On the southeast edge of the Hawaiian isle of Maui, there is a little town called Hana. It sits at the end of a road so twisting and serpentine that even drivers get carsick on the way there. The journey is said to be worth it, as Hana boasts an idyllic place called the Seven Sacred Pools.
I’ve driven the road to Hana. I never did find the Seven Sacred Pools. All I found was a grubby general store and a beach that didn’t look any different than any other municipal beach in the islands. The journey was not worth it.
In fact, I suspect that somewhere along the way, someone in Hana came up with the brilliant idea of marketing this little blip on the map as some sort of special destination, even though it’s not. They bamboozled people into visiting, but because everyone who realized that they’d been bamboozled upon arrival didn’t want to admit it, the mystique of Hana continues to spread.
I bring this up because we just got back from the southern hemisphere’s version of Hana, which is otherwise known as Antarctica.
Instead of a curvy road, to get to Antarctica, you must traverse a channel of water known as Drake’s Passage, a journey that can take far longer than driving to Hana – usually about two days. Drake’s Passage is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean, and hence is some of the roughest water in the world. Bring your Bonine, your Dramamine, your Sea-Bands, your Scopolamine patches – bring it all, and they still may not be enough.
Now, some disclosure here – we may have chosen the wrong cabin on our ship. We may have exceptionally weak constitutions. We may just be wimps. There were some people on our Antarctica journey who claimed not to use any seasickness medication at all, and I salute them. But Monica and I were flat on our backs in our cabin in two days southbound and two days northbound.
We couldn’t read. We couldn’t watch television. We couldn’t eat. We couldn’t do anything that involved being vertical or focusing on an immobile object at close or middle distance.
Admittedly, at times it felt what I imagine a magic carpet would feel like, floating over waves of air as it traverses a Middle Eastern fantasy kingdom. At other times, it felt more like a rollercoaster. More frequently, it felt like that scene at the beginning of Beverly Hills Cop where the truck is banging into cars on the streets of Detroit and thrashing them around like toys. Every time the ship hit another wave, there was another bang. We felt like the cars. It was hard to remember at that point that we had actually paid someone to let us to do this.
At this point, you probably suspect the twist. We got to Antarctica. I was finally able to say I’d been on all seven continents (see photo). It wasn’t like Hana. It was stunning. The vistas of white ice and blue sky were unlike anything we’d ever seen. The air smelled cleaner than anything we’d inhaled in our entire lives. The huts of the military and scientific outposts were hauntingly isolated. The seals were majestic. The penguins, even when they leaned forward a tad and propelled eighteen inches of liquefied shit out their butts, were irrevocably cute.
All that may have been true. The cruise may have been wholly memorable, in the way that the voyages of the Titanic, the Costa Concordia, and the Hindenburg were undeniably memorable. All I can really say without fear of contradiction is that a trip to Antarctica is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime journey … because only a moron would do it a second time.