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Author: Sarah Matheson

A Man called Ove – a review

A Man called Ove – a review

It’s not often I experience a book that has me crying honest-to-goodness wet variety tears. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman had me in those tears.

I was riding my bike home during the last chapter and really struggled.  The tears were not the tears you would have had reading A Little Life. These were bitter sweet tears, tears you cry because the pain of loss and love is so very familiar and so easy to relate to. This is a story of people that you know, people that you are, or have been at some stage of your life. There is a deep familiarity about the people in this book. And that might seem all the stranger when you think these people live in Sweden and the book is a translation. The way these people are captured is just so intensely relatable.

Within the first chapter I felt I knew Ove. I think all of us have a little Ove in us at some stage in our lives about at least one issue. There is something that irks us about the way other people behave, the lack or respect, the failure to follow the same rules everyone else has to follow. There is a little bit of Arnold Rimmer form Red Dwarf in Ove – but he’s less officious and a lot more complex. And considerably more loyal.

Ove is a particular kind of person. He doesn’t make friends easily, he has his own mind on things.  But when he is devoted, as he is to his wife, then there is no stronger love and devotion than the kind a man like Ove can give.

A Man Called Ove is set in Sweden in the modern era.  Ove’s interaction when attempting to by an ipad is at the very start of the book and beautifully captures the experience many older folk must go through as they struggle to keep up with the pace of change.

Ove is befriended, by force of will more than anything else, by a new neighbour, Parvaneh, and her family. Mostly through Parvaneh’s intervention Ove is also seduced into friendship by the rest of the gentle cast, and a stray cat. Each of them in turn intervene, knowingly or otherwise, preventing his careful plans to end his life and be reunited with his late wife.

The scene where Ove teaches Parvaneh to drive resonated with me so strongly. I didn’t learn to drive until my mid twenties. The whole concept was really tough for me.  I had a good long cry after my first lesson. Ove’s speech to Parvaneh was just beautiful, tough and honest.

This story illustrated that some people may be hard to get to know, and harder still to keep knowing, but if you do you may discover untold richness in the relationship you find. Theser are the people that will have your back every time, and go to fight for you when needed, without you ever having to ask.

I’ll be buying copes of this book for some of the people I love most for Christmas this year.


A Little Life – a review

A Little Life – a review

It has been a while since I wrote a book review.

I rely on the reviews of others heavily, so my reluctance to put virtual pen to virtual paper is likely poor form. That said, if I’m reviewing books that I’ve read, based on he review of others, am I am adding any value? Well perhaps only to those who place value in my opinion because they either love the books I love, or hate the books I love and will read them and can thereby avoid them.

This month I feel inspired to share. In a completely unintentional way I stumbled across three great reads, with interleaved themes, one after another.

The first was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

I heard part of a review on Radio National a while back, enough to pique my interest enough to add it to my Audible Wish List, but not enough for me to buy it straight away. Having had a steady diet of fairly average reads I decided the time had come to give this one a go.

This is a novel that needs to come with a warning.  There are parts of this book that are harrowing. There are themes of physical, sexual and emotional abuse here. There is also self harm and suicide (theme one that cuts across the three novels in this review).

These days I read with my ears, and in this case I’m glad I did.  I don’t know that I would have made it through had I been reading old style. It would have been easy to put the book aside during some of the horrific scenes and perhaps not be brave enough to pick it up again.

The tale follows four young men. Not a new structure.  It doesn’t start as young as Stand By Me, but the friendship of four guys is common in film, perhaps more so that in novels now I think about it. The two main characters are Jude and Willem.

Jude’s heartbreaking story is alluded to from the beginning, but is reveled in pieces throughout. The cruelty of people to other people cannot be truly balanced by anything, but the love, devotion and care of the friends and family he acquires comes as close as it is imaginable to get. In fact, there is a part of me that envies Jude the love and devotion he receives from these people. I think very few people are on the receiving end of so much unconditional understanding. And you give thanks when reading this book that he gets that love and understanding. He deserves it, and so much more.

Making up the rest of the foursome Malcolm and JB are more vehicles for Jude’s story than characters in their own right, to my reading anyway. They do have a lot to say about society and friendship but have relatively little story of their own.

Jude’s relationship with his adoptive father and his doctor are richer. Harold’s affection and devotion to Jude are everything you would hope a father’s love for his son would be.  I know few father’s who would be quite so tolerant in real life.  Likewise his friend and doctor Andy.  This is perhaps one of the most conflicted relationships in the novel.  The duty of care hurdles Andy has to face are so deeply challenging.  I’d love to have a conversation with a real life doctor to see how they read that relationship.

I think you could tell someone the entire plot of  A Little Life and not ruin it.  The writing is beautiful, and the narration by Oliver Wyman was bang on.

The questions that linger with me some time after reading are, how do you keep your own sense of welling being when supporting someone who is filled with so much such doubt? I deal with self doubt myself, but never anything near as crippling as that which Jude has to carry. Knowing what to say or do when a loved one is depressed is a challenge many people face, and I’m yet to know anyone who knows the answers to that. It’s hard, it’s heart breaking, it is frustrating at times.

The latter part of the book left me bereft, and yet thankful that there are kind, loving, careful people in the world, because these characters are very believable to me.

I would recommend this book to anyone with a heart, and a desire to have a deeper connection to what it is to be a friend, a lover, and a family. Pick the right moment, the right mood, and have a good friend on speed dial just in case.  I feel forever changed by A Little Life.

Putting it out there and the 3 elements of a good creative project

Putting it out there and the 3 elements of a good creative project

I have been inspired by a friend to ‘put it out there’ and get make myself a facebook page.

Why?  Because I have come to think that the best thing you can do to improve your skills is to give yourself a project.  Having someone else give it to you works too. The most powerful projects have three critical elements.

  1. A deadline, or at least a target date.
  2. An audience.
  3. Feedback

These things are just as important for writing as they are for photography. The old adage “You can’t edit a blank page” credited to Jodi Picoult is every bit as true for a picture as for a poem or piece of prose.

A deadline is important because it means you win the battle against the inner perfectionist. That doesn’t mean you don’t strive to do the very best you can, but that’s driven by point 2 quite adequately, but it does mean you produce something and that you show it. Only by doing that will you be able to step back and get some perspective on what it is you’ve done well, and what you need to learn more about to improve on.

The audience you choose, or the audience that chooses you may or may not be within your control. There may be people you want to review or even critique your work that may not care to. There may also be people whose opinions you don’t care for who will.  In the internet age its trickier than ever to balance those two things.

The most important thing to remember is that Feedback is a Gift. My dearest friend Jane told me that once, and I have carried that sage advice close to my heart ever since. Negative and critical feedback can be of even greater value than praise, and for some people can be even harder for them to give you, so treasure it when you get it.

