city of cats…

**I just reread this and realised how lazily it’s written… might have to edit this at some stage . Sorry about that – jmc**

Has it really been a month already? Sorry about that – I’ve been busy doing and not writing about doing for a change.

Lets catch up. Hows life with you? Great to hear!

Me? I’m currently in Istanbul, Turkey taking the long way home via Turkey and Nepal before heading back down to Antarctica in late October for the summer season. Yepo, so that’s definitely happening – more on that later.

So why Turkey you say? A fellow traveler in Romania planted the seed of a visit to Istanbul on my long, meandering trip homewards (cheaper to get home via Istanbul/Nepal than a direct flight from Bucharest). and so far its been on of those completely unplanned pleasures that makes wandering this planet so much fun.

Although nearing the end of week 3 now in Istanbul alone, I’ve only just started to settle in and really see the historic heart and troubled soul of this incredibly complex city.

Istanbul is just so breathtakingly beautiful at times you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself its real.

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where real men fish… (off Galata bridge)…

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and the street cats rule…

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…but first things first.

Last time we chatted I was in Romania, and I flew from Bucharest to Istanbul late last month.

The flight was cheap and uneventful – it was a little sad to leave Romania but it was finally time to move on I guess before I got too comfortable.

Flying TAROM Air, Romania’s national budget carrier – everything went smoothly despite all the negative reviews they get, and I arrived at Istanbul’s Attaturk Airport (on the Asian side) late in the evening.

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The airport wasn’t particularly busy, but it was stifling hot and stuffy. Immigration was a breeze and the lines moved fairly quickly but I was a sweaty mess by the time I got to the barrier (never a good thing), but I guess everyone is here so they just stamped my passport and waved me through.

I’m glad I printed out my E-Visa and had it handy though – some people with an electronic version had trouble at Immigration.

Right. I’m in. So far so good!

First stop at the Attaturk Airport (once done running the Duty Free gauntlet) was to get some local cash from an ATM (easy peasy) and then find a local phone sim. I’d decided to just stay with Vodaphone (sheer laziness) instead of the recommended TurkCell. It was late and the Vodaphone reseller was the first shop I came to.

The language barrier became apparent as soon as I landed as I had done NO prep for the Turkish language at all. The Vodaphone sales rep gave me the whole sales pitch in stilted English as I tried unsuccessfully to keep up using Google Translate. In the end I gave up and just went with his recommendation.

BIG EXPENSIVE MISTAKE.

End result – I got a prepaid sim with 17GB data and 1000 minutes of calls for about 370 Turkish Lira ($80 AUD). That is SUPER expensive (compared to the 5 Euro 50GB/unlimited calls/texts I got in Romania). Turkcell at the airport wasn’t much better.

Lesson learned? DON’T BUY A SIM FROM THE AIRPORT, and definitely don’t buy Vodaphone in Turkey. Go Turkcell and get it once you hit Istiklal St.

Anyway, I had connectivity and navigation now, which made life much easier and I could kick myself for lack of preparation later. It was late – 10pmish – and I had another hour on a bus to get to the Hostel. Ahhh the bus. now where was that shuttle to the City?

After a bit of fluffing around trying to find the right shuttle bay, I found the bus to Taksim, paid my 12 TL, and settled in for the ride. Resting my head against the glass window, the vibration of the bus soothing the jarred airport nerves, I watched the city lights slide by and noticed the traffic building. We crossed a massive suspension bridge, it’s wires and cables glowing a bright crimson red; unbroken streams of honking traffic and flashing headlights flowing relentlessly across its 6 lanes.

‘Wow…busy’, I thought.

Then the bus arrived at the Taksim Square stop.

JEEZ LOUISE!

After the relative quietness of Bucharest (never thought I’d say THAT), landing in Taksim Square, Istanbul was a sensory punch in the face. I’d basically landed in the centre of THE tourist hotspot of Istanbul on a Thursday night and it was a little…hectic.

Bustling and noisy and crowded and everything that I wasn’t expecting (idiot), it took me a few moments to adjust before checking Google Maps and heading off towards my hostel, weaving through back streets and narrow alleys before finally turning on Istiklal Street.

WTF! TOO MANY PEOPLE.

Istiklal Street stopped me in my tracks as I tried to adjust to this new level of chaos. It was a swirling tidal wave of babbling humanity, people coming at you from every conceivable angle, bumping and thumping or elbowing past.

I was drowning slightly in this swollen flood of people and the sheer energy of it all was ferociously overwhelming. Pushing my way to the edge, I swam across the human rip and finally slipped into a sidestreet to escape the crowd and get back on track.

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Ahhh…so close! Just down this dark narrow alley.

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Only 2 streets off the chaos, down an eerily silent and deserted back alley,Β  I find my little Jumba hostel, a wonderful family run Hostel snuggled in between cafes and antique shops and my home for the next 3 weeks.

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After a bit of a ‘Mission Impossible’ session to find the right door, enter the access code, find the hidden keys in a bookcase and figure out the trick to open the Hostel door, it was a self check in to a quiet, empty Hostel and a massive sigh of relief. I was finally here.

11.30pm Thursday – I’m in and can try to get some sleep before heading out to explore my new home bright and early tomorrow.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

5.30am Friday morning, a call to prayer blasts me awake from the mosque right across the street…oh well I’m not getting any more sleep so why not. It’s a nice way to wake up actually, and a perfectly beautiful day to start exploring πŸ™‚

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So what to do on Day 1? It was stinking hot and humid by 7am so the first port of call was coffee.Β  All I had to do was find a decent coffee shop closeby, and MAN was I in luck.

Staying in the heart of Beyoglu was pure luck as its full of art galleries, boutiques, cafes and third wave coffee shops…I’m in caffeine heaven here at the moment, and I soon found Kronotrop roastery about 3 minute walk away. BRILLIANT coffee and a quick double espresso plus croissant got me started for a long way of walking.Istanbul.

Now you’ll remember that I did virtually NO research on Istanbul. What I didn’t realise is that this city is built on 7 hills and is much like the hilliest parts of San Francisco pretty much all over.

If you walk, its a hillclimb all the way.

The first day I walked 17kms and by the end of it my legs were cramping and I was exhausted. But I felt AMAZING and had walked all over my neighbourhood to get my bearings, then headed farther and farther afield. By the end of the day I had a good grip of where I was and the layout of the city (at least this part).

