karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Me antarctica)
or anybody else who's bored.

I'm currenlty watching the fence of the building site next door being slowly obliterated (three panels are now missing) by the wind and am amazed that the flag poles are still standing and the flags are still attached.
Cambourne seems to be a bit worse off as [livejournal.com profile] redshira's roof is losing tiles.

To cheer you all up a bit, have some new penguin photos:

 

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karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

So I've joined YouTube to bring you some moving highlights of my trip.


Note: This was taken with my little Fuji compact which only has a display which I couldn't see at all in the glare. Having no viewfinder sucks. :o(
I'll probably edit this a bit to leave only the more interesting bits in but I don't think it's too bad so far.

More to come.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

[livejournal.com profile] emperor has asked about the logistical details and as there might be more of you interested, here's some info.

It's this trip with Hurtigruten with the difference that I started in Santiago and finished in Buenos Aires (it depends on the date of travel which direction you go). I can only recommend this direction as you get a nice buildup of excitement as you cruise through the Chilean fjords, visit the Torres del Paine National Park (optional), go round Cape Horn and then go to Antarctica. Coming from Buenos Aires, you'd go straight to Ushuaia and then the Drake Passage which means Chile at the end will be a bit of a letdown.
The price isn't indicative of my trip as my parents booked and paid for it (take the same numbers to get the Euro price, roughly, Ripoff Britain hits again) and my trip was the last to not charge extra for single occupancy of twin cabins (there are no single cabins).
There are brochures to download from the website.

Included in the price you get (based on my trip):
- International flights to Santiago and back from Buenos Aires as well as transfers to starting airport (I paid for my flight to Frankfurt as this wasn't included from a booking from Germany)
- one night each at a hotel in Santiago and Buenos Aires (b&b)
- Internal flights Santiago-Punta Arenas and Ushuaia-Buenos Aires
- full board on the ship as well as all landings in Antarctica
- a fancy anorak/windbreaker (it's not insulated so you'll need a fleece or something underneath but it's water and wind resistant)

There are a variety of optional excursions (city tours of Santiago and BA, national parks in Chile and Argentina, Otway Sound penguin colony or smaller city tours of Punta Arenas or Ushuaia, tango show in BA etc.) which cost extra (around the £20 mark). The national parks are very much worth it, especially when the weather is nice and you see lots of cool stuff. You book those on arrival in Santiago or on the ship, respectively.

As you board the ship and check in, you receive a dog tag/id card with a magnetic strip you should have on you all the time as it's your ID, cabin key and means of payment for extras (optional excursions, drinks at meals and in the bar etc.). You pay your ship bill on the last morning, either in cash or automatically (credit card).
You need to take your dog tag every time you leave the ship for excursions (they check you in and out) so they know who's out and came back, just in case somebody gets lost in a penguin colony (or, more likely, a bar in Puerto Natales) ;o).

One thing that weirded me out/made me insecure was that they take your passport as you board the plane in Santiago and you'll only get it back on the last morning on the ship. Seeing someone (who, quite frankly could have been anyone posing as a Hurtigruten employee) leave with a pilot case full of passports was a bit disconcerting, especially as our tour guide had specifically warned us to leave our passports in the hotel safe and not take it into Santiago as they are highly sought after on the black market... Still, as far as I know, everybody got their passport back.

During my trip, things went quite smoothly, just the getting there and coming back was tedious and very tiring.
As always with international flights, you have to pray your luggage comes along with you as it's a bit difficult to send after you when you're on the high seas (I know that there was one screw-up) so take a few essentials with you in your hand luggage.
karohemd: (Photo)

Arrival in Ushuaia and a short trip to the national park. This is pretty much the end. I've got a few from Buenos Aires but they were all taken from the bus so aren't great.

 
 


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karohemd: (Photo)

Brown Bluff with its huge colony of Adelie penguins was the best of the landings. The penguins' antics were just hilarious to watch.

 
  

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There are still a few photos to come from Argentina before I restart but that won't be before next week as I'll be busy every evening.
karohemd: (Photo)

From "Drake Lake" (it was so calm) to King George Island and Greenwich Island. Some of the photos are linked to a map from the relevant flickr page (click on a big pic). Too bad the resolution isn't very good for Antarctica. Not even Google Earth has decent satellite images.

 
 
 


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karohemd: (Photo)

Click on the large photos to open the flickr page which will have more info. Enjoy.

 
  
 


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karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Knackered)

Well, I have been for over an hour but I just got off the phone to my parents to share my experiences.

Apologies for not updating from Buenos Aires but there was no room connection, the public access terminal wouldn't recognise my name/room number and it my mind was probably so confused by the heat and humidity that I didn't notice the plug/wireless thingie in the other half of the lobby so photo updates will have to wait for a bit.