Praise is always nice too of course, and can help you pick up the camera, pen or keyboard again when you’re having a heavy day.

A while ago I joined up with The River Guardians as a Dolphin Watcher. It’s a citizen science project that helps ordinary people like you and I report on the behaviour of our community of swan river dolphins. Now I have to admit that I have been very slack about doing my online reporting of late because I haven’t seen dolphins lately. I do know that negative data is as important to them as sightings, but we all have moments of laziness, and I guess I haven’t been in the negative gift giving mood. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped putting the camera in my bag every day, and yesterday I snagged a couple of shots.


The Dolphin Watch people have been great in proving me with comments (feedback) on my past photography, and that inspires me to want to share my new pictures (audience) so I’m going to guilt myself into sitting down this morning and sending through all of those days over the last week and a half when I didn’t see anything (deadline).

It’s a great little loop to keep going, and like with any habit it’s easier to keep going than to break.  But when you do take  a break, it can be hard to get going again.

So, long story that has failed to be short, I’m putting it out there in the hope that doing so will give the loop more momentum and make it easier for me to keep pressing the shutter button, and sharing the results.

So consider this an invitation to provide feedback – constructive comments in particular gratefully received.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

I’ve only recently discovered that Imposter Syndrome is an actual thing, is more common than you might think and that I have a bad case of it in just about every aspect of my life.

According to Wikipedia, and I paraphrase,  it’s about feeling like a fraud, – about to be found out at any moment – even if you’re good at what you do. And no, you don’t have to be a spy to suffer from it.

I’ve been working in IT for 15 years, but I can’t shake the feeling that one of these days someone is going to figure out that I don’t know much about vfilers, that I’m not fluent in every programming language every invented, that I haven’t been reading up about node, or how bitcoin works and why anyone cares. Of course, they probably have figured that out already and get together in groups to laugh about how I act like I know what I’m doing. Or not.

Yes, I’ve been taking photographs at monthly Long Dogs walks for the last four years, but someone is soon going to realise that I only have a crop sensor camera and that I am only just learning about studio lighting.  And yes, a few people have paid actual hard earned money for prints, canvases and calendars with my images on them, but that’s just because they are really nice people with hearts of gold who don’t want me to feel bad, right?

Yes, I’ve been writing promotional emails and blog posts for a while now, and people have commented that they enjoy reading them, but that’s just family and friends, and some dachshund crazy people, and the odd stranger.  Kind of a captive audience.

Yes, one of my Redbubble designs has sold 35 times and had over 7000 views, but that’s for charity, and no one is quitting their day job over 35 sales anyway.

…and that’s the way the though process goes. Something good happens, but that’s just because…. diminish, diminish, diminish.

I should state that this post is absolutely not about fishing for compliments. In fact I feel even more fraudulent when people say nice things about what I do, which may seem counter intuitive. I almost flinch when someone says ‘you’re so talented’, or ‘you have a gift’.  I realise people say theses lovely things because they genuinely mean them, so why can’t I take that and glow with pride rather than think I’ve manged to somehow pull the wool over their kind and generous eyes? Maybe because I know it isn’t talent, it’s practice, and I have so much more of that to do.

Someone I respect very much advises the mantra of ‘fake it til you make it’.  Wise words to live by. I’m just not sure if I’ll ever get to the that comfortable place of feeling like I’ve made it.

So why am I writing this?  Partly because I now know I’m not alone in feeling the way I feel. And that gives me the  opportunity to let others know that if they feel this way, they are not alone either.  Also there is good news. Now in my forties I don’t let this feeling of being an imposter stop me from doing things as much as I used to. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Even when I feel like a fraud; that the next thing I do, say, or show will expose me as the newbie I really am, I do it anyway. I write it, I publish it, I share it, I say it. I don’t sit quietly by and let the opportunity slip past to be regretted. Why? Because even if I’m terrible at it, by putting tit out there, by giving it a go, I have a chance to improve.  I’m getting better, I’m learning new things and I love and enjoy the things I do. That makes me a very privileged and lucky person and I’m thankful for that.  If people end up liking the end result (outside of work where that’s a requirement), well then that’s just a bonus.

I’m sure I self deprecate more than is useful. I don’t know if I’ll stop doing that, but I do catch myself at it once in a while and try to stop. With photography I feel the added burden of being trapped between the sense of not being good enough to charge, and not wanting to be frowned upon by those who make their living from it by doing it for free. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue and all that.

Some people are wonderful at marketing and self promotion and I am deeply envious. I still apologise for my art, writing, photography, knowing it could be better, but the important thing is that I don’t let that stop me from putting it out there.  And that means I get the gift of feedback for which I am immensely grateful. I have left perfectionism back in my twenties and thirties and I’m a happier person for that. It also means I’m going to publish this post today rather than dwelling on it for 6 months.

I am aware that there will be people out there who will agree with my inner voice that I am actually an imposter and don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about. Everyone has critics after all and pleasing everyone is impossible. Funnily enough, I don’t worry too much about those people. After all, they have me figured out already so there is no disappointing them.

Tears of Joy

Tears of Joy

Our family did a bit of camping when I was young, but it has been a while since I went bush. We fancied a little mini break and K had the bright idea of trying out a teardrop camper.

And a fine idea that was.

Glamping is all the rage at the moment and the Gidget fits into that category nicely. We hired from Tears of Joy camper rentals in Kenwick.

We don’t currently have a tow ball on the back of the Mazda, so borrowed by Brother in Law’s Prado to do the towing.  K reports that towing the teardrop is much more like towing a trailer than a caravan. Having said that, this was the first time he’d towed anything so I’m not certain how much weight that carries no pun intended).

I can say that as a passenger it didn’t feel any different. The neat size allows you to get into places a traditional caravan wouldn’t go, and the design means that setting up camp is much, much easier than slinging up tents. The cover over the kitchen area in particular makes it an all weather solution. You can pull over at the side of the road, turn on the gas bottle at the side, pop the kettle on the pull out burner and have a cuppa wherever it suited you. We were only two hours from home, so didn’t do that in this case. But you could!


The design is very clever, as well as being quite retro and stylish. You’d be forgiven for thinking it might be form over function, but everything in this little box has a purpose, and was beautifully finished. Well, not everything. The locks took a bit of getting used to. But apart from that.

The Gidget comes fully equipped with everything from a kettle to a TV. Yep. A TV. There are solar panels on the roof to help with power so there are little reading lights in the cabin as well. It has water and waste water tanks, two gas ring burners, a place for an esky, or a fridge.  If we hadn’t been going down south in the middle of winter we might have borrowed the fridge too, but as it was a bag of ice in the cooler did nicely.