Day 2 and 3 were me realising how massive this city is and how I cant possibly hope to explore it all even in 3 weeks (especially on foot, as Day 2 was over 20kms of city hiking, day 3 close to 24km).Β  My “dont have a plan” plan wouldn’t work here.

So I made a list : what were the touristy things to see and how could I get them out of the way first.

Galata Tower, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, Grand Bazaar, Egyptian Spice Bazaar, Bosphorus tour. These were the dot points that every other 3 day backpacker hits when they come to Istanbul, so I set out with a plan to cover them all off over the next few days and then dig a little deeper once I scratched that “tourist” itch.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday I walked close to 100kms around this city from dawn til dusk, at first ticking the tourist boxes and then getting purposefully lost. If I recognised a street, I’d turn off it just to see where the new road led.

Getting lost in a new city with no time constraints is a wonderful luxury and the best possible way to explore. Pretty soon I was heading out into areas that the tourists didn’t go. To the not so pretty areas, to the ruined derelict buildings and the garbage filled empty lots filled with streets cats, barking dogs and rotting refuse.

To the tourist free parts of town where life happens.

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I learned that the street dogs with the green ear tags are rabies free and that the others aren’t. (soooo many street dogs). That the street cats here are actually well loved and cared for (it’s a City of Cats and its just wonderful).

I discovered that street food is safe and plentiful and I that need to try the stuffed clams and the fish sandwiches. That Gosleme and Manti are super easy to make and that a shot of aniseed flavoured Raki will blow your socks off. That Turkish standup comedy is hilarious and Open Mike Nights in English here are a lot of fun. That the roar of the city wide Call to Prayer is ‘live” here and not recorded, that the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia ‘sing’ to each other at Prayer Times, and that the Romans actually did actually do amazing things here that persist today (like the massive Basilica water cistern under the city and the 12 miles of aqueduct that supplied it)

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I also learned that the Internet is heavily monitored and censored by the government, that using VPNs is illegal here, and that negative online comments about the country and it’s leader can land you in prison. I wandered along discretely with the now-banned weekly ‘Saturday Mothers’ protest, snapping away quietly until the plainclothes Police began arresting people and the Riot Police moved in with water cannon trucks and tear gas; eventually getting noticed, picked up and questioned by the uniformed Police about being at this protest – ‘Who are you, what are you doing here, give me your camera…” – *more on this later.

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I was bewitched by the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and the Suleiman mosque, and the history on display at the Museums and Galleries, and found more of this city’s Roman and Byzantine history that is ever mentioned in the tourist brochures, and what I discovered delighted me.

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to be continued (once I’m in Nepal…)

stinkyman… (2 carriages : 1 bitch part 2)

… so where was I?

OK. Oradea.

Stunning place.

I step a long half meter down to the platform – Ms Shittypants has waited til last to leave as well. We carefully avoid eye contact as we hit the concrete: thankfully she is quickly lost in the crowded station.

The station is tiny!

Pushing through the milling throng waiting to get on the train, I headed for the ticket and information office to find out about my connection – due in 35 minutes.

Luckily it’s seems quiet and no long queues.

The arrivals and departures are in Romanian – pfffft no dramas – Google Translate nails it but I can’t see my train listed.

IR263 from Oradea to Cluj-napoca.

Nothing even close.

Ok…

So what about the clicketty clack board showing the next 4 arrivals/departures?

Not a sausage.

“Dammit!”

Where’s my connection?

I line up at the Information window and wait my turn quietly (Romanians are the best at queues, like Canberrans only better).

Finally I get to the window and slap my ticket up against the glass.

“Salut !” says I merrily, with the now patented dumb tourist smile. “which platform is IR 263 to Cluj please?”

The lady damn well eyerolls me!

She looks at the ticket, looks at the train about to leave (the one I just got off) looks at me and says “that one – platform 1 – you have 1 minute!- GO!”

“FUCK what!!!!!!”

“Merseeeeeeeeeee…” I call as I run out the door into the platform and can feel her second eyeroll penetrate my back like a bullet.

I sprint to the train as the doors close but my tiny brain monkey πŸ’ “ooks” at me…

“Oook! Hold on a tick…”

I stop and run up to the poorly uniformed unshaven guard at the door, already knowing that he speaks no English. I show him my ticket and point to the train just about to leave.

“Da? Nu?” I ask.

He shakes his head “nu” and I run back inside to the ticket counter.

“The guard says no” I tell the lady.

She eyerolls me a third time and jabs a inch long bright red fingernail at the train on platform 1.

“Why do you mean he said no. THAT one!” and stabs a finger again to the train I just got off.

Her drawn on eyebrows almost pop off her head, she raises them so high.

“FUCK! / oook! ” say my brains in unison.

I run out and punch the green open door button on the train door and move up towards first class, back to where my seat was.

There’s a new lady sitting there now, but someone well dressed and under 40 so English hopefully!!! I smile dumbly and show her my ticket.

She says kindly, as if speaking to a child “let me see…No, not this one…”,

“I should get off?”

“Yes you need to get off”

A whistle blows from the platform.

“Merseeeeeeeeeee!!!” I call over my shoulder while running at the door, punching the green button and jumping off just as the train starts to move.

*Bet she eye rolled me, just quietly.

Now alone on the platform, I take a long breath and blow it out like the steam train I wish I was on.

“Whew that was lucky!”

Now what? Do I book another ticket? Is there another train?

The train pulls away, and I wander inside just as a clackitty clack starts clackitty clackiting just above my head and I glance up.

The sign changes slowly, like a spinning wheel on a old fashioned poker machine, but instead of fruit or cards it is spinning letters and numbers.

Sure enough… one character at a time, IR363 : 17.55 clicketty clacks into view on the board. Platform 3 in 20 minutes.

Perfect.

Time for a quick wee, so I wander up and pay 1 leu for the privilege of a 10 second wee in Oradea, then buy a Romanian knockoff Cornetto for 3.5 leu and find a spot on a square wooden planter to sit quietly and contemplate the next leg of the journey.

Quite interesting so far! I should take trains more often!

Munch munch munch on my fake Cornetto.

I notice an odd smell; sniff at my armpit and shirt, then discretely scratch my ass to check if I’ve somehow shat myself.

Nope, not today!

What’s that sm….

<something in Romanian Romanian Romanian> mumbles a voice in my ear, and I turn to see the filthiest man I’ve seen in quite a while carefully place a steaming dirty paper cup on the bench behind me and move to take a seat next to me.