So quick recap:
- Drake Passage got a little heavier but there was still no problem and by the time we arrived at Ushuaia, the sun was out again.
In the morning we took a bus trip to the Tierra del Fuego national park which was rather nice, too. I'm particularly proud of a nice series of shots of a heron stalking the shore of a lake.
- The flight to Buenos Aires was delayed by over an hour and we were at the aiport far too early but that was relatively painless if annoying. The weather in BA was absolutely awful, hot (35ish) and incredibly humid and it wasn't much better even inside the public areas of the hotel but the rooms were fine.
The Tango Show in the evening was absolutely spectacular and the dinner was very good, too with one of the tastiest steaks I've ever had. They don't lie if they say that Argentina has the best beef...
- The journey home was long and arduous with lots of queueing and waiting at airports and being cramped into our seats (avoid Lufthansa at all costs!) but I managed to get to Frankfurt without a hitch and get my connection to Heathrow, too.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

As if you'd have worried anyway but yes, we've just been offline for a couple of days. I guess the East coast of the Antarctic Peninsula was a little too remote...

So, since the last time I updated, we visited Deception Island, the huge caldera of an ancient volcano (13km in diameter) where there was little wildlife except a group of Wedell and Crabeater Seals and pair of Chinstraps but the scenery was cool, too. Reminiscent of various places I've been to in Iceland, it's a barren, almost moon-like landscape, all covered in volcanic ash.

After Deception Island, our course let us back to the Northern tip of the Peninsula and then South through the Antarctic Sound, where huge shelf icebergs drifted. Those icebergs provided a marvellous and almost alien scenery (I was reminded of the alien ships in Independence Day). We even drove alongside one, no further than 30m away (according to my lens). You could very clearly see the layers of ice and snow which made up the huge structure. Just wow...

The next morning we arrived at Snow Hill Island only to find that there was too much sea ice to land (it was a rare occasion for the ship to come down here at all so we were lucky to start with) so again the boats were set out to cruise about between the ice floes near the island.

The afternoon destination even further South, Crystal Hill on the mainland was locked in even more sea ice so no landing there, either but a few Adelie penguins bobsledding along made up for the missed landing.

The ship turned around and headed North again to reach the next morning's destination: Brown Bluff, also on the mainland.
It was already quite bright when we got there and by the time the ship had found a position and the boats had been unloaded, we had bright sunshine and blue skies, so absolutely awesome weather. The landing was quite rough with a few waves that splashed the little boat and I found out how clean the water tasted, just a bit salty.
The Bluff itself hosts a huge rookery of Adelie Penguins, the "clowns of nature" as one of the lecturers called them. And indeed they were funny. Waddling along from their nests to the beach, or pushing themselves along with their feet while lying on their bellies and especially trying to get out from the water over the bits of ice floating at the beach. I have some very cool photos and a few funny video clips, too.
This was definitely the highlight of an awesome voyage, seems like they kept the best for last.

Now we're back in the Drake Passage which is a bit rougher than it was on the way down but still not a problem for me, just balancing the plates of food and cups of coffee to the table is a bit of a challenge. ;o)

We're scheduled to land in Ushuaia tomorrow morning, where we'll disembark and then take a bus tour of the Tierra del Fuego national park. Should be good fun. Then it's on a plane to Buenos Aires in the evening, transfer to the hotel and a dinner with Tango Show at night.
I should be able to update from the hotel at BA again which will also give me opportunity to upload a selection of photos (those of you on [livejournal.com profile] karohemd_pics beware!) and update [livejournal.com profile] ozzyvox, too.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

Just got back from my first excursion with a "wet landing" in one of those little boats and it was very cool indeed.
We visited Arctowski, a Polish research station in Admiralty Bay of King George Island. Not far from the landing site, we were welcomed by a Chinstrap Penguin and a few metres on a young Sea Elephant was dozing away and even yawned at me as I took a few pics. There were Adelie (most of them) and Gentoo Penguins, too and they were just utterly cute. On my way back to the landing site I got "trapped" between two groups of penguins and had to wait for five minutes until they had waddled on. Wonderful. Got a badge from the "souvenir shop" and I intend to do so at the other stations we visit so they will make up for the missing print on the jacket.
I'm also glad I put on all those clothes (long underwear, shirt, fleece, windbreaker jacket, lined trousers, hat and hood) as it is rather cold down here, especially with the windchill.

Another landing on Greenwich Island this afternoon, conditions permitting. Whoo!
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

Since we entered the Drake Passage last night, it's been quiet (well, relatively, sea is light to moderate and wind speed is 4-5). Lasting from about 10pm to 12am, the sun went down very slowly and clearly, with just a band of clouds providing some contrast. Utterly utterly beautiful.
Today it's still quiet and I've added another two to my list of seabirds (Sooty Albatross and Cape Petrel) plus the now very common Black-Brow Albatross and Southern Giant Petrels (in various shades).

The bridge tour was interesting with all its high-tech and classic charts and they definitely have the best view.

