Atlantic Ocean

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To the east of Georgetown, Long Beach appears to be a miniature Somme. It’s as though war games have been played out by an old general. I can picture him, a handlebar moustache, liver-spotted hands moving figures here and there. The wasted eggs of green turtles akin to dead men. Broken shells scavenged away by a harsh ecology. The sea adding its own madness. A metronome rhythm shanking the sands into steep banks that reptiles haul themselves up in the night and back down as the dark passes.

 

During the evening I join a green turtle tour run by Emily, Daniel, Maddie, and Maria, four British interns. We walk through poor-lit streets, passing a thorn tree where a lone donkey stood all day watching the few cars come and go. With only red light to guide us we move down the track. The sea is oscillating with each wave. There’s no moon but a vivid milky way offers a tight strip of distant stars. The Southern Cross hangs above the peak of Cross Hill where HMS Hood’s guns point out to sea.

 

We stand still in the warm air as we wait for Daniel to radio back. He’s searching for a turtle in the near catatonic egg-laying stage. These green turtles are the largest of their kind. On Ascension Island the world’s second largest nesting occurrence of this species lasts between December and April. This is a small, young island. The green turtle is an old species. Yet they improbably met across an ocean. The female adults will have been returning every three years for decades. Adult males will return every year, they expend less energy than the females.

 

When the call comes we tread carefully round the pits, following red light from head torches. And there she is, hauled up on a beach miles from anything else, except the sea where she lives, mates and travels between coastal plains.

 

Open wounds along her midriff show where males have clung on during sex. The deep lacerations are the marks of inconsiderate lovers. She will have stored the sperm to release it on her own terms. The females drag themselves up these steeply shelved beaches over several egg-laying sessions. At the start of the season fat rolls out from their shells. By the end of the season they’re emaciated. In this fat-reduced state they still need to swim to the coastal waters of Brazil.

 

As we watch her I sense she’s lost in the moment. Part exhausted, perhaps a little elated at dropping her offspring into this carefully dug pit. With each convulsive tremor journeying across her body another egg is deposited. Egg after egg descends as we listen to wave after wave lapping. The Milky Way sparkles like a universal bioluminescence.

 

We witness this ritual that’s travelled before us through evolutionary time. There is a privilege in being beside her. We wait till she begins pushing sand across her eggs. Then we leave her be.

 

The same night I’m lucky enough to watch turtle hatchlings emerge. Out of the sands they swarm, the slap-patter of tiny flippers mimicking the noise of an insect colony. Once orientated they rush towards the sea, little clockwork bodies scampering across the sand. On Long Beach they’re relatively safe, but on more rocky stretches Sally-lightfoot crabs scurry to capture them and once caught they have their living bodies picked apart. Land crabs will do the same, tearing at the young turtles as their flippers try to drag some friction from the air.

 

Despite the macabre nature of such scenes the place is fascinating; we stand beside the world’s largest green turtles, on an isolated Atlantic island where the world’s second largest nesting of these animals takes place. In the warm night air we feel every moment with these mothers, laying eggs from which one in ten thousand may survive and return here in thirty years’ time. We are lost in the idea of that journey, from Ascension to Brazil and back to Ascension. It is easy to root for them with those odds, and as we do we become lost in our own journeys.

 

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A walk to Lot’s Wife Ponds

The looming parasitic volcanoes of Lot and Lot’s Wife dominate the views. These natural monuments tower out of Sandy Bay National Park on St Helena Island. St Helena was forged out of the igneous factories of the mid-Atlantic ridge some 14 million years ago. Since that time it has become fixed on a collision course with South-West Africa.

They say St Helena is an emerald set in bronze. The bronze being a sad reminder of what 500 years of human intervention can do. This landscape would once have been clothed in endemic woodlands, from the Green Heartland down to the Coastal Zone. Despite this walking from Sandy Bay, over the steep ridges and ravines, to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds is a wonderful experience.

