Travel to the South Pole, Antarctica – Kavita Kumble - Part 1

A blog on Antarctica is long overdue as it is almost a year since I landed on that white continent way back in December 2017. Therefore, here is the first part on my travel to the continent from India.

I love travelling solo, as I can go where I want to, do what I want to, how I want to, on the budget I want to, and change things the last minute whenever I wish to.

The best thing is that I can meet new and fascinating people all through the trip. Going to a new destination challenges me physically, mentally, and educationally.

I decided to hit Antarctica somewhere in the mid of last year. It was through a travel buddy of mine who told me there was an Indian cruise that was going for the journey to Antarctica for the first time ever from India. It excited me but two things deterred me.

  1. A Cruise is not my kind of travel. I love it rough and tough with a lot of walking around. Here, there will be someone else navigating me around and telling me what to do all the time. I thought in my head ‘What the hell will you do, Kavita, sitting on a cruise the whole day when there are no landings?
  2. In addition, when I got to know the whopping cost and the dent it will create in my bank account, I was a little sceptical.

But then I was like ‘Screw it. When else will I get such an opportunity, time and money?

And the next thing I know, I was shopping at Decathlon for waterproof bags, shoes, and other gear. I went ahead and booked a 21-day expedition (I wish I could just call this a trip, but travel to Antarctica was so much more) with a pre-cruise trip to Brazil and Amazon Forest.

The day arrived and first was my long haul to the South American continent. Flying via Dubai, I remember being stoned by the time I landed in a Brazilian hotel for my Amazon stay after a good 18-hour flight plus three additional hours in transit.

Amazon was relaxing and fun (will save that for a separate blog of mine later).  Travelling back from Brazil to Argentina to catch my cruise turned up to be more adventurous than ever. I missed the connecting flight in Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires from where I had another 5-hour flight to Ushuaia. This was due to a delay by the previous airline, which kind of messed up my entire itinerary ahead. However, I was determined to reach in time before the cruise departed. So, I made all the efforts to ensure that I got a ticket to another flight though it was in the dead of the night. The staff of Argentina airport was least friendly or cooperative to compensate me for the flight miss and I had to shell out another 20 thousand rupees to pick up a flight ticket connecting me to South of Argentina town, Ushuaia.

And here I was sitting at the airport waiting room at 3 am in the morning with a sleep-deprived head and a confused brain that was not sure which time zone it was supposed to adjust to.

After a not-so-comfortable flight, I landed in Ushuaia, South of Argentina from where the cruise embarks. Now, this part of Argentina was not like any South American town you see in movies or pictures. For me, this looked like a stolen piece of Europe. You already feel the chill in the air and the wind hitting you from those snow-capped mountains from Chile. I was just so happy and glad that I made it so far. Here are another 10 days of total adventure now.

The Cruise was a French one ‘Le Soleal’ and the first day went with the captain welcoming each one of us on board personally and later introducing us to the crew of the ship. It was not so bad, I thought. There were many more travel addicts and adventurous lot like me here with 200 odd on board. We were briefed on the safety aspects and the rules on the cruise, and then every day we would have a session on the next day’s plan of landing and sites. The expedition staff was full of passion and had expert knowledge about the South Polar Region and they were thorough professionals.

Combined with the luxury of the cruise and the culinary delights of two Michelin star chefs, this would be one of the most memorable journeys of my lifetime. One of the chefs was our own Atul Kocchar. (We Indians cannot do without our dal-chawal anywhere in the world, even if it is in the remotest part of the world). And the last thing I wanted to have was dal-chawal. So, I stuck to French cuisine for the most part of my journey, and I must say it was world class there.

After getting to know a few on the cruise and my roomie who was another Indian solo girl travelling from Mumbai who was friendly and chilled out, I was kind of settled for this one now. It was surprising to know that there were seven of us cool Indian solo woman travelling too. There were people of all age groups here from the 20s to 70s, so I knew it would be so easy to get friendly to people sitting by the dinner table, by the deck or by just about holding someone to avoid the turbulent sea. I knew by the end of this trip there will be friends and some will be for lifetime.

Woke up to the Drake Passage the next day, and thankfully, it was not as bad as it was made out to be. It is supposed to be the most deadly and choppy sea in the world, but it behaved well for us. There was also no time to get bored, as we had educational sessions by the experts on Antarctica through the day and there were activities like salsa class, cookery class, and dance musical shows to get entertained in the evening.

The experts meticulously chalked out our daily plans and schedules and I knew that I could relax to explore and discover a new topography here.

I will be following this post with another one detailing the journey in Antarctica with all my landings. So, do not miss that one.

If Antarctica is a dream of yours, do make it happen as soon as possible. It will leave you mesmerised, fulfilled and in awe of our planet.

Moreover, it will connect you to all the wonderful souls who travelled along.

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