Category Archives: Antarctica

Highlights of my 2015

I started 2015 with an amazing idea to travel from Antarctica to Alaska visiting most of the countries while zigzaging my way from south to north. It took me most of the year (with some breaks) to get to Bolivia and Brazil and then I decided I want to see something totally different and I flew to South Africa for New Years Eve. It wasn’t a race to get to Alaska, it was a dream, maybe a bit of a challenge, but as money were less and less I abandoned my idea and went to meet other cultures also.

Nonetheless , my 2015 was amazing and here are the highlights of it, in chronological order and described in moments:

1.Antarctica

I woke up one morning with the screeching sound of something touching  Expedition, our ship. It wasn’t morning yet but it wasn’t totally dark either, a new day was coming. I looked on the porthole window both scared and curious and what I saw is one of the most beautiful views I ever laid my eyes on. The icebergs and pieces of icebergs around us, totally different than the day before, the light before sunrise, the shapes and sounds were making everything surreal, and for me that’s how Antarctica is : surreal. He woke up, watched the magic outside, placed a kiss on my forehead and went back to sleep. It felt warm and magic. It felt like being in another world.

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2.Torres del Paine

The third day of the W trekking is mainly uphill at the beginning. And you go up and up and sometimes you look behind and you are amazed. That’s how beautiful it is. And it makes you forget the park it’s like a boulevard with way too many tourists. It was me , and music, and the guys I ignored a bit those days because of the music and the talk I had with myself, completely absorbed by the beautiful nature.

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3.Bahia Inutil

After seeing so many penguins in Antarctica and already passing Punta Arenas I decided to go back and get the chance to see the King penguins. And that day was a bit of an adventure, but a good and memorable one. We crossed the Magellan Strait but one the way back we got a bit stuck, as the waves were too big to cross it back. The view was beautiful, it was so cold and windy, and I was happy I finally saw those penguins and although people were panicking around I felt free and capable of every single thing I decide to do. I was speaking Spanish also, my broken funny Spanish people compliment all the time (except when a linguist told me I speak a medieval Spanish :)) ).

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4.Perito Moreno

Such a famous glacier and such a rainy day. I was in waterproof but 80% wet, that’s how heavy it rained. But if you just stop trying to find the perfect spot, between all the people and all the selfies, just focusing on the immensity of the glacier, on all the sounds of cracking ice and ice falling in the lake, you realize the rain plays also a part in the magic and feeling wet of rain will always remind you of something special. And I smiled . A truly genuine smile. Because the world is amazing.

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5.Fitz Roy

Still my favorite mountain, although later the Amphitheatre in South Africa amazed me a lot. I still have on my retina the image of the mountain, the lake and how we stayed there for two hours and still didn’t want to go back. How we said we will wait just a bit more for the clouds to pass. And they passed few times but it was too beautiful to leave it behind. How cold was the water and how alive I felt.

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6.Candelario Mansilla

This was definitely a challenge and an adventure, 24 km with 24 kg. Took a bus from El Chalten, a boat, got exit visa from Argentina and walked and walked (first 6km painfully uphill), met a guy from USA on the boat, we crossed many little rivers, me full of mud and with wet shoes, he clean like a spring flower because was always behind, all day us and the maps.me app to be sure we are on the track. But when we got closer we felt the trekking and the mud and dust and tiredness are completely worth it because the landscape it’s completely beautiful. Later that evening I ate one of the best dinner ever (as I trekked all day with only 2 boiled eggs and a carrot in my stomach).

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7.Easter Island

Rapa Nui. For me it’s always Rapa Nui and people don’t know what I’m speaking about. Watching sunset during my first day there with beautiful happy people around. On a very tiny beach. Dog trying to eat my camera as I was doing a time lapse. I empathised with those young guys and I felt there are no worries in the world worthy of my attention. Rapa Nui is one of the most magical places I ever saw.

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8. 5592m altitude

I ended up spending almost two weeks in Atacama, each and every day with a beautiful story. But the one I like the most is the one when after struggling to breathe and very slowly climb Lascar Volcano I’m not tired anymore, I’m just happy to be there, the highest I ever got with my own feet,the first active volcano I climb, ignoring the sulphur smell and smiling huge smiles.

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9.Salar de Uyuni

It’s cold, so crazy cold but I want to jump in this immensity of white. So I change my ski trousers and my goose feather jacket with summer colorful clothes and I jump, for this place is surreal too.

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10.Real Beni

Real Beni is the name of a natives community in the amazonian jungle north of Bolivia and although I really love the kids from that community and I fancy the idea of seeing them again, the special moment I have in mind is the one when our host, Cupertina sang to us. She’s the grandmother of all the children I met. At night, near the river, listening the wind and watching the clear skies, with a million mosquito bites, with a million thoughts, I hear she starts to sing and she gets all my attention. She sings a song about love, and choices, about nature and life. I feel nostalgic.

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11. Flying over Rio

More exactly flying over the ocean next to Rio de Janeiro. And turning, and increasing or decreasing speed as my instructor showed me. Freebird. Too short but life it’s made up of moments.

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12.Iguazu Falls

As the legend says:

“Once upon a time, a Guarani warrior named Caroba, who was in love with a pretty Indian maiden named Naipi, took her into his canoe and fled the village, paddling for all he was worth down the Iguazu River.