The landscape has cultivated a cultural significance that has stretched through the generations to the modern day. On the sharp ridges beneath Lot’s Wife masked boobies nest on hastily gathered stones. Around the nest site streaks of faeces radiate out appearing to be the white hot flames escaping from a sun. From here the island rises steeply to the Peaks National Park where the world’s rarest trees cling on to existence in the same way they cling to the vertigo inducing slopes.

The path to the ponds is one of the 21 Post Box Walks that capture the wonderful scenery and unique biota of this little isolated island. On the way you can see tiny French grass, yellow-flowered boneseed and the succulent babies’ toes. The Post Box walks are the manageable trails of the island, the ones that take more courage have become known as Death Walks giving walkers a constant reminder of their fate should they lose their footing.

After an hours walk you reach the Post Box containing a comment book and stamp for the keen collector. Beyond the Post Box a steep, and crumbling, descent is aided by a rope tied to a large boulder. This is the final section that takes you to the ponds themselves. Lot’s Wife Ponds have been created on the lee side of Black Rocks, thin sills of stone that break some of the energy from the sea. These natural sea ponds glisten like Blue Topaz.

In calm weather these ponds are good for swimming and snorkelling. When the southerly swells sweep in waves crash over the rocks with alarming ferocity turning the ponds into a rush of turbulence. Sitting here on such days and watching crashes of sea rise a hundred foot into the air is humbling. Especially so when you consider that Napoleon and Darwin may have sat on the same rock, and watched the same seas crash in and out.

Beyond the ponds Speery Island rises like a breaching albino whale, frozen still. The grey-white façade of this island is years of bird guano built up from tropic birds, petrels, boobies, noddies and terns. Johnny Hern once told me, ‘we used to climb Speery Island to collect guano for fertiliser and we’d take the eggs for food. Then we’d jump in from the ledge.’ The ledge is nearly fifty foot high.

I can sit here all day and not see another person, the oscillations of the sea touching the shores from Manati Bay to South West Point. And Humpback whales calve here. They arrive in late winter and remain till spring. They gather on the southern shores of the island. I’ve seen them from here twice. Leeroy, one of the fishermen, has even seen them give birth, ‘the sea turned red and you could hear her.’ He described the sound as a deep moan, perhaps a longing for the pain to wane and motherhood to begin.

On the way back, again without another person in sight, I stop at the fossil bird bones. These are reminders of the now extinct birds that were once endemic here; the ground hoopoe, the two species of petrel and a cuckoo. The walk back follows the same route but this time the views draw towards Sandy Barn, a huge lump of layered volcanic deposits. In the late sun it takes on the colour of icing and the layers make it appear as a monstrous cake straight from Gullivers Travels.

About the Author: David Higgins is a conservationist on St Helena Island. His job is to write the plans for 14 National Conservation Areas including National Parks, Nature Reserves and Important Wirebird Areas. He plans to stay on St Helena as long as the St Helenian people will have him.

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It’s been a lifelong dream, you’ve been inspired by the BBC’s Frozen Planet, you’ve just seen a friend’s photos from their trip or you are a frequent traveller who only has one continent left on their bucket list.  Whatever the reason, the decision has been made: Antarctica will be your next travel destination.

Now what?

Antarctica is a continent like no other.  It is remote, costly and challenging to reach which makes it a ‘once in a lifetime’ adventure for most people.  So you want to get it right!  Once you have made the decision to go, you will need to ask yourself the following questions:

     1.       How will I get there?

Unless you are a scientist, medic or other specialist who has secured a placement at a research station, or are wealthy enough to arrange your own private yacht, your transport options are limited.  Whilst some travel companies have introduced flight options to avoid the Drake Passage or for those who are short of time, the most common method of visiting Antarctica is a group tour via a ship.

     2.       Where will I go?

The most common tour offered is an 11 day round trip from Ushuaia that crosses the Drake Passage towards the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, before returning across the Drake again.  There are alternative tours that travel a little further south and the granddaddy of them all is the three week expedition that encompasses the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica and only has one Drake crossing.  This is the one I chose and it provided an unbeatable combination of historical, wildlife and scenic highlights over a period of time long enough to allow me to completely soak up the experience I was having.  The decision you make will be influenced by your available time, budget and personal interests.