In my head I hear the buzzing of many flies.

He smiles through a mask of grime and tries to strike up a conversation, but it’s no use – I’m tired and hot, but even sign language won’t save this chat as the smell is overpowering, like a dead cat dipped in dogshit and left in a plastic bag for a week.

I apologise and wish him good evening in my bad Romanian ( buno siΓ©ra is as close as I get), shook his hand (wish I hadn’t) and headed for the platform just as my train pulls in.

Excellent timing!

I check my carriage number against the hand written sign stuck to the train window; a lovely lady in a white dress and floppy wide brimmed hat, dragging a zebra suitcase and looking like a Parisian cafe dweller punches the door button and struggles with her bag – I help her up the half metre step up … (of course I do πŸ˜‰ – I’m a gentleman)

“Merci…”

“No worries…”

She turns left and vanishes to the posh end of the train and I head right for cattle class and an unexpected surprise…

The train is lovely!

A second class ticket gets me a window seat and working aircon, the carriage is virtually empty and the group across from me are deaf so it’s practically silent except for the gentle slapping of hands as they sign to each other.

It’s also cooler as we climb into the mountains, just now following the course of a large river. It’s absolutely beautiful out my window, but nearly 9pm : a total shame it’s getting dark just at the best part of the journey.

The remainder of the train journey was lovely – darkness whipping by outside my window, coolΒ  aircon, quiet cabin, and that gentle regular clicketty clack, clicketty clack that puts you to sleep putting me to sleep πŸ’€.

I recharged my phone and didn’t make eye contact or mime with anyone.

Ahhhhh…..

So what next? 10 minutes from Cluj, Then a short half hour walk to my Airbnb in the Old City ( yeees I’m treating myself) where my host is waiting to let me in, and I’m going to sleep in a comfy bed and not a hostel for a few nights.

What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, nothing! My new digs are slap bang in the middle of the Old City, and it’s a quick 25 minute walk from the train station last some of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals and statues I’ve seen yet.

The apartment is super small – almost like a tiny house but it’s perfect : quiet, comfy and just enough room for one.

The host meets me at the door, hands me a key and buggers off, so that’s it!

I’m out for the night, 12am.

Gnight all.

Exploring Cluj tomorrow!

** yes I know my tense is all fucked up. I’ll edit it later. I’m tired.

Roam-ania…

Yep there’s a good reason I haven’t been writing lately: too many Dad jokes and awful puns bouncing around in my brain.

I’ll quietly get them out of the way while I check out a coffee shop Oana recommended – OVRIDE coffee in the Timişoara City Centre. It’s buzzing here, almost as much as my caffeine high – their La Encanta Peruvian blend is making my brain sparkle.

I like this spot. Great coffee and super friendly. The boss is passionate about his coffee – if only the owners wife would let him buy a coffee roaster (no, it will take up too much of his time from his other job) πŸ™‚

Wait what? Romania? …I’d better bring you up to date.

Anyhoo, I hadn’t been traveling all that much since March – well, at least compared to usual, anyway. Some time in Canberra and Melbourne, a few weeks in Thailand – barely enough to feed the ravenous travel beast that howls within.

Waiting on the next contract to go down South again for the 2018/2019 summer had me frustrated and spinning my wheels back in Dubbo (ugh) – medicals done, and no psych testing required this year I was just waiting waiting waiting and walking walking walking.

*Selling my car a few years back may not have been the best move as it kinda screws you when you live in regional Australia.

It also meant that I had nothing but time on my hands – a luxury that I hadn’t placed much value in until only recently. SO…what to do with this time?

Well cleaning out the family storage shed was something that needed to be done, so my sister arranged for a garbage skip, and I set to work over the course of a week or so going over the poorly boxed contents of our parents house – the result of 60 years of marriage and a lifetime together – and figuring out what to keep and what to discard.

Every book, box, envelope and slip of paper had to be examined to determine worth, and then either kept or chucked out. It was surprisingly tough to revisit the memory of my parents, especially all the photographs and hand written notes, personal letters and cards that they kept.

Some of the small things stirred powerful emotions. Dad’ s old California crutches – the ‘clickey clack’ sound they make evokes memories of him. His 4 pairs of hearing aids, his 3 pairs of glasses, his pocket knife and the other little things he kept on his person at all time in his bulging shirt pockets.Β  I gave them all to the Salvos (except his pocket knife – I kept that)

All the little items that they’d scrimped and planned and saved for, the minutiae of their everyday life that was mostly only valuable now as a historical reference and a curiosity for later generations. What wasn’t thrown out was all neatly boxed and packed up – an entire lifetime in a dozen boxes.

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The whole ‘clean up the shed’ exercise showed exactly how much I’d been avoiding their deaths however and was a chance to acknowledge that. To linger with their memory and say goodbye.

What about my own crap! I started on my own stuff. The remaining physical baggage , boxes and reminders of things from my past best cut away and left far behind. Hoarded for almost 30 years. I could be more ruthless with this.

Keeping photographs and some old primary school books (covered with comic book covers, full of mopey teenage letters, short stories and self indulgent writings from when I was a little kid right through to High School), it was fun to read through them all, get a glimpse myself before: a good kid but a little too serious. Most everything else went in the bin.

In hindsight this ‘cleansing’ was important though, decluttering and simplifying my life even further than I had before.

And then it was done. Shed cleaned, decluttering complete.

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I was a little bit empowered.

Next…

Training? Sure! There was a Data Cabling certification that I needed to get for this summer to be considered for the Antarctica role – easy peasy! A week in Canberra (thanks Lou) , a 2 week vacay in Chiang Mai that I’ve told you about already, then another week in Melbourne (thanks Steve) and the certification was done.

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Qualified Data Cabler? Check.

Now what?

I scored another day as an extra on a TV show over in Mudgee, which was great fun as usual and I got to see the crew that I’d gotten to know of the last year or so.

**On a side note, the series is Doctor Doctor – its actually a decent show! I finally watched a few seasons on the flight here.

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Next…

Shit. It’s winter. Even the kangaroos were wondering why I was still here.

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WTF dude.

The prospect of spending a few more months in a wintry Dubbo was not filling me with boundless joy, and due to my general uselessness I’d stuffed up the dates for attending a friend’s birthday in Spain by almost a whole monthΒ  (Sorry CB).

All was not lost!

Chatting to another yoga buddy from a Svastha course last year, I’d been promising to come visit in her home city of Timisoara, Romania for a while.