But Caroba was not the only one who was enamoured of the fair Naipi. She had also attracted the romantic attention of a forest god. When the forest god saw Caroba paddling downriver with Naipi, he was angry.

To try to stop Caroba, the angry forest god made the land under the river disappear. Naipi fell out of the canoe and dropped over the edge. She landed at the bottom, and turned into a rock. Caroba turned into a tree that overlooks this rock. Where the river bottom disappeared or fell away is the site of Iguazu Falls.”

Everybody it’s going back for the train but I linger there hypnotised. It’s not a cliche, it’s one of the most powerful sites I ever saw.

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The brazilian side of Iguazu Falls

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The argentinian side of the falls – Garganta del Diablo

 

 

 

Surreal Antarctica

Crossing the Antarctic Circle

After two days of flights from Bucharest to Ushuaia, I finally arrived in the southernmost city in the world. Next step was to find a last minute deal to Antarctica and for that, I estimated I should have at least four days to search. It turned out to be much easier than expected, I found a nice last minute deal in my first three hours in Ushuaia. The girl from the reception of La Posta hostel made a phone call and got me a deal and some hours later the agent of Freestyle came to talk to me in depth about it. They work with many companies which make tours in Antarctica, therefore, she knew exactly what are my options. I planned to spend maximum 5000$ but the trip cost me 6899$. I chose this G Adventures trip because of the extended length (13 days instead of 10) which meant more time actually spent in Antarctica and also because of the crossing of the Antarctic Circle.

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The conditions on the ship are much better than anything I ever expected, I was spoiled for two weeks with lots of good food and the bed made two times per day although I wasn’t using it twice, just threw some stuff on the bed which were very soon getting folded and organised. I would have been happy with much less but I guess all the cruises to Antarctica have hotel and restaurant conditions. I shared my cabin with two Chinese girls which got engaged during Valentine’s day.

First two and half days onboard Expedition were about lectures, drinking in the evening while listening good music played by one of the guys from the expedition staff, bird watching, pretty bad weather and meeting new people (most of them quite seasick) while sailing the Drake Passage.

Getting closer to Antarctica we started to see icebergs and ice floating in the ocean, beautiful landscapes, antarctic wildlife and soon I started to feel like I went to another kind of world. The wildlife was very impressive but what I liked the most were the icebergs and the ice floating everywhere, the mountains covered with ice and snow, the amazing skies and the moody weather. Every day was different from the other day, every day brought new and amazing experiences. It was so very easy to forget about myself and just live the perfect moments I had there.

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The fourth day we had our first zodiac cruise around the Melchior Islands, we saw seals and one chinstrap penguin, birds and whales. Later in the afternoon we made our first landing on Antarctica at George’s Point where lives a big colony of gentoo penguins and seals. Spent there one or two hours and made hundreds of photos.

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On 13th we passed the Lemaire Channel in beautiful weather and amazing landscape. It was so hard to go from the deck inside the vessel. We also saw lots of icebergs and whales.   

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Next we set as a target to cross the Antarctic Circle and so we did on 14th February around 1 a.m. We celebrated with champagne and good music.

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Due to bad weather we couldn’t do our two landings as planned south of the circle so we  were forced to turn and go back north. That day was a day of lectures and organising photos. 

Our next destination was Petermann Island where we saw a colony of Adelie and Gentoo penguins. Before that we had a long cruise around the island and we saw seals swimming while  around us were a lot of amazing icebergs.

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In the afternoon we went to Paradise Harbour, an amazing place where we went a bit uphill to see the wonderful view and we went back down sliding. 🙂 Antarctica was much warmer than I expected.

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Although we were waking early every morning it was always exciting and different. We saw whales feeding at Cierva Cove and an island of whale bones and Gentoo penguins at  Mikkelsen Harbour.

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Last day in Antarctica was a special day, the very last thing we did was the polar plunge at Telefon Bay, Deception Island (the water was 3 degrees Celsius and my polar plunge was around 3 seconds and after that I thought for a while that I’ll die because I couldn’t breath properly).

We watched chinstrap penguins at Bailey Head in the morning and after lunch we walked on the top of the crater at Deception Island. 

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polarPlunge

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It’s two months now since I’ve been there, in the most surreal place I’ve ever seen. When I think back about it the first thing that comes to my mind is a morning when I woke up because of a weird noise and looked on the window and saw in the almost morning light the icebergs around and one very close which was actually scratching the vessel making the loud noise. It was so beautiful and surreal, it’s the most special moment I had there. I keep saying it, wildlife was amazing there but the most impressive for me were the icebergs, the ice around and the mountains covered in ice. I thought I will sleep every night early because the people on the cruise weren’t very young but actually I had lots of fun in the evenings and drank lots of shots which I didn’t find on my bill ( later I found out that the bartenders were advised to be generous with the backpackers to keep them happy). I even sang “Don’t let me down” from Beatles although I’m the worst singer ever.

Because all the plans we made for landing the next day were strictly dependent on the weather and always subject to change I’m sure I can go again in Antarctica and see something different. When I decided to go there I thought is once in a lifetime and probably I won’t ever have the money to do it again, but now I dream about going back one day and one thing is for sure, if I’ll go back I’ll have better photos. 🙂