Getting ready for Antarctica
January 26, 2016
We have been here at the end of the world for 2 months now, enjoying this region so far away and so different from anywhere else. It is full summer, but around here every day you can experience the four seasons. In Ushuaia they have a saying that makes it perfectly the idea: "Amigo no te gusta el clima? Espera cinco minutos". The first week of January in Puerto Williams we got up to 25 degrees C, in the second week 20 cm of snow.
In these two months, we have crossed several time the stretch of sea between Ushuaia and Puerto Williams, between Argentina and Chile, to the point that we know by name the agents of the Immigrations and Customs in both countries: "aqui estas el Angelique II. Como vais amigos? ".
Without touching the susceptibility of our Argentine friends, we must say that we prefer way more Puerto Williams to Ushuaia. It is much smaller, cleaner, quieter and has a small community of sea Gipsys from which to listen to the most amazing and fascinating stories. Ushuaia is instead a small town now totally devoted to tourism and which, consequently, lost the charm of the "port at the end of the world". On his "Costanera" (the waterfront) you can enjoy a glittering Casino, a Shopping Mall and a pier dock where the "giant ships" that stop in their cruises around the world or the "large" ships that offer cruises to Antarctica . The city center is a succession of shops with prices worthy of Via Monte Napoleone in Milan. Ushuaia, unlike Puerto Williams has a really effective marketing. Argentines have built a brand with a reputation equal to the most renowned tourist places of Europe. The result is that people believe that the end of the world is in Ushuaia and that it is the starting point for exploring the wonders of the Beagle Channel and Cape Horn.
So everybody arrive in Ushuaia to discover that, besides a couple of expensive tours in large power ed catamarans to see a colony of penguins on a rock, a semi glacier and a lighthouse on an island they call 'lighthouse fin del mundo '(which has nothing to do with the true Lighthouse at the End of the World, which is located on the Island of States), the City offers shopping and only a few decent museums.
In fact, all that has built a well-deserved fame of the end of the wotrls is located in Chilean territory. The Island of Navarino with his Diente (one of the most famous circuits of Trekking Patagonia), but also Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world, Puerto Toro the souther (23 souls) inhabited place on Earth, the great glaciers Italia, Espana, Romanche, Almana, Olanda, De Agostini, to name a few, are all in Chilean waters, likewise are the Beagle Channel, the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn.
So guests arriving in Ushuaia and willing to enjoy everything necessarily have to reach Puerto Williams. And here is the rub!
Because the two cousins (Argentina and Chile) since long, long time love to spend time with jokes and teasing each otheri, one of which is to make it virtually impossible the connection between Ushuaia and Puerto Williams. The only service authorized by the two countries until last year was proposed by a small agency of Ushuaia which offered the passage of the Beagle Canal aboard inflatable rafts. But this year, the Chilean authorities have decided to lock it, so all the people who, having read on the internet of this connection, get confident to one of two ports with the idea of reaching the other side of the channel but become the real victim of the tricks of the two cousins. The satisfaction of this type of tourism is not really their concern.
On one hand Ushuaia is increasingly addressing mass tourism on the other Chilean authorities, beyond the official statements are simply uninterested in the development of any form of tourism in South Chile. But the market always finds spontaneous forms to fill gaps in supply, so with the arrival of the high tourist season a new "business" opportunity arised for pleasure boats in the area, both local and foreign. Since last November it was enough to remain docked at the pier of either Ushuaia Yacht Club or Micalvi in Puerto William to receive dozens of requests every day from people who needed to reach the other shore of the Beagle, with a market price of US $ 150 per person, settled by the previous official carrier. So in an absolutely illegal form vessels have begun to shuttle between the two ports with 6/8 passengers at a time, not only grateful for having solved a big problem but also extremely happy to have been sailing in the Beagle rather than cross it aboard a raft. We have to admit that in a couple of occasions we halve also responded to these requests of "help".
