chilling feet

chilling feet

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Antarctic Rearview and Vietnam in Sight

(One last photo shoot at the Pole the day we left. The plane had literally landed and people were waiting to get on - so we ran to the Ceremonial Pole and took some photos. Thanks Andrew!!)
November ended our time at the South Pole.  Sarah and I were fortunate enough to fly out together, unlike our travel down which was done separately.  It was quite nice to experience the last part of our Antarctic journey together - the flights on the LC-130 and C-17, the short stay in McMurdo, and then coming off the plane together in New Zealand at the same time.

Something has to be said about the first steps we took as we arrived back to the world.  After having spent ten months in a place where the wind is always a frigid bite at the skin and the temperature was constantly cold enough to easily kill us, the first few steps onto the tarmac in New Zealand were beyond description.  I will certainly always remember the warm embrace of the breeze as it caressed all of my exposed skin.  Instead of recoiling from the weather and climate, as was now my custom, I embraced the kind welcome of Christchurch.  It was the perfect temperature for walking around with a short sleeved shirt on all day long.  I just think I might remember this experience for the rest of my life.

(Sarah was having trouble letting go - literally
 of the Pole. We enjoyed our time at the South Pole
 and were were a little bit sad to be leaving, maybe to
never see it again.  Who knows?!)
Sarah and I had planned to make our way to Australia and dive the Great Barrier Reef during our short stop off before heading back to family for Thanksgiving; however, due to being a few days late off the ice and our schedule being as tight as it was, we did not have time to follow through on these plans.  Instead we spent our time driving around our beloved New Zealand.  There was delicious food (oh the food was so good after eating frozen food for so long!), spectacular wines (again the wine was stellar after such a small and less than perfect selection at the Pole), waterfalls and good hikes, and just driving through the beautiful countryside of New Zealand.

The main highlight of the trip was a hike we did in Arthur's Pass.  Without all of our hiking gear we were not able to do a hike that would take us a  few days, so we instead did a decent hike in a spectacular area.  Arthur's Pass is a part of the country that always stood out to us during our last stay in New Zealand.  Though on our previous trip we only drove through the area in a rush to somewhere else, this time we made some time to stop and hike.  After reading about a bunch of hikes that all said they were 6-9 hour strenuous alpine jaunts, we settled on doing a 3-4 hour hike called Mt. Aicken.  This is a fantastic hike that heads almost entirely vertically up the side of the mountain.  Of all our New Zealand hikes it was the most abruptly steep for the entirety of the venture.  Wonderful vistas overlooking the pass and mountains, a great sandwich kept for a nice stay at the top for an outdoor lunch, and a challenging hike that proved to give us a good workout.

(Once at the top we celebrated our climb. What nice weather
and the views were stunning.  Definitely worth the climb!)
Our time in New Zealand was short but sweet.  It was nice seeing a good portion of the country we both learned to love a few years back. We enjoyed our short stay and turned our eyes towards home.

We are now back in Memphis and our Antarctic adventure is over. We spent a refreshing time with Sarah's family in the mountains outside of Asheville, NC for Thanksgiving.  Being back is nice and there are plenty of people we still need to see and catch up with as soon as possible.  Seeing our families and spending time with friends has been revitalizing.  And yet this rest is just that - a short break before our next venture, as has become our custom for now.

While it will not be as long as the ten month stint in Antarctica, we are very excited about a trip we booked to visit Vietnam.  After one of Sarah's trips to Antarctica, we visited Thailand and had an amazing time seeing as much of the country as we could.  While we were there we decided we wanted to visit more countries in the general area.  So this January we will be going on a trip we booked to see as much of Vietnam and Cambodia as possible.

(Halong Bay - picture taken from the Getaway Halong Sapa website. Very thrilled to see this place!)
Usually we do our own booking of events and planning as we work through a country, but we were wanting to try out a particular website we had been watching for some time for another trip - and so we used it to buy a trip to see Vietnam.  This put us in contact with an in-country traveling agency called Getaway Halong Sapa .  As we have been preparing for our trip so far, it has been nice to have the help of Getaway Halong Sapa.  They have sent a full itinerary of the trip and we are both now more excited about our visit than we were when we purchased it.  The details of our daily schedule have increased our anticipation and desire to see the country.  One of the greatest helps they have been so far has been with our visas, which they sent to us today!  No worries, no fuss and all taken care of for us.  I count this as quite a benefit.

In reviewing our agenda it has also been comforting to know we will be seeing and doing some things I think we would definitely have missed if not for the expert help of a group that knows which parts of their country need to be visited.  We had certainly found some of the sights we will visit through our research of where to go and what to do, but we had missed some sights that now are some of the ones we are most excited to visit.  And it will be nice to have all of our accommodations planned out for us!  We cannot wait to go to Vietnam and experience the trip Getaway Halong Sapa has planned out for us!!

As this trip takes place, we will take copious notes on what is amazing, and will of course be excited to share some photos and stories about how this adventure goes.  Till then - Memphis!!  We plan to enjoy our time here and to not be distracted by our future ventures.  Family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, and seeing all of our favorite Memphis places is just some of what we are excited about.

Hopefully all of you had a rest filled Thanksgiving.  We would love to hear about the trips any of you might have been on that we should go and experience.  Enjoy life and creation!