March 8th – Quark Expeditions, and we set sail!

The excitement levels are high! An early morning charter flight to Ushuaia, you have the whole day to arrive and board the ship. (And do not forget to put on your motion sickness patch at this point, it needs to be 12 hours before sailing). This is the beginning of ‘Antarctic explorer – discovering the 7th Continent’:

Before boarding onto our new home, we were once again tested for our health and sent up the gang way to join our fellow sailors and settle into our cabins. Quark staff were very welcoming and guided us through the ship to make us feel at home. They put on an incredible afternoon tea ‘spread’ in the Polaris lounge for arrivals which we later learn is part of the daily schedule.

Tonight, we set sail at 18:30 and leave the port of Ushuaia, a beautiful port to leave as we watch the surrounding mountains disappear into the distance and start our adventure!

Tonight, we sit down to a wonderful dinner and are welcomed on to the ship with open arms.  Afterward we meet in the Nautilus lounge and are introduced to the Expedition Team and head crew. Presentations start and we learn about the schedule for each day. Today is about meeting the staff, other sailors and getting to know your surrounding.

March 7 – Tango Time (Rojo)

Today I moved into the beautiful Hotel Emperador and started my ‘Quark Expeditions’ experience. Excellent staff and services at this lovely hotel. Today we would meet and ‘check in’ with Quark before taking our charter flight to Ushuaia the next day. While Covid 19 was something that the world was aware of, there were no cases in Argentina at the time.  Precautions were taken and each of us filled out a health form and had our temperatures taken.  I was set to start my Expedition!  Until then, it was time to check out the local community of ‘La Boca’ and by evening one of the best Tango shows in Buenos Aires: ‘Rojo Tango’.

La Boca is a working-class area with a cluster of attractions near the Riachuelo River. Steakhouses and street artists surround Caminito, a narrow alley flanked by brightly painted zinc shacks that evoke the district’s early immigrant days. A cauldron of noise on match days, La Bombonera is the home ground of Boca Juniors soccer team. Modern art museum Fundación Proa has temporary exhibits and views of the old docks.

Rojo Tango, a more cabaret style show, was the perfect way to spend an evening in Buenos Aires. Take a stroll along the beautiful waterways of the elegant Puerto Madero before making your way to the spectacular Faena Hotel. This property is a favourite of mine and absolutely takes your breath away. Host to Rojo Tango, as soon as you walk into the long hallway with a red rug and black horsehair bench, you know you’ve entered Faena’s fantastical world. From the Library Lounge, with its tufted leather sofas and crystal candelabras to the white-and-red Bistro Sur, with unicorn heads adorning the walls, the hotel’s restaurants and bars take theatrical design to new heights. Oh how I loved this property. Stay there or just visit. A glass of wine in the Piano bar is enough on its own for those who do not have the time to indulge 😊

March 6 – Arriving in Buenos Aires

YYC to Toronto via Santiago (Chile) for a quick stop I was now only hours from Argentina. As I flew over the Andes, I couldn’t stop thinking how very different they are to our own Rockies. Dry, baron and a rainbow of earthy colours.

On arrival into Buenos Aires I decided to start my adventure with a trip down memory lane.  We all have memories of being young and vibrant backpackers once upon a time.  This experience grows us and makes us into the people we are today. So I decided to spend my first night in the hostel I once loved so many years ago.  It was a humbling start to my adventure and had not changed one little bit….Apart from the fact their was no longer a computer room or line up to send an email Haha

All freshened up now and  it was time to find Luis’s home. A wonderful steakhouse experience in the home of a local Argentine. Always on the hunt for a unique experience to share…this is not your average steak experience. While it’s no secret what Argentine beef is worth around the world, visitors to Buenos Aires don’t always get the chance to experience an Argentine asado and its many rituals and traditions. Here at ‘Steaks by Luis’, they not only focus on high quality cuts grilled to perfection but also the entire experience. You participate in a typical Argentine asado and feel like you’re at Luis’ home. All while sitting around a big family table, and joining Luis alongside the grill or just kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the 5 course meal and wine  pairing event.

March 5 – Reflection

This is where the journey truly begins 😊  I was dropped off at YYC airport with time to spare.  I found a cozy little spot to watch the planes fly in with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Here is where I reflect and fathom where in the world I was actually headed…… 14 years ago I almost jumped on a ship to Antarctica, now the dream is really coming alive, the emotions are high and feelings of excitement all over my body!

Antarctica

After 3 days crossing the Drake passage, we made it to the seventh continent. I was about to start a new adventure in the majestic Antarctic.

Kayaking in the bay was very exciting; being there, immersed in the silence, just you and Mother Nature all around. We watched as seals swam by and penguins jumped out of the water to appease their curiosity. Leopard seals and albatross were everywhere.

Large chunks of ice made the paddling difficult and the abundant wildlife viewing slowed our kayaking team. Then we spotted humpbacks! Being alone in the kayak with this gentle monster close by gave me a boost of adrenaline and made the whole kayaking experience even more exciting and well worth taking the kayaks out.

One morning I woke up believing that a strong wind was blowing outside. I opened the window but it wasn’t the wind. There were hundreds of Humpbacks surrounding our boat. As far as you could see there were whales and flukes.

I will never forget that day, it was snowing with poor visibility and after kayaking all day we were ready to return to the ship. Suddenly, two humpbacks approached us and started putting on a show. They both flipped upside down, showing their bellies. In a matter of seconds, one of them was under our zodiac. We heard the sound of the animal pushing us from underneath… boom boom boom. The whale was content with its belly rub and continued on its merry way.

It was the most exciting, wildest and closest encounter I have ever had. If you like whales spending a week in March in the Antarctica will not disappoint!!

Thanks to One Ocean Expeditions and Civilized Adventures for this experience of a lifetime!!