Sunday 4 March 2018

Pining for the fiords (well, glaciers)

Yes, agreed, this is a First World Problem, no argument. It's a privilege to even think about describing it, I realise that. OK?

So. On my recent Silversea cruise to the Antarctic (cue a volley of clicks on the x above) the term 'bucket list' was bandied around a lot. A lot. So many people I spoke to on board were gleefully anticipating ticking Antarctica off, having dreamed for ages of going there some day. And that is perfectly understandable and acceptable: it's a spectacular, beautiful, unique place, far away and hard to get to. It takes a lot of money and effort to go there - but quite apart from the delight of being there, and the memories (and thousands of photos) you carry away, there's the enjoyment of being able to bore people about your trip for the rest of your life. All worth a one-off major splurge, right? Absolutely.
Except, and here's the thing, there was a surprising number of people on board who had actually already been there. I truly was surprised. I'd thought Antarctica was the epitome of a been-there, done-that destination, for the reasons above. But, apparently, not. How rich would you have to be, I wondered, and/or how exhaustingly well-travelled, to be going somewhere like Antarctica for the second time?

[Side note: Silversea is a top-of-the-line cruise company, ie not cheap - this 18-day cruise started at NZ$30,000, with many unavoidable add-ons - but such is the ambience on board that you really wouldn't be able to pick the insanely rich from those who had saved up for years to buy their ticket. Or, indeed (so I hoped, anyway) those who had swanned there on a freebie.]
This, though, was all before we got very far into the cruise. Once we'd hit (metaphorically) South Georgia, and definitely once we got to the Antarctic Peninsula, it all became clear. This place is absolutely, honestly and truly, so thoroughly spectacular, beautiful, unique and SPECIAL that I understood why people went to all that expense and trouble to come back again. More than understood: agreed with them. Now I want to return to Antarctica too. I want to see again those icebergs, watch, hear and even smell all those adorable penguins, hear the clink and fizz of ice in the water on a rocky beach, and know that I am once again on the coldest, driest, highest and most stunning continent on the planet.

You listening, Silversea? (Or anyone else, come to that.)

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