     3.       When will I go?

You will be limited to the Antarctic summer, where tours are offered between November and March.  Again, your decision will be influenced by your personal interests and there are no guarantees when it comes to the continent that plays by its own rules.  Some general guidelines are:

               November:

At the beginning of the tourist season, temperatures are likely to be at their coldest and polar ice is still breaking up which may limit access opportunities.  But landscape is often more pristine, undisturbed and breath-taking.  Whilst there are likely to be less whales at this time of year, the penguins will be finishing their mating season and nesting on their eggs.

               December – mid February

During this period the days are at their longest and the daily temperature at its warmest.  This is the period where wildlife can be at its most plentiful with penguin chicks providing entertaining and endearing sightings.

               Mid-Feb to March

This is the best time for spotting whales but it is likely that a lot of the other wildlife will have returned to sea.  Penguin chicks will be larger and have started to fledge and the temperature will start to drop again.  There may be better access to areas further south and you are more likely to experience rocky and muddy landings rather than snow.

But remember that nothing is guaranteed in Antarctica!  I went in late December and was spoilt with wildlife sightings, especially penguin chicks.  But ice that was not present in November prevented a landing at Elephant Island, after we had already had to change route as the South Shetland Islands were not accessible.

     4.       Who will I go with?

There are a number of tour companies that offer expedition cruises to the region and almost all have great reputations.  I travelled with Quark Expeditions and have nothing but great things to say about them.  I liked that they are polar specialists, have been running tours in the area for a long time and were as enthusiastic about my trip as I was.  Like any tour company decision, do your research and make the decision that suits you.  Your decision may end up being more influenced by the timing of a particular itinerary that you are interested in, the size of the ship or other factors.  The cost tends to be the same amongst the companies, although it’s worth looking out for specials throughout the year to reduce what is an incredibly expensive adventure.  It is also possible to pick up last minute deals in Ushuaia – we had a few passengers on board who had arrived in Ushuaia and booked the trip the previous day – but there is obviously some risk involved in this if you arrive and nothing is available.

 

So after making the initial decision to go, you have now confirmed how, where, when and with whom.  It doesn’t stop there!  You will find yourself asking a number of other questions as you plan your adventure and some of the most common include:

 

What clothes do I need?

Layers, layers, layers!  Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing so instead of worrying about the weather, simply prepare for it.  Quark made it easy by provided us with a yellow expedition parka and waterproof boots, so I only had to bring my base and mid layers.  Moisture-wicking material is best and cotton is worse and you will definitely need waterproof trousers (I prefer the thin ones that you slip on over your trousers).  You will also want comfortable clothes for the ship, which is at a pleasant room temperature and possibly a nice outfit for the occasional party on-board. Don’t forget your sunscreen and sunglasses (polarised glasses make a great photography subject as an added bonus!) and pack a swimsuit to enjoy the Polar Plunge!

Will I get seasick?

The Drake Passage is infamous for being one of the roughest patches of sea in the world.  Likewise the section between the Falklands and South Georgia has been known to get quite rough.  But it’s a lottery, you just don’t know what conditions will be handed to you.  I came prepared with Scopolamine Patches which I took off after the first day as they gave me a hangover-like dry mouth and had me feeling fatigued and prescription sea-sickness pills, of which I took one and it unfortunately knocked me out for the day.  I was lucky that I only felt sea-sick once and we had relatively calm conditions for most of the journey.  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  There will be a doctor on-board for emergencies.

Where will I stay?

The ship will be your ‘mobile base camp’ for the duration of the voyage.  You will leave the ship for zodiac cruises and landings where possible.

What camera equipment should I take?

This completely depends on what type of photographer you are, but take something!  Even if you don’t usually take photographs when you travel, you will find yourself constantly snapping away at wildlife and landscape that needs to be seen to be believed.  I am a serious amateur and photography was one of the main focuses of my trip.  I travelled with a Canon 7D, 10-22mm wide-angle lens, 24-105mm and 100-400mm telephoto.  I found myself using the 100-400mm the most but I used the others enough that I am relieved I brought all three.  I decided against taking a tripod and didn’t regret it but there were some passengers on board using one.  I also brought a backup Canon 7D (which I bought used and am now re-selling at the same price) which proved invaluable when rain in the Falklands created a temporary issue with my main body.  There are no shops in Antarctica and the last thing you want is to be without your camera.

