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Stunning St. Lucia

Honeymoon - St. Lucia

all seasons in one day 29 °C
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After a relaxed day in Antigua, today was going to be much busier. We had arrived in St. Lucia, and were going on a full day tour. After having breakfast we headed down to the dock.

St. Lucia was another of the Covid concerned islands, with temperature checks and wristbands to wear. We queued up for our tour, and looked at the ominous clouds above us. Next thing we were led to the side of a building just in time to take cover from the downpour about to hit us. It only lasted around 5 minutes, but being tropical it soaked anything caught in it.

We then boarded our bus and as we took a quick drive through the city's streets, got an introduction to the island from our guide. We then headed out of the city and up the mountain side, for views over the harbour.

Overlooking the harbour

Overlooking the harbour

The route south passed many hills and valleys, as well as passing by other aspects that make up the heritage and life on the island - seeing banana crops, fuel storage and alcohol distilleries.

Banana Plantations

Banana Plantations

We then arrived at Soufriere, the main area for our tour today, and which is dominated by the majestic Pitons - two twin peaks that are icons of the island, and stylised on the flag.

The Pitons

The Pitons

Our first major sight here was the Diamond Botanical Garden, a former plantation converted into a park with many beautiful ornamental plants.

Plants

Plants

There was also a walk down a gorge towards a waterfall, which being geothermal and mineral rich had stained the rock beneath.

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

After this, we headed back to the coach and travelled around the other side of town to the world's only drive in volcano.

The Volcano

The Volcano

Of course the sulphur escaping into the air meant it absolutely stank around here, but it did mean we got to see the bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Sadly we didn't get to stay here for long enough to bathe in the mud baths.

Mud Baths

Mud Baths

By now it was lunch time and we headed down the road to Morne Coubaril Estate for a Caribbean lunch where we got chatting to some of our other travelling companions.

Morne Coubaril

Morne Coubaril

It was now time to head back towards the capital, but rather than drive back the way we came, this would be via a boat trip. We boarded a catamaran at the small port at Soufriere as once more a huge black cloud came our way. Again this didn't last long, and was over by the time we set sail.

Uh Oh...

Uh Oh...

There were beautiful views of the Pitons once more, as we enjoyed Rum Punch.

The Pitons

The Pitons

We sailed to the secluded Anse Conchon Beach, where like in St. Vincent the boat's ladder was lowered and those who wanted to could get out and go for a swim or walk on the beach.

Anse Conchon Beach

Anse Conchon Beach

We decided to stay aboard as we'd done plenty of swimming until now, and after being surrounded by locals selling knickknacks, we headed north back towards Castries. En route, there was one last sight, the beautiful Marigot Bay, where lots of expensive small boats are docked.

Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay

For the last bit of the sail, the music was ramped up and there as a real carnival atmosphere with tipsy passengers and crew enjoying the music and dancing.

Party Boat

Party Boat

After arriving back at port, we went for a quick wander around the capital, seeing the cathedral and main square.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

We then headed back towards the ferry terminal where the scale of the ship's size dominating over the town was clear.

Hiding Ship

Hiding Ship

We were now coming towards the end of the cruise - with just one new island still to see, and only three more days. Once we got back to the cabin we found our flight tickets had been delivered. Then the mood turned. We had been allocated seats in separate rows - despite the fact the flight out had been 1/3 empty, and the flights contained the same people.

Chris went own to reception to ask why we had been separated, and if we could be moved. But when he came back, told me that a very rude lady on reception had stated that they probably couldn't do anything, if we had wanted to sit together we should have paid £35 each to select our seats (even though when I had looked at this option before we had left home this was not actually possible), and if they were able to find seats together we would have to pay £70 for it. We would need to go back down at 8pm to see if they had been able to do it.

I was livid. We weren't asking for a particular seat on the plane, just two seats together for a couple on their honeymoon who had paid a fortune for this cruise, and on a plane with tonnes of spare seats.

