Where did we leave off? Oh yes! I just finished telling you about the spectacular zodiac cruise through an ice field with Phil. After already experiencing my favourite landing and favourite zodiac cruise of the entire trip back to back, the fun wasn’t over yet.
The Polar Plunge
Ever since day 1, people had been talking about the Polar Plunge. This was our chance to take a swim in Antarctic water, and the time had finally come. I have been swimming in glacier water before, back in Canada, so the idea of jumping into near freezing water, was not totally unfamiliar to me.
Nonetheless, my mind was still racing during the lead up to the jump. Part of me was feeling excited for the adventure, while the other part of me was feeling a bit nervous at the prospect of jumping into 1 degree water.
I made sure I was near the front of the line. I think watching 40+ people jump in before me would have made it so much worse. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the edge of the zodiac. There was no turning back. I took a deep breath in, and then all there was to do was jump.
The actual swim wasn’t so bad. My body was so cold that I couldn’t really feel how cold I was. The toughest part for me was standing on deck, cold and wet, wrapped in my towel, watching my friends jump in after me. At least they had a shot of vodka ready for us to help us warm up.
Eventually, the cold became too much, and I decided to make my way to the hot tub. As you can see below, I wasn’t the only person with that idea.
We brought the day to a close with a “Wild Things” costume party out on the ships deck. There’s a special feeling that comes along with enjoying a BBQ with friends, surrounded by the snow covered mountains of Antarctica.
I will say though, that my choice of outfit was not the best. Wearing a toga in Antarctica was not the smartest idea. I definitely, ate my dinner faster than usual, before rushing off to my room get change into warmer clothes.
“The loudest quiet in Antarctica.” This is how Shane described Neko harbour. This was our final continent landing and our chance to reflect on Antarctica. We were told that there should be no chit chat at the top of the hike. This was a time for us to be alone with ourselves and to be alone with Antarctica.
I found the perfect spot to lie back and reflect. Lying there, overlooking the harbour and looking down on a glacier, there is nowhere else I would have rather been. With only the sound of wind and distant avalanches in the background, I was alone with my thoughts as I reflected on Antarctica.
Many thoughts and memories rushed through my mind. Several times, I replayed in my mind, all the great times I’d had over the past week. During this reflection, a question came up that made me pause. “How did I end up here?”
I started thinking about how everything that had happened in my life up to this point somehow lead me to sitting here, looking down on the 7th continent of the world. I started really delving into the idea that, if even one thing had happened differently, I might not be where I am or who I am right now.
I have written an entire separate post on this reflection. I write about being grateful for our flaws and misfortunes. Be sure to read it here, if you haven’t already.
Danco island was our final stop, before heading back to Ushuaia. Our time here involved snow ball fights and snow cricket. Jon taught us how to play cricket, using snow balls and hiking poles.
Before I knew it, it was time to say good bye to Antarctica.
When I thought the trip was over and done with, Shane announced that we would be getting another bonus experience that wasn’t part of the itinerary. We would be rounding Cape Horn on our way back to Ushuaia.
I didn’t know much about Cape Horn, but I did know that when I was in Ushuaia, people were paying around $1500 for last minute 3 day cruises to round Cape Horn.
I learned that besides being the most southern point of the continent, Cape Horn used to be very important for trade, before the Panama Canal was built. It was also considered a very dangerous trip and among sailors, it is a big deal to have rounded Cape Horn.
So Was It Worth It?
On the last day of our voyage, they played an amazing slide show of our Antarctica Voyage, prepared by the ships photographer, Sam Crimmin. So much had happened over the past week and a half and it was nice to see the entire trip replayed in front of my eyes.
You can see the complete slide show here. As you can tell, there were people on the ship with much better cameras than me!
We made a toast to Antarctica and took a few minutes to reflect on our journey, while listening to Good Riddance, by Green Day.
A question came up in my mind. Was it worth it? This was one of the easiest questions I have ever answered. My answer was… ABSOLUTELY. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, I spent almost twice as much as I budgeted when I planned my trip, but the value I received in return was worth every penny and more.
Antarctica, on it’s own, is one of the most beautiful and interesting place I have ever been. It really does feel like a totally different world down there. The scenery is magical and the wild life is incredible. It’s not a like a typical cruise, where you spend most of your time sitting back and relaxing. An Antarctic cruise is a full on adventure.
To add to this, the service was world class. I felt like I was staying at a 5 star hotel. The food on the ship was delicious. I looked forward to dinner every day. Dinner was served as a four course meal, where we chose a soup, salad, main and desert. I usually got two main courses.
As I mentioned already, Quark Expeditions, provided the best customer service experience I have ever had. This is no exaggeration. I was so impressed. Quark has mastered the art of under promising and over delivering. I would highly recommend choosing them for your own Antarctic adventure.
In my Ushuaia post, I wrote about how the people I am with, can make such a big impact on my experience of a travel destination. This was the case again in Antarctica.
Typically, there aren’t as many younger people on Antarctica cruises, due to how much the trip costs. However, we had almost 40 backpackers on our ship. We did a pretty good job of keeping the energy high, and the people with a bit more experience in life, didn’t have a problem keeping up with us kids. There were so many different interesting people on the ship of all ages, nationalities and life experiences.
I think it’s safe to say that the type of person that decides to take a trip down to Antarctica, is probably going to be an interesting and adventurous person. I am grateful to have shared this experience with a ship full of amazing people.
When I first arrived in South America and found out how much a cruise to Antarctica would cost me, I gave up on the idea of going. I was not even going to go down to Ushuaia to try to find a deal. A friend I met on this trip, Jon Tjader, gave me a gift, by convincing me to reconsider.
I wish to share this same gift with you. I hope that I have inspired some of you to one day take a journey down to the land of ice and snow. I 100% recommend it. If you are someone that is ready to make the leap, I highly recommend booking through Sarah and Gabriel at Freestyle Adventure Travel. They will set you up with the best last minute deals available and they are both wonderful people to deal with.
I had the time of my life, and I’m sure you will too!
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