinner in our hotel room and enjoying junky TV (including a silly episode of “Wife Swap” before we went to bed).

-I know I have been traveling for a while when I`m excited for bad TV, a real bed (not just a foam with a sheet on it as many of the Argentinean hostels call a bed), plus this hotel had a spa and Jacuzzi, and I made sure to take advantage of those!

February 11th

-After checking out of the hotel, we had about six hours to kill before we boarded our boat, and I met Deanna at breakfast (who happened to be sharing a room with Jasmine on the boat).  Deanna was 41 years old, from Portland Oregon, and just quit her job at Nike to travel for a while…she`s not sure how long, but maybe a year.  So Jasmine, Deanna and had a lovely breakfast, and I was excited for the expedition as I had already met so many nice people and seen more young people that were going to be on trip than I expected!

-Deanna and I went to find another wine store to get a few more bottles (as Deanna was now more interested to get wine knowing I would be opening mine in my room).  Deanna had just booked the Antarctica trip a week before and was on her own as well and we had a great time exploring Ushuaia for the afternoon before we each suffered through a massage before getting on the boat.  What a treat!

-So at 4:00pm, we were boarding the boat, and I was already making friends as I was carrying all this wine.  People saw me carrying a box of wine (with six bottles in it), plus two more bottles in a bag.  A few of the crew were jokingly asking what cabin I was in so they could help me open the bottles later.  I had to get a photo of me with all my wine before getting on the boat as it was a little silly to have so much, but I knew it would help me enjoy the long time sailing there and back!

Setting Sail (February 11th)

-Once we set sail, at 6:45pm, we had to have our mandatory safety meeting where we learned all about what to do in an emergency.  People were actually listening to this, which was different from other trips I`ve been on when people don`t care.  I guess there was more concern since there was one boat that sank sailing to Antarctica in 2007 (but everyone was rescued safely).

-I met my two cabin roommates for the trip and was happy as they were so nice.  Both girls are from  from San Francisco (small world).  First I met Tamarin, who was 28 years old and recently graduated Hastings Law School and is working as an attorney at a small firm in Menlo Park.  Her friend Liz was a 30 year old working in San Francisco as a Medical Researcher at UCSF.  So we were able to chat about life in California and then they wanted to know more about my RTW trip as they were both on just a two week holiday.

Sailing the Drake Passage (February 12th )

-Before taking this trip, I had heard horrible stories about sailing through the Drake Passage as it`s the worst part to sail in the world, no matter what.  Most people get very sick, even if they are prone to sea sickness, so I was expecting the worst, but figured it was just two days (and then two more on the return).

-Lucky for us, the weather forecast was good (not great), but not bad…so we were all happy with that.  We knew we would be entering the Drake Passage right after midnight, and the ships doctor gave a presentation about sea sickness and what to expect and then was passing out drugs to anyone that wanted it and did one on one consultations.  I don`t normally get sea sick, but then again I don`t normally travel in this rough of seas.  So after talking to him, and explaining my sea sickness history, he gave me the low level drugs as he didn`t think I needed the hard core stuff.

-I slept through the night fine, waking a few times when the seas were a little rough, but nothing bad.  When I woke up on the 12th, we were told some people were already “heard” not feeling well when you were walking down the hallways, but I felt fine and no more drugs for me.

-The boat really just had a rolling motion, which later rolled me nicely into a nap.  I consider this just like a baby cradle.  You rock the cradle and the baby goes to sleep…it was kinda the same with us.  I crawl into bed, start to roll with the boat and I`m sleep.  So I`m hoping to catch up on some sleep during this Drake Passage as there`s not much to see yet, and I`m still exhausted from running around so much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *