Circle to Circle: Bergalia Boys' Epic Ride Ends in Antarctica
The Bergalia Boys successfully completed their extraordinary journey from the Arctic Circle to the Antarctic Circle this February 2012! An epic motorcycle ride encompassing 8 months, 42,000 miles, 16 countries, 31 border crossings, and raising money for Make-A-Wish Foundation International, came to a conclusion at the world’s southernmost continent.
We caught up with the Bergalia Boys after their finale in Antarctica. From kayaking with humpback whales, camping on Antarctica, taking the polar plunge, and experiencing life onboard the Expedition, they made the most of their 14-day Circle Crossing expedition.
View photo highlights from the Bergalia Boys’ Antarctica Expedition here: Crossing the Circle
1. How did your Antarctic experience compare with your expectations? Were there any surprises about your trip?
Philip: It’s pretty hard to have an accurate expectation for such a place as Antarctica. It’s like nowhere else on earth. Actually, I only had two expectations: I thought I’d love it, and I thought it’d be pretty cold! I did love it, and surprisingly, it wasn’t too cold. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a bit nippy, and I didn’t catch anyone sunbathing on the top deck, but all in all it was rather pleasant. The mighty BMW bike clothes served me so well on the ride to Ushuaia, and also did a great job in Antarctica.
I was pleasantly surprised about the onboard entertainment. There were always lectures or movies to keep you informed and excited about what you had seen, and expected to see. The other great surprise was the fantastic food! It really was very good.
Wade: I truly had no idea what to expect from the Antarctic Circle Expedition. I was thinking of snow-capped mountains, some wildlife, and a few glaciers. But what we got faced with was just indescribable. The mountains were so dramatic and beautiful that you just did not know which way to look at any second. When the sun bounced off the snow mist it was like something out of a fairytale. The water seemed to be bubbling with life. At all times of the day you would see birds, penguins, seals, and then the odd pod of whales just in case you were getting bored!
The biggest surprise for me was just how much of everything there was. I have also been to Greenland East, but there is very little sea and bird life. Antarctica was like walking into a zoo. Everything was so up close and personal, I am sure I was winked at by a passing humpback……well, I know he waved anyway!
2. What was a typical day like during the Crossing the Circle voyage?
Philip: Each day was quite different, and the staff worked very hard to make sure you enjoyed the onboard experience, as much as the Zodiac cruises and your time ashore. They did this through a variety of means: There were daily lectures on everything Antarctic, from the types of animals we could expect to see and the various survival techniques and adaptations enabling them to survive in such harsh climates. Other topics included geology, early explorers, as well as funny stories from each of the crew members’ own experiences on the ice.
Typically the day started with an announcement such as, “Good morning everybody. It’s 7 o’ Clock, the temperature is 27 F, and the sun is not shining. This morning will be a Zodiac cruise (or whatever activity was planned) starting at 9. Breakfast will be served at 7:30, bon appetite.”
Depending on weather, there were two trips a day on either the Zodiacs or a landing. At the very civilized hour of “Happy” (around 5 p.m.), we were debriefed about what we had seen during the day while enjoying a few cold beers, or a rather elegant Gin and Tonic. We were also given some information about the next day’s activities. After dinner, a movie eased us all into sleep.
Wade: A typical day in Antarctica started at around 7 a.m. We would be informed of weather conditions and expected cruising areas, and we would attend our first of many over-indulgent meals. Shortly after, our first shore expedition would take place. This of course was followed by mass discussions of excitement onboard around the lunch table, yet again over indulgence was a problem of mine on the vessel. After lunch, another shore excursion, maybe a talk by one of the many experts aboard, and then a reflection on the day’s events by crew and personal, then, yep that’s right, dinner. Did I mention how good the food was?! After dinner was a movie or more talks. The amount of Antarctica experience aboard was unbelievable. I am sure one of the staff was in Shackleton’s crew!
3. You did it all (kayaking, camping, polar plunge)! What did you think of the activities on offer in Antarctica and onboard the Expedition? What was your favorite activity and why?
Philip: The activities offered, both on and off the boat, were exceptional. The guides had more passion than passion fruit, and the sheer joy they all felt each and every time they sailed into the waters of Antarctica was as infectious as the plague. A happy, healthy plague that lifted the spirits and left one with a feeling of “Wooooooo Hoooooooooo, I’m in Antarctica……. and I’m lov’en it!!!”
