Another year – a different plan

We had this great plan for our travels in 2018 worked out – leave NZ mid April, pick up Biggy and Twiggy and go straight down to Spain while it was still cool then work our way north to who knows where from early June onwards. Richard rupturing his Archilles shortly after Christmas put paid to that. We were told in no uncertain terms by the specialist that there was no point leaving for Europe until the end of June because Richard wouldn’t be able to do anything he enjoyed! Oh and by the way don’t even consider picking up the motorhome and car for another month or two because pushing the trailer around at campgrounds could cause the Archilles to rupture again.

So what could we do? Tag along on an expedition cruise with our friends the Cullen’s around Svalbard of course – which is way north of the Arctic Circle (78 degrees north plus) and pretty much surrounded by pack ice in winter. Compare this to 2 years ago when we went to Nordkapp in Norway and only got to 71 degrees north). Then visit Ireland and Scotland ( which we have never been to) and then finally head to the south of France to pick up Biggy and Twiggy in mid August.

We were lucky to get a cancellation on the cruise which has a maximum of 53 people and books out months in advance.

And what a trip it was. For 10 days we cruised around the incredibly remote islands that make up Svalbard seeing lots of amazing wildlife and scenery and even getting to the pack ice at 82 degrees 24 minutes north where we spent an amazing day cruising amongst icebergs and ice floes looking for polar bears and seals. We wished we had a good camera with us – somehow an iPhone didn’t do justice to what we saw.

Fell in love with these characters – up close and personal with a walrus
At one stage we thought this one was going to come right up the beach to us- only 2-3 metres away in this shot
Mother and pup about to abandon the ice floe
Everyday we loaded into the Zodiacs 2-3 times to go looking for wildlife or hike ashore
Saw several polar bears including this male- managed to get quite close in the Zodiac

We managed to get as far north as 82 degrees 24 minutes – right up to the pack ice and a record distance north for the ship we were on. Gliding amongst the ice floes was a surreal experience. Didn’t see much wildlife- just a seal or two and some birds- but being amongst the ice was magic.We ran up onto the floes with the Zodiacs.

Luckily our ship was ice strengthened. Gliding slowly through the ice

Angels on an ice floe in the Arctic
And yes it was very cold!

Some fantastic shapes amongst the icebergs

So many glaciers coming into the sea – makes Glacier Bay in Alaska seem insignificant

Overall the scenery was incredible – such an isolated place but immense.

Some people were brave (or crazy) enough to do the polar plunge – but at -1.4 degrees no thanks.

There was also some interesting history – on early doomed attempts to reach the North Pole by balloon then airship.

And marble excavation – except the marble crumbled to dust when it reached its destination.

The remains can be seen in various locations.

Polar bears are a very real danger around everywhere even around settlements. Guns were carried by our guides at all times. Areas are scouted before we go ashore.

Our guide on the air drop loo – with gun.

The scientific settlement of Ny- Alesund. Everyone walks or bikes around with a gun!

Dog parking must be a problem in Longyearbyen
It was sad to leave such an amazing place as Svalbard- our trip definitely exceeded our expectations

The trip of a lifetime!

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