When Plans Change
One of the best things about the trip is the flexibility. There have been countless times along the way where we’ve worked in a destination we’d never considered, or picked a different route to get from A to B. The constant working and reworking of plans has been a source of excitement, mystery, and even frustration at times, but overall the positives of rarely planning more than a few days in advance have far outweighed the negatives. Unfortunately, it’s bound to backfire occasionally, and this latest change has been a pretty big disappointment — we’re not going to be able to go to Antarctica this time around.
While our route down through South America has always been nebulous, there has been one goal that always remained — make it down to Ushuaia by mid-January and book a cruise to take us to the seventh continent. We had heard encouraging things about booking last-minute cruises to get anywhere from 30-50% off the prices listed on the cruise websites. It worked for the Galapagos cruise we took, and while we figured there might be a bit less availability, our flexibility in terms of dates would hopefully allow us to find something that worked out and saved us money at the same time.
Unfortunately, as we came to find out, December and January are the busiest months for Antarctic cruises, so availability was practically nonexistent. We did manage to find a scant few deals for early February, which we would have been willing to work our dates around, but they were only for higher-class cabins that cost many thousands of dollars more than we had been planning to pay. This left us with the choice of paying far above our budget for an inconvenient time and cutting the overall trip short due to monetary concerns, or postponing Antarctica until we could plan it out a bit further in advance. We were forced to choose the latter.
I’ve always been fascinated with places that not many people go; I think one of the reasons we enjoyed Colombia so much is that it felt much less traveled than its southern neighbors, and remote or difficult to reach places like Siberia, parts of Africa, and some of the smaller Pacific islands have always piqued my interest and will definitely be worked into our travel plans at some point. Antarctica is really the white whale (literally… it’s very white) as far as remote destinations go, so it was one of the places I was most looking forward to. Missing out on that particular visit, especially after reaching Ushuaia, just a few hundred miles from the white continent, is disappointing to say the least.
We’re planning on putting aside the money that we had planned for Antarctica rather than rolling it into the rest of our budget and using it to book a cruise well ahead of time in the coming years. At this point we’re hoping to work it in around December 2018 – January 2019, depending on how our travel (and job… ugh) situations are going at that point. While disappointing, we’re looking at this as a delay, not a cancellation.
Our trip to Ushuaia was certainly not a waste, however, even with our main plans getting pushed out. Firstly, Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, marked the end of our goal to travel from the north coast of the continent to the southern tip using only land transportation. Making it from top to tip was an incredible journey; South America is a beautiful, varied, sometimes hectic, but always amazing continent, and plodding along on the ground gave us many opportunities we wouldn’t have had if we had been flying from big city to big city.
Secondly, we managed to get a taste of Antarctica by going on a penguin walk! There is an island just a few kilometers from Ushuaia that happens to be the nesting grounds of two species of penguin, the Magellanic and the Gentoo, and January happens to be in the middle of nesting season, so we got to wander among hundreds (probably thousands) of penguins, many of which were just babies. We also visited a pretty neat marine life museum as part of the tour, but let’s be honest, the penguins are the stars here.