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Homeward bound – an Antarctica recap !

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I flew home to Melbourne using LATAM. the flight from Santiago, Chile was a direct one. Halfway along it skirts alongside Antarctica.  I was gobsmacked and fairly overwhelmed. What a pleasant surprise.

Kayaking with the dinosaurs.

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I took a day off yesterday being rather fatigued from walking, bus travel and cruising.  It was great to simply chill and do not much at all. But. One day is enough, I cannot do this for long. Champing at the bit to do something, and something special I leafed through the brochures at the hostel and espied one that offered kayaking on the rio la Leona for a full day, stopping off at los Hornos where there are dinosaur bones and remnants of a petrified forest. the guides gave a thorough rundown of the geological and early dinosaur history, the birds, animals and plants in the area on the way making the run to the start seem like nothing.

Fitz Roy, El Chalten Argentina.

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Our voyage from the Falklands to Ushuaia, Argentina seemingly flitted by and the ocean journey was fairly smooth going. There were a few things to do with regards to disembarkation procedure instruction, return of goods and social engagements. A few movies were shown and blog notes or photo edits to complete.

End of journey to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands.

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Our voyage from the Falklands to Ushuaia, Argentina seemingly flitted by and the ocean journey was fairly smooth going. There were a few things to do with regards to disembarkation procedure instruction, return of goods and social engagements. A few movies were shown and blog notes or photo edits to complete.

Falkland Islands

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Land !  We arrive at the Falklands at 2pm and cannot wait to get off the boat for a bit of land based activity, one customs give us the OK we can set foot on land. Unfortunately it is blowing at around 40 knots and predicted to go over 50 so we were informed our stop will be short at 6pm return.

Finale in South Georgia at Salisbury plain.

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It ws our last day on South Georgia. We were promised a big finale with the second largest population of penguins and other wildlife in South Georgia at Salisbury plain. The photography group got up for another 3:30am morning outing to capture some albatross chicks on an island. The weather determined that landings and further Zodiac trips in this area will not be happening. The wind picked up to over 45 knots, making it quite dangerous. The view from the ship was good, giving us an extensive sight of a seemingly endless population of seals and penguins on the long beach front and inland. It was quite a sight to behold.

Walk in Shackleton’s footsteps and the world war on whales.

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This day was a hard one emotionally for me. One there is elation to see Shackleton’s grave and walk the last 6km of his journey to safety and rescue. It was counterbalanced by seeing the remnants of a site devoted to the wholesale slaughter and processing of whales. Even though it stopped in the early 1900s, the slaughter was too efficient and the population has not recovered to the numbers prior. I found it very tough to see the decomposing relics and leftover whale bones and museum artefacts – whew, it’s a challenge to remain composed. I would like to see a complete return to nature by removal of all the whaling sites, though I admit that like the artefacts of the world wars, we do need the reminder of how seriously close we were to wiping out these beautiful creatures of the ocean to hopefully ensure there is no repeat.

South Georgia–incubator of Subantarctic life.

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Gold harbour: we have just entered a David Attenborough film set. Words escape me and I try to keep my eyes dry. Is this a dream ?

South Georgia: Drygalski Fjord and Ocean Harbour, Cooper Bay

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Our trip from Elephant island was surprisingly smooth. We could eat our meals without spilling drinks, losing cutlery and tripping over. It was a little wavy but nowhere near what I expected.

Water, water every where…. I shot the albatross

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner , I remember learning it at high school, absolutely loving its tale of mishap on the high seas. Those lines “Water, water, everywhere Nor any drop to drink” sprung easily to mind on our journey to South Georgia.  In hindsight it would have been fun to recite it on one of our social gatherings in the bar.

Hell-of-an-Island: 4 1/2 months stay and 1250km to safety.

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I’ve read the stories of Shackleton (the book Shackleton by Roland Huntford is a must read). Now I am seeing and almost touched Elephant island.  It is as the survivors coined its nick name “hell-of-an-island” , how anyone could survive a week let alone 4 1/2 months as the crew of the ill fated Endurance that got crushed in the Weddell sea is astonishing.

Elephants !

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After lunch we cruised to Elephant point which promised – you guessed it – elephant seals, and lots of them. As well there were abundant penguins and other bird life. What a pleasant contrast to Deception Island.