But on the docks of Ushuaia and Puerto Williams you also meet many young people in search of a passage to Antarctica. The call of the white continent here is very strong. Both ports are only 600 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula and Charter boats or the huge Passenger Ships have offers certainly not within the reach of a young backpacker. Three weeks on a charter boat rather than two on board a passenger ship is worth an average of US $ 10,000, so the young travelers looking for alternatives, offer themselves as dishwashers, improvised cooks or any other possible job just to be able to reach the white continent in more accessible ways.
The unexpected departure of Ray had created a small problem to our antarctic projects. Valentina did not want to face this experience alone and none of our friends had answered the call for adventure. So as more and more young people were offering volunteers job on board of Angelique II in exchange of a passage to the Antarctic, the idea of taking some with us took shape. The only drawback was that no candidates had previous sailing experience. However the desire to realize this dream that shone from their eyes and their words were strong enough to make them appearing to our eyes all potential Schackleton.
So we decided to scout some young, motivated, smart kids on board with us, for a two months cruise trough Patagonia, Antarctica abd the Falklands. Two months among the roughest seas of the planet for a unique experience. I must admit that it was not difficult to find them.
Let me introduce our crew
My name is Matteo, I'm 30 years old and I grew up in Albarello d'Adige (VR) in a peasant family where since I was a child I learned to work hard and not to be afraid of blisters. I consider myself lucky for all this because I the opportunity to grow naturally, healthy and even wild, far from materialistic technology. I graduate as an IT technician and work for about ten years as a repair technician for office machines and one day, about a year and a half ago, I decide to leave family, friends, work ... safety and leave for a trip to South America, having no idea about what it would lead to. I'm I fool? No, I just wanted to live and see what was out there, on the other side of the fence, then jump it like a wild horse and run free. The basic points of what will prove to be a unique experience were simple and clear: I wanted to dedicate my time to people less fortunate than me, to travel out of comfort, to learn, to know myself, to be free and to lose myself in South American nature, step by step I will find it incredible. I left on November 5th 2014 from Venice, experiencing ups and downs between fear and excitement. Little by little along the way I gain confidence in myself, awareness of who I am and what I know.
The solitude with which I first quarrel and then I become friends, making her an inseparable travel companion.
I travel to Peru and Bolivia where I work as a volunteer for an Italian association that helps the natives in remote areas of the Andes, in Ecuador knowing for the first time Amazonia and where I live with a semi-indigenous family, in Colombia where, always as volunteer, I work in an organic farm that produces coffee. Then I go to Brazil and Uruguay, exploring fantastic beaches and knowing special people and in late Argentine working for two and a half months for room and board in a hostel and then cycling, following the Ruta 40, to get up to Ushuaia two months later. During the stay in Brazil, a Brazilian couple tells me about their experience in Antarctica, triggering a series of images in my head and it is sufficient a brief search on the internet to understand that I want to push myself to it. After several months since the first time I spoke about it, in Ushuaia, I was lucky enough to meet Giambattista and Valentina, an Italian couple traveling for four years with their catamaran and launched towards the Antarctic continent. Without thinking much I decide to propose to follow them in this fantastic experience that will be unique and, for me, unrepeatable.
Their welcoming is the best, the crew of young people is fantastic and as they would say in South America there is "buena onda". I can only thank Giamba and Vale for this occasion and for now I imagine what will soon be real.
My name is Luis, a Catalan boy in search of the meaning of life.
When I started this trip I imagined to face it in solitude to think how I had arrived up to here and above all where my life would have gone. After spending several months traveling, I realized that it is much better to share these moments with the people I meet on my way and that goes my own way.
Giamba and Valentina come into my life here. I do not know them very much, however, for what I could see, they are a nice couple, patient, understanding and willing to share their lives with other people.
In my case they offered me what I needed at this specific time. The adventure of my life, an epic journey that I will always remember.
I am an Australian who after working as an engineer for 10 years has made the decision to abandon everything to travel the world for one year (I started in February 2015) and enjoy some of the wonders it has to offer.
You can see all the photos of my adventures on my blog, www.earththisamazingplace.com
To finish my trip, I had imagined visiting the Antarctic with one of the 11-day commercial cruises, before completing my trip with the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
However, after meeting Giambattista and Valentina and the rest of the crew in Ushuaia, I realized that what they were about to undertake was for me one of those opportunities that happen only once in your life and that there would be no better way to complete this year-long adventure.