The Gidget has a pull out section that preserves all the storage space in the kitchen, while allowing a queen size bed in the back. I am led to believe that in traditional teardrops the bed extends under the kitchen area, still queen size though. The Gidget also has a skylight. We were woken from a cheeky afternoon nap by a flock or ringneck parrots staring in at us from above.  Apparently they were quite taken with the design as well.

The bed can also be configured to a seating area, and there is a little pull out table top for the laptop for all that blogging you do when you’re on holidays. Or searching for a campsite with a hot shower for a longer trip perhaps.

There is a neat little hatch between the kitchen and cabin, which rotates to allow the service of coffee to the lucky person who didn’t have to get out of bed to make it (Thanks K). In case of rain, and we did have a little bit of that, there is a shade tent under the bed, and chairs as well.

Camp site

Our destination for our mini getaway was Darnanup / Fergsuon Valley. We were traveling the week after July School holidays so the roads were quiet, as was the newly opened Potters Gorge campsite. In planning the trip K had befriended the lovely Diane of the Wellington Dam kiosk and got the low down on where to stay. There are two main campsite in the area, the newly refurbished Potters Gorge, and the picturesque Honeymoon Pool. We might have been able to get the teardrop into one or two of the spots at Honeymoon Pool, but as you can’t reserve places at either spot we decided on the safe bet at the larger Potters Gorge.

On arrival there was another caravan there. A couple of guys with a tent turned up around dusk. And that was it. There are 50+ campsites so we were all nicely spaced out.  All the facilities are new, so the school holidays hadn’t taken away the new jarrah smell around the toilets and camp kitchens. There are plenty of beautiful trees, and the red tailed cockatoos were our chatty neighbours. Such beautiful birds.

All of the birdlife was pretty friendly. Along with the cockies we had a family of magpies, the flock of ringnecks I mentioned earlier and some red winged fairy wrens at the other end of the park.

Juvenille magpie

Apart form just chilling out there wasn’t much to do at camp.  In summer you might take a canoe out on the dam, but it was a little chilly for that, and we didn’t bring a canoe. We did a nice trip out to look at the dam from all angles.  Amazing that it was built in 1933. The quarry next to it was a lovely spot too. I thought it would be a nice place for a picnic.  I think K had some kind of music event in mind. They also do abseiling down the quarry wall. Clearly not for me and my issue with heights.

Wellington Dam Quarry

We visited the Honeymoon Pools campsite, and it really was lovely.  All along that way there is running water, granite outcrops and loads of beautiful bush. With some reluctance I was also talked into visiting Gnomesville. I had in my head that it would be some kind of commercial enterprise.  I couldn’t be further from the truth. It started up when a new roundabout was installed so the kiddies could get on and off the school bus more safely. One resident then thought the roundabout would make a good gnome home, and soon word spread far and wide until all the Gnomads made this little bushy corner their new home.






It is surreal. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you turn a new corner and there are more gnomes. They come is all shaped and sixes, often with little signs showing from whence they came.  Many are international gnomes, others local. Some come as groups from sporting, social or charitable groups. Others are clearly memorials for lost loved ones.


There was a pile of former gnomes in pieces.  Apparently when the river water gets up there can be some gnome fatalities as they get swept away. The red capped robins flitting abut fitted right in with the red capped gnomes.

It was one of those places where you ‘just have to be there’. If you’re passing by make sure to stop in.

If you happen to be in the Ferguson valley on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday it is one of the only things open.

We did manage to get into a busy St Aiden’s for lunch, and visited Willow Bridge for some wine tasting, but most other places, including my favourite Ferguson Falls, were closed. Which, of course, is just a good reason to head back there again soon, this time on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.



Lessons Learned–Antarctica 2016

Lessons Learned–Antarctica 2016

The measure of a trip away to me is the question, if money were no object, would you go there again?  

When it comes to our trip to Antarctica the answer would definitely be yes. In fact Birdlife Australia are adverting a trip, including South Georgia, for November this year and I would love to win lotto and go.

There are things I would do the same and others I would do differently, so on the off chance I ever do get the opportunity to go again I’m going to write them down so I don’t forget.  Some of this might even be useful to someone else one day. Who knows. The Project Manager in me knows a thing isn’t over until you’ve reflected on the Lessons Learned, so here goes.

Great Expectations
Research, planning and pre-preparation
Gear List

Great Expectations

Expectations can make or break an experience. Set them too high and you’ll be disappointed  Expect something to be bad, and most likely it will be. Finding the sweet spot is tricky. On a trip like this there are also expectations of yourself.  We were spending a lot of money on travel and gear, so I was carrying a the weight of my expectations of myself and my photography along with everything else.  Luckily that didn’t add to the actual weight of our baggage so we got through the whole trip without paying excess luggage fees.

Everyone I spoke to before I went was saying how great it was going to be, so there really was no way or lowering expectations about Antarctica itself.  That was fine as it did not let us down. There were others on our trip who had clearly set themselves the expectation of crossing the Arctic circle, and there may have been those who desperately wanted to see Adelle penguins. As we didn’t end up getting far enough south for either of those because or mangled thumbs and uncooperative weather those people may have felt they didn’t get everything they wanted from the journey.

For me I was expecting to see icebergs and penguins. And we did.  What I wasn’t expecting was to get snowed on and that was a magical surprise. I wasn’t expecting to get sea sick, but took medication to be safe and it was fine.

Research, Pre-planning and Preparation

When imagining a new trip I usually think I’m going to do a stack of research about where we are going and the things to do when we get there. After doing the basics to determine travel and accommodation logistics I tend to get distracted. On this trip I delegated the planning for the two city stays, Santiago and Buenos Aires, to Kingsley. Whihc meant we basically ended up winging it.  I was a little frustrated by that at the time, but in retrospect I’m quite mellow about it.  We had a lovely time and saw some interesting things.  Could we have done more?  Sure, but we weren’t there to check things off lists.
I was very pleased with how my hotel address and exchange rate cheat sheets worked out.
I printed out a business card with the name and address of each of our hotels on it before leaving home On arrival in a new city we just handed this card over to the taxi driver and away we went. Much less stressful than an experience in Berlin where the taxi driver started taking us to Potsdam
when we wanted to go to Potsdamer Strasse.  Left both him and us quite upset and rattled.

The quick exchange rate cards likewise saved us doing much mental arithmetic and went easy on the iphone calculator.

Offline google maps were a definite must have. We were also glad to have Global Roaming turned on when we got back from Antarctica to a distressing SMS about one of our dogs going walk about back home (all safe and sound by the time we got back) 


Over all I was happy with the gear I took and how it functioned. I was glad to have two camera bodies with me despite the extra weight.  It gave me the confidence to get the camera out on the zodiac and in all weather with the knowledge that in the worst case scenario I wouldn’t be stuck without a camera.

On all but one occasion I had spare, empty memory cards on hand so I could change them out in the field. I carried them in a little case, turning used cards so they faced inwards and empty cards so they faced outwards to prevent confusion.  I downloaded and backed up photos after each outing, so at any point in time there would be three copies on three different media.  I had enough cards with me that I didn’t need to reformat them while away which turned out to be a VERY good thing.

The one time I didn’t have my trusty case with me was the time a fellow photographer ran out of room on hers. I would have been able to loan her one otherwise, so I’ll be making sure I have a spare card with me every time I go out in future.

I wish I’m taken a good pair of waterproof gloves.  The special gloves we bought have little ‘peepholes’ in the fingers which theoretically let you press buttons and things more easily.  More often than not I took the glove off my right hand when photographing and just wore a thin merino glove liner.  In between shots I’d either put the outer glove back on or stuff my hand in my pocket.
The outer gloves weren’t waterproof, so quickly became wet when you moved around the ship hanging on to snowy or wet handrails. Kingsley made use of the hairdryer in our cabin to dry the gloves out.

Waterproofing the camera.  The weather shield I had got more use in Iguazu than the Antarctic. It certainly kept the camera dry, as intended, but you needed to have a very good idea of where all your controls were as although you could see the LCD the top panel of buttons, which in my case have all the important settings like ISO, autofocus and burst modes, metering etc, are not visible.  That would probably be fine if you were going out to focus on a single subject in pretty stable conditions, but we were switching between portraits on seals, landscapes, flying seabirds every time the zodiac changed direction so changing your settings was part and parcel. It did act as a large, warm and waterproof glove though, so given that my actual gloves weren’t waterproof it all worked out ok.

Some other travelers had a much simpler set up which was a clear plastic sleeve with an elbow joint and that seemed to work really well.  Unless you were somewhere where it is really belting down that might be a better option.

We took a selection of dry bags along, and a rain cover for my camera bag.  I did use the dry bag a couple of times, but it was more for peace of mind than any practical use. We certainly could have done without the two large bags and just taken just one small one. The rain cover for the camera bag worked really well.  The bag is reasonably weather sealed itself, but the cover meant that spray on the zodiac, rain and snow were a non issue.

Battery life was something I was concerned about, having read dire warnings.  I was pleasantly surprised with how well the batteries lasted for me. I knew that GPS drains the battery so I’d turned that off, which is something I now regret.

We were able to charge everything up in our cabins. We traveled with a power board and a European power adapter which worked a treat in our rooms. In the lounge/bar the power sockets were different and I don’t recall which adapter worked up there.  We had access to a few different kinds so it all worked out.

The laptop we took was Kingsley’s old one, which was heavy and ungainly.  Given how much the trip was costing I couldn’t justify buying a new one, and although I had the ipad with me that wouldn’t have given me the ability to download and backup all my pictures to external hard drives. I’m glad to have had the laptop there, but one which weighed less and that actually held more than 60 seconds of charge would have been an improvement.

The selection of software I’d loaded up met all my requirements. The Scopoderm patches we were wearing to prevent sea sickness gave both of us fuzzy vision so  I didn’t get as much done on it as I had expected.

The two WD My Passport hard drives were great and I’ll be traveling with them again.

Adding to the weight I also took a ipad, iphone and a kindle.  I wouldn’t have been without any of them for the trip, though I would make sure I downloaded the offline maps before heading overseas. The ipad was perfect entertainment for long flights and I made use of it for blogging in some instance too. It was amazing to see how many people on the boat used their ipad as their primary camera!

I need to be revising my blogging platform (watch this space). People had all sorts of issues adding comments to the blog, and I didn’t know they were there until I got home. I could move my blog to the same platform as my online galleries, but I’m a little wary of doing that in case I decided to move that to another vendor at some stage. I’ve got this one on my list to investigate this year.

Blogging on the road was fine in those places where there was decent internet.  That meant it was unbearable in Ushuaia and Iguazu. It all takes up more time than you think it will, but doing it on the day really is important.  I wish I’d taken better notes on those days I didn’t write on the boat.. The eyesight didn’t help, but even scrawling something on a bit of paper would have been a good idea. The big events you remember, but it is the smaller, more intimate observations of the moment that slip away.

A spell checker wasn’t available for Open Live Writer when I left, but I’m pleased to say there is now so hopefully future posts will be less prone to my poor typographic skills.

I only took one lens cloth and wish I’d taken a couple more.  I spend more time than necessary figuring out where I’d put the one I had.  I did try and buy a spare in Ushuaia before setting out, but had no luck locating one.

I could have left the macro lens at home, but I was happy with the rest.  My walk around Canon 18-200 may only be a kit lens, but I’ve been very happy with the flexibility it gives me, and I’ve taken some shots I’m very happy with using it over the last few years. The Tamron 70-200 was great on the boat and the shore when I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to lug the 150-600 around. The Tamron 150-600 was great for birds and whales and penguins. So although there was  quite a bit of duplication there, I don’t think that was a bad thing. I was able to stick different lenses on the two bodies and when I got my cat together that made for easier switching where required.

I wish I’d taken more pictures.  I know this sounds stupid considering the GBs of photos I came home with, but I found I didn’t take as many as I thought I was taking at the time.  You won’t be back there again in a hurry so don’t be self conscious about how many times your shutter fires. Work the shot, make it count.  Get your delete key ready for a workout.

I wish I’d worked my shots more. There is a very real FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when you do a trip like this. Because you don’t get a lot of time in any one place, and because the wildlife is on the move, every choice you make comes with an opportunity cost. Staying an extra five minutes with this penguin here might mean you don’t see the iceberg tipping over there. I wish I’m stayed up later and gotten up earlier to make more of the sunsets and sunrises.

The flip side to that is you also need to take time to just absorb the experience. This sounds counter to the above, and maybe it is.  Because of the weather and the medical evacuation we didn’t get quite as much of the experience as we might have done. But I was glad to take the time to just gaze out at the magic surrounds, to feel the wind on your face, the cold seeping through your fingertips but not getting into your core, rejoicing at the effortless maneuvers of the birds in those winds of the Drake Passage, and the effort involved in taking off and landing on the waves.

The beauty and joy of the dolphins using the bow wave to slip stream. The effort of the breaching humpbacks. The play of the penguin chicks, the studious care of their parents. The drama that plays out before you as the skuas and chicks battle it out for their survival, predator and prey equally keen to see the next day. The smell of the penguin poo, the smiles of delight on fellow travelers. The wonderfully familiar wake-up call of “Good morning, good morning expeditioners” in Monika’s friendly but no-nonsense German accent.

I wish I’d taken more people pictures.  I will be working to get some more portrait experience this year I think. People give perspective.

There wasn’t as much structure to the photographic part of the tour as I anticipated there might be.  Given the range of interest and experience that makes sense in retrospect. Alex was certainly there to answer questions put to her. The number of people feeling poorly through illness or seasickness would have made a set structure difficult to stick to.

There were some things I think that would have been useful to have known before we started out, a pre-trip technical checklist which I will try and compile One of the things I really, really, really wish I’d done was to set the time and date on my camera on arrival.  It would have saved me a heap of rework later on.



We flew Perth, Sydney, Santiago, Igauzu Falls (via BA), Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Aukland, Sydney, Perth.

That meant a lot of airports and transfers. If repeating the journey I’d make sure I flex direct from Sydney to Santiago, and would have stopped in BA, before heading up to Iguazu, allowing the trip from Iguazu to Ushuaia to be done together, eliminating the need to transit between International and Domestic airports.

LAN were great, though the food on board did get a little samey.  The staff were helpful and polite.  QANTAS were fine too, though we did get a plane that was just about my age.

Between the two of us we fit under the luggage weight limit, but only just when it came to carry on.

We didn’t really need to take the three travel pillows we had with us.  In fact one would probably have sufficed.

The ship

The Ushuaia was a great little ship.  I am so very pleased we traveled on her and not one of the big monsters that was tied up in port. The staff were lovely and we had everything we could want and more.  The food was not amazing, but it was plentiful and made a bit of a conversation piece.

Traveling as part of a group.

I’m not a natural joiner. Being an introvert and finding it difficult to follow conversations where there is background noise posed a challenge that I think I failed to rise to on more than one occasion. Luckily Kingsley is very good at being my buffer, and this holiday had lots of structure which enabled (or forced) me to be a part of the group while still having time to myself to recharge.

Being in a smallish group in a largish group was also a little odd.  Some travelers tended to an isolationist policy, trying to keep withing their own cluster together at all times to the exclusion of the other passengers on the ship. Others preferred to mingle with those from all nations aboard, and there was a broad spectrum including the USA, Germany, China, India, UK and France, not to mention the crew from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Columbia. With one crew member to every two passengers we didn’t get to meet them all, although as our cabin was on the lower deck and the engine crew tended to smoke outside the hatch on our level we had a nodding acquaintance with many of them.

There was one fellow passengers on the ship, traveling alone, called Gina.  A Chinese girl living in the US she went about making sure she got to know everyone on the boat. I would love to have that level of comfort and confidence. She was just a lovely person and had an absolute ball. Always ready with a smile, and happy to challenge people and their views she was well traveled and keen to extract everything she could from every situation.

Some of the connections made as part of the trip have persisted and we had a little catch up a little while ago.  There is the chance of some more local excursions in the future.

Clothing and Laundry

I never anticipated how difficult it would be to make sure we had clean clothes. We ended up paying a (relatively) small fortune to hotels in some places simply because of poor planning and preparation. Many laundry services were closed on Mondays, and if you need anything cleaned over Carnival you will need to do it yourself.

Next time I’ll be looking at laundry locations when booking my accommodation, and taking laundry in as the first thing in any new city.

We have enough stuff without having too much.  Two suitcases and two carry on suitcases in total was plenty. Having the right things with you at any moment is key of course.  Our coldest experience was back on the continent when we went on a tour without multiple layers of coats, thermals, gloves and hats. Out in the penguin colony we shivered out way in the wind and the rain, far far colder than we had been in Antarctica.

Just Do It

Perhaps the most important lesson of the lot, if you have the opportunity to do something amazing, go for it.  Life is full of regrets for things you might have done but didn’t. On this trip I learned things about the world we live in, the people in it, the wilderness, my husband and myself. The pattern of my life is richer for the things I’ve seen, the mistakes I’ve made, the things that have both scared, infuriated and delighted me. The more I see, the more I want to see.  The more I learn, the more I want to learn.

Of course coming home is always lovely as well.

Day 28 and 30 – we lost day 29 in transit

Day 28 and 30 – we lost day 29 in transit

Our last day in South America was supposed to have an early start. However all these late night dinners are messing with my early morning wake up and we didn’t hit the streets until after 8. A quick march through town, with a short stop for brekkie and we were at the ecological reserve.

I thought it would have a few more vistas than it did, but the cyclist and runners clearly enjoy it. By reputation it used to be a bit of a beat, but they now have security cameras around the place.

At the ocean side we saw the shore and it was a bit sad to see how much junk, plastic bottles and the like, washed up.

My most exciting sight was a tiny humming bird. No pictures as it didn’t hang round, but from tip to tail it was smaller than my thumb. Dark in colour and I have no idea what species, but oh so delicate and sweet. Also black bees, for which I had the wrong lens (2nd theme of this holiday is always having the wrong lens on for whatever presents itself. 1st world problems).

The best photo op was on the boardwalk outside the reserve where the red capped cardinals hang out. Truly stunning little birds.
Next was the Cabildo museum where we jagged a English speaking guide who was just lovely. 
The building was the first jail in Buenos Aires and the site where autonomous rule under the kingship of Spain was first established in 1810 on May 25. The May revolution was not a revolution of independence, but of self rule under the Spanish King. 

The Cabildo building has changed its look,  shape and size since it Was built in the 1700’s. It was originally Spanish colonial, then revamped to have Italian features when BA tried to become the Paris of South America. It had a tower, then no tower, then a bigger tower, and so on. Arches were removed from one side to make way for a new boulevard, and then from the other side for another street. Many contemporary buildings have been demolished so it was great to see this one, and the photographic history of its transformations over time.
We learned that the British tried to take BA twice, holding it for 6 days in 1806 I think. The locals put up arms and defeated them on both occasions.
The local government, junta, was established in 1810 as a self governing body within the rule of the Spanish King, and that all relates back to what Napoleon was doing back in Europe where he had invaded Spain a few years before. News traveled little slowly in those days.
A petition was presented by some of the high ranking citizens of the town to form a government that did not include the Spanish viceroy and that was debated and accepted on May 25 1810. Most citizens were illiterate and two of the petitions wrote above their signatures that they represents up to 600 others.

Independence came some years later following a civil war ending in July 1816. They will be celebrating their bicentenary this year. The original Argentina did not include the indigenous territory in which Ushuaia now sits, or the regions where Iguazu Falls is.

Our guide was keen to tell us about one of the nine men of the new government had some pretty radical ideas including rights for women and slaves. Sadly I have forgotten the name so will have to do more research to figure out which one. Either way, there was concern around the place that women were openly discussing politics and that was something he encouraged.

