First thing that crossed my mind was that I was an idiot. Honestly, how else can you describe a man whose alarm clock starts shouting at five in the morning. On a vacation.
In a sense, there has been an air of spring training atmosphere around September baseball in Oakland for a while now. Only without the hope part.
The weather is great. The games don’t really decide anything. And not too many watch them to start with.
So, when Jeff Francoeur and his 59-83 Royals rolled into town to take on the 64-77 Athletics last September, the world wasn’t exactly holding its collective breath.
It wasn’t fear.
It was a growing realization that I have made a challenge to something very powerful and that it was going to show up in its best shape. Now the question was – was I up to it?
So, yeah, that whole thing with the Ukrainians was pretty surreal. A pub in Antarctica? Are you kidding me?
I mean, what’s next? Being woken up by a dinghy with a crazy dude in a kilt in it, playing bagpipes and inviting everyone to a party on board British marines’ sailing boat, where I’d meet an expedition trying to conquer Forbidden Plateau, National Geographic Antarctica-kayaking-crew and arguably the best solo sailor of the world?
There are many things one envisions about Antarctica.
A pub is not one of them.
I thought it was going to be cold and it was. I thought I might see the whales, the seals and the penguins and I did. I thought sailing might be tough and it was going to be. But, it never, ever crossed my mind that I could spend an evening in Antarctica drinking vodka and playing billiard, translating small-talk from Russian to Spanish to German to English to Russian, all while listening to The Sundowners’ Colonial Classics.
Yet, there I was.
Sure, there were specific things that happened and that remain. Like drinking vodka in the southernmost pub of the world, all while being celebrated by Ukrainian scientists because your countryman shot a goal that sent English soccer team home and Russians to the big stage. Or drinking Laphroaig on board UK military expedition boat, while chatting to National Geographic crew and Sebastien Magnen. Yes, that Sebastien Magnen.
But, more than anything else, Antarctica leaves a series of continuous and interlaced impressions in one’s mind, interchangeable puzzle pieces in the big picture of possibly the last pristine place on Earth.
Here are some of mine.
Drake Passage is the body of water separating Cape Horn and Livingston Island. The 500 miles between the two is the shortest distance between Antarctica and any other continent, making it appealing to try to cross there.
Everything but the distance makes it quite unappealing, though.
So, there I was, standing at the end of the world.
Of course, there is many a place around the globe that calls itself that and I’ve been to my share of Finisterres, Finistères und Fisterras before.
Yet, this one felt different. That wooden sign in Ushuaia’s port said “Fin del mundo” with authority and there was no doubt that it really was saying the truth. Further south, one could just sense it, was nothing even remotely similar to anything I have ever seen, nothing I could recognize or relate to.
I have, indeed, come to the end of the world as I knew it. And I had no intentions of stopping whatsoever.