Just over three weeks ago, my husband, Tony and I returned from one of those unforgettable holidays, one that I’d truly honour with the ‘A trip of a lifetime’ tag.
I plan to blog about the highlights over the next few weeks, or for however long it takes me, because I want to relive it, to share it, and to save the memories for me to look back on in the future.
Where did we go?
Our particular trip was with G Adventures, who offer a variety of exciting tours to places all over the world, but I chose the Arctic Highlights trip because of the places it visited.
Our Arctic Adventure didn’t truly begin until we took a flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, although I’d been excited since before we left Australia.
Svalbard, is a small group of islands north of Norway.
Longyearbyen is the world’s northernmost settlement with greater than 1,000 permanent residents. It was initially established as a coal mining town in 1906, but most mining operations have now moved elsewhere and the town has seen a large increase in research and tourism since the 1990s.
We spent a day exploring the small, and largely unattractive, town surrounded by magnificent, snow-capped mountains. I’m sure it would be a far prettier place with snow covering the ground, but considering it is dark for almost half the year, who would know?
At the end of our second day in Longyearbyen, we boarded the MS Expedition, our G Adventures’ ship.
It’s a small ship, but very comfortable. We were two of the 125 passengers aboard.
This was the moment I’d been losing sleep over. I was more excited about this holiday than I’d been about any trip I’d taken for many years. Which is odd, because the Arctic is cold, and I hate the cold.
But snow is cold, and I love snow. And ice is cold, and although ice itself doesn’t excite me, I’ve long had the desire to see an actual iceberg.
When I was growing up, I thought only scientists and researchers visited the Arctic and the Antarctic. They were wild and unknown places were ordinary people didn’t go. As the years passed, opportunities for wealthy people to visit these regions occurred, but it was still out of my reach, and so I never even considered it a possibility. However, my daughter’s trip to Antarctica in 2014 alerted me to the small number of companies now offering the opportunity at more reasonable prices.
I chose the Arctic, and not the Antarctic, because I was interested in extremely cold places where communities lived, such as Longyearbyen, but the possibility of seeing a polar bear was also a big lure. I love bears, I just want to cuddle them, especially the fluffy, white polar bears with those gorgeous big soft paws.
I’d be terrified if I was confronted by a bear of any sort in the wild, but that’s reality. In my dreams, I still think they’re adorable.
Another long-time dream of mine has been to see the Northern Lights, and I’d hoped that as we were going on the last voyage of the season, there might be a tiny chance we’d get to see them.
This trip lived up to all my expectations, and then some. On any journey like this, specific animal sightings are almost impossible to guarantee, and sometimes ice or weather conditions affect where the ship can go, but I think we were very lucky. The weather was generally very kind to us and the staff knew how to make the best of a bad situation, plus, unlike a few others, we didn’t get seasick at all.
There are a number of other companies offering similar tours, but you can check out the G Adventures Arctic options here.