Another devised the new flag, using the blue that was the colour representing the Spanish royal family.
A quick lunch then back to the hotel where we had arranged a late check out for 400 pesos. That meant a shower, clean traveling clothes and a short nap for Kingsley. We had a remise booked to the airport for 500 pesos plus, as it turned out, tolls of 72 pesos.
You can’t change Argentine pesos back to USD so the last remaining went on the worlds soggier the sandwich and a couple of drinks.
Checking in for our flight took ages as there were two open counters, one taken up by a family with five enormous bags, one large screen, three small children and a dog. I was just glad not to be them. One of the small children did a runner into a secured area  and dad had to go racing off after him.
The other count had two Aussie guys and about ten bags and boxes. Clearly video or photographic gear of some sort.
Being us we were there with time to spare so we just chilled out and watched the entertainment.
We are flying LAN again and expected to get the traditional snack box containing 5 stale crackers, an soft lemon cream biscuit and a chocolate. I was going to take a picture as we are both thoroughly bored on the same snack on all of our internal flights during the trip. However we have just been served a bland cheese roll and a chocolate Bon Bon.

The flight to Chile is only two hours, then  we waited until around until midnight for a longest leg of the trip home.  At the Santiago airport we had the nicest feed we’d had in ages, a big dish of fresh guacamole, tomato salsa and corn chips. It was lovely to have some spice. Overall my experience of Argentine food, including ship side, was meh. We did find while eating out on our return to BA that cold rice, potato, peas and carrots is considered a salad, so I may have judged the food on the Ushuaia harshly by not knowing the local cuisine well enough.  It’s a bit weird though.

Kingsley managed to attract a weird collection of neighbours on these flights. The first was a very nervous guy who clearly had some kind of travel induced OCD. He kept going taking things in and out of his bag.

The second was a Brazilian guy who after much maneuvering shrouded himself head to foot in the travel blanket provided tent style, went to sleep and didn’t emerge until the announcement about our descent came over the speakers. The downside of this was there was no way either of us were getting out to go to the toilet on that leg.

The third was very broad Maori man.  He wasn’t odd, but between the two of then there wasn’t a lot of shoulder room on our set of seats.

I don’t know how many hours it took us form leaving the hotel in BA to arriving in Perth, but it was at least 24 and we lost a day in transit due to the direction of travel.  All in all everything went smoothly. We managed to find the QANTAS shuttle between international and domestic terminals in Sydney which no meant lugging bags on trains.

Our experiences with LAN was very good throughout the trip. The in flight entertainment system on the flight from Santiago to Sydney (via Aukland) was the best we’ve seen on any airline. Instead of a pull down blind on the windows, you press a button and the window darkens. Very cool. The stop over in Aukland was bit of a pain, I’ll be making sure we travel direct if ever going that way again.

In the 16 hours since getting home Kingsley has had the leaf blower out to tidy the back yard and vacuumed the house, his usual way of acclimatizing. We managed to stay up until 7:30, after a dinner of 2 minute noodles, and slept nearly a full night so fingers and toes crossed we can limit the impact of jet lag.

The dogs we delivered home to us yesterday, and were only a bit excited to see us and much more interested in going for a sniff around the back yard.  That’s a good thing I suppose, but everyone likes to think they will be missed. A bot of gate surgery to get us through until we get a new gate installed to prevent Sausage making any more visits to neighbours. We’ll be dropping off  boxes of chocolates to some of her new friends over the next few days for us I think. So thankful there are both happy and healthy.

Day 25, 26 and 27 – Return to Ushuaia, visiting more penguins and returning to Buenos Aires

Day 25, 26 and 27 – Return to Ushuaia, visiting more penguins and returning to Buenos Aires

Walking around Ushuaia over the last few days has that awkward feeling of running into the same people over and over again in the supermarket. Sitting her at the airport we are next to a lovely German couple who shared our coldest day of the trip on the Pira tour to visit the Magellanic penguins. More about that to follow.

Lots of hugs with the crew as we left the Ushuaia. As everyone disembarked the must reach the polar circle at all costs American couple, you’ll hear more about them in later posts, were sitting down with a staff members from on shore to document their complainants. I felt a bit sorry for them as thy had managed to ruin their. One holiday by hanging on to expectations which were contingent on things beyond any one’s control.

The expedition staff did all they could to make the journey as full of experiences as possible and I think they did a great job. Angry Ken and Sulky Barbie did not share that view. As I frequently remind a certain someone, name calling is unhelpful, but in this case I’m making an exception.

We zipped up to the hotel is a convoy of taxis for $5 each. As we were early we couldn’t check in, so just dumped our suitcases and ran off with our dirty clothes to the lavadero. Only to find it closed. Even with Linda’s translations we weren’t able to figure that out much with the guy who happened to be there, but after carting our gear back to the hotel we asked at reception to discover that everything would be closed, and we were going to have to ration our clean clothes until we got home.

It turned out we arrived back in Ushuaia on the 3rd day of Carnival. Which meant that everything was shut.  Are you picking up on a theme for our holiday yet? Luckily Antarctica was open while we were there, but because of no internet there, and stupidly slow internet at our hotel you still have to wait to hear about all of that.

Back at the hotel I connected to wireless and had a slight (possibly not so slight) panic when the first message I got was from someone in our street saying our dog Sausage had wandered into their house and that they would hold onto her until they heard from us. The message was dated Jan 30, over a week ago. A number of frantic messages, emails and phone calls later we were assured that both dogs were alive, well, and relocated to their aunts house. The gate had been damaged in a storm and despite the best efforts by our gallant house sitter alternative accommodation was required.

Once that drama was resolved we decided our sea legs weren’t bad enough to prevent us from pottering around the even more-closed-than-usual downtown of Ushuaia. We booked ourselves on a tour to Isla Martillo for the following day, grabbed a bite to eat and then checked in and napped. 

Although we had napped through the main part of Carnival, when we ventured down the many steps to town at about 7 there were some folk still celebrating in the streets. For the mobs of kids and teenagers this amounted to chasing each other with cans of fake snow. Empty cans were discarded on the ground without any concern. I was amazed to see how little mess there was when I was walking around the following morning. The lovely poppies I had intended to photograph wee a little worse for wear sadly.  The cleanup crew must have worked through the night. Apparently whatever it was is non toxic as it was spayed into people’s faces.

A little spooked we headed uphill for yet another dinner in Ushuaia. Over our time here I think we have managed to eat at every eatery in the main street. And yet, nothing exciting, just pasta, pizza, salad, steak and potato. Ushuaia is not a foodies paradise.

The next day, Tuesday, most of our fellow expeditioners were leaving town, either for home, or for further adventures in South America. We missed saying goodbye to some, but met up with others over breakfast in the hotel. I
left Kingsley at the hotel to chill while I took my well traveled and little used macro lens out on the town.