A bleak reminder of our sullied past in Deception Island.

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Deception Island is a semi active volcano, its last eruption was in 1968/9. There is a a sea entrance where we enter into the crater of a volcano, which is  still simmering away with some steam rising like the smoke of the last embers in a doused fire. We dug our toes into the sand on the beach and felt the warmth.

Paradise: pack ice and its crushing embrace.

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Our journey takes us to a place known aptly as Paradise bay. It was stunning, surrounded by steep mountains descending into the sea and tranquil waters filled with broken ice this makes a wonderful scene.

A gorgeous paddle round Cuverville Is and Party on the top deck.

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I flew home to Melbourne using LATAM. the flight from Santiago, Chile was a direct one. Halfway along it skirts alongside Antarctica.  I was gobsmacked and fairly overwhelmed. What a pleasant surprise.

Sleep-out on the Antarctic mainland.

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When asked if any of us would like  to sleep-out on the mainland, 13 of us put our hand up. Being a veteran snow camper, who am I to refuse ? What – no tent ?  This was a first for me. (well not quite I have slept in a snow cave around 1990ish)  We are going to dig a ‘snow coffin’ without the lid and sleep in it. Generally I sleep in a tent in Australia because our snow being near zero is a bit wet during the day so a tent enables us to stay dry.

Kayaking the ice floes.

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Our introduction to Antarctic paddling started with a challenging 6 km paddle to get to the shore line from the boat due to the wind and near open ocean exposure. relief was found near the shore. Close to shore it got calm due to the shelter of the mountains and ice floes tempering any chop. We visited a place called Hydrurga rocks , which was named after the leopard seal:  Hydrurga leptonyx. These rocks are located near Two Hummock Island.

Paddling preparations.

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Aurora Expeditions have a rigorous safety procedure requirement that we tag on and off the vessel when departing. Each person is allocated a token, red (or yellow in the case of us kayakers) indicates that you are off the vessel and blue (or green for the kayakers) when on board. The ship goes nowhere until all are on board, there are a few friendly but public announcements via the ship’s speaker system to inform those persons who have been remiss in their duty.

We spot an iceberg – Antarctica, we are coming !

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There was a competition to see who can guess the location and time  of the first iceberg to come to sight. Somehow I guessed it and won a bottle of wine for my efforts the result: 12:26 pm Lat 61 4 75 S  Long 61 0 34 W . What did I guess ? 62.050S, 61.000W at 11:45 am.  So, maybe if you are on this cruise guessing the first iceberg location it might be still there and you could use these coordinates, however these are massive frozen boats, so this particular one is probably in Patagonia now forming the ocean brimming its coast.

Drake Passage Fear: not to worry, the Sea is asleep.

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Good morning, good morning everyone : the morning catch cry of our friendly host of the expedition leader Liz Pope. The ship was rolling, not in a gentle sway, but it was none too rough either. It was just enough to cause me to slide on the bed and concentrate on getting my trousers on.

The trip begins – Antarctica here I come.

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The joys of travel, leading moments are moments of stress, but somehow they temper and things move on as they should.  If you enjoy reading about calamities then read on for a a bit of a laugh or skip to the next real adventures on the ensuing days.

Making Dreams come true.

To make a dream come true you first have to have one. I draw inspiration by reading about other adventures and pursuing different activities.

Dream to be realised: Antarctica. Excited (almost).

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I booked a trip to Antarctica and was excited, especially with the prospect of following Shackleton's footsteps with his famous traverse in South Georgia. The side trip was cancelled as I was the only one interested. Gutted, my negative thoughts, as relayed below cost me a lot emotionally. Too much. One has to deal with change and ultimately I did. So read about my thoughts at the time, don't get dragged down like I did, it's not worth it. Ultimately I proceeded with the trip, the outcome was a true reward.

Austria - Vienna city of my dreams

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Heaven, Vienna mine I'm in the spell of your charms divine Dressed like a queen, with life so gay. You are the love of my heart today  ( link ).

Austria - the hills are alive with the Sound of Music

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It would be remiss to visit to Austria without visiting the city made famous by The Sound of Music, whether that be by Rodgers & Hammerstein or by the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Caroline's dream to see Salzburg has been fulfilled and I was happy to be part of it.