So I thought, why not? I’ve never been to Romania and it would be only my second time in Europe. Another glass of wine, and ticket booked! I’d arrive the week after my friends birthday (see, told you – shitty timing) and right in the middle of their summer.

So I hit the airways again…

Travelling lighter and lighter these days and am getting a little too used to this lifestyle I think. 7.1kg of carry-on luggage for 3 months travel. Who does that. Jeez.

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Dubbo>Sydney>>Hong Kong>Frankfurt>Timisoara – just on 30 hours with short layovers.

So here I am – enjoying sunny 30+ degree days in Timisoara Romania – an elegant, modern and vibrant city: a restoration ‘work in progress’ in parts but with such beautiful bones.

The old Roman era and later versions of Timisoara are still here once you dig deeper or get outside the city centre, but the new?

It’s a University city and a Tech hub, with a healthy Cafe and budding Coffee scene, a decent Theatre and Arts community and a politically engaged younger population – not so long removed from the stifling effects of Communism – angry at the corruption issues plaguing the country today.

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I’ve been here for about 10 days now and have spent the bulk of it roaming around the city exploring every nook and alley, meeting some lovely people, failing a lot at Romanian, but generally trying to immerse myself in the day to day of life here – yes, largely just an observer but I’m so very keen to learn more.

It’s absolutely fascinating here – my first experience in an ex-communist country and I’m loving at least this part of Romania so far…

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So with the roaming come the words apparently!

All this walking is shaking something loose and I’ll be telling you all about it very soon.

Stay tuned…I’m reinstating my rule of once a week posts again.

This writing thing is good for the soul.

πŸ™‚

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Here’s the thing…

…creatively, I can only seem to function in crisis mode.

When things are going along nicely, my little dark wordy well of hopelessness and despair runs dry, along with any desire to write or create or share.

‘Thank Fuck! – keep your whiny bullshit to yourself’, you cry.

Fear not and rest assured, Dear Reader, that as soon as I attempt to engage anyone socially, some amusing shit will happen and the well shall fill again. And you’re gonna read about it.

*I also swear a lot when I’m annoyed – personality flaw #34

You are welcome.

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No.

Lately my brain is bursting with ‘whys’, ‘wheres’, and ‘wtf’s’ and I gotta get this shit outta my head and be done with it.

Writing does exactly that for me and by casting out these thoughts into the ether I can hopefully let them go.

No surprises for guessing why the restless mind though (if you really think about it for a second and have been following my path)

Yes, of course its woman related. It always seems to circle back to that.

This time it goes a little something like this…

I’ve been back from Antarctica for about 8 weeks now – the first few weeks were spent readjusting to a very real and soberingly regional Dubbo world, and then quickly and solidly reinserting a social filter before I got murdered by some irate ‘norm’ (whilst simultaneously removing my head from my ass).

Somehow, in this brief 8 week period of WTF I found, jumped into and subsequently blew an unexpectedly brilliant opportunity with an extremely good woman.

It started with an almost accidental date to see a film ( say ‘almost accidental’ as I didn’t expect her to say yes – but I still asked)

… cmon!!!! it’s a perfect first-date flick and you know it.

She loved it, I loved it, I walked her to her car, we small talked while she fished out her keys, we kissed, then kissed again, said good night, she turned and tried to get into the wrong car (that looked the same as her own that was actually parked a few spaces back)… totally perfect first date meet cute πŸ‘ŒπŸ».

Such a beautiful place to start and it just evolved organically from there.

It was going so well until it wasn’t.

I’m not quite sure why (and even if) it’s tanked just yet and that’s really the crux of it.

A ‘fail’ on this one is just doing my head in as on paper, we’re a great match.

It’s not so much that I tanked it (**yet to be proven**), but I really don’t even know what I did.

This is a common theme apparently.

I was just being myself and I guess thats either not enough or too much for some people.

*I also talk a lot of shit when I’m nervous or invested and my particular sense of humour isn’t for everyone.

**Yeah that was probably it. The nervy verbal diarrhoea.

***nah can’t be my sense of humour – I’m hilarious!!!

In any case she’s just stopped communicating now, after a 5 day long weekend together in Melbourne that we were both super excited about (and which was admittedly quite a lot to bite off for both of us – shes just out of a 2 year relationship and I’m just 2 years past the whole Jen episode).

But we wanted to get to know each other so went for it.

*Feel free to chime in – wtf women? what is the deal here. 3 days of fairly normal, then bit of a teary episode , and 2 days of hiding away in a impenetrable bubble of indifference. I’m totally confused.

We don’t live in the same city which makes things a little tricky also.

Look I’m not even sure if its over – (although i guess if she reads this then its possibly ‘job done’)Β  – there’s just no momentum now or communication at all from her compared to the previously daily chats and hour long phone calls.

Now there are brief responses, one word answers, and a callus cordiality.

Hey I get it, you know, shes not into me now and I can dig it but it’s the radical change of pace and policy without so much as a “Hey soz I’m outta here’ that is puzzling πŸ€” .

Nothing I can do about it now anyway. Dont want to be ‘that guy’ – the one that can’t take a hint.

News flash ladies – just tell me, don’t hint. I don’t do hints.

Aaaaaaaargh. So annoying.

Anyway…fuck it, I guess.

So I’m in Thailand again now (Chiang Mai – yes ran away from the big bad world again to get some head space) and it doesn’t matter as much. I’ve physically removed myself from the situation. Her loss. I’m awesome.

Just landed today, checked into my fave hostel (Bed Addict) and having breakfast at my fave cafe (The Larder).

…at least the Larder girls were happy to see me back and even remembered my coffee πŸ™‚

The words are flowing nicely so standby as life unfolds and moves forward again at least for the next month or so, and loose plans are forming as to my travels from here…

I’ll keep you posted.

**if u do read this, HA ! Just kidding. πŸ™‚

…roundtripper

This will be a blomit and I’ll fix it later.

Read at own risk as this is a brain dump from the past 2 weeks at sea during the Macquarie Island resupply (v4)

Well this trip is certainly a very different journey so far … what is this ‘work’ thing that I’m expected to do?

Ha πŸ™‚

The last 4 weeks ( v1 and v3) on the Aurora Australis were as an Expeditioner – so my actual job started when I got to the research station and my days on the ship were filled with endless free time.

This short trip so far ?

Flat out. So busy! 12 hours days (7am-7pm) so far and so much to learn. I expected as much and I’m loving it.

