Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’06:

The Mawlers Go Bi-polar

Yalour Islands Around-the-World Shot

Time Flies

Why taking work with you is a Bad IdeaTM

I hear stories that there is a country in South America called Argentina. I would not really know about that. Through a series of crazy happenstances that are really par for the Mawler course, I managed to miss most of the country on the way down.

But really, I am not being fair. I saw the inside of the customs security booth at the Buenos Aires airport, which you can read about elsewhere. I basked in the glow of the inside of the oldest café in Buenos Aires, where, it just so happens, they have free wi-fi. I spent time in the hotel office with Lea Ann, having them fax things and make copies, trying to get our bag to Ushuaia. I became a regular at the internet café (locatorio) in Ushuaia. I also bonded with the family and guests at our bed & breakfast in Ushuaia, since I sat there every night trying to finish a paper.

First, I had intended to finish all my various papers (one for class and one thesis) before leaving for vacation. For some reason, having a full time job, several part-time jobs, a band, a thesis in progress, a class in progress, and planning for a vacation leave little expendable time. I need to spend more time thinking about that; there must be a way around it.

I worked hard at this schedule, but it became increasingly clear that I was not going to make it. Work never really meant that much to me anyway, so it is hard to think of it suffering, but I suppose it did. Really, the band suffered first. Cliff, my music partner, is finally finding out what I have been doing by reading this, just like everyone else; we simply did not manage to have practice for a few months. One of my part-time jobs, booking music for the coffeehouse, took a back seat as soon as I managed to book something for almost every slot through February. With merely a month to go before the trip and the due dates for my thesis and research paper for my current class, I also managed to present a separate paper at a conference held by the Society for the Social Studies of Science in Vancouver, BC.

For those of you who followed along on our last adventure, you might recall that we replaced a bathroom immediately prior to leaving the country. Well, when you have a successful formula, it always pays to stick with it. With our flight scheduled to leave on Sunday afternoon, I was meeting contractors on Saturday afternoon, negotiating prices, etc. We were smart this time; we did not try to have the work finished before leaving. Instead, it will be done while we are gone. Consider this a process improvement.

Naturally, nailing all this down had an impact on my school work. I decided to focus on the thesis, which took time away from the paper for class. Even with the added focus, it became clear that a schedule adjustment was in order, so I postponed the thesis defense into January, giving me a bit more time. In reality, though, the thesis and the paper for class remained due at about the same time: before leaving on vacation.

I have the thesis ready to go, but want a few days to think about it. The paper was going to be done, but one thing led to another, what with contractors talking money and bathrooms, so… I figured I would finish it on the plane.

Then I managed to sleep almost all the way to Buenos Aires. Darn body, always shutting down at inopportune moments.

Having arrived in Buenos Aires, I had not intended quite the bag ordeal, so I planned to get there and write the thing in my hotel room or a café, as the case may be.

Finally arriving at our hotel in Buenos Aires about eight hours after we had intended, we briefly discussed finding dinner before passing out on the bed. We never even got under the covers.

The next day saw a search for the Café Tortoni, based on typically vague directions. After walking around a few blocks, we located it, two doors down from the hotel.

I managed to get in a bit of work, but we wanted to check on the status of the bag, which resulted in a few more hours of hassle, calling New York, copying, faxing, etc., as you can read about at length.

At this point, we decided that, gosh darn it, we were not going to leave Buenos Aires without even seeing a tango. So we went back to the exact same café, had dinner (including two fabulous bottles of Argentine wine -- wow! they do that well here!), saw the show in the basement (no kidding), then went "home" and crashed again.

The next day was a flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia via El Calafate (a tiny airport on the east side of the Andes). El Calafate is unbelievably gorgeous from the air (and the landing strip) with an amazing aquamarine lake at the foot of huge snowcapped mountains. We thought about just getting off of the plane there.

Does it surprise you that we know that you can get unsecured wireless connection from inside the plane sitting at the gate? No? I've never checked my email from an airplane before. What an improvement!

