Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Travel - Pisco (San Martin), Peru, March 24, 2014
Pisco and the surrounding area are significant in Peruvian history as the birthplace of Peru's struggle for independence. Pisco is also a gateway to the ruins of Machu Picchu, and one can also enjoy the mysterious lines or shapes referred to as the Nazca Lines. These are very large figures formed on the earth that you can only see from the air. The area is normally visited because of the concentration of marine animals and birds at the Paracas National Reservation, or the Peruvian Galapagos.
The city was very near the epicenter of the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake which struck south central Peru on Wednesday August 15, 2007. Eighty percent of the city was destroyed, including the central San Clemente Cathedral of Pisco. As many as 100 deaths were reported within the cathedral. The church in Plaza de Armas was also destroyed during the earthquake while a service was in session killing nearly 150 people. Today, the city is still recovering from the damage done during the earthquake.
This is an interesting stop for many reasons. First off, we discovered why the trip to Santiago was so hard on us. John has come down with a bad cold and has decided to stay on board today. This means that I’m on my own. I have a tour scheduled, so I’m up, dressed, fed and ready to go see the Inca ruins early this morning. I meet the tour in the Princess theater like usual, without my buddy (sad face)! We climb on the bus and drive through San Martin and out into the country side.
It was obvious from the very beginning that this port town has seen tragedy. There are piles of rubble and rock everywhere.
There are small streets lined with one story block houses with small pencil thick rebar extending from the roof corners. The boxes are all painted in different colors, or just left a plain primer white. Everything looks like it has been built within the last five years. As we drive out of town there are acres of rock clumps where small houses used to stand.
I am amazed, based on the damage that was done to this town, that it has as many people left; so many died during the earthquake of 2007. Why would someone choose to stay? By the devastation, it would appear that many people lost multiple loved ones.
Looking at their rebuilding techniques, I’m not sure they have learned their lesson. It looks like many are planning on building a second story right on top of those little boxes that only have a wall with rebar strong enough to hold the single story. I’m afraid they are building for another tragic event. I've seen this similar practice in earthquake prone zones as we have traveled all over South American.
|Local Taxi....I don't think I'd fit!|
The bus continues along a very arid valley and dry river bed, and we start to climb in elevation heading for the hills. Our destination is Tambo Colorado, which is an Incan fortress of adobe and stone built in 1440 as a site for sun worshipping, studying astronomy and agriculture. The complex includes a temple, food silo, a high priest’s chambers, a sacrificial alter and soldier barracks. It is amazing that the Incas painted these
structures red and mustard yellow and some of that color is still visible today. It is a warm day with blue skies, and if you closed your eyes you can envision an Inca Priest standing at the altar. The view is amazing. It overlooks the fertile river valley. Obviously there is water somewhere. Again, pictures say it all.
I am now beginning to understand the annihilation of the Incas and the Aztecs by the diseases that the Spaniards and other Europeans brought to the New World. They lived a wholesome life with little interaction with any other tribes. Then came the outsiders with all their foreign bugs.
Currently, I am watching a semi-closed system systematically infecting its inhabitants with various strains of flu, cold bugs and bacteria moving rampantly through the ship population. First there was a bout of Norovirus. We killed that forth with as the Captain would say. (He is from the UK.)
We brought on some new people in Rio and in Santiago. OH…new bugs arrived and old bugs now run rampant. When we sit in various peaceful places on the ship, there is constant coughing. It is almost unbearable. Eventually, John and I both caved in and visited the ship’s doctor. No one on board wants to do this. It is very expensive, which is why the bugs run rampant.
The doctor’s office is a scary place. The worst of the worst come here. You have to hold your breath for fear of catching something else besides what you already arrived with. I think my blood pressure went up 50 points just sitting next to the lady with the cough from hell. Well, as it turned out, both John and I have strep throat and John has a cough I've never heard from him before. Yesterday, the passengers on the ship got a coughing etiquette lecture from the captain over the PA system.
