These last three days get combined into one post, because now we’re just heading back to South America, and there’s nothing to prepare for, except the inevitable end of the trip. Having to cross the Drake again gives you a couple days to sort of decompress from the excitement of Antarctica and prepare mentally to reenter the civilized world.
On day 10, our first day back on the Drake, there was no wake up call. (Nowhere to be except on the ship!) Then there were a couple of presentations in the lounge—including one by Laurie who gave his account of skiing across the Arctic Ocean from Canada via the North Pole in 91 days. This guy is totally amazing, and I’m going to tell you even more amazing things about him soon. Jimmy talked about orcas; the geologist talked about weather systems in Antarctica.
There was a “wild west” themed party in the lounge that night. Some people got very creative with costumes.
On day 11, we were still on the Drake. This morning they had a couple more presentations, one of which was about the other polar trips Quark does. (Not a sales presentation at all…just one of the team leaders talking about all the cool stuff they do and see.) Jimmy talked about whales again (there is a lot to know about whales).
And then, Alex let us know that we were making really good time (it was, they said, the smoothest Drake crossing they’d had all season—I still took phenergan to be safe) and that had allowed us to cross quickly enough to be able to detour over to Cape Horn. This was historically one of the most dangerous routes to sail for ships, as they sailed around South America. Now they can avoid it by using the Panama Canal, so most people do not sail this route anymore other than for the challenge. (Several round-the-world races go this way, according to Wikipedia.)
That afternoon they showed another movie in the lounge—this one called “Around Cape Horn,” depicting the voyage of the Peking around the Horn in 1929. This guy actually shot video of the trip, and he narrates the video in this movie. And it is harrowing!!
Alex held a disembarkation briefing to explain the procedures, and we had our final recap. Then we were invited to a Captain’s Farewell Cocktails in the lounge that evening before dinner.
After cocktails, we all went into the dining room for the farewell dinner, where the entire crew of kitchen staff came out and paraded around the room clapping and cheering, and then were introduced to us so we could recognize them for all of their hard work. They really did an incredible job.
We crossed the Drake so quickly we were going to arrive early, so first they said we would anchor for the night outside the Beagle Channel and sail in to Ushuaia in the early morning, but then they told us that they wanted to do some maintenance work on the ship and that having it in one place for 12 whole hours was a luxury they didn’t often get, so we would go ahead and sail into Ushuaia that evening.
I was already in bed nearly asleep when we dropped anchor…I think it was probably around 11pm. It was weird to not feel the engines running!
In the morning (day 12), we were to place our checked luggage in the hallway to be picked up and taken off the ship. We ate our last breakfast in the dining room, and then it was time to say goodbye.
Some people were going directly to the airport, and some of us were going to local hotels. Allen was flying home that morning, and they called the airport people first, so we said goodbye outside the cabin, and he left for the shuttle to the airport. Jeff & I went upstairs and sat in the lounge to wait to be called.
I had heard of people rolling their parkas up into basketballs, so this is what we did with ours, too. It was not easy to get them stuffed up this small! These also got us a lot of weird looks and questions from customs officials. (“What are those yellow things??”)
When they called us, we picked up our passports at reception and headed out.
Once on the pier, we had to ID our luggage to be put onto a shuttle. (Remember how we had to arrive on the pier by shuttle? Same for departure.) The shuttle dropped us off at a taxi stand a block from the pier.
We had a hotel only a couple blocks away, so we walked up to it, only to find two other passengers from our trip arriving at the same time as us for the same hotel.
The hotel had an amazing fourth floor deck where we could hang out and use the wifi. It was around 8:30 in the morning when we got there. The four of us set up shop with our laptops and iPads and phones and started reconnecting with the world. We had gorgeous views, snacks, and internet. It was from here that I finally began to post photos to Facebook, which I had been dying to do.
We left the hotel deck and wandered around town for a while around lunchtime, eating at a little deli we came across. We spent more time on the deck in the afternoon, when I spotted this large cruise ship that had come in. It dwarfs the smaller ships!
The next morning we took a cab to the airport, where we ran into several other people from our ship, all on the same flight to Buenos Aires we were on. In BA, we all parted ways as we headed off to various cities and countries around the world.