Returning to civilization

crew on board

Some of the crew on board the M/V Plancius that made the expedition an unforgettable experience for us all.

After 10 exhausting days of frenzied activity kayaking, sleeping out in freezing conditions and conquering a mountain we were on our way home. That meant however, that we would have to cross the dreaded Drakes Passage…now dubbed ‘Vomits Passage’. This time though we were determined to stay one step ahead of mother nature. The poor doctor onboard was inundated with passengers beating down her door demanding their sea sickness patches. The journey back was a much more relaxing and nausea free one for most of us. A few unlucky passengers still succumbed to sea sickness despite the patches. Luckily I wasn’t one of them. The trip back was a chance to reflect on everything that we had been through to get to Antarctica and the opportunity that this whole expedition had given us to grow as individuals, and to push ourselves physically and mentally way beyond our comfort zones.

I stood outside on the deck of the ship all on my own at one point. The crystal clean air and the gentle wind stirring past my ears gave me the clarity of thought and perspective that I hadn’t been able to achieve in a very long time. My spirit had at last been stilled. I no longer felt the restlessness that had plagued me for so long. I hadn’t spoken to any of my family members for almost two weeks by that time. All we did was correspond through brief emails that everybody else could read if they wanted to, since it was cheaper for 3-4 of us to share an account onboard the ship, therefore it was kept basic and impersonal. I had never been away from my girls for so long, and now that we were heading back home again I was missing them desperately. I have to confess that I didn’t miss them en route to Antarctica and while we were there. It wasn’t of course because I no longer cared, but I think it was just a method of self preservation and the fact that we had been kept so relentlessly busy for those 10 days. I was in complete survival mode…nothing else mattered to me but living in the moment and just making it to the top of that mountain and not falling out of the kayak into those frigid waters. I didn’t allow myself to lie in bed at night and think about them at all, because I was afraid that if I did I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. There was a part of me that was missing them beyond all description, but I mastered the art of compartmentalizing while I was on this trip… separating thought from emotions and keeping any emotions that might interfere with my survival in the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

me, Linda and lara

Me with two of my team members Linda and Lara.

Now that we were on our way back, a new excitement started to brew in the pit of my stomach as this trip was running straight into a 4 week family holiday in South Africa. I had just embarked on a 3 day journey back to civilization and into the arms of my loving family that I now realized I was missing desperately. Two nights passed and after passing successfully through the Drakes Passage, we had to dock overnight just outside the port of Ushuaia. The entrance back into port was a tricky one and we would have to wait for one of the captains from port to come out and bring us in. That would only be the next morning and till then, it was party time! We turned the music up loud and, after popping a few corks we danced the night away.

Disembarking from the ship early the next morning (with a slight headache), we were all happy to be back but sad at the same time. We had met many lovely people on board from all walks of life and that’s not mentioning the crew members who had bent over backwards to show us a good time and really make our expedition worth while. We had become known onboard as “The pink ladies’ and got to know and like many of the crew members. It was sad to walk away, knowing that we would probably never see any of them again, but at the same time I think we all felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. We had achieved what we had set out to do and had traveled to the ends of the earth to raise awareness. If our message got to just one woman out there in the world somewhere and afforded her some comfort and inspiration, then it was all worth it for every single one of us.

This entry was posted on February 1, 2015. Bookmark the permalink.