The trip feels like it’s now underway, even though we haven’t yet left the harbor. The group Ted has put together is an impressive one, including Mike, who leads treks through the Brooks Range, Micky, who owns a climbing gym, Shane, who used to lead trips for Outward Bound, David, who was a passenger on the last Antarctica trip and myself. The crew consists of Jerome and two French women, the younger of whom has been living in Ushuaia for the past year and a half.
We spent the latter part of the afternoon in Stanley, and it felt like a town that I could someday settle down in. It’s got the character of a small New England fishing town, but with old-time British touches. The townsfolks (all 1800 of them) were quite friendly and willing to chat, giving the place a very cozy feel. This trip will be a lonely one at times, but there is no doubt it will be a good one.
It’s been a rather surreal day so far. Early this morning I woke to the sounds of the couple in the next room, who apparently were under the impression that they were being judged for effort. After leaving the hotel I flagged down what may not actually have been a taxi, and had absolutely no idea what the driver was saying as we drove to the airport. Once at the airport an array of televisions made it impossible to ignore an infomercial for the Jack La Lanne Power Juicer, and now that I’ve escaped Jack and am on the plane I’ve somehow been upgraded to first class for the flight to the tip of the continent and then on to the Falklands. Getting there is an important part of the journey, but after three days in transit it’s going to be really nice to spend some time on the bow of the Golden Fleece just watching the ocean roll by while the albatross follow along.
Four of the six South Georgia passengers arrived in Santiago early this morning, with everyone but myself having a ticket that allowed them to overnight in the capital. Lan Chile booked me on an 8:00 PM flight out of Santiago, which would have meant spending the day in the Santiago airport and sleeping on the floor of the Puerto Montt airport at night, but luckily I was able to switch to an 8:30 AM flight. After arriving in Puerto Montt it quickly became apparent that no one in this city speaks a single word of English, so my three-word Spanish vocabulary (“burrito”, “taco” and “cervesa”) was put to creative uses in order to get a taxi from the airport and then a room in a hotel. I’m not yet in full-on travel mode, but after flying over the jagged peaks of the Andes, running the airport’s taxi cab gauntlet, and getting a discounted room price despite barely knowing what the hotel owner was saying, it’s a fair assessment to say that the side of me that spent the past six months trapped in a cubicle is now fading quickly into memory.
The obligatory introspective start-of-travels entry follows. I’ll try and stick to interesting stories after this, although it may be a while before I can post anything since there will be no internet access until the end of October. I may not be able to immediately check or respond to emails, but please send them, and I promise I’ll write when I can.
Travels always start off differently, and this one seems to be starting off with a sense of who and what has been left behind — probably moreso than any other trip I’ve ever done, there were reasons to stay before leaving this time. Even so, South Georgia island is as close to a perfect place in nature as exists anymore in the world, and it affords the rare guarantee of simplifying life in a way that reveals what’s important. November 15 seems like a long way off, but hopefully when that date rolls around it will be possible to return to a life that is unchanged, but to do so as a somewhat different person.
Here’s the itinerary in full:
- 30 Sep to 02 Oct – Travel from OAK to the Falklands (via LAX, Santiago & Puerto Montt)
- 02 Oct to 06 Oct – Crossing from the Falklands to South Georgia aboard the Golden Fleece
- 07 Oct to 25 Oct – Explore South Georgia Island
- 26 Oct to 30 Oct – Crossing from South Georgia to the Falklands aboard the Golden Fleece
- 30 Oct to 13 Nov – In the Falklands
- 13 Nov to 15 Nov – Travel from the Falklands to OAK (via Santiago & LAX)