WHEN the travel bug bites you just have to go and if you are lucky, this urge can take you around the world.
One such traveller is Helen Stevens of Shepparton who with Kieran Magee has just returned from Antarctica, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina.
Their first stop was Buenos Aires before embarking onto Ushuaia to catch their ship to Antarctica, they sailed on the Hurtigruten line, a Norwegian ship made for this type of exploration.
They were at the end of the season in late February and the weather can be ‘full on’ at this time of year, but on this occasion they were lucky to miss the big storms.
During the cruise out to Antarctica, lecturers were on board to inform the passengers about what they were going to see.
Helen says in the previous sailing, the ship had only been able to stop once because of the foul weather, but this time the seas were low, the sun was out and they made 17 landings.
Zodiacs are used to travel from the ship to the shore. The sun was warm but the wind was cold and as they approached the shore there they were waiting for them, ‘Happy Feet’ by the hundreds.
They were Chinstrap Penguins and Helen says they were just wonderful, after posing for a few photos the Penguins would walk right up to you as if to say hello. Helen has 11 grandchildren and she has the DVD Happy Feet to keep them entertained and these penguins were just like the ones in the movie.
As they continued their landings they saw Shackleton’s grave, an abandoned whaling station. It was surrounded by lots of fauna, including Fur Seals, Sea Lions and penguins including Emperor, King, Rockhopper and Magellanic penguins.
The captain announced that early the next morning they would be entering ‘Iceberg Alley’ so to be on deck at first light.
It was cold, but as the sun came up there they were, icebergs by the dozens passing the ship. Helen says it was just amazing. The feeling is one of complete awe as you visit this pristine environment.
Next they stopped at the Russian Base where they were shown around. They even had their own Russian Orthodox Church brought out from Russia and erected at the base.
Next they visited a place known as South Georgia, there they were greeted by literally thousands of penguins including a huge colony of Emperor penguins.
After leaving Antarctica they sailed to The Falkland Islands where they saw the remnants of the war. Afterwards, it was time to return to the mainland.
The next leg of their journey gave them a chance to see more of South America.
The first stop was Rio de Janeiro. There they made the climb to see the huge statue of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ holding its arms above the city.
They stayed on Copacabana beach and visited Ipanema beach, then the Iguazu Falls and what a sight they were. Crossing from Brazil to the Argentinean side you could see all 275 falls. An incredible sight.
A boat trip under the falls was a must do! Their guide had said to dress light and as they arrived at the boat the previous passengers were getting off in their bathers. Helen said, oh well too late to change now, so off under the falls they went and it was like going for a swim with your clothes on.
They next travelled to Peru via Lima and up into the mountains to Cusco. The high altitude there can affect travellers but Helen and Kieran were OK.
Next they travelled on to Machu Pichu the ancient Inca city lost to the world for many years, it was never discovered by the Spanish but later found covered by jungle.
Helen says when you first lay eyes on Machu Pichu it is just breathtaking. The terraces and the ancient buildings made for worship all sit atop of their own mountain peak. Helen and Kieran spent two days there just exploring the entire site.
Last of all they returned to Lima for a rest before leaving for home. Helen would like to thank Lyn McNaught for hosting the tour and showing them a part of the world that was a great privilege to see.
Until next time,