Being slightly tipsy from the Rum Punch meant I marched down to reception at full speed, where I spoke to someone else who fobbed me off saying that only the Flight Coordinator could get involved and there was nothing they could do. What a way to kill the mood of what had until just now been a really good day....

After emailing P&O to complain about this problem and the appalling customer service, we headed for dinner and tried to enjoy the rest of the evening as best we could.

When 8pm came round we headed back down to reception to find a new set of people who knew nothing about our flight tickets. Speaking to a young guy called Calvin, we told him what had happened, and I ranted about the appalling customer service, this being yet another irritation on our holiday and the fact that not one person had yet had the decency to even say "I'm sorry, let me see what I can do". To which he said "I'm sorry". Whether it was genuine I don't know, but at least he had said it...

He told us he'd see what he could do and would give us a call later to let us know. In the meantime I had received an email back from P&O to say that as we were already on board, only the Flight Coordinator could do anything. Unsurprisingly, not even a 'sorry' in sight...

Expecting not to actually hear anything, and adjusting to the reality of probably having to spend the overnight flight back home separated we got into bed to head off to sleep. Then suddenly, the phone rang. It was Calvin, telling us he'd sorted out tickets and to come down to reception.

We got dressed and headed straight down, where he told us he'd sorted it and put us in seats together. He gave us the new tickets and we didn't need to pay. At least there was one nice person on board - but the question is, if this was so simple, why had it been such aggro to sort, why had we had to kick up such a fuss, and why had this not been done initially!?

By now it had been a very long day, and with another early tour tomorrow morning, we headed to bed.

Posted by kmmk17 17:25 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged mountains rain boat beach volcano cathedral waterfall caribbean geology botanicalgarden Comments (0)

British Antarctica

In Search of the Penguins - Lemaire Channel & Port Lockroy

sunny 5 °C
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After a quieter night on ship, this morning we were rejoined by last night's campers, before it was time to get up for breakfast.

As we hadn't sailed overnight, this morning meant we would be travelling to a new place. However this was far from boring as we were making our way to the southernmost point on the trip - the Lemaire Channel.

Lemaire Channel

Lemaire Channel

Sailing down the channel we were prepared for ice to block the route at any time causing us to have to turn around. Luckily this didn't happen until the very end where a huge block of ice did indeed mean the way through was impossible.

One of the many icebergs in the Lemaire Channel

One of the many icebergs in the Lemaire Channel

With such beautiful views of the surrounding icebergs and snow filled mountains, we were treated to a hot chocolate by the crew, and after turning back around and heading north again, we then headed for Port Lockroy, a British base that we had watched a documentary on the previous night.

Port Lockroy

Port Lockroy

Arriving just after lunch, half the group was to visit Port Lockroy whilst the others would visit nearby Jougla Point, before we all swapped halfway through.

At Port Lockroy

At Port Lockroy

Arriving on shore to find habitation once again was a rather strange experience. At Port Lockroy not only was there a museum about the life on British Bases, but there was also a little shop for us to buy souvenirs. Yes, even in Antarctica you can buy tat!

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop


Posting my postcards

Posting my postcards

Although somewhat overpriced, I bought a few bits, including a postcard to send to wish my future self a happy birthday in a few weeks time. After taking a look around the base I then headed back to take the boat transfer over the Jougla Point where once again we were treated to penguin colonies and other birds surrounded by stunning views of ice and mountains.

Beautiful Scenery

Beautiful Scenery


Returning from Jougla

Returning from Jougla

Back on ship we had yet another birthday to celebrate, and tonight we were also joined by the staff at Port Lockroy for dinner.

As our next port of call tomorrow was literally around the corner from today's location, we anchored down to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the scenic mountains. I had originally planned to finally visit the sauna tonight, however as the views were so beautiful I postponed this for a future evening, only taking a brief visit whilst fully clothed to warm myself up after spending so much time outside in the cold.

