Quark Expedition Antarctica Adventure – Trip of a Lifetime

Breathe taking

Breathe taking

If you’re thirsty for adventure, want to fill your passport with a penguin stamp and don’t mind meeting other adventurers and travelers, then you need to read on. On the other hand, if you like to surf the net and drink your morning coffee, then you still need to read on. Because Antarctica is for Everyone and Quark Expeditions is the way to get there.

Penguin Stamp

Penguin Stamp

With that being said, let’s talk about what we would like to call the “Drake Sandwich”. As you start searching on how to go to the Antarctica, the topic on crossing the dreaded Drake Passage seems to always come up. So let’s address it here and now – it takes approximately two days of sailing through waters with no land in sight and the return voyage is the same – hence the bread outside and meaty yummy goodness on the inside.

The water conditions vary quit a bit from “Ok this isn’t too bad” to “What the heck just happened – I, I, I just got lifted off the bed, while sleeping, by what seemed to be two feet, at least – OMG”.  Grabbing ahold of the bed to not be wrestled to the floor by an imaginary opponent became second nature in cabin 422.

Due to the rough waters, we did see a complete assortment of anti-sea sicken medications and devices. The classic scopolamine patch, Dramamine, promethazine (tablets and injectable), pressure point wristbands, electronic relief wristbands (our choice) and last but not least the white paper bag that we lined on every railing for quick access! Fortunately, we never saw the bags actually being used but many of our fellow travelers where in their rooms.   Big thanks to Dyan aka The Penguin Lady for the electronic wrist band suggestion, they made all the difference.  Check out her Facebook Page & Website at The Penguin Lady she is truly an inspiration.

So, our recommendations – buy the electronic wristbands. Use the electronic wrist bands during daily activities and meclizine while sleeping. You get the best of both worlds by being alert in the day time and orally medicated while sleeping. Several oral medications can make you drowsy, so use them to assist for the nights that get a little bumpy.

Enough about the bread of this “Drake Sandwich” – let’s talk ICE. First, it really is that cold and BLUE. How can I describe it? Let’s see, take a beautiful blue sky with just a few cotton ball clouds floating around in the ether. Now, take that light blue sky and put it into a big ice cube. As we saw more and more, I had to think that not only is the water and air captured from 1000’s of years in the ice but the imagines of what our beautiful planet was like tens of thousand of years ago. It’s like the water took a picture of our past for us to see. I now understand to another level why Earth is sometimes called the blue planet.

Ok, as you can see – we loved the experience and still find it difficult to describe the breath taking views.

Fun Note:  Team Marker won the “Bragging Rights” of predicting when we would spot the first Glacier  in the Antarctica.  A lot of logic, wind and air speed calculations were used to determine when we would see the Glacier, OK not really, just a really good calculated guess.

We also found more than just ice – there’s life on this frozen continent. Can you say penguins!!! Everyone loves penguins! They’re cute, awkward on land but ninjas in the water and they take on climates that would kill humans – awesome little birds. Between ice, icebergs, ice caps, seals of all sorts, whales and multi-specied penguin pictures. I would have to say penguins won the most photographed category. And talk about categories, there are more varieties of penguins than I ever thought existed. Honestly, I knew there were a few but they all looked black and white to me prior to Antarctica.  Now I have been properly well educated on Penguin Culture.

Thanks to the super amazing crew and staff of Quark Expeditions and the decades of experience that was shared, we learned so much about all the kinds of “cool” stuff that exists in the Antarctica. That brings me back to the bread part of our earlier sandwich reference in that it wasn’t all medications and barf bags. The staff put on lectures to both entertain and educate while we passed to and from via the Drake Passage. We had world class scholars teaching us and making it look like their job was an easy one.  Truly an exceptional crew and fun to be around as well.

We also saw several varieties of seals, whales and other bird species. There is life on the “7th continent” and it’s fascinating to see and learn about how this ecosystem creates and sustains life. And then there are those little water creatures called krill or plankton that provide the entry level of the food chain that we didn’t get to see but glad for their existence.

Seeing is not the only sense you use while on an Antarctica expedition. Smelling penguin poo is something that will stay with you. Thank goodness Quark provided boots and a really warm parka for our adventure as the penguin poo is kinda stinky. [Side note – the boots get returned for the next voyage but the parkas are yours = BONUS] Anyway, the smell – initially is offensive but thankfully sensory adaptation takes over and it’s all good. Yes, we did try the Vick’s Vapor Rub trick. Rachel “the super ice ninja” used it on several of the landings. I, on the other hand, just took on the smell for all that it could give me. Plus Vick’s doesn’t look particularly sexy in a beard.

Gear, not beer, is something you need to feel comfortable with while out and about on chucks of frozen rocks, zodiac boat cruising and swatting in penguin poo. Quark did provided us with the boots and parkas and we did purchase waterproof pants, long johns,  gloves – aka snow ski equipment.  Our recommendation is to buy inexpensive outer gear and leave it behind. The crew can use it for other voyagers in the future that didn’t bring adequate gear or they donate the clothing to the local shelters at the end of the season.

Oh plus at the end of the trip, you can’t really fit into the pants anymore. Food, food and more food!!!! Don’t get me wrong, we loved eating every few hours and seriously the cold weather and hiking does make you hungry. Keeping your stomach full does seem to help with the motion of the ocean just a tad bit. The crew or cooking staff made a wide variety of cuisines. I have missed some of the North American foods as we have traveled and they had it – yummy, bacon, bacon and more bacon. The wait staff were quick on the spot to fill your glasses and bring you more delicious food.  We felt like royalty, pure greatness.

We were definitely in the amidst of royalty with the Penguin Post. If you wanted to mail or post a letter or postcard to the rest of the world – the British Post is taking care of you. It may take 6 weeks for the arrival of your penguin post cards because they have to go through the UK first and then home to greet family and friends. Of course, we are testing delivery times ourselves, so if you get a postcard let us know when so we can verify the times – please let us know when you start to receive them.  😀

Thank goodness for social media so we can stay in touch with family and friends. We were fortunate to make some great friends while sailing the seas and talking about all of our adventures. Several people were going to the Antarctica not only for the beautiful world that it holds but to say they visited all seven continents. So you can only imagine the stories and places people have visited and lived. P.S. we are going to be coming to hang out with some of you as we travel so be warned – LOL. We enjoyed the stories and learned something from every person we came in contact with – so thank you for your friendships and sharing of your amazing experiences.

Antarctica was our sixth continent. Later this year we plan to visit Australia. So we too can be able to hold up seven fingers for seven continents. Meanwhile, we are off to explore some of the different countries of South America, see some Wonders of the World and learn some Spanish.

Truly, check out Quark Expeditions for their Polar Adventures, (thank you Lisa Mclean for your support in making this Antarctica dream a reality) and their sister company Intrepid Travel for everywhere else – we love these travel companies.  Special Thanks to Britt Buchalle in the Canadian office of Intrepid Tours for always helping to make our dreams of travel come true in those “extra special” areas of the world that need a true professional approach.  Give her a call, you will love her attitude !

So until next time – safe travels, happy journeys and may you enjoy a new cultural experience that takes your heart and freezes it in the ice sculptures of time for future generations.

Big hugs and kisses

Happy Trails

Steve and Rachel aka TravelingMileMarkers

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