We had dolphins again escort us out of Hobart, and I barely got up into the fresh air ( 4 hours after leaving) before the ship did an handbrake turn and headed back towards Hobart. There had been a critical piece of scientific equipment left on the docks, and it couldn’t be left behind. It would be loaded on a fast boat 🚀 and we would steam back to meet the boat somewhere off Hobart.

An almost 8 hour exercise in backtracking. The unexpected bonus being we all got cell service ( and Internet) back on the ship – so some frantic last minute app updating and software download occurred.

Was actually a lucky πŸ€ break that we turned back as it proved useful to solve many IT issues that would not have been resolved otherwise ( no internet on the ship, you see)

So we rinse and repeated – did a ship to ship transfer of the kit, rechecked the manifests, and turned once again towards Macquarie Island. The dolphins rested us a little less enthusiastically this time, but we were finally on our way.

The ocean was like a barely stirring millpond – barely a swell nor roll to be felt onboard, and the night brought overcast skies and a promising sunset.

Saturday was a long day – 12 hours of drills, briefings, and IT problem solving. It vanished in a haze of weariness by 7pm, and I decided to put on an Oscars themed movie night for this voyage in the cinema onboard – all the top nominated pics from this year’s Oscars. (yes I got fast internet in Hobart and abused it completely)

Let’s see how the movie night goes over the next few weeks… tonight I’m starting with The Shape Of Water , which is my new favourite film for several reasons, only one of which is related to the film.

It’s Sunday now, and the seas have decided to challenge us as we approach Macquarie Island, only 24 hours away.

The Southern Ocean is not happy to be woken so early on a Sunday and I’m not thrilled about it either.

Monstrous grey waves 🌊 angrily pound and crash across our portholes; wind-whipped white capped 6 metre waves , driven mercilessly by a 35 knot wind, have finally started to make this trip interesting and the bulk of the passengers are hiding in their cabins (seasick or watching movies on their laptops)

All my morning tasks are complete and I’ve just flicked in our vhf repeater in preparation for the boating operation tomorrow.

Let’s see what today brings πŸ™‚

… more of the same.

Fleet broadband communication issues outgoing from the ship to station was a headache as was getting support out of Kingston ( being a weekend and a public holiday, key support personnel were uncontactable – which always sucks). Best efforts were made but issues and workarounds are the order of the day here so we did the best we could.

The seas are calming also, which is a good sign for the operations ahead.

So now it’s Monday, and the Groundhog Day feeling was just starting to kick in again as a shadowy cloud front on the horizon slowly revealed itself to be Macquarie Island.

The upper bridge was packed as word spread around the ship : we were here.

For the incoming Winterers, this was to be their new home for 6 to 12 months. For the roundtripper, this was where the next 10 days would be spent frantically trying to complete projects and objectives before the weather turned it they ran out of time.

Science and logistics in competition with the plant and its elements in a race against the clock.

Today, Team Science is a clear winner, as the waves calm and the winds drop.

Boating operations with the IRBs ( zodiacs) and the LARCs ( repurposed military DUCKS) commenced and the passengers and equipments started to flow.

King penguin flocks (?) escort the IRBs to and from the ship, their curiosity drawing them closer and closer. More and more animals are visible in the beach but we are just a little too far away to see clearly what they are.

I’m on Bunker Door duty today – a special door usually reserved for pilot transfer in the side of the ship – the three of us being team leads for the next 10 days. Day 1 we are learning the ropes – literally.

It’s a great gig – and we are close (15 feet or so) to the waterline. We will be controlling the passengers and their baggage on and off the ship – passenger processing basically : biosecurity checks and boot baths, PPE and life jacket checks, carry on luggage transfer and of course, helping people climb up and down the long swaying rope and timber ladder slung out over the side of the ship – the only was passengers can get in or off the ship here.

It’s fun to do something different and not IT related. Plus am getting some great photos from this perspective.

Tonight I’m putting on Blade Runner 2049 in the theatre here – continuing the Oscars 2018 theme πŸ˜‰

Tuesday and our Phone issues seem to have finally been sorted out by head office. Having a long weekend back home makes support difficult and frustrating but luckily there are some talented people that know what they are doing.

The ship is deserted as most of the expedition era are leaving this morning to commence their operations on the island.

I have a shirt 3 hour shift in bunker door today, and then am helping out where I can. I have to stay on the ship – Comms Officer and all that – in case they have to haul ass outta here.

Hopefully when the returning Comms guy get on board later in the week I’ll get a chance to go ashore.

**also met Emily coming out of Macca – a friend of Ashley’s (my old housemate) and Kim (summering Bio at Davis with me). It’s a small world indeed.

A little extra duty today as I’ve been tapped in the shoulder to assist the DVL with cargo and manifest duties in deck – helping with the logistics of moving hundreds of pallets/cages of equipment off the ship and into station. We are boating everything across using the ducks ( LARCs) and IRB for passenger tender. It’s certainly a change of pace for me and it’s great to be up on deck where the action is πŸ™‚

I’m a little ill today I think… tired and flat. There’s been a virus getting around on board and I think I’m coming down with something. It’s always seems to happen with an influx of new expeditioners. Some bug ran rampant – an early night for me I think πŸ™‚

Tonight’s movie is Lady Bird.

Wednesday : this place looks like the Island from Jurassic Park. I’m not convinced that there aren’t dinosaurs there. It looks…cinematic.

We circle the island at night and come up close to the station during the day, waiting for the weather window to start ops.

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

The winds have come up and although the oceans are smooth, SOPs won’t allow boating operations until the winds drop below a certain speed. The remaining 15 or so personnel waiting to go ashore are in hourly standby but at this stage it look that best case we’ll get refuelling some but that’s it.

Looking for work onboard today – digging in corners for things to fix so I don’t have to update documentation (ugh). Save that for the trip back.

So tired today I just want to sleep.

Lates, my peeps.

Tonight’s movie is I, Tonya.

Thursday now, and the last of the day trippers have gone ashore. There are three expeditioners left on the ship and it’s eerily quiet.

I’m stuck on board and today is the first day I’ve been bored. There’s nothing to help out with and no tasking from the Div. I might help out in the kitchen.

The island is a 15 minute swim away 😦 but the weather changes every 5 minutes from sun to rain to sleet to snow and then back again

Monday 19th – has it really only been a week???

Feels like an eternity now.

