Category Archives: events

Back in Blighty

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We are back. In fact we have been back six months. How time flies!!

It took us a while to get back into the swing of things & even longer for our prized table top book to arrive from Australia.

Packed with memories from our Polar Pioneer adventures; our daily journals & photos brought together in a one off edition, for us & our fellow passengers..

With thoughts now turning to where we will go for my big birthday in 2016 – Patrick……if you are reading this, there is something I need to ask you! – plus our imminent trip to Sri Lanka to celebrate a friend’s wedding & check out elephants, we thought it was high time to recall the highlights…..

Our bucket list holiday delivered everything we could ask for – & so much more – up closer than close encounters with mighty humpback whales, curious & playful leopard seals & more penguins than we could possibly hope to see. We didn’t think much could top this – & then we went to the Galapagos Islands. Nature once again blew us away as we literally had to pick our way along paths & beaches littered with iguanas & seals, saw an enormous number of other species & swam with penguins.

There were other highlights of course; the mournful tango watched in an old dancehall in the heart of Beunos Aires, savouring wines galore in Mendoza & the first jagged peaks of Fitzroy coming into view…. Patagonia, a playground we will surely return to.

Even now, when someone asks us “so how was your trip” a wry smile passes our lips as we try to put into words just how utterly a-mazing our holiday was. We can’t. We dubbed it as a an adventure to the end of the world; it was all that & so much more.

Matt & Jules xxx

For anyone interested in reading our mini adventure in Sri Lanka, go to the link below:
mjules2013.wordpress.com

When two became three….

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It was totally unplanned. A complete spur of the moment decision that we hope we won’t live to regret.

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Port Lockroy museum

Perhaps it was down to the feelings of nostalgia that swept over us as we wandered round the museum at Port Lockroy screaming home and family. A testament to all that is British, the restoration of the base back to its former 60’s research station glory, obvs made an impact.

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Storeroom staples

With a kitchen full of retro tins of long forgotten foods plus brands that have stood the test of time – good ol’ beefy Bovril, Marmite, Tate & Lyle, Crawfords biscuits and the Sunlight washing up soap that conjure up memories from yesteryear.

Anyway, getting back to why I am adding this post…. In the last British Post on the Antarctic we felt compelled to make a statement of our own and adopted our very own gentoo penguin.

An adolescent one at that – still a tad fluffy rather that feather-y and way too cute to leave behind, we have added to our family; Pingu I and II now have a sibling called P-Roy. A dapper little fella with his own Antarctic tartan scarf to keep out the cold…

The three penguins at Murano  Glaciar

The 3 P’s

Whilst we are on the subject of Port Lockroy, we had to laugh when Flo, who was honorary post mistress during her four month stint, told us that the last of the post that would be handled this season was leaving with her (and us) on the Pioneer, heading towards Port Stanley. Anything else that is left for posting on the farthest most Post Office would not get mailed until next November!

Up Close and Personal….

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Over the radio came the call to action. “Howard to Judd, Howard to Judd come in please, humpbacks by the ship” …….

Three km from the ship, we headed back. Quick. Double time. The first of our truly closer than close encounters that made us appreciate, just how privileged and insanely lucky we were on this trip, came about as were heading back from our landing at Cierva Cove. Arms aching from pushing and pulling our paddles at breakneck speed, we headed back to the Polar Pioneer and the bobbing Zodiacs, unsure of what to expect. Whales, yes but which ones and where were they?

Captain Sascha had spotted two ‘sleeping’ humpbacks earlier and they were, some thirty odd minutes later still spy-hopping, ‘spouting’ fishy breath, diving and showing their flukes to the passengers and crew of the ship, who watched in awe and astonishment from the four zodiacs… Thankfully some with Go-Pros and decent cameras!!

Suddenly the pair turned their inquisitive nature towards us and the rest of our band of merry kayakers, slipping under us, literally and quite scarily, (all 15m of their length gliding within a metre of us) performing underwater acrobatics to reveal their barnacled flippers beneath the surface of the water. The whales sauntered off, circling and spouting en route, to check out the Polar Pioneer with the crew running from side to side, watching what the gentle giants were going to get up to next.

