I have been told that I walk (waddle, rather) like a penguin, since I was a child. My Biology teacher coined the nickname ‘Penguin’ for me when I was in Standard 3, and till today, even after all these years, all my school friends call me by that embarrassing nickname. I have been fascinated and obsessed with penguins for as long as I can remember – the way they walk, they behave, they jump, and they swim. No wonder ‘Pingu’ is one of my favorite cartoon shows till today. It is about a penguin family that lives in Antarctica, and I can watch episode after episodes of that show all day, and never get tired. So, when I was asked to choose any place on Earth where I would like to take my friends, I couldn’t think of a better place than where the penguins live.. all the way down to the South Pole.. in Antarctica!
Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent, and it is the coldest, driest, and windiest of all continents. Almost 98% of this continent is covered with ice and there are no permanent human residents, but a lot of researchers go there every year and stay at the research stations. I know it is not one of those conventional places to go for a holiday, and when I was told that I could pick any place on the planet, I could have easily picked up a beautiful tourist spot, like say, a Paris, or Sydney, or Venice.. or even Milan. But, I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere adventurous, somewhere not many people would dare to venture easily.
There is this famous animation movie called ‘Up’, which is one of my all time favorites. It is a comedy-adventure film, where one of the protagonist says, “Adventure is out there!” That particular line had always fascinated and inspired me, and I have always dreamed of going for my ‘big, bad adventure’ once. Hence, I chose Antarctica – the land of penguins, ice sheets and mystery.
In order to make this trip the happiest and most memorable, we shall do stuff that we have never done in our lives, or even thought of ever doing. For example: Imagine getting really close to massive colonies of penguins as well as several species of seals, and living with them! Since, people have never really inhabited in Antarctica, the wildlife remains unafraid of human beings, which in turn make the wildlife viewing an experience to remember.
Since it is located in the extreme southern hemisphere, winters (June-August) are dark, whereas spring and early summer (November-December) and summers (January-February) have long hours of light. I would like to visit the place with three of my friends, sometime between November to February, when the temperature is just perfect. I have heard that penguins begin hatching during December to early February time. It would be the best time to visit, since penguin chicks are most plentiful during this time.
It should also be remembered that one can’t travel to Antarctica on their own as a tourist, as there are no regular transport (flights/ships) for independent travelers. So, we will have to take the help of tour packages that are offered by many tourism companies. I would want to book a 10-15 days cruise, and we will first need to travel to Ushuaia in Argentina via Buenos Aries, from where the ship departs.
I have heard a lot about kayaking in Antarctica, and I will not miss any opportunity to try that out. Kayaking is paddling among icebergs and swimming seals while wearing waterproof pants and boots, and this will definitely be an experience of a lifetime.
I’m also a photography enthusiast and I will carry my Canon 1000D DSLR with me, to preserve some great memories and shots. One might think there’s nothing to click in Antarctica since it is completely white, and covered with ice all the time, but that is far from the truth. One can click some early season wildflowers, to rare orchids, to a group of penguins swimming happily, to icebergs in the ocean. This icy continent has some breathtaking scenery and a stunning, unique wildlife.
I was so love struck after watching ‘Happy Feet’, a renowned animation movie that showcases the life of penguins living in the South Pole. I’m generally fascinated by penguins and snow, and this movie had made me laugh, cry, dance.. and had taken out all sorts of emotions out of me. Just like the penguins in ‘Happy Feet’, and the penguins in ‘Pingu’, I would like to name each of the penguins I meet in Antarctica. It might apparently sound ridiculous, but I’m happy being crazy. I can spend hours watching them swim, waddle, or even, lay eggs.
The reason why this trip would be the happiest trip ever, is because of the simple fact that, there is no other place on Earth like Antarctica. It is unique and absolutely irreplaceable. We would cruise through the infamous Drake Passage, the rough stretch of water between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica’s South Sheltand Islands. I think when I will get to see the first sight of Antarctica from the deck of the ship, I’ll cry. It has been a lifelong dream, and to see it turn into reality, would make me awestruck and excited like a kid. Plus, sharing that big moment together with my closest friends would just be the icing on the cake.
Remember the famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton? He had led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, and is one of the principal figures of the period known as the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’. I would like to take my friends to Elephant Island, the most notorious island in Antarctic history, where 22 disheveled members of the Endurance expedition lived under two upturned lifeboats for 135 days awaiting the return of their leader, Sir Shackleton. This had happened way back in 1916. Just thinking about reliving those moments again, is giving me goose bumps right now.
However, it is also important to carry necessary medicines, because there are no doctors or shops in Antarctica, and one might need medicines for sea sickness. Together, we want to explore Antarctica as much as possible – spot the penguins, fur seals, Weddell seals, blue whales, birds! Also, since Antarctica is hardly inhabited by people, it is pristine, fresh and pollution free. Imagine just stretching your arms, taking a deep breath of fresh air and shouting, “I’m the king of the world!” like Leonardo Di Caprio did in the movie ‘Titanic’. Okay, on second thoughts, don’t do that, if people are around and/or watching you.
It is a given, that all of us will be covered from head to toe in parka, gloves, socks, rubber boots and lots of woolens. On a cold winter night, we all would be sitting under the big, dark sky, outside an igloo or tent, and stare into the breathtaking icy horizon. At that moment, time would stand still, and we would all realize, what it really feels like to be ‘into the wild’. Going there is not easy, one must brave rough sea crossings aboard ice-strengthened vessels, and put up with harsh weather and living conditions, plus it is a very expensive trip – but once you do reach there, it will be an experience worth an entire lifetime. Adventure is definitely out there.
This blog post has been written for the “Creating Happy Travellers!” contest, organised by Yatra.com and IndiBlogger. The topic was – If you could take your family or friends to any place on the planet, where would that be and how would you make your trip the happiest one ever?