Austria - Zell Am See

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We drove to the manicured lands of Austria, starting with the ski resort town of Zell Am See. It is doing what mountain areas do best - rain. Though not ideal weather we are get a taste of the germanic love for perfection and beauty. I would have been great to linger longer but alas only two days was all we had available to us.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

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There is a very good reason why places are listed as an UNESCO world heritage site , that is because they are special. All that mother nature provides is special, but some areas are extra special and Plitvice lakes is one site that made it to the list and deservingly so.

Kiteboarding at Nin

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It was forecast to be yet a another hot day, hottest so far; so why not spend it on the water ? Part of the reason we came to Zadar is so that I could visit Zadar and go kiteboarding at Nin. I did not take my kite gear, as over the period of 7 weeks I’d get 1 perhaps 2 days of kiteboarding. At Nin I found out that there was a kiteboarding school and a there was a possible opportunity to hire gear.

Singing to the tunes of Zadar.

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We were in Zadar for a couple of days.  It is a town that has belted around its ears since the dawn of time. There are all sorts of ruins from various eras of human civilisation to keep historians amused for a long time. I learnt about the Romans at primary school, and thought not much about it at all until it was realised with the artefacts of their history in places like Zadar.

Krka national park. Croatia

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Krka is a watery paradise, we were in love with this place, waterfalls, lovely swimming and boating on the river, the whole atmosphere made for a great day.

Kotor City, Montenegró

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Many moons ago a couple in my cycling club went off on an adventure fulfilling a dream to sail the world. A fantastic looking photo was shown to me, and I asked where is this place ?  Montenegró was the response. Oh, that looks interesting I said. Little did I realise that that comment became a catalyst to a real visit. Both Caroline and I enjoyed the visit very much.

Rafting In The Tara Canyon

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My alarm was set for 5:30am, it is going to be a big day.  I am off for a 3 1/2 hour drive to the Tara Canyon for an  " One day high rafting adventure " hosted by a company called the Waterfall rafting center.  I had driver and was the only passenger for this trip. Caroline not keen on the idea of rafting elected to spend the day in Kotor.

An edgy drive to Kotor, Montenegro

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Montenegro is a small nation tucked down on the southern border of Croatia, we visited it directly after landing at Dubrovnik from Prague.

Dobrý den, I’m cycling in the verdant countryside and sort of lost.

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A fine day for cycling I think. May I use a bike, I wish to ride to Plzen, I say to the staff. With enthusiasm they rummaged in the cellars below, found something that would do the job, gave me a map and wished me a good day.  I took my phone loaded with the Maps.Me app, a few bottles of water, roughed out a plan to ride across the river at Liblin follow the road alongside to Plzen, find the famous Pilsner Urquell brewery  and off I trundled.

Zbiroh Castle: Czech countryside, castles and verdant vales.

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How cool would it be to stay in one of those mediaeval castles ? We thought so too and so this was the first of two (and as it turns out only one) that we booked and stayed at

Loket and Karlovy Vary: Czech countryside: castles, spa and verdant vales.

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Dobrý den! or hello to the Czech countryside and  Čau! (like Italian Ciao! ) or goodbye to Praha or as we English speaking folks call it.

Prague: music & culture, good food and fancy old buildings, oh and Pilsner.

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Prague is a small busy city, capital of Czechia. In a nutshell: it's music & culture, good food and fancy old buildings, oh and of course Pilsner beer. It was a good choice to start our trip.

Planner for our East Europe tour of Austria, Czech, Hungary, Slovenia and Montenegro

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We are off, we being me: Stuart and my wife: Caroline on a seven week jaunt to Eastern Europe, or some would say Central Europe - well who cares - we are visiting Czech Republic, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Hungary in that order

Road trip Perth to Exmouth. Kiteboarding and touring.

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I have been hankering to do a road trip up to Exmouth for some time. Dennis and I have been going on kite surfing holidays for the last few years so we plugged for this one. We started off from Perth and drove to Geraldton, staying a couple of days,  to Denham staying 5 days.

Two gems and a Jeweller in Greenstone Valley, NZ

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How proud can a dad be when his daughters ask to go on a walking trip with him ? Well I am the proud jeweller with my two gems – ie my daughters Steph and Katie. We’ve just spent a wonderful  week of walking in the Greenstone and Caples river valley of New Zealand.