lundi 2 février 2009

On the plane to the Antarctic, at least

Everybody was thrilled by the news, that came yesterday evening, that we could leave Cape Town this morning towards the Antarctic. We are all on the Ilyushin 76 flight, an old Russian military transport aircraft that is used now for the transport of cargo and people. Just by adding seats they can adjust it to the amount of persons that have to be flown in. The roof of the plane is just full of pipes and isolation material, there are almost no windows and the sides are decorated with all the national flags of the countries that have a base on Dronning Maud Land, that part of Antarctica that the ALCI-company mainly serves. Not a single trace of the fancy and good looking, Malaysian airhostesses we saw at the airport, but some older Russian man instead serving coffee and sandwiches. The two toilets are just the same as the ones I’m used to use on summer rock festivals, they are just fixed on the sides of the plane. We’re about 50 people all together, 16 heading to the Belgian station, and some Norwegian, German and South-African people heading towards some other stations. It seems a first time experience for most of us, because everybody is taking pictures like crazy.

First stop will be the Russian base, were we will take a Basler aircraft (an old DC 3) towards the Belgian station at Utsteinen. We will split up the group in two, most people and cargo will proceed with the first flight while 4 volunteers and myself will stay at the Russian base to take the second flight, which can take off tonight or tomorrow, depending on the weather.

Still feel my legs from yesterdays hike towards the summit of Table Mountain. It was again a very nice day yesterday. First Steve and I ended up in a protest mars downtown; it had something to do with new regulations by the government about the selling of alcohol. The crowd was well organized it seems, there was a lot of singing and shouting, but the atmosphere was very relaxed and there were no incidents. Guess it would have been different twenty years ago, when protesters just got shot… Around noon we left the hotel to start the hike, we saw it as an exercise to keep in shape for the Antarctic, and we were only back at 8 in the evening. It was a wonderful experience. On our way up we (Steve, Alexander, Karolien and myself) first walked through the better (read richer) part of Cape Town. Steve said the best thing you can do over here to make a lot of money is starting a business in iron bars, electric security wire or as armed security, patrolling these neighborhoods. We choose to take the rather easy route up, along the contour of the mountain towards a gorge where a steep path leads to the summit. Since the weather downtown was warm and half cloudy, Steve and I were just walking in shorts and T-shirts, in contrast to Alexander and Karolien. Not a good idea since it was cold, very windy and cloudy on the summit. But what a nice landscape it is over there. Just before the summit the gorge became very narrow and with all the fog and wind, the atmosphere was very mystical and we felt like being in one of the Lord of the Rings scenes. Luckily, the sun broke through and we had a wonderful view and a nice meal of cold potato chips with a very well done sausage and a can of Windhoek. We took our time on the way down again to enjoy the beautiful scenery and what appeared our last day for a while of summer temperatures.

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