We're now pretty much on the centre point between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands and we're making very good progress towards our first destination in Antarctica, King George Island where penguins and sea elephants await.
karohemd: (Photo)

It was another interesting start of the day. I woke up at 6am looked out of the window and we were already in Puerto Williams in beautiful weather. I quickly threw on a jacket and a pair of trousers and went on deck to snap a few pics.
After breakfast I took part in the walk to the beech forest (the southernmost forest in the world) but was soon fed up with all those people, especially the noisy Americans so I just waited for a while and took photos of flowers and beeches and mosses etc.
One of the Austrians came back from the big group and then pointed to the left so we investigated and found a big tree infested with a "golfball fungus", also called "Indian Bread" as the previous inhabitants used to eat them. I didn't, though. Although they look nice (bright orange), I wasn't too keen on trying. I ate some calafates, though, a local berry, similar to the cranberries in Europe. Not quite ripe yet but I can imagine the marmalade is very nice.

Best bit of today was when I had waited until all the others had already gone back or were still in the back and it was quiet and I was the only one on the road. Suddenly, the birds came back and I managed to snap a beautiful songbird with a bright yellow chest. I'll find out later what it was. We also saw some ducks (Steamer Ducks, I think) with chicks.

We just set off 15 minutes ago and are on our way through the Beagle Channel and then South to Cape Horn!
karohemd: (Photo)

I just shot my first Albatross, a black browed one to be precise. It was a bit far away so the picture isn't very clear but I'm told there will be loads more when we're crossing the Drake Passage.
I also shot loads of (Giant Southern) Petrels (who are named after St. Peter as they walk/run over the water when they take off) and they came a lot closer to the ship as they sailed effortlessly in the winds coming off the stern of the ship.

But yay, Albatross! *smug*
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Casual me)
How more appropriate can you get? ;o)

After the awesomeness that was Tucker Island we cruised various fjords and "sounds" (Agostini, Serrano and Hyatt) flanked by steep mountains and glaciers. Wonderful sights and very reasonable weather to boot, we even had some sunshine.
Also managed to see a leopard seal but couldn't get a shot of it. :o(

Now we're going back the way we came and going further Northwest towards the Magellan Strait. I've taken this opportunity to update as most people seem to be at the first dinner sitting. Mine is in an hour and 15 minutes. The rest of the evening will be spent relaxing a bit more, maybe watching the film about Chile and getting a long night's sleep.

Have already a rather cool collection of photos and if the weather doesn't completely turn, it should be awesome indeed.
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

The internet cafe wasn't open last night so I couldn't update. Sorry about that.
I also can't upload photos which is a pity as I have some awesome shots already...

Brief update: Yesterday we flew to Punta Arenas and then took a bus to the Otway Sound with its colony of Magellanic Penguins. Awesome, just utterly awesome. The pengs don't really care about the humans walking around the wooden bridge/path or they actually know that they're being watched and pose for the camera. I've got a number of really cool photos. The light was OK (cloudy but not raining) so good enough to take reasonable photos. The only pity was that we only had an hour and a bit there while I could easily have spent a whole day.
Also seen: a fricking huge condor (from afar, no photo), several Karakaras, male Nandus and their offspring, Grey Eagles and various other birds big and small.
Back to Punto Arenas and check in at the ship, i.e. more queuing and waiting. Have a wonderful and comfy cabin, the food is good and plentiful (I'm not going to lose weight on this trip...) and the weather has been quiet so far.

Today, we first came up to Tucker Island where Magellanic Penguins and (King) Kormorans nest. Was very lucky to get a cool shot of a Kormoran in flight. *smug* Also seen: Dolfins, Skua and other sea birds.
Later, we went through the St. Gabriel Channel, with the Violetta Glacier (blue ice on top, rock with many many waterfalls beneath, Southern Beech woods at the bottom). It was very windy but not too cold and the sea is nice and calm.

More tonight.
karohemd: (Photo)

These are all from the bus on the way from airport to hotel, so a bit blurry with reflections etc.

Click for pics )
karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)

I have arrived safely and intact at the Sheraton in Santiago de Chile and so has my luggage!
It's been a hard time from Wednesday at 4:30am to now (17:50 Santiago time, so 20:50 UK time?) but I'm feeling not too horrible despite the uncomfy seats in the Lufthansa plane (note to self: don't ever fly LH again but I couldn't help it). After I got to the Hotel and checked into my room, I had a long shower (lovely powerful shower with a big head) and then just couldn't face going out on the city tour anymore. It's quite warm here (guide said 27) but thankfully not as hot as it should be around this time of year (30+), which was another reason why I didn' go. I'll go out and shop a bit for stuff like snacks and water for the journey tomorrow, might have dinner in town or just indulge myself and get room service.

Mentioning room service, I'm typing this on my laptop from my room. The connection costs extra but I don't care, I want to use it while I can and a fiver for 6 hours isn't that bad. This also means that before 11 tonight (my time) there will be a short photo preview on flickr (see links collection at the top of my LJ). It's an early start tomorrow (bus to airport leaves at 8 so I need to have packed and had breakfast before) so I'll turn in early and hopefully get some sleep (my room is facing a major ring road) but at least I can lie down unlike last night.

Things on the schedule tomorrow:
Flight to Punta Arenas
Visit a colony of Magellanic Penguins
Board the ship, check in and set sail or whatever it's called.

Now it's time to go outside for a bit and find out where breakfast is tomorrow morning (also need to set redundant alarm again). More later and I'll update vox then, too.

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