One of the hilarious bonuses of this boat was the toilet next to the lounge, which had a huge window with views of the surrounding scenery. Sitting down on the toilet doing a number two, whilst penguins swim past seals resting on icebergs was really the best view for a poo you could ever imagine.

The Loo View

The Loo View


Sunset at Port Lockroy

Sunset at Port Lockroy

After an exciting and busy day, once again my camera battery was dead, and so after taking as many pictures of the beautiful sunset as I could, I finally headed to bed.

Sunset at Port Lockroy

Sunset at Port Lockroy

Despite it being past midnight, due to the southerly location and the albedo from the snow it never really got fully dark, an interesting experience to witness!

Polar Nights

Polar Nights

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Tagged mountains sunset scenery tourism penguins colony icebergs penguinhunt antarcticcruise polarnight Comments (0)

Antarctica, We Have Arrived

In Search of the Penguins - Cuverville Island & Neko Harbour

semi-overcast 5 °C
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After yesterday's unexpected additional stop, today we finally made it to the Antarctic Peninsula.

First views of the Antarctic Peninsula

First views of the Antarctic Peninsula

With a wake up call this morning telling us about our location and the weather report, I enjoyed the buffet breakfast before heading on deck for views of the snow filled mountains in the distance. It was then not long before we were called to the mudroom for our next trip offshore to Cuverville Island, an island full of Gentoo penguins.

Icebergs

Icebergs

I had signed up to begin this trip with a zodiac cruise, and so waiting until the end, I boarded one of the boats for a sail around the island for views of the icebergs and mountains.

Penguins on Cuverville

Penguins on Cuverville

En route we saw some seals and lots of penguins before landing at the beach and getting to walk around the Penguin colony itself. After sitting down whilst penguins ran past chasing each other less than a metre away, it was then time to head back to the ship for lunch.

Everyone out on deck

Everyone out on deck

Sailing down past Rongé Island, we got views of whales. And it wasn't long before we made it to Neko Harbour for our afternoon trip, arriving at a ice filled shore, again filled with many Gentoo penguins.

Heading back to the ship, we heard that there was a whale sighting, and so taking a detour we headed in the Zodiacs over towards where they were, getting to see the bodies and fins of these magnificent creatures just metres away at eye level.

Whales

Whales

Having been anchored since lunchtime, throughout the course of the afternoon an iceberg had now struck the ship. Not causing any damage but still a slightly worrying incident....

Iceberg

Iceberg

Tonight there was a plan for a BBQ dinner on deck but as the weather had begun to turn this was quickly moved back inside. Arriving shortly at Leith Island, those who had paid were going camping tonight out on the ice. Thankfully I was staying on deck in the warm and as the group set up for the night we watched from the deck.

Camping

Camping

Finding time to have a quick go in the gym whilst looking at the beautiful scenery outside, we then watched a film on Port Lockroy, where we would be visiting the following day.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Tagged mountains whales ice penguins icebergs penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

The End of the World....?

In Search of the Penguins - Ushuaia

overcast 10 °C


Having made my way to the airport in Rio and transferred in Buenos Aires, where I would return in around 10 days time, I eventually made it to Ushuaia, at the bottom of Argentina for the real part of the holiday to begin.

Flying over Tierra del Fuego

Flying over Tierra del Fuego

Getting from the airport to the hotel was pretty quick as the city was rather small, yet it became immediately clear that 'summer' here was much more like a Scandinavian summer than it had been in Brazil.

After having met some new travel companions already, I settled in for the night after a long day of travelling, prepared for the new adventures ahead.

The following morning I left my suitcase in the lobby before having breakfast and enjoying views over the city from the hotel restaurant, perched on the top of a hill. With embarkation not until 4pm, I then headed off for my exploration of the city, beginning with a walk to a vantage point along a harbour road for views of the city with mountains in the background.

Then I headed towards the Plaza Islas Malvinas, where a big square had been converted into a memorial for the Falklands War thirty five years previously. Curiously (or not?) a man constantly sits in a box watching the square all day. Can't think why.....

