While Jim and Gwen Hougo are enjoying their time here at home these days, they are happy to share their former adventures with us.
One of our best trips was back in 2008 when we explored our seventh continent on Planet Earth: Antarctica.
We left on New Year’s Eve to fly to Buenos Aires boarding a plane with 10 flight attendants and about 40 passengers. (I guess not many people fly on Dec. 31, but when we returned the flight was full.)
After a few days we flew up to Iguazu Falls in Brazil. This natural wonder is made up of about 200 waterfalls altogether, making it the biggest waterfall system in the world. It is huge, even when compared to Niagara Falls. After exploring the falls and the surrounding jungle for a few days, we flew to the tip of South America to board a 200-passenger Norwegian Ice Breaker.
Going across Drake’s Passage to Antarctica is one of the roughest waterways on earth. Basically, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are colliding with each other. The waves came over the top of our seven-story ship, and we were advised not to leave our rooms. Even lying on our beds, my husband got thrown out – now that’s rough.
Our ship was able to stop at seven places on the Antarctic. The only living animal in this cold spot is the adorable penguin. But you must be careful, because these little guys can take off your finger if you try to pet them. We went in groups of eight and were limited to two hours. Tourism is very controlled to protect the environment. All countries work together to ensure that protection.
One of the places we stopped is called Deception Bay and is actually the partially sunken caldron of a volcano. We went to shore on rubber zodiac boats and before we left the ship we had to put on rubber boots and walk through disinfectant. On shore the crew dug down a couple feet in the sand and the hole filled up with warm water heated from the volcano. Then they invited us to go for a swim in the Antarctic Ocean (32 degrees). From there we could jump out of the water and into the newly dug spas of warm water on the beach. I did it. And for all the chills and goose bumps, I received a nice certificate. My husband thought I was crazy!
This Norwegian ship had been making the same trip for 20 years, but the ice has been melting. Therefore, on this trip the ship was actually able to cross over the “Antarctic Circle.” For that, we earned another certificate that said, “Since man first stepped on this continent in 1902, less than 100,000 people have been known to cross over the Antarctic Circle.” That made it pretty special.
We ended our cruise by going up the fiords of Chile and spending a few days in Santiago and added an additional week to our trip to go see the wonders of Easter Island. It is 1,150 miles off the coast of Chile and was annexed by the country in 1866. Easter Island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called “mo’ai” by the early Rapa Nui people. It is amazing to learn how they carved and then moved these giant stone statues.
Then the best part of any trip is returning to beautiful Canyon Country, to find family and friends are OK. One of the nicest things about this adventure was the extreme contrast of places we visited and the different cultures we experienced. My husband and I feel very blessed to have an opportunity to see the many treasures on this incredible planet.