Hopefully, all the passengers will survive until Los Angeles. Thank God, we have a doctor on board with antibiotics. The Incas and Aztecs were quite advanced for their time. You can see it in their architecture, art, chemistry and agriculture. Unfortunately they lived before the invention of penicillin and that was their demise. What will be ours? Maybe over use of penicillin. It is getting a work out on this ship.
One more highlight!!! >>>> We also stopped at a cotton ranch and weaving shop. We got to see weavers at work and had a chance to purchase their wares… (Of course). The weaving was the most interesting to me. I loved taking pictures of the weavers at work. Such beautiful products were for sale, I could have taken one of each. I guess my pictures will have to do. The fields of cotton went for miles in the valley, and the fiber is milled on the ranch. This was a very special treat. I did get to purchase some wool and a ball of cotton yarn there. YEA!!!!
Yes, we are sick, but still having an interesting time!! Stay tuned. Hope the internet will connect. That is my primary frustration. Bye for now!
Travel – Coquimbo (La Serina), Chile
Chile’s second oldest city, La Serena is doubly blessed with some beautiful architecture and a long golden shoreline, making it a kind of thinking-person's beach resort. The city absorbs hoards of Chilean holidaymakers in January and February, though it is fairly peaceful outside the summer rush. Sauntering through downtown La Serena reveals dignified stone churches, tree-shaded avenues and some pretty plazas. Some of the city's architecture is from the colonial era.
La Serena also has numerous attractions in the surrounding countryside, with pretty villages and Pisco vineyards aplenty, as well as international astronomical observatories to the north above the Atacama Desert that take advantage of the region's exceptional atmospheric conditions and clear skies.
This description above is from tour books and internet research and are primarily about La Serina. Off in the distance I’m sure that the descriptions are more or less true, but the ship docks in Coquimbo. Coquimbo can be described in the most opposite of terms.
I have seen many shanty towns, down to those with dirt floors and tar paper walls. Usually those are sparsely distributed in jungle areas and not in congested areas. Some of the places in Southeast Asia are rustic primarily because of the climate, but some of Coquimbo housing could be blown away in a medium wind storm.
I’m not sure what they do during storms. I can only assume that this part of the port is protected from the worst of the sea’s wrath. My pictures again will give you the rest of the story.
Noteworthy is the church at the top of the hill in Coquimbo. The mountain will come down and the church will still be there. The church was reportedly designed by Eifel of Eifel Tower fame. You can see from the pictures the resemblance.
After a grueling day’s tour in Santiago, John and I decide to forgo a trip to La Serena and stay on the ship. I know…we are wimps! The highlights of the city are the buildings dating back to its Colonial heritage. The ship has tours outside the city to the Pisco Distillery. The grapes of the Elqui Valley are used to produce Pisco. It is a type of brandy distilled from grapes. Pisco is the main ingredient in a Pisco Sour. It is 3 parts Pisco brandy, 1 part lemon juice with a dash of egg white (if you are brave enough) or float Quattro on the top. One drink is great, two drinks are very pleasant and three drinks will put you out for the duration of the day. We have tasted them all the way up the coast of Chile. They are very nice indeed.
I believe that I've seen this kind of brandy in the wineries in Woodinville. Now I know what to do with it. YUMMMM!
More exploring to do...Bye for now!
Monday, March 31, 2014
Travel - Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile, March 20, 2014
Spanish explorers arrived in 1536, aboard the Santiaguillo, a supply ship sent by Diego de Almagro, who is considered the first European explorer, or discoverer, of Chile. The Santiaguillo carried men and supplies for Almagro’s expedition, under the command of Juan de Saavedra, who named the town after his native village of Valparaíso de Arriba in Cuenca, Spain.
However, for us, we stopped here to jump on a bus and move about two hours inland to Santiago, for some reconnaissance for what we hope will be an extended visit here in a couple of years.
Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic, and other styles. Santiago's cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks. Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains contribute to a
considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards, and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Initially John and I thought we had signed up for transport to Santiago so that we could just ride the bus for the two hour ride to Santiago and then walk around the downtown area. However, once we boarded the bus and begin our journey it becomes apparent that we were actually on an all-day organized bus tour of Santiago. So much for walking around Santiago on our own. Something we love to do. It is the best way to really get the feel of a place.
