Waking up to no waves for the first time in days…
Day 12 – 28th Jan, The journey home begins, Ushuaia to Buenos Aires
For the first time in a long time, we all woke up to a complete lack of motion. No more bouncing around with the swell, no more randomly being caught off balance carrying breakfast, no more zigzags through the ship’s corridors as we go from place to place. To some this may have been a welcome relief after the tough conditions in the Drake, but to me it was a physical confirmation that our Antarctic adventure had come to a close. Out of my window the concrete dock and neighbouring ships dominated the view, and when I went up on deck 7 to take a look around I could do so in just one layer of clothes. This was an almost unwelcome novelty, but it was just as well, most of my gear was packed last night and piled up with everyone else’s in the ship, ready to go to the airport.
The day was a beautiful one in Ushuaia, with clear blue skies and mountains surrounding the port. We all were bundled on buses to take us away from Fridtjof Nansen, our home for the last 10 days, and we left the ship in a state of frantic activity as it was re-supplied and readied for the next batch of passengers. After that goodbye another shortly followed, Sonja was leaving us to run fieldwork in Chile and Peru while we continued home to the northern hemisphere. After a lot of thank yous for the amazing trip, she trotted off towards the bus stops with her field gear in tow, good luck Sonja and see you in March!
We were then all released into the city for a half hour before we’d have to regroup on the bus to be taken to the airport so we could catch our flight back to Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the shops were not open yet which made shopping for those last few souvenirs and gifts tricky. I certainly was lead on a merry chase, speeding round the various city blocks several times trying to find a shop able to sell me a cuddly penguin to take back to my toddler at home. Nasen’s shop only had belugas and while I’m sure my kid doesn’t know you only find them in the Arctic, I could not quite suspend my need for at least vaguely biologically accurate Antarctic gifts. It was only thanks to the mercy of the Hurtigruten staff, who knew our flight was delayed and gave me 10 more minutes to run around on my quest, that I was able to find my elusive prize. Arriving back at the bus just in time, I was touched that everyone in our team had been on the lookout for a penguin for me too, and had kindly bought me a little back up penguin just in case I failed! Both have been very happily received and have been dubbed ‘mummy’ and ‘baby’ penguin.
When we got to the airport it turned out that our flight was indeed delayed, and not just a little but by an hour or two. So we all had plenty of time to kill in the airy departure lounge which was rammed with people, many who were familiar faces from Nansen. It was a chance to get some lunch, relax, read, chat with our new acquaintances from the ship one more time and for some of us, get some sleep. Finally, we were able to board and fly back to Buenos Aries, and after an uneventful flight and the usual tense wait for our bags by the luggage carousel, we were all ready to head to our hotel for the night. With the help of our two fluent Spanish speakers (huge thanks to Heather and Julia!) we were able to navigate communicating with our taxi driver via voice recordings sent by WhatsApp to enable our pickup. Cramming all our stuff and us into the bus was interesting, but we managed and were soon cruising down the main roads towards downtown BA.
The taxi ride was a fun one, at some point along the journey our driver put on his playlist containing a lot of dance music. While the volume level was low initially, the amount of singing and cheering from his passengers encouraged him to turn up the music so the rest of the drive felt like a party! Once we arrived at the NH Collection hotel we sorted out booking taxi transfers for everyone for the next day, as we would all be parting to make our own ways home. After one final debrief our time together as a team officially came to an end. Most people headed out into the city to find a place to eat and explore in the little time that was left to us in BA. I passed on the chance to go out however, and headed up to my room for a nice long shower, an even longer chat with my family and then as much sleep as I could get before my big flight back to Europe the next day. It was so sad to say goodbye to our time on the ship and the adventure of Antarctica, but getting back to family and friends at home makes the sting less sharp. Plus, going home means I won’t keep adding to the problem of sorting out several hundred photos of ice, whales and penguins!
Written by Kelly