You will take more photos than you have ever taken before, so come prepared with sufficient memory cards and backup options.  I travelled with a portable hard drive and laptop and backed up on a daily basis.  Having the laptop allowed me to organise and review my shots in Lightroom along the way, identify things I was doing wrong and allowed me to correct them the next time I was outside shooting.  It was like being on a three week practical photography workshop!


The Final Word

Visiting Antarctica introduces you to feelings and emotions you didn’t know existed within you.  It calls out to your inner photographer, your inner writer, your inner musician, you inner scientist and your inner David Attenborough!  Not only does Antarctica allow you to disconnect from the outside world, it insists upon it.  There is so much to see and experience that there is no room in your thoughts for anything but the moment you are in

Antarctica is a drug – and I am now addicted.

 

Kellie shares her experiences to inspire others at Destination Unknown and has has a section featuring Antarctica travel stories, tips and photographs based on her recent adventure.

Lisa writing on the overnight bus in India
Lisa writing on the overnight bus in India

Winter 2013–Inspiration: A Place You Love

WeSaidGoTravel.com invites you to enter its 2013 Travel Writing Contest with a $200 first-place prize and no fee for entry. The theme for the Winter 2013 contest is “Inspiration: A Place You Love.” We hope your article will encourage others to consider going to the place you love and travel more! Please see below for the full rules of our competition. Thank you for your participation in creating a growing global community of engaged travelers and concerned citizens. Writers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to enter and share stories from any part of our planet.

THEME:  Inspiration: A place you love

THREE CASH PRIZES: 1st prize – $200usd, 2nd prize – $100usd, 3rd prize: Vagabond’s Choice – $100usd
First and Second Prize will be selected by the We Said Go Travel Team. The Vagabonds’s Choice Award will be selected through voting on the We Said Go Travel Facebook Fan page. All award monies will be paid through Check or PayPal in United States Dollars. The contest begins January 2, 2013 and ends February 14, 2013. All winning entries will be promoted on We Said Go Travel social media channels and the author names recognized as winners of the first We Said Go Travel Writing contest. Enter by midnight PST on February 14, 2013.

RULES and INSTRUCTIONS: Click here

JUDGING: Richard Bangs and the We Said Go Travel Team
Richard Bangs, the father of modern adventure travel, is a pioneer in travel that makes a difference, travel with a purpose. He has spent 30 years as an explorer and communicator, and along the way led first descents of 35 rivers around the globe, he is currently producing and hosting the new PBS series, Adventures with Purpose.

We are looking for an article that “speaks to readers, transforms them and transports them either to a place they’d like to live or like to travel. Use “creative evocative writing that brings a destination to life” by combining “the tools of a novelist, the eyes of a journalist, and the general knowledge that comes from a never-ending education and a natural curiosity about the world around you—and its history.” When you are “capturing the essence of a place and engaging the senses,” you share your passion for the place you are writing about and everyone will want to read your writing. (Quotes from Travel Writing 2.0 by Tim Leffel)

Contests, Courses, Resources Page: Coming SOON! Know a great contest, course or travel writing resource we should have on our page? Add it to the comments or email us at Inspiration@wesaidgotravel.com

by Terrance Richardson

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to destinations all over the world. Book your next holiday on a ship and see some of the amazing places you’ve always wanted to visit.

Caribbean Cruises

With a name like Royal Caribbean, you know this is a cruise line that knows this area of the world well. With ships that visit destinations like the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico, and more, you’re sure to have the holiday of a lifetime. Bathe in the azure waters, sun yourself on the white sand beaches, eat more seafood than you can possibly imagine, and take part in exciting shore excursions and water sports. It’s all part of the Royal Caribbean experience.

