I wrote this post back in March when it became clear that Noah and I were very likely NOT going to make it to Antarctica. For some unknown reason, I didn’t post it then. holding out hope, I suppose. While disappointing, we have learned that a place missed is just one more reason to come back.
To set an ambitious goal is always to risk the chance you don’t achieve it. About nine months ago, when the idea of doing an overland trip from Louisville to Antarctica first began its gesticulation, I knew the risk. Even getting this far – to Ushuaia, Argentina – was a big question mark. Driving through Mexico, a sailboat around the Darien Gap, spending days on buses to ensure we would show up on time – these have all been big question marks that could have left us in Tierra del Fuego too late or not at all. Yet, despite some hiccups, we made it through and arrived with a few days to spare before the last ships left the mainland for the seventh continent.
What I was not totally prepared for, however, was a crowd. After an incredibly busy and warm summer, we found the normally-barren Ushuaia in the mid-sixties when we arrived – and sunny. The hostels were packed. It was a bad omen for Noah and I. We had planned on a tour company, desperate to fill their ship, to drop their prices from more than $6,000 for a normal ticket down a quarter of that or less. Slim was packing up his bags.
These bad omens were confirmed as one travel agency after another told us that all of the tickets had been sold out or that their Antarctica employees had gone home for the season. The main Antarctica office, Freestyle, even left a “Closed for the Season” note on their door.
But fate would not leave us untempted.
The gracious guy at Hostel Los Cormoranes said he would get in touch with his “Antarctica Lady” and see if there was anything left. Within a few minutes, he had a representative on the phone. She had a basic interior cabin that had been reserved but she didn’t think the customer was going to follow through on payment. It was $5,000 per person – more than double what we were hoping. Would we like to put our names on a waitlist? She would call us if it fell through. Five thousand each? No way. With as much certainty as we could muster, we declined. The guy tried a couple of more numbers to see if there was anything else. Nothing. Within five minutes of his first call, the Antarctica representative had called back. The other customers had indeed fallen through. The very last cabin was ours if we wanted it – a cool ten grand. We, again, declined.
And that was it. There was indeed the opportunity to catch the boat, to achieve the goal, but we opted out.
Five. Thousand. Dollars. That’s a lot of money. That’s fifteen round-trip tickets to Iceland. That’s another four-to-six months of traveling on a budget. It would have nearly doubled our costs up to that point. It would have left us nearly no money for the remaining natural splendor of Patagonia in the fall. Peak. Color. Though it kills me not to follow through on a goal. To be so close to our world’s most inaccessible continent and fall just short of making it there, I have no regrets.
No is not forever. Call me an optimist (few would) but I hope that there is a time in my life where five grand doesn’t represent such an intense sacrifice, such a big chunk of my savings, such a debilitating blow to the bank account. Should that time arrive, I hope to take another swing at the seventh continent. Noah and I have already begun discussing the ten-year reunion of this whirlwind expedition through twelve countries that has left us here on the rocky end of our inhabited world. Hopefully by then, Antarctica will still be waiting with all of its icy splendour.