The camping was fun, in a way. It would be better earlier in the season as the light lasts longer. We basically had enough time to set up tents before it was dark and time to go to bed. We were lucky enough to have a humpback whale check us out on the way to shore. To be able to drift about with the engine off, surrounded by ice, snow and wrapped in a warm blanket of silence watching as these magnificent beasts stopped to check us out was amazing, and well worth the ‘pain’ of sleeping on the ice.
My favorite experience was kayaking. Shakespeare's skill is required to write well enough to carry our feelings from deep within Antarctica, through your computer screens and into your lounge room. If I could capture the moment, I wouldn’t be heading back to work on boats. No way, I’d be writing a best-selling novel! Awesome, fantastic, amazing. Or, as we Aussies may say ‘sen-bloody-sational!!!!!’ Don’t miss it. Book your Antarctic trip early, and if you do nothing else, GO KAYAKING!
Our first kayak is something I will remember forever. Bashing our way through ice over mirror-calm waters kept me smiling. Then to get so close to a mother and calf humpback whale (she swam up to us) that you could smell the foul odor of their breath was it for me. Right then and there I thought, “If I don’t see or do anything else on this trip, it was worth it a thousand times over.”
Wade: Yes we did it all and why not. This may be, but hopefully not, a once in a lifetime chance for these sort of experiences.
The camping was great. I had never slept in a tent in Antarctica before, but come to think of it not many people ever have!
Kayaking, on our first day, we got to within meters of a humpback and her calf; we had penguins swimming under, seals playing, glaciers, ice bergs, brattish ice, and all amides perfect mirror like water. Even our guide had never had a day that good. I could have died and gone to heaven—it was perfect.
Then the polar plunge… This is not for everyone, but it was an experience of a lifetime and something that must be done when in Antarctica. The feeling is like no other and the sense of achievement, maybe small, yet extremely rewarding.
4. What were some of your favorite moments during your Antarctica voyage?
Philip: My magic moment was pushing through the ice on the way down to the circle. For about four hours, we were surrounded by ice. It was a strange sensation to look down and not see water. It felt like we could step off and walk away from the boat. To see the ice crack and separate from the bow like a bolt of lightning was an experience I will cherish for a very long time. It’s moments like that that lower your defenses and leave you hopelessly in love with the place.
Luckily my other favorite moment happened three times a day! The food was sensational, and a bloody pleasant surprise. Desserts were especially good. There wasn’t a bad meal the entire trip, and I think our group of 10 people collectively gained a good 150 pounds! Well worth it!
Wade: Some of my favorite moments aboard were our first day of kayaking, breaking through ice in the ship to get to the Antarctic Circle, crossing the Antarctic Circle, building snowmen on the deck, meeting fellow travelers, and hearing the speeches from the experts. Actually this list could go on and on and on. The trip was so varied every day. We never saw the same thing or visited the same place twice. Just the weather was a highlight as it changed every minute.
5. What advice do you have for first-time visitors to Antarctica?
Philip: Book early! There are some great last-minute deals, but in our experience if you do this the really cool stuff like kayaking and camping will already be booked out. You might save some pennies, but you’ll have a very sore backside after all the butt kicks you give yourself as you watch the kayakers glide round the first iceberg.
Don’t worry too much about the cold. A lot of people we met on the boat bought very expensive jackets and pants they will never wear again, unless of course they sit in their freezer for a few hours watching a slideshow of Antarctica. Bit extreme I reckon! If the weather is that bad, you won’t be going ashore anyway! Its water proofing that’s important, as the zodiac trips to shore can be very wet. And that’s when you get cold.
Wade: Make the most of it, do whatever you can and get involved in everything you can. Spend as much time on deck as possible and bring a good camera.
6. Was there anything you’d do differently on your Crossing the Circle voyage?
Wade: No, it was the perfect expedition. Maybe if it was twice as long, it would just put a bigger smile on my face, if that’s possible.
Read more about the epic Circle to Circle ride:
Bergalia Boys Visit Seattle En Route
Bergalia Boys Journey 42,000 miles (pre-Antarctica)