Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Antarctica For Plebeians

Ileana had her 15th birthday in Christchurch. If everything goes as planned she would be the only child with only one birthday on the road. She inquired about where her birthday would be long ago. As we got close, she started to make plans, when we finally got here, we asked what she wants: "your computer all day". Just to be left alone in the hotel room with an Internet connection. She got that for a good part of her day.
We had other plans, swimming with dolphins was the kind of experience that she would love. It was raining, windy and cold, we had to adjust to that. So we went to Antarctica.
This is a big continent at the top/bottom of our planet (depending how you hold the map). It could be number 6 or number 7, depending how you count them. It has 3000 people in the summer, 1200 in the winter. There is even a Lonely Planet guide about it. I looked into choices for getting there and here is the breakdown:
1. Cruise from Ushuaia, $3000-10000 per person. Since we will not go to South America this time around, not an option.
2. Charter flight from somewhere in Australia, $1000 per person, eight hour flight, not landing, just looking over. 6-7 times per year.
3. Russian retired icebreaker, from Christchurch, $25000 per person, two weeks. I learned about this several years ago, but I think they moved the vessel, it doesn't happen anymore.
4. International Antarctic Center, 5 minutes from Christchurch Airport, a cool modern research center and sort of science center museum focused exclusively on Antarctica. Cost $23 per person.

The Antarctic Center with our red rented car

Ileana agreed to spend some of her birthday there and we had a really great time. Some of us have some interest in Antarctica, some of us read real or science fiction books about it, in the end all of us were happy that we visited. The more interesting features are a 4D theatre, with a short movie that splashes you with water, wind and rocks your chair the way it happens on the screen and the storm center where they create an artificial Antarctic storm. They gave us cloths and rubber soles to cover our shoes, it was really cold, windy, dark and noisy and we loved it. The fun thing is that is not a Disney ride, you are not supposed to have fun, just feel and learn. There was another short film on a huge screen, Antarctica is beautiful but it can be quite scary. I remembered watching the most horrible movie ever made, the "March of the Penguins." I remembered what I wasn't supposed to forget (and I forgot). The movie made me feel ashamed that I am human and that I have the ability to complain, and I was supposed not to complain of anything ever again.
Ignoring the warnings of an impeding storm, some kids are still playing

It works, this thing really makes you freeze

They had a lot of information about penguins. Avoiding looking at the emperor penguin, it still makes me feel ashamed, I learned about the other kinds, we could compare the Galapagos ones with the bigger, more common ones. They have a rehab center, penguins who had injuries and would not survive in the wild are well taken care of. They also had plenty of pictures and displays and overall it was an interesting experience. It would not compare to a real trip to Antarctica, but given the circumstances, it is the most we can afford for now and it was good enough.

Ioan trying some of the real gear

Happy Birthday to our, not so little, little girl.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment form message here