The ride to Santiago takes us through Valparaiso, which is a fairly large, fairly poor port town. I've never seen shanty town buildings built on top of each other four and five story high leaning against steep hills. The city itself reminds me allot of Daly City, California, except that the
“tacky boxes” on the hillside were “really tacky boxes” I can’t imagine how terrible it will be when an earth quake strikes. Just looking at the buildings, you hold your breath for fear they will all come falling down. I’ve included pictures, because otherwise you wouldn’t believe me.
Once out of Valparaiso we travel through dry rolling hills and slowly increase in elevation. A welcome potty stop half way there let us all stretch are legs. We didn’t know that would be one of the rare times we would get off the bus. Once in Santiago the tour guide points out the government buildings, parks, bankrupt train station (this seems to be a trend in South America).
There is a lot of construction going on in Santiago. Currently they have a female president, (the tour guide was not too thrilled about). However, there does seem to be some progressive things going on. There is a new highway and rapid transit system being built in to the downtown area of Santiago and this has provided many new jobs. We also passed a fairly large protest of independent miners who do not want to be regulated or taxed. These independent miners are a large part of Chile’s water pollution problem high in the Andes.
This construction and the protest in town did create some problems for our tour bus and slowed the traffic down. There were cars, police and people everywhere. We stop at two old churches for a while and take some pictures,
Visit a government square where the president has an office and where President Salvador Allende “killed” himself as President Pinochet was taking over Chile. Interesting history! We also passed by the building where most of Pinochet’s prisoners were tortured.
The tour guide came around and asked if we had any questions. John asked when we were going to have a chance to go shopping. The tour guild just gave him a blank stare. Later the guide points out the shopping mall that all
the tourists go to and we wiz on by. Obviously that was not on our agenda. There would be no money spent in Santiago or Valparaiso by this tour bus today. How strange that this was not part of the tour. Usually the guide are hooked up with a shop or mall and usually get some type of a kickback.
We visit another church, the bus climbs one of the larger hills in Santiago to get a better view of the city then we all climb back into the bus. We are whisked off to a place for lunch …with the other ten tour buses on the same tour from the cruise ship. Yes, I feel like one of the herd…MOO… After an efficiently served lunch we all piled onto the bus again and head by to Valparaiso and the ship.
Comparing notes with some of the passengers who took other tours, there is wine country outside Santiago and those trips sounded enjoyable. Santiago was a large, smoggy, hectic city. We really didn't have the opportunity to enjoy any of the things that might make it unique. We might as well have been visiting Los Angles. I’m not sure I’d put this on my must return list, then again, maybe I’m selling it short. Lots of poverty and lots of rich people with no one in between. My pictures may give you some insight on Santiago, then again, you may need to go visit it yourself to develop a fair opinion. One bus ride is not enough.
The adventure has many more stops. My only problem at this point is the availability of the internet. Please be patient. As I have access the journey will continue.
Bye for now!!!
Travel - Puerto Montt, Chile, March 17, 2014
Lonely Planet’s description of Puerto Montt was enlightening… “Say what you will about Puerto Montt (locals certainly don't hold back, with Muerto Montt, meaning 'Dead Montt,' topping the list), but if you choose to visit southern Chile's ominous volcanoes, its celestial glacial lakes and its mountainous national parks, you will most likely be visiting the capital of the Lakes District and the region's commercial and transportation hub.”
Puerto Montt's most redeeming quality is that of its plethora of exit points (my emphasis added): be it by plane, ferry, bus or rental car, you can make a quick and virtually painless getaway to a near-endless inventory of memorable locales. Otherwise, travelers have occasionally become endeared of the unpolished working- class Chilean atmosphere here. Many of the building and culture have their basis in their German heritage.
It would appear that the ships tour planners took this exit strategy to heart as once we loaded onto the bus we were off to see other sites outside Puerto Montt. I got the feeling that there was something in Puerto Montt they didn't want us to see, but Lonely Planet explains it all. I guess there really wasn't much to see. It is a stopping off place to somewhere else.
Our bus took us through a small town (Puerto Montt) and then on into beautiful country side until we arrived at a beautiful fresh water lake.