Frigid with cold and excitement we didn’t capture many decent images, but what we took away with us was the most incredible memory; one of the most majestic creatures there is on this earth honouring us with it’s playful presence. It truly felt like we were in our very own ‘Frozen Planet’ episode… Minus the cameramen.

We are sooo looking forward to sharing the video footage – it was THAT incredible and really quite difficult to put into words alone!

The very next day our whale blowing experience was replaced by seal sirens…. One leopard seal in particular took a shine to Judd (or his kayak) and led us a merry dance through the labyrinth of ice around Cape Renard.

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Crystal clear water around the cove

Not only was the vista amazing with shifting colours of blue; azure, indigo and turquoise troughs of water and icy sculptures capturing our senses, we also were on the look out for the numerous penguins and seals that were in nearby waters – lone seals where seen hugging the edges of the bergs and floes, a herd of fur or Weddell seals popped up out of nowhere and swam across our path, followed closely by a raft of penguins powering by in the opposite direction – we were left wondering where to look and point our kayaks!

Leopard seal heading over to J's kayak

Leopard seal at large

A particular leopard seal and his few friends came to the rescue. They came right at us before neatly turning and deftly sliding behind a berg. We started to turn our kayaks, trying to keep up with their high speed ballet in the water, only to find they, or one leopard seal in particular, returned to “play” with us, swimming beneath our kayaks in turn; nibbling at our rudders and gently knocking the underside on the way. Not forgetting they do have a set of very sharp (read flesh tearing teeth) Judd sensibly told us (Matt) to keep his hands out of the water.

Shadow of leopard seal under kayak

Shadow leopard seal …

Awkward on land they were so graceful and energetic in the water; twisting and turning beneath the kayaks, to pop their curious heads up our of the water, one within centimetres of Judd numerous times and all three staying within 5 metres of us for sometime.

The Weddell Sea and Antarctic circle….

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This trip became a first for not just us, but the crew and expedition team too… Not one ship had managed to make it into the Weddell Sea this season, with pack ice far too thick and treacherous to push through.

Captain Sascha, who headed up our all Russian crew, skilfully pushed through the farther than anyone had; the craggy buttress of Rosamel island marked the entry point, skies brightened and an eerie silence fell on the deck, broken only by the sound of ice cracking loudly beneath the hull, as we slowly slugged our way through the frozen waters.

Tabular iceberg stretching as far as they eyes can see

Tabular iceberg

Polar Pioneer pushes her way thru ice into Weddell Sea

Pioneer pushes into Weddell Sea

We passed ice floes bearing lone crab eater, Weddell and fur seals and the most incredible tabular berg stretching for miles and miles – in fact as far as the eye could see.

 

Sadly we had reached the point of return, as the skipper conceded safe passage could not be found around the peninsular. BUT with perfect conditions, icy calm clear waters it was once again time to jump (not literally for obvs reasons) into kayaks and zodiacs to check out leopard seals we had seen dozing.

Crab eater seal taking a nap on

Napping on a floe

A HUGE consolation prize for not spending time in the Weddell, we would now be able to head further South, 66 degrees 33′ to be precise and actually cross the Antarctic circle!!

Yippeee!!!

Huge cause for celebration, we amassed on the forward deck and raised a glass as we crossed ‘the line’.   240 years and 42 days, to the day, we all took the same oath Captain Cook did …

“We will keep Antarctica pristine and untouched for peace, harmony and nature. So be it”

Tango-tastic…

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Since before we even arrived in Argentina, I wanted to see tango performed by professionals, up close, and personal-like, plus have a lesson at a milonga (tango hall), in a sleepy backwater town.  The last bit no doubt inspired by the film ‘Patagonia’.