There’s only three of us that haven’t gone ashore yet, and it looks like we won’t. The weather is our enemy here and every window of opportunity is focused on cargo and projects.

Since Friday we have done nothing by dodge the weather and stooge up and down the coast, hiding from the swell, swooping in to anchor quickly to put whatever we could ashore whenever we can.

We may we’ll be late back to Hobart but at this stage it’s all a big ? – completely dependent on the wind, waves and swell. The uncertainty is fucking annoying to be honest – you can’t plan anything and have to be prepared at a moments notice to move.

For the past week or so I’ve been team lead on our bunker door team – basically passenger control and quarantine for peeps getting on or off the ship – and that’s been fun. Hanging out a door in the side of the ship helping people up and down the ladder only a few metres above the water gives you a new perspective on the ocean and the island . **I cracked the viewfinder glass on my good camera (grrr) on some dangling metal fitting on the harness we have to wear. Hope it’s a cheap replacement :/

Finally saw The Last Jedi – Sunday night movie 🍿 here and what a beautifully shot piece of shit that was. Such a stupid movie with stupid characters making stupid decisions and stupid speeches. And the stupid attempts at comedy. And Frozen Space Leia. And that whole stupid lame casino caper fucktarded thing. And Porgs. And mincing villains with Family Guy- type humour. And Phasmas big moment. AAARGH FFKS. My God, Disney are killing Star Wars already. So disappointed 😒… ut it was absolutely beautifully shot and designed though…kudos for that but the whole story was a b grade stinker.

Monday 19th and nothing has changed. We are advised to bunker down and burn the day. Great. Movies, read my books and the odd IT job to do. Yawn. Another 12 hour shift on call.

Tuesday 20th and we’re still here.

No cargo ops today although they are going to try after lunch. The weather is improving as is the ocean conditions – still a day and a half of cargo ops that they need to do so it looks like we are staying out til it’s done…

I’ve started a midday movie and afternoon tv session in the theatre and as boredom kicks in on board, I’m getting quite a few people in πŸ™‚

Today it’s a 12.30pm matinee of “The Shape of Water” , then at 3pm my “Stranger Things” marathon finally starts πŸ™‚ … tonight it’s “Bone Tomahawk” at 7.30 for some Western action.

Tomorrow is another ” maybe you can go ashore depending on the weather” day but I’m not holding my breath. It’d be nice to get into the island for a while and explore but my world won’t end if I don’t . I’m getting a bit sick of being on the ship to be honest – it has been almost a month at sea now if you don’t count the 3 days alongside between voyages – cooped up inside isn’t a lot of fun.

Im running out of things to do so to stay productive I’m starting on documentation.

DOCUMENTATION!!!

That’s how bored it’s getting now it’s not that busy. I keep asking myself (and everyone else in my chain of command) “is there anything I should be doing that I’m not?”. The answer seems to be “as long as you keep the punters happy”.

So far so good.

This post is too long and boring

To be continued.

…back

We just rounded the lighthouse at the tip of Tasmania and got cell service! Guess that means I’m back, at least for a little while.

Mixed feelings today, but the dolphins that surfed our wake and escorted us in definitely put a smile on my dial.

Will be in our berth by 2pm, hotel by 4pm and in the pub by 6pm (hopefully) for final drinks and lots of farewells.

Warning : This will be a blomit of thoughts from the past 2 weeks at sea. Reading it is up to u. Pics and vids later as I edit for clarity.

It’s Wednesday after my last post and the second day at sea, aboard the Aurora Australia bound for Hobart … it’s just on dinner time – 5.30pm – and I’m in my top bunk just staring out the porthole at the rolling grey seas outside. Just thought I’d try to write something to capture some moments on the trip home.

What happened yesterday?

Well not much and I slept for most of it. The first night out was typical – 1 snorer in a 3 berth cabin makes for shitty sleep. I haven’t suffocated him in his sleep yet but it’s still early in the trip and I have a spare pillow.

Accidents happen at sea.

Joking!

Or am I …

Probably not.

*The snoring gene needs to be wiped from the gene pool sometime and I’m happy to do my bit.

The ocean is beautiful tonight.

Anyway I slept most of Tuesday and spent the afternoon catching up with the other returning expeditioners. Brendan the ITO at Mawson is aboard and we chatted briefly about our experiences and the ups and down of station life.

There was an aurora rumoured to be visible around 2am and I tried to stay up for it – reading in bed – but fell asleep and was awoken 10 hours later by the ships emergency alarm and a Muster.

(Picture a sleeping cat suddenly thrown into a bathtub. That’s me)

Falling elegantly out of a top bunk is a skill that I’m still developing.

After the throwing on the emergency survival gear and tromping up to the freezing helicopter deck for a Muster and Emergency drill, it was time for a quick coffee to defrost before grabbing my camera and spending the next 7 hours happily shutterbugging away on the freezing decks.

We punched our way through the seaice all last night and for most of today, the ship weaving around the larger bergs and crunching through the ice floes, scattering more seals that I’ve seen in the past 3 months.

On the gently undulating icepack, rhythmically pulsing with the ocean swell below, the number of seals was astonishing – family groups of Weddells, Crabeater, and fur seals were lounging around wherever you looked.

**I saw my first leopard seal this morning about 10 metres from the ship but my damn camera card screwed up (flaky write protect) and wouldn’t write. Camera locked up as the perfect leopard seal photo vanished in my viewfinder.

Naturally I had a mini tantrum – stress does weird things to people and I definitely qualify as that now.

Stomped my foot, swore viciously, loudly, profusely and (much to my embarrassment) was overheard by someone that hadn’t heard me swear ever. 😬 πŸ™Š I do have a talent for it.

They were a little shocked. I was a little embarrassed. Awesome.

Anyhoo the bird life was also crazy : giant Petrels, Albatross, snow Petrels and several other kinds I’ve not seen yet.

We punched slowly past massive icebergs carved into art by the churning grey-green ocean; then even larger bergs covered in vast colonies of sea birds.

At one point the sky was swarming with several wheeling masses. Disturbed by the ships passage they flocked in flowing feathery swirls inked black against the fading greys and icy whites of the Southern ocean.

Tens of thousands of birds covering icebergs hundreds of miles from land. Mesmerising to watch and it even surprised the biologists among us.

I’ve had to defrost my hands several times today (despite the gloves) and it’s the first time they’ve been painfully numb from the cold…a hot water defrost causing actual pain. oops again.

