A Travellerspoint blog

The Uncertain Blogger

overcast 15 °C

Unlike Neil, I haven't found my groove with the blogging of the trip. I have been writing an electronic diary of the trip details, but only to keep account of the logistics and details that we are likely to forget as all of our hotels, hostels and b&bs meld into one amorphous shower, bed and bad breakfast. I have had a couple of ideas for writing about the trip, but not in a connected or themed way. My writing is sporadic and depends entirely upon my mood, recent events and who may have annoyed me most lately. So for my first post, I have included a post from some of my personalities which may crop up over the next 12 months, or not. Because I haven't made up my mind yet.

The flukey photographer

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Cape Horn immediately prior to disembarkation. We were greeted by hail, but then had an amazing and clear half an hour on the cape. The last 3 visits by the Stella Australis were unable to disembark due to weather, so once again our luck with the Patagonian weather has been extraordinary.

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De Agostini Sound where we disembarked for Aguila Glacier. The weather was glorious, so much so that we got a little sunburnt on the walk to the glacier.

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Magdelena Island contains contains one of the largest colonies of Magellanic penguins in the world. When we arrived they were nesting their chicks across the entire island, sharing it with the predatory skuas and enormous dominican gulls.

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Farewell to Ushuaia at sunset, a slightly misleading concept as the sky remained light for the entire night, never receding to more than a dark dusk. The cloud formations over the fin del mundo were striking for our entire time in Patagonia.

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Street art along the foreshore in Punta Arenas.

Sew much travel...

Over the next 12 months, Neil and I are going to spend an awful lot of time on buses, trains, boats and camels. I was trying to think of ways to while away the time which would be suited to being offline, requiring little resources and able to be balanced on a saddle. I really enjoy sewing, but wasn't so sure about packing the Juki. And then mum posted this photo on line of a challenge that friend had given herself of stitching an item every week for a year...

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So, with a bag of threads and a book of fabric, I am going to endeavour to stitch at least one item which represents each country we go to on the trip. It may be slightly easier for the larger countries where we spend more time, and slightly more 'interpretative' for those in which we have only 24 - 48 hours. Anyway, my first effort is below and represents our last flight for at least 4 months!

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The star-crossed foodie

Don't get me wrong, I have had some amazing food when travelling. Some blow your socks off, foodgasmic moments of pure unadulterated tastebud pleasure. But to be honest, the food that I remember most, usually due to the laughter that has ensued, is the horribly bad vegetarian cuisine I have been served up in places where my ethical choice not to eat meat is not only misunderstood, but clearly creates utter terror and confusion in the kitchen. I have found that there are two variations on truly horrendous vegetarian dishes, trying too hard and giving less than no fucks at all. And so I bring you the Vegetarian Guide To Truly And Utterly Horrendous Food From Around The Globe! Over the next 12 months I (unfortunately) expect to delight you with an array of truly special 'dishes' on the spectrum from 'meatless=tasteless' to 'hide the carne, she'll never notice' and 'eat this reindeer steak or it will go bad for you'. I'm sure there will be a prize at the end....

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Dish 1: Food for Life - Ushuaia
The first contender was of the tried too hard variety. They even had a 'vegan special' of the day - in Argentina! It was Seitan, here pronounced Satan, wrapped veduras with a side of potato salad. The salad was tasteless although strangely shiny, but the Beelzebub was a special treat of tyre rubber and off marmite. I didn't quite know what to do with this new taste sensation, so I pretended it was meat and fed it to Neil. To top it off my vegan coffee, which I thought might be a soy flat white, was in fact black coffee with cocoa powder stirred into it! Bliss!

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Dish 2: Fusiones Gastrobar - Punta Arenas
The second dish of note was a polenta dish, described on the menu as polenta topped with mushroom and cheese ragout. Yum, yes? It certainly contained polenta. Lots of polenta mixed with something. Perhaps plaster. It had an intriguing lumpy texture, enhanced by large globs of dried polenta. It held its form so well that I did consider modelling a full scale replica of the albatross in homage to our recent visit to Cape Horn, however after a couple of bites (it was 4pm and I hadn't had lunch), I realised that I wouldn't need to find a banos for about a week and decided to have a lie down instead. I never did find the mushrooms....