Mediterranean

Imagine combining a fantastic beach holiday with city breaks and historical sights. You can with a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. Visiting destinations like Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Sicily, Split, and Athens, you’re sure to get the best of both worlds.

South America

Indulge yourself and see the sights of South America. This vast continent offers everything from humid jungles to frozen glaciers, as well as beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and chic cities. Begin your journey in Santos, Brazil, where you can relax on the beaches of this port city. If you’ve enough time, you can explore Sao Paulo, located about 50 kilometres away. Next, stop off in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where the beautiful elite love to party, then head to the thriving, exciting city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. End your cruise of South America in Montevideo, the quaint capital of Uruguay and the perfect place to unwind after the excitement of Buenos Aires.

Emirates and Oman

Dip your toe in the Middle East with this exciting cruise of the Emirates and Oman. You’ll begin your cruise in Dubai, where everything is new and bigger is better. Try everything from skiing indoors to riding a camel in the desert before setting sail for Fujairah, located on the beautiful Gulf of Oman. Next, your cruise will take you to Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city, before winding down in Abu Dhabi.

Australia

If you’ve ever dreamed of a holiday to the Land Down Under, dream no more with this exciting cruise from Royal Caribbean. Choose from 11 to 16 nights onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas while you explore gorgeous Sydney, thriving Melbourne, and nature-filled Tasmania.

Canary Islands

You’ve probably considered a holiday to the Canary Islands, but have you considered taking a cruise there? Royal Caribbean offers a 10-11 night cruise onboard the Independence of the Seas for an ideal beach holiday.

 

 About the AuthorTerrance Richardson is a keen writer, explorer and musician. He is particularly interested in music in different cultures but is also a big food lover.

By Lee Abbamonte

Travel opens your eyes and your mind to a whole new world.

Travel enables you to see the world through other peoples eyes and from other points of view.

Travel increases your awareness of other cultures and people.

Travel makes you smarter.

Travel is the best education you can receive.

Travel enables you to speak intelligently on a variety of global topics.

Travel shows you how global policy effects different countries and different types of people.

Travel brings you to places you’ve only dreamed about seeing.

Travel shows you landscapes you never thought were possible.

Travel shows you what real beauty is.

Travel shows you that everything is beautiful in its own way.

Travel makes books and television come to life.

Travel makes adventures happen everyday.

Travel makes dreams come true.

Travel gives you a sense of enormous accomplishment.

Travel gives you something to look forward to to.

Travel gives you options.

Travel is a lifetime journey that is never the same twice.

Travel makes the big world small.

Travel humbles you.

Travel puts things into perspective.

Travel shows you what poor is.

Travel shows you how unfair this world can be.

Travel shows you people overcoming the longest odds to live their life to the fullest.

Travel shows you triumphs of the human spirit.

Travel teaches you how to say “Cheers” in 30 different languages.

Travel teaches you the International language of beer.

Travel teaches you to appreciate wine and the beauty of vineyards.

Travel teaches you to try new things.

Travel makes you yearn to do new things.

Travel teaches you the difference between a traveler and a tourist.

Travel teaches you to become a traveler and not just a tourist.

Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to visit every country in the world. I am a travel writer, travel expert, global adventurer and have appeared on NBC, CNN, ESPN, GBTV, Fox News, Jetset Social and have been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Smart Money, Slate, OK! Magazine, Peter Greenberg radio and many others. I’ve visited 306 countries and am one of the world’s most-traveled people.

“I believe in globalization of everything including people. I believe that I am a citizen of Earth. I believe that people around the world are at their core, basically good and the same. I believe that more people should experience the world and the way traveling can open their eyes and minds to different and exciting things. I believe in just being myself. I believe in life.” – Lee Abbamonte

 

In October 2011, George and I were the hosts for Meet Plan Go Los Angeles, part of 17 cities hosting events about Career Breaks, Mini-Retirements and Long Term Travel. We had traveled for nearly a year in 2008-9 and this month we left again for at least a year. Meet Plan Go National recently posted this article about our second career break: NOT WASTING TIME!