It is below freezing still.

Anyway after a few hours of editing and sorting my photos and videos, I adjourned to the cabin for a snooze.

**just been told I snoozed through a whale alert – pod of whales πŸ‹ sighted … dammit :/

I’m going to skip dinner and go back to 1 meal a day I think. Put on 6 kilos since October and it’s not from exercise, I can tell you πŸ™‚

So as of now, there’s a swell and we’ve broke free of the pack ice into the open ocean. The ship is rocking and a rolling and I’m in heaven again. I’ve been wandering around this afternoon whistling and singing to myself like a crazy person.

It’s so good to be back on the ship though – I think I love being at sea πŸ™‚

** so much for skipping dinner …chicken schnitzel and veges mmmmmmm .. best sit up in the bridge for a while and check out the views while dinner settles.

Thursday morning was hard to take as from late Wednesday evening the ship began its trademark wallowing in the east swells.

For some reason it was impossible to sleep as the unusual action combined with shoddy bunks to produce a deafening groan and creak every time the ship rolled.

Let’s not forget 2am also brings the snorer into play. Fkn awesome and I left my earplugs in Antarctica.

About 4am sleep finally came for me so when the sun streamed in about 11.30pm ( the start of lunch) my first thought was to stagger up in deck for some fresh air and wake up before diving into the bowels of the ship to find the Mess.

Up one ladder and a flight of stairs into the Helicopter deck and I stepped out into a warm cloudy but yet sunshiney morning.

Stifling a yawn I wandered over to the starboard side and glanced out as the sun cleared the clouds.

There was a commotion below.

My ears almost touched behind my head, so wide was my smile.

Humpbacks!

We had stopped to recover and redeploy a whale mooring – a underwater bouy that helped track and record the migratory movements of whales.

We were in the middle of a whale migration freeway, and we’d be here for hours.

πŸ™‚ hee heee!!

I flew downstairs to grab my camera.

The pair circled the ship once, twice – a little wary but not afraid. One of the crew said that usually a pod that’s been hunted will scatter but these guys were just super curious and probably hadn’t come across humans before. Lucky for them.

This was the first time in my life I’ve seen humpbacks and they were virtually in my lap!

A small group of us stood out on the helo deck and watched the whales wander off into the distance…a clinking and clunking from below from the recovery of the whale mooring equipment (an underwater satellite of electronics in a sealed unit about the size and shape of a 44 gallon drum). The device (2000 metres or so below) had responded to its radio signal from the ship, released its ballast and after a 20 minute ascent from the bottom of the ocean, bobbed to the surface for recovery. The replacement device was already prepped and the operation was then repeated in reverse, the experiment was reset for the next 12 months, and we were on our way again.

… skip to Tuesday 27th. 5 days later and all of them Groundhog Days.

Driven slightly mad by lack of deep sleep – thanks 2am snorer – life became very simple. Eat, sleep, read, repeat.

*the snoring starts every single night at 2am ish and goes til 4am ish – like clockwork. I woke out of a short sleep last night, threw my top bunk mattress into the floor and slept on the floor of the cabin to escape the groaning bunk beds -when the deep gurgling snoring began, I started awake and yelled out “choke already you bastard” before I was awake – not my finest moment*

The routine aboard the AA can become extremely so. After settling in, the 90 or so passengers aboard vanished into their own rooms and worlds of report writing, watching movies on their laptops, or reading. Social time was mealtimes, and napping πŸ’€ was the second most popular pastime. Breakfast 7.30-8.30, lunch 11.30-12.20, dinner 5.30-6.30. Outside of those times the ship was a ghost ship as the station based social habits ebbed away.

Everyone has become introverted to a degree, for a little while at least – cocooned in this big orange chrysalis while we transition to whatever our evolved forms will be.

There was a small core of hardy gym enthusiasts, card players and readers that hung in there but the bulk of the passengers were in hibernation.

None for me, thanks πŸ™πŸ»

So the past few days highlights included :

AURORA!! a few clear nights and a few short partial deep green banded auroras lighting up the sky for the briefest of moments through a rare hole in the clouds. Another first for me πŸ™‚

RAIN! I felt the rain on my face again for the first time since October last year and it was good.

HUMIDITY! The abnormal dryness of the Antarctic air is gone, replaced with a blessed moisture.

HEAT! It’s consistently above 3 degrees now, 5 degrees as I type this; shorts and t-shirt weather for us all in the rare sun breaks that we are starting to have.

TIME! We had a 4 hour time change just now – so are now aligned with Mainland Australia again.

CALM OCEANS! Under 5 metre swell and 30 Knott winds all the way. This equals a good nights sleep 😴 for a change and we’ve been making almost 14 knots instead of 10/11 which means…

EARLY ARRIVAL! So as of today, we have 5 days to go and should get in to port around midday on Sunday – almost 3 days earlier than expected.

Wednesday 28th: post 4 hour time warp. Weather is almost 8 degrees but cloudy and rainy with a 5 metre swell and light winds. Stayed up talking til the wee hours. Late dinner at 6pm/10pm. No sleep last night – finally drifted off at 4am/8am and woke a few hours later … crawled out of bed for lunch at 7am/11am and it’s a ghost ship again. My body clock is so broken my eyes hurt… Everyone is suffering today. Hanging out in my rack watching Californication and trying to reset .πŸ’€

OMG – the snorer must die.

Skip to Friday 1st March, after everyone recovered from the time change and the routine kicked back in.

The weather is hovering around sunny and 10 degrees. It’s barely raining now. People are out on the helo deck in shorts and t shirts getting some rays.

**Had my Comms Officer briefing today. One of my roles on V4 is to manage Emergency Satellite and Radio Comms if there is a critical event. Like the radio operator on the Titanic I’ll be tap tap tapping away when the ship sinks – or catches πŸ”₯ or pirates attack – something like that πŸ™‚ Was shown all the radio and satellite gear and procedures so let’s hope I never have to use them!

We are all anxious to get back to Hobart now – only a few days to go. Saturday will see a final emergency drill, cleaning our cabins and getting our gear ready to go through Customs etc in Sunday afternoon.

There’s not much happening today but a formalish dinner tomorrow night really underlines that this current chapter is over.

Skip to Sunday – we just rounded the lighthouse at the tip of Tasmania and are in the final run to Hobart.

This morning the ships was abuzz with cabin cleaning and last minute packing. Getting our Customs and quarantine stuff in a pile and filling in paperwork.

