Mary Lou and I, along with our longtime traveling companions, Bill and Pam Moench, are somewhere over Central America as I write this. One of the marvels of air travel these days is the fact you can access the internet on certain planes, no matter where you are. We left Atlanta a few hours ago and have crossed the Caribbean and will soon begin flying over the Pacific on our way to Santiago, Chile.
This nine-hour flight is the first step of our long-planned journey to Antarctica, otherwise known as the end of the earth. After a day of rest, we will board a charter flight heading three hours south to Puerto Williams, Chile, right at the very tip of South America.
From there, the real journey begins as we board a small ship with about 200 passengers and about the same number of crew. The next two days will take us through the Drake Passage, commonly known as some of the roughest seas in the world. Occasionally, the Passage becomes known as the Drake Lake, with relatively calm seas. We are praying for some divine intervention, though we are prepared for the rough weather.
After visiting the Shetland Islands, we will make our way to the Antarctica Sound and Antarctica Peninsula, the destination of our long journey. Weather permitting, we will spend the next five days kayaking and taking Zodiacs to the shore and around giant icebergs. This is not a barren, frozen landscape as many might imagine. It is home to an enormous population of penguins, seals, whales, and exotic birds.
Though it will be Summer while we visit, it will still be below freezing and often quite windy. Boarding plans vary from day to day, and you must be patient to see the wildlife and scenery that drew us here in the first place.
Our friends seem excited for us, though most have that quizzical look that screams “Why on earth are you going to Antarctica?” Quite simply it has been on my bucket list for some time. As I approach 70 and my joints creak and ache with arthritis, it seems like this might be a now or never opportunity to visit the most isolated of the world’s seven continents.
That is my goal, to visit all seven continents. After this trip, we will be down to Africa and Australia. Those would seem to be less challenging than the current trip we are undertaking.
Since at this point, I cannot describe anything but the inside of a big airliner in the middle of the night on a long flight, I have decided to write about what I hope the trip will be and why we are taking it. For the next couple of weeks, I hope to give some firsthand descriptions of this amazing continent, with the hopes that it measures up to my rather large expectations.
The bucket list is a relatively new term that describes the things you would like to do before you kick the bucket. My list changes every few years, but heading to the end of the world has been on the list for a long time.
Wish us luck and check back for updates over the next couple of weeks as we fulfill one of our dreams.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org