The plan from Havana was to go to the Cayman Islands to spend some time with the same friends that we had met up with in Havana. They had kindly said they would put us up for a couple of weeks, though when we got the Antarctica trip, we had reduced that down to just the one week with us then going via Miami and Buenos Aires down to Ushuaia.
Then the day after we arrived in Cuba, I got a call to tell me that my aunt had died. Whilst I had seen her just before I left, and my family would have understood if I had chosen not to, I wanted to go back for the funeral. Regular readers may recall that I had had a distant relative and a good friend die the previous year and had found it quite hard to come to terms with not attending the funeral, and as this was a close aunt, I felt it was right to return.
We managed to arrange the funeral for the week that we were due to be in Grand Cayman, so we agreed that we would get there as planned, then Nic would stay with our friends, and I would fly via Nassau to the UK for a week, then meet him in Miami en route to Antarctica.
We got to the islands, I checked in for my onward flight, and then Russell collected Nic. In the downtime, I took advantage of some free wifi to log on and get back up to date after our relatively Internet free existence in Cuba.
Just as well I did, as I soon discovered that our families were trying desperately to contact us. Rather tragically, Nic's sixteen year old niece had also died that day. As I am sure you can imagine, a death at that age is especially hard to deal with, so the family were hoping that Nic would be able to come back to the UK too.
What followed was a very frantic hour, during which I eventually managed to contact Nic - people really should answer their mobiles - and get him back to the airport. After some failed on line attempts, I also managed, with quite literally about thirty seconds to spare, to buy him a ticket on the same flight as me. We even managed to get him into the seat next to me.
It was a very strange flight back. Not only was it a journey made for two very sad reasons, but it had all happened in such a rush, and with so little time to think, that neither of really had taken it in.
Of course while we had my aunt's funeral during this week, Nic's niece's would not be for a while. After much discussion ourselves and with Nic's mother and sister, we decided that we would still leave the UK and go to Antarctica. Despite the circumstances, I think it is fair to say that no one wanted us to miss such a wonderful opportunity to achieve our desire to get to the Weddell Sea; in fact this very sad situation reminded us all that, even whilst remembering those that we've lost, we should be living and enjoying our lives to the full.
But we decided that rather than continuing on to South America as planned, we would then return once more to the UK, so that we would make it back in time for the funeral, and then stay with family until after Christmas. We would then head off again in the New Year, and go to the USA and then to Canada.
Did we make the right decision to go back to the UK not once but twice. Yes I think so. Obviously it has cost us a lot of money, with additional air fares and insurance, as well as not getting in our cheap stint in South America, but when it comes down to it that wasn't really the point. Clearly we can't always come back if something happens, and perhaps another time we won't. But on this occasion, in the particular circumstances that we and our families faced, it was the right thing for us to do.
And of course both of them remain in our thoughts.