I can’t believe it’s finally happening!
The five-month long wait has finally come to an end with this day as we, a team of 140 explorers from 30 nations meet for the first time in Ushuaia, the southern-most city of the world. A lot of us met in Buenos Aires already, grouped, re-grouped while some of us were serendipitously seated next to an expedition member on the same flight down-south. Like me! I was seated next to a professor at Columbia who after having worked at the world bank teaches Public Policy and Social Enterprise in one of the best schools for PPA, CIPA. What are the odds that on a flight full of people I’d be seated next to someone who is going to Antarctica as a part of the same expedition as me? And we also had the same colored Nike bag! :O
Ushuaia is beautiful beyond belief, surrounded by mountains, the ocean, and glaciers; it is a popular tourist destination for even Argentinians. Day one was mostly about soaking in the overwhelming whirlwind of feelings along with registration, getting our rooms assigned and having our gear checked. As soon as I entered my room my roommate had already finished her gear check and her gear was spread out on the bed. I had to do the same and soon Jason our Expedition Lead checked and approved my gear. Looks like I am all set to take on the coldest, windiest and the driest continent in the world- Antarctica.
Some of us, like myself, were lucky enough to be greeted by the man himself, Sir Robert Swan. His charismatic personality with his warm handshake instantly puts you at ease. He shook my hand and said to me, “It’s wonderful to meet you Aarati. I hear some good things about you from Divya”. And the little Aarati in my head did a little foot tap dance.
Everyone is out with an agenda to soak up as much of this as possible with last minute shopping for extra batteries or putting down a bomb on missed expedition equipment, treks and hiking trails overlooking the Atlantic or getting passports stamped with the gateway-to-Antarctica stamp.
With good food, great conversations and some brilliant people from all across the world, there is no place I’d rather be.