Time is now the currency. We earn it and spend it. The rich can live forever and the rest of us? I just wanna wake up with more time on my hands than hours in the day. – In Time (2011)

In Time is a movie that really spoke to me. In the movie, the main character, Will, is falsely accused of murder and must find a way to bring down a system in which time is money. While the wealthy can live forever, the poor have to beg, borrow, and steal enough minutes to make it through each day. At one point, a character gives his time to Will and tells him, “don’t waste my time.

How many times have you been in a pointless meeting thinking what a waste of time it is? So many of us waste time every day. We casually think that there will be time later. One of my strongest memories of seven years working on cruise ships was speaking to a widow who said, “we always planned to come here to Alaska together but there was always something that got in the way.” I heard over and over again, “don’t wait to make your dreams come true” or “you are so smart to travel like this while you are young.” I often felt like a character who had borrowed against time and was running to spend my time wisely traveling.

When my company went bankrupt after September 11, 2001, I thought I would never travel again.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE: CLICK HERE

Photo Credit: Susan Ste Marie
Photo © Susan Ste Marie

Kate Jarvis offered to share about a recent visit to Iceland, and as this is a place both George and I have never been and want to visit–we were excited to learn about a new destination. Enjoy!

City breaks are great fun. I came to realise this after my first one this January, when I went to Istanbul purely because I wanted a Turkish kebab. However, that’s a story for another blog.

City breaks to Iceland are becoming increasingly popular, with Reykjavik now a cool city to be seen in. The winters are long in Iceland, quite predictably, and I think that’s a great excuse to go shopping for a stylish winter wardrobe. Any excuse.

A great thing about a break to Reykjavik is that once there, it’s only around 10-15 minutes drive into the city, and from there you’ll find pretty much what you want by walking. It’s just around a 3 hour flight from London, but a stylish city break is befitting a stylish start, and I’ve found a great way to kick start any holiday is by booking an airport hotel for the night before travelling. The Menzies Chequers Hotel London Gatwick Airport is a great start to a holiday, or if flying from north of the border, give Normandy Hotel Glasgow Airport a try.

Photo © Susan Ste Marie

The city has plenty to offer, surrounded by stunning scenery – with huge glaciers and waterfalls in reach. Hallgrims church is a huge landmark in the city and I’d suggest you visit for the stunning views. There are also many museums around the city.

Of course the city, and country, is famous for its use of geothermal energy, and the Blue Lagoon. This is a short way out of the city centre, and I’d definitely recommend visiting this, if nothing else. For relaxation alone, this is fantastic. You can bathe in hot geothermal water, giving your skin a wonderful treat, and sweat out impurities in the sauna, with stunning views over the whole centre. For the sheer power of nature – what an attraction!

Of course, being so far north, there’s the chance for whale watching – and if you’re going to see one anywhere, it’ll be here. I’d certainly recommend a trip – just remember your winter woollies! Alternatively, the city has a zoo, for a slightly less open chance to see some wildlife.

Now I love shopping, this is quite well known, and Reykjavik is great for shopping. There are big malls just outside the city, accessible by public transport, and smaller stores for exploring inside the city centre. If you’re into your designer goods, you’re well catered for here.

At night-time this is one lively city, and quite classy too. Keep your eyes peeled – you might even catch a celeb. It is quite expensive to drink in the city, so I’d say either make your drink last or switch to something cheaper! Despite all this, the clubbing scene is famous, with VIP clubs around the city. It’s an experience, that much is true. Restaurant-wise, there’s plenty to choose from, with international cuisine to suit everyone.

Photo © Susan Ste Marie

In my opinion, Reykjavik is cool in more ways than one, and the Blue Lagoon itself is worth the flight. Add a little more style to this city break with a difference, by spending a night in an airport hotel. Give Radisson Blu Stansted a try when heading out of London, it’s certainly something I’d look at.

For sheer style, head to Reykjavik.

 

This post was written by Kate Jarvis who has worked in the travel industry for over 7 years. Having travelled around the world on a budget he is a firm believer in economical travel. His favourite international destination is Ecuador.