Plaza Islas Malvinas

Plaza Islas Malvinas

Continuing, I made my way to the information centre, where I obtained a certificate for having reached the southernmost city in the world. However like most things Argentinian, this is debatable. The city of 70,000 is located on Tierra del Fuego, an island south of the continent itself; whilst there are also settlements on the southern (Chilean) side of the Beagle Channel such as Puerto Williams which are only classed as "towns" with populations of approximately 3,000.

At the End of the World sign

At the End of the World sign

Nevertheless I took the certificate anyway and continued towards past the harbour stopping at the End of the World sign and having views of the ship I would be boarding later on. The next stop was the End of the World museum, for some history on the city, before turning back and heading to the gift shops and supermarket eventually returning to the hotel to wait for the transfer at 3pm.

The ship

The ship

Enjoying my last drops of internet, we then all boarded the coach getting to know each other whilst we travelled, eventually making it to the port to board the ship. Getting a swipe on/off card, we had our photos taken and there we were - on board ready to set sail for Antarctica.

Entering Port

Entering Port

Having paid for my trip well in advance, I bagged the cheapest tickets for which I was required to share a Quad, and I soon met my travel companions - Cameron from the USA (who I had shared with the previous night), Gary from Canada and Bastian from Germany.

The Room

The Room


Staff Introductions

Staff Introductions

Not long after boarding we had an introduction with the staff of the ship in the lounge, which included the safety drill, testing our life jackets and even getting to sit in one of the covered lifeboats.

Safety Drill

Safety Drill


Goodbye to South America

Goodbye to South America

The ship then set sail and not long after we had our first dinner in the restaurant, where over views of the channel I got to know more people on the boat, which was made up of about 30% equally Americans, Brits and Australians, a with a handful of Canadians, and a scattering of others from Europe and Asia making up the rest of the numbers.

It quickly became clear that many people had the same ideas as me, booking this trip well in advance to secure the cheapest rooms! Isn't it always fun to meet people who have done the same thing?

Collecting my nice thick parka coat that would keep me warm for the duration of the trip, I then settled in for the night before tomorrow's rough crossing of the Drake Passage.

A great start to an unforgettable adventure.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Argentina Tagged mountains boat scenery war penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

The Final Accomplishment: Almaty

Central Asia - Almaty

sunny 10 °C
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And here it was, the final day of the tour! Almost two weeks after having met everyone for the first time back in Ashgabat, it was almost all over! Waking up in Bishkek we got onto the minibus to make our way to our final and fifth stan - Kazakhstan.

Just an hour from the Kyrgyz capital, the border was the busiest by far of any we had previously crossed, and after a bit of confusion we had entered the largest country in Central Asia.

Crossing the edge of the steppe we then made the three hour journey across the country's south eastern corner to the country's largest city and the former capital of Almaty.

Medeu

Medeu

After picking up our tour guides and dropping our bags off at the hotel we made our way into the mountains to view the Medeu Ice Skating rink. Almaty was the runner up in the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and Medeu would have been one of the key venues in the mountains. The Ice skating rink is the highest in the world and was built in 1949 making it one of the most iconic in not just the region, but also the world.

Mountain backdrop over Almaty

Mountain backdrop over Almaty

After running up the hill to gain a back view of the stadium we then made our way back down the valley and into the city. After fixing a puncture, we arrived in Republic Square, where the Independence Monument stands across from the local government building shadowed by a backdrop of the snow capped mountains.

Ascension Cathedral

Ascension Cathedral

Our final destination was the Panfilov Park, visiting first the Ascension cathedral - one of the largest wooden cathedrals in the world, before we walked around the corner to the war memorial.

War Memorial

War Memorial

And that was it. The last sight on the 4000 mile trip complete. Arriving back at the hotel we had a little rest before going out for our final meal as a group in a local restaurant to say my goodbyes to everyone before bed and the journey home the following day via Istanbul.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Kazakhstan Tagged mountains cathedral olympic centralasia Comments (0)

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