The slightly too excited about new (old) techy stuff traveller

No, it is not what you think it is! This is in fact our amazing new Steripen water purifier! I was really concerned about the amount of disposable plastic water bottles we would need to buy throughout the trip in order to stay safe. As we are wanting to enjoy this beautiful planet not destroy it, I was looking for solutions that would give us a safe reusable source of water, minus the plastic. After much research, I found this device that kills bacteria and viruses in water using ultraviolet light, just stir for 50 seconds! We both now have rather fabulous water bottles from the Cape Horn cruise, which we can fill with water from any source and purify on the spot using the Steripen. More useful than you can believe when arriving sans water late at night after all of the shops are closed! And you should have seen the look the guy in customs gave me when I took it through....

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And finally, is a huge thank you to Mr Google of all people. Two new offline capabilities have made an enormous difference since we last did any significant travel, being the offline maps and translator. We have downloaded the offline Spanish language pack which means we can translate in either direction with my phone whether we are connected to wifi or now. Likewise we can download selected offline maps and then use them once we get into a new location without needing to get online. As the GPS doesn't need WIFI either, we know exactly where we are at all times! How travel has changed from the days of desperately asking directions and hunting down a wifi connection...

Hasta la proxima

Nikki

Posted by capetocape2017 11:02 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Chapter 3 - Blues Harmonica, the Stella Australis, and Cape

By Neil

overcast 7 °C
View Cape to Cape on capetocape2017's travel map.

Augustin took a breath and started playing a blues riff on his harmonica. A few heads turned in the Darwin Lounge of the Stella Australis, a 100 cabin cruise ship, that we’d boarded in Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina 2 days before.
"Where are you from ?", I asked Augustin during a break in the music.
"Paris. I just finished my anthropology degree. Then I was travelling through Patagonia before I got a job two months ago as a guide on the Stella Australis".
We continued jamming to while away the time to our next destination.

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Nikki and I had bade a tearful good bye to our friends and Nikki's family at Adelaide airport on Boxing day. The Adelaide – Auckland – Buenos Aires flight was painless and we were soon in our hotel called 248 Finisterra in the College area of Beunos Aires. Argentina and Brazil have amazing reputations for the quality of their meat, and it wasn’t long before we’d found a restaurant specialising in Parilla, the “cooking over coals” method for meat. The quality of the Malbec red wine was good and the mixed meat dish was enough to feed a small rugby team for a week !

It was September 2009 when Nikki and I gave birth to the idea of travelling from Cape Horn (at the bottom of South America) to the Cape of Good Hope (at the bottom of South Africa), By Land, Mostly… It was 3 years later that we’d looked at a map and realised that Cape Horn is, er, an island.

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We’d decided that, if we were going to go Cape to Cape, that we needed to get to Cape Horn. Nikki eventually found a ship that does a trip from Ushuaia, down to Cape Horn, and finished at Punta Arenas, at the bottom of Chile.
The Stella Australis was built in 2010 and is specially designed with a shallow draft to allow it to sail through many of the channels that run through Tierra del Fuego. It is a handsome and very comfortable ship with, in comparison to the Antarctic ship we went on, enormous windows.

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It was said that Ferdinand Magellan discovered the route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean in 1520 (the Strait of Magellan), the channel that runs between Tierra del Fuego and the South American mainland.
In 1525, however, Francisco de Hoces was sailing towards the Strait of Magellan when he got blown south and discovered there was another route from the Atlantic to the Pacific and he discovered Cape Horn (although maps exist, however, from 1412 showing the Cape).
Cape Horn, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet, produces fearsome seas where the waves could reach to a height of 30 metres due to the meeting of the two oceans currents, and the shallow water around Cape Horn.
It was Sir Francis Drake who gave his name to the Passage between Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica in 1578, although this was, once again, because he was blown south of the Strait of Magellan.