I got a little bit done on the paper on the plane, but not enough. So, I ended up spending significant portions of time at the B & B and the local internet establishment (Locutorio), feverishly trying to edit, rearrange, finish, etc., before we got on the boat. It's hard to edit in English and carry on conversations in Spanish and German at the same time, and it's impolite to simply bury one's head in a laptop at the dining room table.

As a side note, we are quite pleased with the B & B, "B & B Nahuel", which is walking distance to downtown (i.e., the Locutorio), and has a lovely family, to boot. Although we never felt crowded, and our room was great, there always seemed to be more people coming out of nooks and crannies! Maria's " little" house holds untold numbers! Thus, there's always someone to converse with, or look at pictures with, or help with a hard drive. Not the best feverish paper-writing setting. (But much more fun!)

Naturally, we spent more time on re-acquiring our bag. Naturally.

With a half an hour left to go before boarding time for the ship southbound, I managed to send both papers, the email update for Antarctica (priorities!), and various requisite Christmas communications. Then we raced off to the ship, "ready to go".

Of course, in true Mawler style, "ready to go" means racing off to a jam-packed adventure with little sleep and lots of adrenaline.

When we went to the Arctic, we had papers due, bathrooms remodeled, etc. So, we're used to that. But, somehow, the scope of this vacation is similar enough to our trip to the Arctic, as are our list of things that are undone, that Lea Ann and I both seemed to lump this vacation in the same category.

This might have been a miscalculation. The Arctic trip we rented a Jeep and drove about 10,000 miles over a month. We went where we wanted to, when we wanted to. We changed course. We saw side trips and decided on the spur of the moment to take them.

A lot of people might be troubled by this. We had a rough plan (plane tickets to Edmonton and plane tickets home), but otherwise, we had little in the way of a true "plan". I can just see the project managers out there cringing. Other people would say "driving 10,000 miles isn't a vacation!" But, it was relaxing, Mawler-style.

A thinking person might look at a trip on a ship to Antarctica as slightly different. Spur of the moment side trips seem less likely with 50 of your closest friends riding along. But not us. We viewed this trip as just like the Arctic one. It's the cold part of the world. It's new land. It's little population. It's the same, right?

On this trip, though, we had climbing gear (because it's a climbing trip), photography equipment (because we're Mawlers), cold-weather gear (becuase it's cold), water-proof gear (because we're travelling by ship -- scratch that -- by small rubber boat.)

Every day, we had two, maybe three, shore landings in every kind of weather and sea conditions. This means we have to get in and out of a small rubber boat that is bobbing at a different rate than the ship it is alongside, and leaping out of said small rubber boat and wading ashore, all while carrying several mints worth of camera gear and/or sharp pointy objects for climbing.

So... The tour coompany "makes the most" of the time and weather in Antarctica. They rightly believe that most people won't visit multiple times (although we here there's an Antarctica bug that people catch), and so they want you to see whatever you can while you're there. This is great! Fabulous! Days packed with penguins and icebergs and beauty and nature and wildlife. And, days packed with putting on 18 layers of clothing and taking off 17 layers of clothing and putting on 18 layers of clothing and taking off 16 layers of clothing... Washing salt off of waterproof this and that. Rinsing steel climbing gear. Hanging clothing from every hook and corner in the cabin. Downloading pictures at a fevered pace. Running to the bow for whales, running to the stern for birds, running to the starboard side for the Zodiac, running to the port side for the sunset.

Running. And running and running and running. And running. Did we mention running?

It might have been a bit much even for us.

The crew was great. The people were great. The staff was great. The trip was great. The scenery was staggering, stunning, breathtaking. Every minute had something else that nearly brings tears to your eyes. It was a trip of superlatives.

However, with all the running, it was just what we wanted, but not necessarily what we needed.

The pages that follow go (basically) by landing or stop along the way. Let the running commence.

The first installment:
At Sea, Approaching Antarctica

The next installment:
First Stop: Deception Island

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All materials © 2006 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler