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Greetings from Santiago, Chile. With the cruise industry in chaos due to Covid, we were unusually fortunate in being able to complete 4 cruises, as planned. Many companies cancelled their entire season, some cruises were abandoned on day of departure. The Ushuaia bay was full of ships at anchor, in isolation. The town’s Covid rooms all fully occupied. Some companies were swopping out crew, to keep going with a clear crew, and the other ships holding crew in isolation. I had a PCR test done onboard on Friday morning, awaited results before I could fill out my Chilean entry forms, and then ran to catch last bus between the ship and the airport. In Buenos Aires, I rushed between Domestic Terminal C and International Terminal A, to check-in for the flight to Santiago. How I love the nuances of air travel.
The flight to Santiago was somewhat bumpy, the highlight being the Andes and a close-up view of Mount Aconcagua. Just magnificent in the evening sunshine. I reflected on the book/movie Alive, when a plane carrying a Chilean rugby team crashed in the Andes – a remarkable human drama.

A local agent whisked me through the Santiago airport, including using the airline crew lines, since I am crew on a ship! Dropped off at an hotel nearby, and told NOT to leave my room – my mandatory quarantine/isolation of 10 days in Chile has begun.
Following morning, completely unannounced there is a knock on the door, and there is a Chilean government nurse to perform their own PCR test. Packed my bags ready for transfer at 11.30am to airport, to fly to Punta Arenas, only to receive a call at 11.15 to say I am not flying today. Nothing further. The PCR test results were delayed, and I feared the worst. News came at 4pm that I am flying tomorrow. A relief, added to by negative PCR result at 5.05pm. During the day I had a Zoom meeting with the rest of the Expedition Team who are at present in quarantine in Valparaiso, and quietly pulling their hair out. I don’t have that option given my present hair, or lack thereof.

So here I find myself, a farm boy from the Natal Midlands about to embark on another journey into Antarctica, then Cape Horn to Cape Town, via South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha. Almost inconceivable that sharing stories about travel on motorbikes at University would lead to this sort of vocation in my mid-30’s. The anniversary of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift on 22 January a powerful reminder of the real beginning of this journey, not that I needed one. What a journey it has been and the experiences enjoyed. In the interim, my 21 year-old nephew from Howick, Sam Speed, has been working for White Desert in Antarctica helping to set up their bases, etc for the tourist season. Sam has just got back to Cape Town, and will have had the experience of a lifetime! Those who were kind enough to read my blogs, or view the photos, from Antarctica this season will be aware I hope of just what an extraordinary place it is, especially when enjoyed off a small expedition ship (less than 200 pax).
It may be said of Life, that we really need 3 things – someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. My cup runneth over on all 3 counts, and I consider myself unusually fortunate. In terms of travel, travelling across Africa, walking in the high Himalayas and driving the Alaska-Canada Highway were 3 important priorities. The Antarctic dream initially waned on account of the costs, before I set about actively researching these human endeavours with the intention of securing a place on expedition teams heading south. Karen joined me in Antarctica in 2017 and organised a trip to Iguassu Falls – that should be on everyone’s bucket list too.

So here I find myself pontificating about Punta Arenas, and 8 days in a room arrest situation whilst awaiting to board a ship bound for home. Covid and quarantine are speed bumps in the journey of Life, as we create and weave the tapestries, dancing to our own drums. May 2022 be better for all of us than the last two – someone to love, something to do and something (plenty) to look forward to!

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