Cape Horn was hugely significant as a route to the Spice Islands around Indonesia from the 1600's, and subsequently by the "Clipper" class of vessels during the 18th to 20th centuries.
Charles Darwin’s ship, the HMS Beagle, gave its name to the channel at the south of Tierra del Fuego when he sailed through on his journey of discovery in 1830 that eventually led to him publishing The Origin of Species in 1859.
When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, almost all of the shipping that had passed around the Cape, stopped, and took the quicker, cheaper, and more reliable new route. (it was easy to get delayed by a week or more by the weather at the Cape).

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It took 10 hours for us to travel down to the Cape and it was emotional to, after 7 years of thought, dreaming, planning, hoping, and research, finally be on the cusp of “starting” our journey. For some time, we also knew that it was not certain that the weather would be kind enough to allow us to actually get off the boat and set foot on Cape Horn. The last three trips that the Stella Australis had taken to the Cape, they'd not actually been able to get anyone onto Cape Horn due to the weather.
However, the weather at 6 am on Thursday 29th December 2016 was very good, although still cold (7 C), very windy, overcast with rain squalls. We got on our lifejackets and boarded the Zodiacs (small inflatable rubber dinghy's) to take us to the Cape.

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Once on the Cape, we had to keep our life jackets on due to the changeability of the weather. It was possible that at any time we could be required to get back the Ship as soon as possible.
162 steps led us up to the Cape and then onto the Cape Memorial, an Albatross. Finally we were there !

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This was, by far, the southernmost point of our journey; 56 degrees south. (the Cape of Good Hope is at 34 degrees and 24 minutes south). Before us stretches about 20,000 km’s of travel before we get to Anchorage Alaska, and then start to head west.

Next stop, exploring mainland Chile......

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Log of information since Adelaide:
Number of time zones - 4
Number of countries - 4
Distance travelled:
- by air - 16,075 km's
- by land and sea - 430 km

Posted by capetocape2017 12:57 Archived in Chile Tagged cape_horn Comments (3)

Chapter 2 - "How on earth do you get a year off ?!"

By Neil

The big comments about the Big Trip so far have been;
"How on earth did you get a year off ?", and
"I'm jealous".

So I thought I'd jot down a few comments about some of the "mechanics" of the trip.

To take any extended break from work, there is, in my view, four major things that need to be considered; desire, dough, work, and family. The stars have got to be aligned for an extended break to happen.

Desire

You've got one life and you've got to do what you want to do. Taking time to smell the roses is important. I have a friend whose husband is taking time out to write a book. Good plan. Me, however, I'm a junkie. A travel junkie. Always have been. Always will be. Whether it's busking in the central square in Brussels in 1986 (were perms ever cool ?)

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To playing guitar in a mud hut in Cameroon, West Africa to the locals in 1992
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To working with the pandas with my sons Alex and Michael in Chengdu in China in 2008.

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To taking an expedition ship to Antarctica with Nikki in 2012.
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Travel has always been massive part of my life. My friends at work have said to me on numerous occasions,
"You're always on holiday !"
My response is "No, I'm always talking about being on holiday !"

So you've got to really want to take the time out.

Dough

Ah yes. The dough side of it all. It's said that Lord Baden Powell picked up the phrase "softly, softly, catcheee monkey" from the Ghanaians in 1896. It means that patience and persistence will win the day.

Obviously, the Big Trip is going to cost a couple of bucks. However, as I said in Chapter 1, the gestation of the trip started in 2009, and it was in about 2011 that we started saving for the trip. A couple of hundred dollars a month over the period of 5 years mounts up. Add into that, some bonuses and things start to look better. Nikki saved up for the trip over the past 5 years.

I have been at AGL, an Australian Utility company for 15 years and, because Australia is a top notch first world country, as well as the 4 weeks holiday/ year, you also get Long Service Leave. This is 3 months paid leave that you are entitled to after between 10 and 15 years. I now have 18 weeks LSL. Once again, because Aussies believe in the work life balance, by law you're allowed to take this at half pay if you want. So, after discussions with AGL, I will be on about half pay for the year.