Fortunately Giamba and Valentina were so kind to accept my proposal to board Angelique II for 10 weeks and so I canceled all my previous plans, postponed my return home (sorry Mamma) and I joined their The Lifetime Cruise :)
I can not wait to embark on this adventure for Chile, the Antarctic, the Falklands and face it with a fantastic group that intends to travel the same way: thanks Giamba and Vale for this opportunity.
I am 28 years old and I was born in Turnovo in the Czech Republic. It is my hometown, but I call "home" wherever my feet rest. I studied law at high school and textile engineering at the University of Liberec. During my studies I did a lot of travels, especially in the United States and the European Union. I am a mountaineer so most of my trips were aimed at climbing. But I have always practiced water sports like rafting, canoeing, kayaking and more. Why did I get on board Angelique II? I believe things do not happen by chance. At the beginning of our trip I did not expect to visit Puerto Williams, yet here I am. I let fate guide my steps. Once the wind has pushed me to the end of the world, I have no doubt that my destiny is going to Catamaran in Antarctica with people I have never met before. Opportunities like these happen only once in my life. Let's do it!! Maybe I'll fall in love with the sea and the sail and become a sailor.
I do not really know what to write and I feel like I'm in school forced to do a task that I do not like. People who know me, know how I am. who does not know me, simply does not know.
Should I write about how I got to Micalvi in Puerto Williams and saw this beautiful catamaran with a breathtaking sunset in the background and later, after I met his captain with the signs of the sea in his face?
I should write about how at that moment I told myself I want to be like him?
Or should I write about how my life changed when I was 16? I was ready to be a swimmer and a successful climber. But then one day I woke up in the hospital with double fracture on my spine with over 80% of my body that could not move. And at that time I experienced things that should not be lived at 16! Things like wishing for the moment of the morphine sting to calm the pain. But how can you allay your fears when you know that you almost certainly will not be able to walk anymore? I'm realist. I had a lot of time to think about my time at the hospital, when my vision of life and myself changed. I've tried a lot of things in life, going to the night club and having fun with the girls, defecating in a plastic bag next to a friend hanging from a cord to a wall or just working like a mule. But there is something about me to say, if I want to do something, I do it !! I never say "maybe"! Do it now or never! And do not think about whether it's right or wrong. So here I am Antarctica. I just go! I do not expect anything from this trip. I bought hot shoes and a pair of warm socks. I love my girlfriend and in my life I want to build a house with my own hands and I hope to have a lot of children. I want to have a dog, bees, sheep, horses .....And now I want to sail around the world!
I am the only Latin American of the expedition, I come from Medelin in Colombia.
I decided, or rather, I was lucky enough to join this exciting trip after almost 10 months spent looking for a boat that would take me to the white continent, although in all truth I feel like it was the boat to choose me.
This adventure looks like the perfect trip, my twenty-ninth birthday will be in just 17 days, sailing the white continent. What a great gift! In the last stage of the expedition will be exactly two years that I left home for an uninterrupted journey. The crew already seems to me a family of 8 members that promises to be very welcoming. What a nice way to celebrate these 24 months of travel that have enriched me.
I have learned a lot everywhere, but I have a large part of what I am in my life before traveling even if leaving the routine was the best decision I made in my first 29 years. I do not know if I will go back to my job as a veterinarian and a teacher and even if I continue my studies in medicine, I only hope to continue enjoying life at full speed.
The departure for Antarctica is scheduled from Puerto Williams in early February, at the first favorable weather window on the Drake Passage, a few weeks later than expected by our initial programs. In fact on January 29th we have been invited by the Chilean Navy to the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Cape
I still can not believe I'm here, having sailed my boat from home. But that our presence coincides with the celebration of an historic event like this is truly incredible.
So while waiting for this celebration I decide to set sails for a cruise to the glaciers of the Beagle Channel, also to give time to our young crew to get used to life on board and some training which will come handy later on in this extraordinary experience.