Sunday’s street dancers in San Telmo had furthered our desire to see a show, although I am sure purist would argue there is nowt proper about show that is just put on for touristas, but what the hell!
We booked at one of the older established  and although we weren’t expecting anything amazing on the culinary front (supper was included) we were hoping to see a great show that gave us an insight into both the history and mystery surrounding tango.
Result! As we arrived, we were ushered to a ring-side table; one of, if not the best seats in the house! Having heard the wines (included) was closer to a balsamic we asked for the wine list; our waiter, Diego, kindly suggested we give the house wines a go, before upgrading.  Happy he did, as the Aberdeen Angus (!!!) was actually more than palatable.  And the hits just kept on rolling…. The tenderloin and pork fillet we ordered were cooked to perfection.
Our evening, just got better as the stage show, lived up to and exceeded our expectations….. An old crooner and chanteuse opened, warming up the audience with their plaintive and heartfelt melodies re-living stories of days gone by.  From the bars, gaming houses and bordellos of Buenos Aires, a dance was created that blended machismo, passion and longing for the women left behind by immigrants and other working men.
Dirty dancing at the Milonga

Down & dirty at the Milonga

Decent woman and families of good reputation wanted nothing to do with this perceived vulgar dance and  brothel workers would have to be paid; men wanting to improve their moves on the dance floor (and to impress the ladies) would have had to practice with each other…
Boarding houses, and more importantly the yards around these spaces became the place to learn these moves and (saucy) lyrics attached. Over time the dance was taught to sisters, cousins, neighbour’s female family members and sought out and danced at family gatherings for immigrants and Argentines alike. A cleaner version emerged that was taken by the middle class Argentines holidaying and partying with the equally rich and famous across Paris and London. It because the craze of the time
Tango returns home

Tango returns home

Eyes smouldering, chests pressed together, legs invading each other’s space with perfect synchronicity and lightening speed, the dancers depicted the  very best of tango – the subtle change in style from it’s infancy, through to the 1920’s  and it’s ‘legitimisation’ across Europe, to ‘modern’ day sultry expression.
Buenos Aires, is the birthplace of tango and our hearts had been well and truly captivated.
Aside

Fresh faced in search of adventures and pastures new, I picked working in Danmark as ‘pige i huset’ as  my first overseas job.  Keen to see me off properly with clean underwear plus a small reminder of home, mum waved farewell with tears in her eyes and a parting gift of a knitted penguin. Pingu came complete with a ‘JH’ embroidered backpack (filled with a miniature bottle, natch).  There was no turning back……. for my wanderlust or liver.

Travels to far flung countries and stints working in some great (and  let’s be honest, not-so-great places) followed. With countries to visit, people to catch up with, I turned my hand to anything legal to fund the next leg of my travels. From ‘farm-hand’ in Israel, construction worker in Canada to numerous  stints as a waitress/cocktail bartender and cook along the way. One thing never changed tho’, Pingu was a constant travelling companion and picked up a fair few bus and air miles along the way.

Along came a kindred spirit, seasoned traveller and damn good chef…although we have yet to agree when we officially became a couple (!), one thing Matt and I both agree on is that  he didn’t get given his very own Pingu, until he made an honest woman out of me!

Thirteen and a bit years later, the penguins, Pingu and Pingu II are now well seasoned travellers in their own rights,  having crossed the Thorung La (Nepal), tackled the Tangariro Crossing (NZ) , kayaked in the Marlborough Sound, sailed the Caribbean (several times), walked the West Highland Way plus Coast to Coast, skied a fair few runs in Europe….to name but a few of their trips abroad.

Matt [ AKA the travel agent ] being a bit of a ‘Mountain Man’ fancied the idea of going to Antarctica to mark his half century (like we need an excuse!). With research done and Stamfords on speed dial for any latest editions, we are booked and good to go.  Our Penguins are heading home, in a fairytale sense. This is the trip of a lifetime for both of us and we look look forward to sharing our adventure with you.

A chef, creative and two penguins…..the beginning of our adventure to the end of the world