Instead of flowers I found cat street, the street that runs parallel to the main drag. I met one exceptionally smoochy cat who seemed keen to walk along with me. He also had a friend, and a kitten in the background.  I’m allergic to cats, but this little one even got a tummy rub out of me. I spent the walk back to the hotel reminding myself not to touch my face with that hand. After that encounter I seemed to run into a cat on every block, none of whom were as friendly as the first.

Pub lunch at the Irish Pub with a friendly waitress, a rarity in Ushuaia, and then down to the port to get on our bus for our afternoon tour.

This started with being loaded on a bus (we were told there was a limit of 20 on the tour so at this stage I was a little confused by the size of the coach we were on) . This was soon explained and the green lanyards would be going first, while the blue lanyards visited the museum, and then the reverse.

The guide ran through the rules for walking with penguins, but it was a little difficult to hear over the noise of the other passengers and the bus. We were old hands at the right of way, but from Fiona’s review form the previous day many of her group didn’t pay much attention to this.
The bus ride took us through some lovely scenery and lasted about 1 hour 45 minutes. I will admit to snoozing through part of the journey, and I think most of our fellow travelers did likewise.
On arrival it was starting to drizzle , which expanded to full on rain by the time the first group were on the island. The museum was more of a research station. They let us have a little look at the areas they use to clean the bones of the animals that come to them, all non chemical to allow them to extract DNA and take samples of heavy metals etc. The guide was very informative, and covered much of the same material we’d been told in lectures aboard the Ushuaia.
On the shore of the Beagle Channel stood The Bone House. A quaint little shack where they do the final processing of the skulls, which is apparently quite stinky. A bit macabre, but quite pretty from a distance.

Once we’d finished in the museum it was nice and sunny and we thought we were in the clear.

Next  was a quick trip to the cafeteria to extract more funds from the tourists. We sat with a lovely couple from Germany who were visiting South America to hear the Rolling Stones play. They had seen them play in Russia and a number of other countries, including a trip to Australia where the show was cancelled. As good a way as any to decide where to go next I suppose. They are now retired with 5 grand children to keep them busy between Rolling Stones concerts.  Despite their five languages they didn’t speak Spanish. The europeans really put us Aussies to shame. All you parents out there, get your kids to study a language. Spanish is a good choose I think.
After a cup of what passes for coffee in most of the places we’ve visited in Argentina we were filed onto a large covered zodiac and warned that it might be a bit bumpy. Bone jarring would be a fitting description as we zipped out into the Beagle Channel towards the island that the Magellanic penguins call home at this time of year. There are 70,000 of these birds on the island along with some Gentoo penguins and itinerant and confused handful of King penguins. King penguins aren’t supposed to live in this area, but the island frequently has between 1 and 6 of these very handsome creatures. 
We were lucky enough to see four of them. The weather was not going to make it easy to photograph them however. With a heads up form Fiona I had brought the long lens with me. The wind decided that would be fun to play with and even with Kingsley trying to act as wind break it was blowing all over the shop.

And was it cold! The coldest we have felt in the whole trip, and that includes being snowed on. I was lucky in that I had donned thermals top and bottom, brought gloves, a hat and my buff as well as the Gortex the jacket and polar fleece. Kingsley hadn’t read the brochure and was less padded. I think the cold got to him as he ended up having a bit of stumble on the way up the hill and put a nice dirty mark on his last pair of clean pants. 
The guide hustled us up the marked trail as the rain started to fall. It wasn’t too heavy, but enough to collect the chill from the Antarctic wind and add to the sense that this was the coldest place on earth.
The Magellanic penguins are more like our little penguins in Australia in that they like nice cosy burrows to next in rather than nests made of pebbles. The island looks like a bit rabbit warren actually. On a different day we would have hung around on the top of the hill taking photos for ages. With a gale force wind bearing down on us ( this may include some poetic license) we couldn’t get down the hill fast enough. 

The King penguins were right in the middle of the colony on the beach, but we were able to snap a few shots from the boat.
The Magellanic penguins make a very odd braying sound so if you closed your eyes ( and managed not to fall over beau case you don’t have your land legs yet) you could be forgiven for thinking you were surrounded by donkeys. I will henceforth refer to them as Eeyore penguins.  There is a lot less penguin poop in these colonies too.  I think the chin strap have the market cornered on easily excavated guano. Except for it all being in the Antarctic I suppose. Maybe they were just the stinkiest. And good for them, it’s clearly working out ok.

After waiting for some green lanyard stragglers we were back on the nicely heated bus for the long drive back to town. As Kingsley said, a very expensive bus ride at about $150 ach, but I can add two more penguin species to my list which is quiet exciting.
By the time we got back I was about 9:15pm and time for dinner. Yes, that’s right. I was not only still awake, but in a restaurant ordering tea. Luckily this is Argentina and eating at that time of day is more norm than exception so we had no trouble getting some pasta and a nice malbec to go with it. Then a walk home, uphill, in the rain.
It is worth noting that I did not take the aquatech camera gear on the trip and everything survived the elements fine, including us. Kinglsey did have to put his boots in front of the overly enthusiastic radiator at the hotel, but it was nice to give it a purpose for a change.

Our flight out of Ushuaia was at a respectable hour so there was no mad rush in the morning. That gave us ample time  to slosh coffee all over the table multiple times on the poorly designed, wobbly, easily knockable tables. I couldn’t face more cake for breakfast so stuck with fruit  ( the hotel offers some fruit, some toast, frosted cereal and the most extensive range of tarts, pies, muffins, cakes and sweet pasties you can imagine. It’s like they are trying to promote diabetes. But I digress)

The internet at the airport is free, and significantly faster than the hotel to the point of being ridiculous. The view from the airport is also very impressive when compared to the hotel. If you’re designing windows in a room where people are going to be seated, don’t start the windows at shoulder height. Just saying.

 Our southern adventure has been very satisfying and it will be a while  before we put our cold weather gear to use again based on the weather back in Perth.

Now back in Buenos Aires it is warm, but not hot. I’m pleased to discover I still have clean warm weather clothes so should make it back to Perth without attracting too many nasty looks from strangers.

Day 22, 23 and 24 – Whilemina Bay, the Drake and the Beagle Channel

Day 22, 23 and 24 – Whilemina Bay, the Drake and the Beagle Channel

We woke this morning to Monika’s announcement that there were humpbacks breaching around the ship. I shrugged on my Gortex jacket and pants over my pjs, grabbed my camera and beanie and I was out the hatch.  No gloves, very few extra layers, but I wasn’t missing this.

Luckily my camera habits meant that I had a memory card ready to go in camera and the batteries were fully charged.

