We were with the first group who were scheduled to disembark at 7:00 AM for the wet landing on Danco Island. The plan for this excursion was a long hike through the snow and ice to a viewpoint at the top of the hill, involving switchbacks and the danger of falling into crevasses if you strayed from the path.
I decided that this was not for me, and I was in need of sleeping in in the morning. All of these early mornings in the wrong time zone (5 hours different to Pacific time) was more than my feeble mind and body enjoyed, so I decided to give the landing a miss.
As it turned out we did not go to Danco Island as the conditions weren’t good, but visited another island instead. I was OK with this, spending the morning relaxing on the ship suited me just fine. There is always the afternoon excursion.
The views from the ship were spectacular, it was a truly beautiful spot.
We went to lunch at La Terrazza, but it was full, so we decided to go to the Restaurant instead rather than wait for a table. There weren’t too many people in the Restaurant, and we were able to get a table for 2 near the window and look at the snow-covered mountains outside the window.
The man at the table next to us was not happy with his meal, and seemed to want to make sure that those around him were aware of this transgression. He had ordered an enchilada, but it looked more like a burrito to him. Horrors! Then the refried beans hadn’t been fried even once. Oh no! He went on and on about it, and the poor lady accompanying him tried to calm him down, but he wasn’t having anything of it. I wanted to lean over and suggest that he order something else instead, but by then he had taken to deconstructing said enchilada/burrito and was consuming it with his hands. Then he declared that it was tasteless, and continued coughing and sneezing all over the place. Could this be a COVID alert situation? We quickly finished our meal and headed back to our cabin. We didn’t want to seem rude, but alas, these are scary times.
In the afternoon we arrived at Orne Harbor for another hike up a snowy mountain. This one has chin strap penguins at the top. The chance to be with penguins won over my usual quite cautious nature, so we got all dressed up in our excursion clothes and climbed into a zodiac to get to Orne Harbor.
This landing was also the only landing we will be doing on the Antarctica mainland; all of the other landings have been on islands. This is our only chance to actually set foot on the mainland of the final continent.
By the time we arrived at the landing, we could already see little red people zigzagging up the steep mountainside. The expedition staff had been very busy clearing a pathway for us through the deep snow. Hmmmmmm. This looks quite dangerous. We decided that we would go up to the first switchback, look at the view, and consider what to do next.
After the first switchback we decided to carry on as far as we felt comfortable doing this.
The views were spectacular, and we didn’t want to miss a thing.
After some slipping and sliding, huffing and puffing, shedding of layers of clothing, we finally arrived at the top. Phew, we had made it.
It turned out that this was not the end of the hike. There was still quite a fair distance to go along a ridge at the top of the climb, but there was no way we were going back now. We continued our icy/snowy trek, very grateful that we had brought our hiking poles with us. The path was marked with red flags, and the flags also warned us to keep away from the “penguin highway” that ran parallel to our path.
Finally we arrived at the penguins. Why on earth the penguins have decided to make this their home is quite beyond me. The access to the water is down a very steep snowy slope (tell me about it), and the way back up must be quite an effort. Despite my concerns, they seemed to be thriving.
We spent quite a time at the top admiring the view
and enjoying being with the penguins. They were kind of like me. Mostly calm and still, but their stillness is punctuated by short bursts of energy. It was time to head down, so we said goodbye to the penguins and off we set.
Well hiking up to the top was quite a challenge, but getting back down again was nerve wracking. The path had become very icy, and it looked like one mis step could cause you to go plummeting down the sleep slope onto the rocks in the water way below us.
However, we went very slowly, digging our heels in to help maintain traction, and it actually went fairly well, although I must admit I was very relieved to get down to the landing site.
Would I do the hike again? Yes in an instant. It had its scary moments, but with good traction with me boots, hiking poles, and going really slowly it was fine. And the penguins certainly made it all worthwhile.
Back on the ship I decided the best thing to do was have a soak in one of the hot tubs. I was sure I would be very stiff after the burst of exertion on my rather sedentary body. I put on my swimsuit and bathrobe and headed up to deck 8. Surprisingly enough there wasn’t anyone else in the hot tubs, so to begin with I had it all to myself.
In the distance I could see folks still heading up the hillside on their climb. I was glad I was down and safe and sound in the hot tub, especially as a waiter came by at that minute with a towel and glass of champagne for me.
I was joined later by a lovely couple on their honeymoon. What a magical place to honeymoon. We watched a couple of fin whales swim by (they really didn’t photograph well),
and sat chatting for ages. The warm water and jets were very soothing, and by the time I emerged, I was feeling very relaxed and ready to have a shower and get ready for our daily briefing.
Tomorrow we will be going to Deception Island, a part of the South Shetland Islands, and will do a wet landing on a volcanic beach. I am very partial to volcanoes, so this sounded like a good plan. Plus there will be penguins…….
After the briefing we went to dinner in the extra charge specialty restaurant, La Dame. The service was great, and the food was wonderful. I had champagne, caviar and lobster thermidor. It is a small, intimate room, situated next door to the Restaurant. It was well worth the extra charge.
Dinner took longer than expected, so we were late getting to “Name that Movie Tune” with Jonathan and Florandy in the Panorama Lounge. Even if we had arrived in time, we would not have won, but we played along as best we could, and did earn some tokens to exchange for goodies at the end of the cruise. After the quiz we sat in the lounge and watched the view. It was nearly 11:00 PM and still quite light outside.
We headed back to the cabin to get ready for the next morning. Brian took a photo at midnight, and there was still plenty of daylight
Congratulations. You have joined a very select group who have ever set foot – or boot – or ski pole on Antarctica. But most important you have done it in style. Champagne – hot tubs – Penguins and great looking red parkas. Cheers! And safe travels.
Thanks! In a way it does seem like the wimpy way to go – but then I have to admit it – I am totally not the trudging through the blinding snow type, this was my level of adventure, and I had the best time 🙂
Wonderful. We’ve never done a landing but your pictures from the ship brought back wonderful memories of our close sailing times.
I know you will miss S Georgia and Falklands but having your landings and close up experienced are every bit as good.
What an adventure.
It was great – but the Falklands and South Georgia have to be in our future!
So beautiful! Nature at her best 🙂