There are not too many places these days that you can describe as untouched, pristine, not swarming with tourists. But I have visited a place where you cant even walk around and buy a postcard or a magnet, where ice covers everything as far as the eye can see and cute little penguins, who up until this moment I’d only seen in zoos, frolic and swim in their home waters.
Going to Antarctica
Ok I may have led you astray a little……I went there on a cruise ship and there is no way a cruise line is going to miss an opportunity to sell you crappy souvenirs! However the untouched wonder is still absolutely true. Our voyage begins in Buenos Aires where we set sail for the Falkland Islands. A little part of Great Britain in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, setting foot in Stanley is like being transported to a small English sea side town, with numerous pubs that have John Smiths on hand and fish and chips with all the vinegar you can pour on top, its hard to believe we are not far off the coast line of Argentina.
The big attraction here is the penguin population living on the abandoned beaches made inaccessible due to the land mines still scattered throughout the area. For those of you like myself who were not alive during the Falklands War the land mines were the aftermath from when Argentina invaded in 1982, after 3 months of war Argentina surrendered and the British remained in power. The devastation of war however is still very evident today with much of the landscape looking like a bomb site and many areas uninhabited due to land mines.
All war aside the penguins are Loving it! With long stretches of beach all to themselves to walk, hangout, dance what ever it is that penguins do! The tourists (which a minimal as the Falklands are not the easiest place to get to) are kept well away due to the closed off areas so the penguins are living a nice undisturbed life. Word of warning……you may think they are sweet an cute but when you have this many all in one place they Stink!!! Its a horrible stench that wafts up the sand dune to punch you fair in the face with its pungency!
Due to the weather conditions we couldn’t stay too long, the waters surrounding the Falklands are very volatile and there are many stories of locals having to take in stranded cruise passengers for the night as the tender boats couldn’t make it back to the ship. We made it back safe and sound and it was time to head to our next stop.
Most trips to Antarctica begin in Ushuaia, Argentina, a fishing village surrounded by beautiful mountains. Considered to be the Southern most city in the world its no wonder this is our starting point for an Arctic voyage.
However things do calm down again after Drakes Passage and then you have time to enjoy the scenery. Giant icebergs floating by that are a colour of blue that I have never seen before, penguins waddling around on these icebergs and then diving off to swim and even try to race the ship as it passes though the water, the whales off in the distance diving and spouting water high into the air, and of course the towering mountains of ice on either side of the passage where you can watch the ice carve off the sides and tumble into the arctic ocean below.
This is a quiet, peaceful and enchanting paradise of ice that is so awe-inspiring that you want to be outside at all times so you don’t miss a single moment! But there is one problem…..it is frickin freezing!!! The only time you can travel to Antarctica is in the summer (Jan – Feb) and even then the temperatures are -10 degrees Celsius. We found that racing inside and taking shots of brandy (its all we could find) helped warm us up a little to go back outside and keep taking more pictures.
If you are wanting to go on your own Antarctic adventure, (and not wanting to get a job on a cruise ship to do it) we recommend heading there with our good friends at Intrepid travel. Check out their Antarctica tours HERE
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