The visibility was sub optimal (snow / rain / low light) but it was a wonder to see.

Cold hands and a lack of action from the whales eventually drove me indoors to dress properly and have breakfast.  Everyone was a bit of a buzz.

After breakfast Monika informed us that there was ‘a bit’ of weather between us and where we were heading next, that being South America.  And the bit of weather being a cyclone. Rather than barge our way through it the captain was going to hang back in sheltered waters until a predicted (relatively) clear path would allow us to slip through, bypassing the worst of it.  Seeing all the scary colours on the weather map we were all in agreement, and reaching for our sea sickness meds in preparation.

Before things got too rough we had another Photoshop session with Alex in the dining room.

Winds of 50 knots meant no excursions while we were waiting so we had to just sit back, crack out our laptops to start sorting through photos, and enjoy the scenery from the comfort of the ship.

There were a few lectures from the staff to keep people entertained, although some passengers used the comforting voices to lull them off to sleep.

Before we went to dinner everyone was instructed to head below and make sure everything was ship shape and securely stowed as the night ahead was likely to be rough.

And it was. The following day we were allowed a late start, and many people decided to milk that and stay in their cabins until the afternoon. Even some of the staff seemed a little queasy.

Even so, I never felt unsafe and the rocking and the rolling was fine as long as you weren’t trying to perform any complicated tasks, like showering.  Of moving around. Kingsley devised a way to wedge himself into his bunk with life preservers to reduce the amount of movement in the night.

We managed to get out on the rolling deck and enjoy the magnificent sea birds, including a huge flock of sooty shearwaters,

and beautiful black-browed albatross (who are much more elegant on the wing than they are taking off or landing),

The next day went much the same way, but with less wind and slightly calmer waves.  It takes time after the big winds for the swell to die down.

As we entered the Beagle Channel the dolphins arrived to give us a show.  They are mighty fast, and quite daring, getting right up close to the nose of the ship and using its power to launch themselves sideways.  Their colouring is quite different to the indo-pacific bottle nosed dolphins that make up the swan river population. I think they were dusky dolphins, but I’m happy to be corrected.

Because they were so close it was another ‘wrong lens’ moment, so most pictures are only part dolphins. Being a bit of a dolphin tragic it was just so very exciting to see it.  I don’t know if any of the WA Dolphin Watch team have been out this way but I’m sure Delphine would have been thrilled to see this behaviour.  I know I was.

 Kingsley also caught them on video so you can see just how fast and agile they are.

Once we all came inside the crew presented us all with certificates to commemorate our journey. The first person called was Kelly, who went round and hugged every member of the crew present, setting the precedent for everyone else, with only a few notable exceptions. It was really lovely. Angela acted as staff photographer for the event – thanks Ang! They also played us a lovely video with picture form our trip and some information about the fantastic staff we’d had helping us out.

The dining room guys got a huge round of applause, which was well deserved.

And dinner was a special treat as well.  As the Pilot had just came aboard to guide us through the Beagle Channel, the good news for the Captain was that he got to come down  with his key staff and join us for the farewell dinner. It was by far the nicest meal we had aboard ship.  Maybe the captain eats like that every night….  The wait staff wore fancy waistcoats as well and looks very flash.

And then we all trooped off to our cabins, packing our bags in readiness for out disembarkation in Ushuaia the next day.

My mark of a good holiday is this, if money were no object, would you go back there again? For Antarctica the answer is a don’t-stop-to-think-about-it-for-a-second YES!!!! If you get the chance, go.  If you can’t afford it, start saving, or look at ways of getting employed there or on a boat going there.  This trip was an experience I will never forget and will be talking about in all the traditional cliches for decades to come.

Day 21 – Flandres Bay Paradise Bay, Orne Island and Wilhemina Bay

Day 21 – Flandres Bay Paradise Bay, Orne Island and Wilhemina Bay

Last night a few of us had a mini session with Alex going through some of her common Photoshop edits.  The thought process behind them was, for me, the most interesting part. The art rather than the science so to speak and a peek inside someone else’s thinking process. I hope she doesn’t find that creepy…

The science of how to make the edits I’m more familiar with, although I tend to use Lightroom for the basic things I do rather than Photoshop.

In retrospect, with the morning that was to follow, I wish I’d asked questions about how to focus through snow.  That might have been unfair as this was out Fearless Leader’s first falling snow experience, but I’m sure rain poses the same challenges.  I’m going to message her now and ask… (the best part of doing a trip with an expert is the opportunity to ask follow up questions.  And Alex is very good at mentoring her former students. Best thing).

The night was a little like a roller coaster ride.  For those of us on the lower decks we got a solid back massage as the boat rolled and pitched.  In the fancy cabins on the upper decks Ang and Sue had the ocean banging on their window. The crew told us the next day the winds got up to 185km / hour.

Having weathered the winds in our sturdy little icebreaker we awoke in Flanders bay, and it was still and beautiful.

No wind meant we could get out and about in our zodiacs, cruising icebergs and getting snowed on as it turned out. We saw a crab eater seal launch itself out of the water and onto the ice.  The power required to do that when you weigh that much boggles the mind.


Cruising around as the snow softly fell on us was just a little bit magic.  Oh and it was a little bit cold too.

The colour of the ice was exquisite, and we got to watch sea ice forming on the surface. Did I mention it was cold?

 The guys who came back and  went out after us got a real treat, seeing a leopard seal lazing nonchalantly on the ice. Having seen their enviable pictures his smug expression reminded me most of the puppet Randy of Sammy and Randy.  We didn’t see him so no pictures – sorry.

We did see the beautiful Snow Petrel flying about.  Very tricky to photograph a fast moving white bird on a white background so I was happy with what I got. Realistic expectations after all.

We also got to watch the butterfly like birds feeling on the surface.  They were entrancing, but I’ll need to ask Fiona what they were called. *Wilson’s Storm Petrels.

Our final landing of the trip took as to Orne Island.  The chinstrap penguins there seemed grottier than the Gentoo ones we’d seen. There was something a bit Oliver Twist about them, although I’m sure they were well loved and cared for.

The parents did show us a lot of pebble nest building and some acrobatics.

We also got to see an iceberg tip over (they do that from time to time) and we got rained on a bit.

And once the rain had got all over my lens, we found the two tiny skua chicks and their parents. Rain on the lens!!!  Well the main thing to remember is that I got to see them, and they were very, very cute.

These were our last footsteps on Antarctica and I wish I’d taken more of a moment to farewell it. I know this was meant to be a trip of a lifetime, but maybe that just means I’m meant to go back again one day.

In the evening we were given a show by a number of humpback whales as the light dimmed. No great whale tail photos, but I will have to compare those with the ones I have off the Australian coast to see if there are any matches.