The first views of land at dawn was a final confirmation that this part of our journey is over.

All that remains now is to get into port ( around 2pm), clear Customs (3pm) and then get through the official welcome home ceremony and have a few well earned red 🍷.

Then a debrief at the Division headquarter Monday, a few meetings and I’ll have a few days free before sailing off to Macquarie Island in Friday for another 2 week voyage and the station resupply.

I could get used to this kind of life.

πŸ™‚

Out.

…silent night

Sorry I haven’t been writing much – its hard to find the motivation lately and although I don’t have much to say, I do have a lot on my mind.

I’ll try little bits and pieces to restoke the creative fires.

So here goes…

It’s Sunday night and I’m settling in for the start of ‘Star Wars Sundays’ – a little something I’ve cooked up as a bit of a Star Wars celebrations now that ‘The Last Jedi’ is released and we’ve got SFA chance of seeing it in the cinemas.

Tonight I’m kicking off the season with Rogue One in our little Theatrette here at Davis Research Station.

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This is primarily to try to get past this feeling of isolation – an ‘aloneness’ that’s crept in over the past few days – despite being constantly surrounded by people its easy to get lost in the crowd here. I’ve been avoiding people a bit – the library and theatre have been a great place to hide out in the dark.

Hopefully being surrounded by fellow Star wars geeks will help.

Also its Christmas time – my least favourite time of the year at the best of times (for many reasons) driven home by being away from whats left of my family (which usually doesn’t bother me), and this creeping icy aloneness thing I mentioned.

It’s an old enemy but I know a few tricks.

I do miss my small circle of friends though. Facebook messenger doesn’t quite cut it but its all there is really.

We got the last pre-Christmas Mail in the other day – the station excitement levels were ramped up as gifts and cards and such arrived from friends, family and loved ones back home. It made me all too aware of the gaps in my life I guess and it really kicked my funk off.

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Christmas …meh.

Anyway..

Lets talk about the wind.

Its been blowing a technical blizzard here since Saturday evening – a howling, shrieking gale gusting up to 80 knots and strong enough to take you off your feet. There is no break in its fury, except for the occasional cyclonic gust that blasts your face with driven snow , dust and gravel. It drives you backwards and forwards and sideways with every step.

You don’t lean into this wind, you lean ON it. Hard.

You grab walls and handrails. People next to you. Vehicles. Signposts. Penguins.

You shuffle your feet, head bowed, less this bastard wind takes your leg away mid step and throws you to the stony ground.

Get the picture? It’s a bit windy.

I saw a guy taken by the wind yesterday, and if not for a quick jacket-grab from his colleague, he would have been blown down to the dock.

And then there’s the visceral unearthly sound of it.

It howls and rages around the stairwells and guy lines and radio masts, it shrieks and slams into the buildings with a relentless crash and smash, throwing anything not tied down into the air like a demented poltergeist: it’s endless assault setting up harmonic vibrations that make all of the manmade structures shiver and shake and rattle and groan. Its almost impossible to sleep.

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…and it’s effect on the landscape here is stunning and immediate.

There is barely any snow left here now, its been atomised and blown to the ends of the earth. Whats left is buried under a crusty brown layer of dirt.

The dust has been swept from the ground, blasted into our faces like a gritty horizontal hail, until theres nothing left to strip away. With its unsatiated appetite for destruction, the wind vents it’s frustration on the earth and starts to carve its way into the Antarctic bedrock.

A frightening force of nature and a reminder of how dangerous Mother Earth can be.

**MASSIVE fun though to jump INTO the wind and be carried along although I’ve almost come undone a few times now πŸ™‚

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The most surprising effect for me is how quickly it erodes and rots the sea ice.

The islands we walked to last weekend, accessible by ice 1.8 meters thick, are now surrounded by open ocean again. Whitecaps 15 feet high pound the edges of the sea ice, dust and dirt cover the once blue-green ice, increasing the rate of melt.

It’ll be all gone in the next few days if this keeps up, but the positive thing to take away is that once the ice is gone, boat trips up to 3nm out to sea become a possibility. It’ll mark the return of the Elephant Seal colonies, and the penguins will leave their rookery and hunt in packs/swarms/huddles in the open ocean (whatever the Hell a group of Penguins is called)

Bring on the iceberg cruises!

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*Anchorage Island – the central memorial cross has been torn away by the wind

So what else is new?

Well I just came off 2 days of survival training that was great fun and an amazing learning opportunity.

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Choppered out to a remote Hut where a small team of us practiced our Sea Ice survival and rescue skills, drilling sea ice samples for depth and research…

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…and finally a 18Km death march with full pack and navigation exercises in some of the most rugged and remote country I’ve ever been in.

Well…apart from Australia I guess.

IMG_5633*heading down to Deep lake in the Vestfold Hills. Saltier than the Dead Sea.

Apparently much of it looks like remote areas in Canada, although Ive never been so will have to take our training officers word for it. What do you reckon?

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I’d think not.

IMG_5630 (1)*traversing some massive blizztails and snow drifts on the way home

But it sure is pretty thoughΒ  πŸ™‚

We hiked and dug our evening ‘graves’, slept deep in the snow in our ‘chip packets” – basically a yellow ripstop plastic bag, a thin foam mat and a down sleeping bag, using our packs for pillows.

It was much warmer than you’d think.

Sleeping out under the open Antarctic sky, in the endless daylight and complete absence of sound was something that ill never forget. It was an eerie quiet, with barely a breath of wind, or whisper of sound from anywhere.

2am I awoke, but even this early hour brought only the occasional whistle of a hunting snow petrel or rustle of a chip packet as a team mate stirred but that was all.

A deathly silent night.

We could have easily been on the moon, or in the vaccuum of space, or deep deep deep underwater. This place was completely alien, completely silent and completely entrancing.

IMG_5623*Digging in for the night – its 9pm

IMG_5626*our cosy snow ‘graves’ for the night.

We hiked the long and arduous 18kms back through this incredibly alien landscape using a compass and map, through glacier carved valleys crisscrossed by black dykes of rock, around snow melt lakes so salty you could float in them, and deep powdery snowdrifts waiting to swallow you up.

I was completely out of my element…

IMG_5619*black rock dykes crisscross the landscape – different molten rock types flowed and cooled at different speeds to form this unusual landscape

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…and in absolute heaven.

Hey maybe I should write more often πŸ™‚ i feel better already.

to be continued…