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December 31, 2004

There's No Place Like Home

My flight from Miami landed early into snowy Detroit, where it then took over an hour to actually get to the gate and off the plane because of the 10 inches of snow. My parents picked me up from the airport and we made a mad dash for Taco Bell, where I finally satisfied my unrelenting craving for 2 taco supremes and a nachos supreme. I spent much of the last week bringing my house out of hibernation, catching up with friends, and eating my favorite foods that I have been deprived of since June.

And now, here I am, writing this last entry from the comfort of my own home, in exactly the same spot as I was back in May designing this blog and writing its first entries. My trip was exactly 200 days long and in just 3 more days I will be rejoining the "real world." Time sure flies.

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Posted by msshell at 09:41 PM
View/Add Comments (6) | Category: Back Home

December 21, 2004

Advenures in Transit

I left Uyuni on the night train to Oruro, which was supossed to leave at midnight, but didn't leave until 1am. The only logical explanation for the delay is that, it is Bolivia. I have found that 'It's Bolivia,' is an excuse in itself for delays, cancellations, or overbookings of transport of any form. The only noteworthy event from the train ride was actually after it was over and everyone was collecting their baggage. Apparantly a lady had died during the ride, which was brought to my attention as the corpse was carried past me and tossed into the back of a van, as if she were unclaimed luggage. Sadly, the only people that seemed to think it was unusual were me and the other backpackers that had taken the overnight train. All of the locals seemed unphased by it. From Oruro, I only had a 3 hour bus ride to get to La Paz, which had been overbooked, but luckily I was already in my seat when someone came to claim it as theirs, showing a ticket that was identical to mine. I didn't budge.

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Posted by msshell at 12:40 PM
View/Add Comments (5) | Category: South America

December 18, 2004

Pass the Salt Please

The Salar de Uyuni in southwestern Bolivia covers 12,000 square km, and is the worlds largest salt flats. About 30,000 years ago, the salt flats were covered by a lake called Lago Munchin. When the sea dried up, it left the Salar de Uyuni, which contains about 10 billion tons of salt. At its deepest point, the salt is about 8 meters deep. I wanted to visit the salt flats when I was in Bolivia in October, but didn't have time. So when my flight from Buenos Aires to Lima was cancelled, I decided it was a sign that I should make my own way to Bolivia and see them. I arrived in Uyuni after a 2 hour flight and about 14 hours of bus rides and organized a three day, two night tour of the Salt flats and some nearby lakes.

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Posted by msshell at 05:35 PM
View/Add Comments (9) | Category: South America

December 14, 2004

From Seasickness to Altitude Sickness

Getting from Buenos Aires to Uyuni, Bolivia, my jumping off point for the tour to the Bolivian Salt Flats was an adventure in itself. The flight from Buenos Aires to Salta was uneventful, and I only stayed one night there before leaving on a bus heading north to La Quiaca in the morning. The bus to La Quiaca was about seven hours long and not too bad of a journey, despite the sweltering heat on the bus, and my need to use the bathroom for hours but being afraid that the bus would leave without me if I went. For the first three hours, I sat next to a 12 year old girl named Cynthia who was hopping off in a little village on the way to visit her four brothers. It was good to practice my spanglish with her, and I taught her to count to ten in english. After she got off the bus, I befriended an Argentinian named Jose Luis that had spent six months in Mossuri studying geology and spoke English very well. His destination was La Quiaca also, and when I told him I was planning to cross the border into Bolivia and head to Tupiza, he was kind enough to offer to escort me over the border and make sure I find the correct bus to Tupiza (where I would then have to find another bus to Uyuni). The random kindness of strangers is always refreshing. I must make it a point to be nicer to strangers when I get home.

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Posted by msshell at 05:31 PM
View/Add Comments (9) | Category: South America

December 12, 2004

And For My Next Act...

So here I am in Buenos Aires. I spent about 75% of my first two days here blogging about Antarctica. I also made a quick stop into the U.S. Embassy to get more pages put into my passport, since it is full, and I stopped into a travel agent to reconfirm my flight out of Buenos Aires. When I got to the travel agency, I found out my ticket had been cancelled, inexplicably. What the heck? I knew I was too lucky leaving Ushuaia not having a kink in my flight plans like most others did. I think it's a blessing in disguise though, because I really wanted to see the Bolivian Salt Flats, which is sort of on the way to Lima (where I need to catch my flight back to the States). Sooo... I'm going to make my own way to Lima and hopefully stop into the salt flats on the way! Yay!

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Posted by msshell at 12:43 PM
View/Add Comments (6) | Category: South America

December 10, 2004

A Mostly Smooth Drake

After our last two landings, it was time to head back into the Drake Passage, unfortunately. The way back was also mostly "smooth," although it did get pretty rough in the middle of the night on the second night. At about 1 am, I woke up to everything not nailed down on one side of the room flying over to the other side of the room, including a ladder and a chair. The violent rocking only lasted for a couple of hours, but all night, I was involuntarily moving in a sort of elliptical motion, like my whole body was revolving around some imaginary axes. I didn't really sleep that night, but at least I didn't get sick.

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Posted by msshell at 08:45 PM
View/Add Comments (5) | Category: Antarctica
Anyone for a Swim?

We had two more landings left before heading back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia. After the morning wake up call and breakfast, we geared up for our landing on Deception Island. The "deception" of the Island is that it is actually an active volcano, which last erupted in 1970. The island is shaped like a ring because of its collapsed cone. We landed at Whalers Bay, where there are remains from the old whaling station that closed in the 1930s. I walked up and down the sulphurous smelling beach checking out the whale bones and some of the old buildings. I also walked up to Neptunes window, which is a low point in the crater rim, where there was a nice view of the beach below.

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Posted by msshell at 07:12 PM
View/Add Comments (7) | Category: Antarctica
Continental Landings

The next day we made two more landings, both on the Peninsula itself. After the excitement of the previous day, everything ran like clockwork. Delphin took us over in the zodiac to the first landing at Waterboat point, where two British researchers spent a year living in a shelter made from an upturned whalers boat in 1921. There is not much evidance left of the boat, its location is now covered in snow and nesting penguins under the Chilean Flag. Also at this location is the Presidente Gabriel Gonzalez Videla Staion, that is manned in the summer only. When we arrived, the four chileans had arrived only a few days prior and had just finished digging their summer home out of the snow.

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Posted by msshell at 06:11 PM
View/Add Comments (2) | Category: Antarctica
Petermann and Lemaire

Leaving Mikkelsen Harbor, we were already at a latitude of 63 degrees south. Of course, part of being that far south at this time of the year is that it doesn't really get dark. I woke up at about 3:30 am friday morning to the crunching of ice against the ship. Looking out through the porthole, it was light enough that it could have been mid afternoon on a cloudy day. I went up to the bridge to see what was going on, and found out we were still trying to continue south to get to the Lemaire channel, but the ice was building up. The crew was intently watching the ice. I stayed up there almost falling asleep on my feet for about an hour or so, until I decided to go back to my cabin and try to sleep. It was tough though, I kept getting up and looking through the porthole to see what was happening.

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Posted by msshell at 05:01 PM
View/Add Comments (7) | Category: Antarctica

The next morning, thursday, we were supossed to have our first landing, but when I woke up and looked out the window, it didn't seem very promising. We were still cruising along the ice edge looking for a way in to the channel. After breakfast, Laurie had a meeting in the lounge to talk about our position and what we were planning to do, which pretty much came down to "try to find a way in." (map).The previous day we had been all the way down by Anvers Island and had to turn around after reaching the pack ice in the Bismark Strait. We sailed overnight back along the ice edge and tried to get in between Anvers Island and Brabant Island, but part way in had to turn around again because of the ice. So by the morning, we were still heading along the ice edge looking for a way into the channel.

Continue reading "LET US IN!!!"

Posted by msshell at 07:23 AM
View/Add Comments (4) | Category: Antarctica
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