Honestly, as I am writing at this point, I am starting to confuse all my days!! We did so much in such a short amount of time - all of which I was unquestionably, seriously, extremely, beyond excited about - that all the memories have sort of blurred together in my mind as a series of hiking, laughing, smiling, walking, kayaking, laughing, laughing, drinking, smiling, zodiac-ing, smiling, drinking, eating, eating, laughing, hiking, yada yada yada and some solid deep sleeping.
Be that as it may, I have decided to do two things.
One, I have photographed all of our daily itineraries and posted them here. For those of you that are interested about the places we went and the history behind them, I highly suggest you read these!! They have fascinating information about a world most of us have always wondered about but never really bothered to study.
The second thing I’ve decided to do, in an effort to keep this blog post from going on and on forever, is simply to jot down a few highlights from the trip!!
And for those of you that are far more visual, just enjoy all the photos and perhaps create a storyline all your own…Why not?! You all know I’m a dreamer, sometimes its just more fun that way :)
1. Kayaking. I never kayak in the PNW in winter; I always tell myself it is too cold. Well, turns out, its not! Kayaking in the Arctic took my breath away. It was peaceful as we paddled though calm water and light snow gracefully fell down on us. I wasn’t cold at all; I took great pleasure in bundling up before every outing. There is just something about leggings and sweaters that I will never, ever cease to love.
Anywho, to make this experience even better, there were two polar bears on an ice sheet nearby. Though we couldn’t see them and we knew guides were watching them for our safety, it still felt like we were truly out in the wild, one with nature.
2. We did two hikes that really felt like hiking in the Arctic. One was on a crazy windy day where I was pretty sure someone smaller than me would have blown away. I’m not sure what it is but something about unruly weather really excites me when outdoors!!
The second awesome hike we did was up some fjord though I’d have to get in touch with our guide to remember the name of it. Anyways, we hiked up to the top, often sinking knee dip in loose snow, and it was all totally worth it. The view was astounding.
At the end of every hike I always wished we could turn around and do it all over again right then and there. I was one happy girl.
3. Walruses!! We had two sightings, one of just four blubbery fellas and the other with upwards of 30?! Maybe more, maybe less… it is hard to count so much, mostly unmoving blubber!! I really can’t explain why watching tons of fat wobble around with enormous tusks is so amazing but it really, truly is. Plus, believe it or not, they are adorable!
4. One evening we had the pleasure of cruising next to an ice cliff from the Nordaustlandet Ice Cap. This is the third largest ice cap in the world following behind Antarctica and Greenland. The ice wall we witnessed extended for over 100 miles around the island!! It was insane!!
For those of you that watch GOT, imagine “The Wall” but in real life. Totally rad. On top of nature just killing it that night, we had an awesome snowball fight on the bow!! I think the pictures show just how much joy this brought us all!
5. On another evening, we had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand the cliffs of Alkefjellet. These cliffs are home to one of the largest concentrations of nesting seabirds in Svalbard. Rather than get too scientific on you, I’ll put it in my own words, BIRDS WERE EVERYWHERE!! It was frigid, windy, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’m no birder but this scene almost converted me!
6. Near the end of our journey, before we headed back down towards Longyearbyen, we managed to go nearly 82° north, 81° 47’ north to be exact. And it was here that we opted to do a true polar plunge!! The water was 29°F, not quite bath water but hey, it would do.
I honestly, strongly dislike cold water but being that I was in the Arctic, there was no way I wasn’t jumping. And in true Rylie-fashion, I got amped up real quickly!! Alex, the mistress of the mudroom, played some fierce tunes and Patrick, our Hotel Manager, was waiting for us when we got out with hot chocolate and shots of vodka. The mood was set, the vibe was just right, and I was ready to jump!!
Sure enough, after my first jump, I was even more excited!! I love a good adrenaline rush and couldn't wait for more so I decided to round up a crew and jump again!! AHHHHHH!!! The second jump was fucking cold, not going to lie, but I felt alive!!
And no longer hung over ;)
7. Speaking of hung over… after long days exploring the great outdoors, many of us settled in to the lounge where there happened to be an open bar and plenty of friendly faces. A large group of us played card games and/or board games every night, sometimes until 2a or 3a in the morning… You know, when the sun doesn’t ever set, the night always feels young!!
I very much enjoyed these times as the room was full of laughter, wildly inappropriate jokes, beaming smiles, and a solid amount of shouting – all fun and games!! We may have drank a little too much a night or two but we always had the promise of fresh air and a long, wicked hike ahead of us the next day to undoubtedly wake us right up!
Plus, through all the shenanigans I made some pretty stellar friends. Yes, heartwarming I know :)
Here is a dance party that went down one night in the lounge.
All I can say is that I LOVE A GOOD DANCE PARTY!!
8. Nerd Alert!! Everyday there were lectures we could attend, whether they’d be on geology, trapping, polar bears, or ice, they were all fascinating in their own right. On top of that, every night there was a daily recap where all the Naturalists on board would go over all the sights, plants, and animals we saw, going into detail about each and every one of them. I truly enjoyed learning all of this information and am hoping I retained at least a little bit of it!
9. MORE WILDLIFE!! On top of the whales, walruses, polar bears, and foxes I have already mentioned above, we saw more polar bears including three cubs, countless reindeer that allowed us to come rather close, puffins – adorable, sweet, tiny, little puffins, too many birds to name, and ONE person on board spotted ONE Narwhal but no one else saw it. HA! I have to mention this as it was second on my list of animals I wanted to see!! So I guess that just means I’ll be back :)
10. Larry, our fellow shipmate and fierce director, coordinated a small show for the last night featuring the Svalbard Singers! For those of you who really know me well, and know I have the voice of a five year old when singing...and am tone deaf... you'd be pleased to hear I made it into the group!! And killed it!!
So there you have it; one magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime week in the Arctic all tightly summed up into six pages and far too many photos to count!!
Before I go, I have to give a larger than life shout out to the Inspirato and Nat Geo/Lindblad team!! In hopes they might be reading this… To Holly, Lucho, Jonathan, Nick, Stefano, Kasper, Ian, Ralph, Tom, Doug, Dennis, Alex, Brett, Caitlyn, James, Patrick, Christian, Jeffery, Hector, and everyone else whose name I am forgetting, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!!! You all truly made my week in the Arctic absolutely unforgettable. You guys are beyond amazing in every single way!!
Lick the Bowl – You Only Live Once,
*Most photos were taken by my mom - she is a true photographer at heart! Thanks Mom!!*