In addition, we wont be needing the house for a year so it is going to be rented out.

Oh, and I'm a great believer in making sure that there is a heap of "Oh Shit !" money available. Redraw on the house mortgage. Maybe some shares. Funds that are available if the wheels fall off. So we have some of that too. Just in case.....

Work

Australia is a great place to live and, whilst there are a lot of benefits (Long Service Leave, Annual Leave) there is also the "walkabout" attitude that, to our American friends is so foreign. It is almost a right of passage that Aussie youth go walk about for a year or two in their twenties. Nik and I are stretching it a bit. We're not exactly in our twenties.

Also, AGL, and in particular my boss, has been supportive of AGL having flexibility to support the year off.

Corporations worldwide have a culture of almost constant reorganisations, and there are often retrenchments that accompany the reorganisations. One of these occurred for Nikki and my view is that, after 20 years in the workforce, Nikki will upon here return be at arguably, the most employable point in her whole working career !

Family

We love our families. We love our friends. The timing of the Big Trip has been defined by Michael, my youngest son, reaching the end of high school. Alex is at Uni and living in a shared house. Alex and Michael's Mum has also been supportive of the trip.

I have offered Alex and Michael a return flight to anywhere where we are. Yes, I wont be paying for a flight for them to travel to somewhere we're not !

Of course we will miss our friends and family enormously, but we love travel !

57 days until take off.....

Posted by capetocape2017 23:07 Comments (2)

Chapter 1 - Where D'ya'wanna Go Then


View Cape to Cape on capetocape2017's travel map.

September 2009

"So where d'ya'wanna go then ?" I asked Nikki as the Eurostar sped from London to Paris.
"What do you mean ?" responded Nikki.
"So, I've taken off two years out of my working career so far; the first was emigrating to Australia, and the second was being Mr Mum for Alex and Michael"
"But what about work ?" Asked Nikki.
"Work is really important but I reckon it's more important to take time out to smell the roses".

At the back of my mind was the memory of Betty, my Mum, who, having worked hard all of her life in order to have this fabulous retirement, got cancer at 58 and died at 63. No, putting off smelling the roses was definitely not on my itinerary. However, there were my two sons, Alex and Michael. They would need to be through High School and that wouldn't be until the end of 2016.

"Where would you want to go ?", I asked again.
"South America. I've always wanted to go to South America". Nikki said.
"Alex and Michael are a quarter Guatemalan, so I'd want to go there".
"Aunt Zoy, and her partner Katherine live north of San Francisco", Nikki continued "And I really want to go to Mexico.

At this point I got out a copy of the Le Monde newspaper that I'd picked up a St Pancras, got out a pen and started drawing a (very bad) picture of the world.

Map 1 for Blog

Map 1 for Blog

"Where then ?" I asked having put "x's" on the map to mark out the locations that we'd mentioned.
"The Trans Siberian. I've always wanted to travel across Russia. Now you."
"Israel, I went there decades ago, and the vibe of the place is awesome. Whether you like the politics or hate it, it is the centre of 3 world religions, and when I was there, I could feel the history". I added more x's onto the map.
"And I've always wanted to go to Jordan" Nik said.
"And Africa" I said. "I've always wanted to go back to Africa." I paused, adding more x's onto the map.

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"Well", I said, drawing a line between the x's "It's pretty obvious. We need to go from Cape Horn at the bottom of South America, to Cape Horn at the bottom of South Africa. By Land."

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Nikki looked at me with a 'really ?' look. "That's never going to happen. What about work ? The Boys ? Travelling together for a year ?"

However, the trip took on a life of it's own and, gradually, the years passed. My Sons grew. The plans firmed. We did an 8 week trip to South America/ Antarctica. And then, in 2016, it was time to shit or get off the pot. A decision needed to be made. And it was. 26th December 2016 would be the departure date. We would take a year travelling from Cape to Cape. By Land. Mostly.

Posted by capetocape2017 21:10 Archived in Australia Tagged the planing Comments (0)

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