The morning has started out foggy and rainy, but by noon time on our boat ride on the lake the fog is lifting and we begin to see beautiful volcanoes ringing the lake. The water is crystal clear, the clouds are puffy and the volcanoes are majestic.
We are following the ring of fire from the bottom of Argentina all the way up the west coast of South America. These snow-capped jewels are beautiful. One further down the chain still has a little steam rising from its center. We all know the circle of fire is alive and well. I hope my pictures help you see just a bit of how beautiful this place is. It is well worth a return visit.
We have lunch in a local hotel: Chilean farm raised salmon and Pisco Sour to drink. Both were good, although I am spoiled with the wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest. A bus ride through the same volcano valley area, (no fog this time) and we are back on the ship.
We are tired, but have had a lovely time. There is still more to this journey. Stay tuned....Bye for now!!
Travel – March 14 & 15, Punta Arenas and Amalia Glacier, Chile
Think of our last cruise stop and my encouragement to consult a map. Do that again! Punta Arenas is north of Tierra del Fuego and on the north shore of the Strait of Magellan.
Punta Arenas is the southernmost (large) city on Earth. Situated astride one of the world's historic trade routes, its prosperity has risen and fallen with that trade. Punta Arenas enjoyed its first great boom during the California Gold Rush, when it served as a haven for great clipper ships. Although the port's importance diminished after the opening of the Panama Canal, the city reached even greater prosperity early in this century as the center of Chile's international wool trade. In the 1940’s oil was discovered and has helped to bring back some of the region’s prosperity.
Today, Punto Arenas reflects a great mix of cultures, from English sheep ranchers to Portuguese sailors, and it remains an utterly fascinating testament to Chile's rich history. Punta Arenas is also the starting point for excursions to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. And this is one of the reasons we stopped here!
This morning as we arrive the sky is grey and the seas are choppy. The ship is anchored off shore and the life boat tenders have been dropped to take tours into town. Once the scheduled tours are shuttled off the ship then those without specific plans are free to shuttle over to town.
Interestingly, Punta Arenas is the capital city of Magellan Province, named for Ferdinand Magellan, whose ship was literally blown through the strait that also bears his name by a series of gales in 1520. Magellan was so happy to see the quite waters around the horn that he called them peaceful, hence this body of water was given its name, the Pacific Ocean.
This day, however, it was anything but peaceful. There were reports of many people getting sea sick on the way to shore. By two o’clock the captain stopped all tenders going ashore. John and I woke up late this morning as we did not have a tour. We had a leisurely breakfast and watched the waves and the bouncing tenders. It didn't take us long to decide that we would stay on board today. Punta Arenas would remain unexplored by us. Pictures were taken from the ship rail using a telephoto lens.
The next day the waters smoothed out considerably, the sky was gray and the temperature outside was freezing. Remember… we are pretty far south. I’m wearing my goose down coat, knit hat and gloves. It is an “at sea” day as we will not get off the ship, but there are beautiful sites to see.
The Amalia Glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field that covered the entirety of southern Chile just 10,000 years ago and helped form the fjords of Southern Chile’s Pacific coast. This really remote and spectacular field of ice is located in the Torres del Paine National Park about 100 miles east of the Pacific Ocean and buried among hyper-fantasy fjords and thousands of mostly uninhabited islands. The area is universally regarded as one of the most beautiful on Earth. In this case words cannot describe the beauty of the region so I’ll let my pictures do the talking.
The internet is intermittent and my blogs may not be very timely. There are 3,000 paying passengers on this ship. When we all try to communicate via the internet at once it can be very slow and costly. My tales of adventure and discovery continue, although it will be at an internet snail pace. More ports of call are to come. Hope you are enjoying the journey.
Bye for now!
Friday, March 21, 2014
Travel - Ushuaia, Argentina (Tierra del Fuego) March 13, 2014
If there was ever a need to consult a map, this is the place! Ushuaia, situated on the Isla Grande Tierra del Fuego, “The Great Island of the Land of Fire,” with the island divided as it is between Argentina and Chile, is the southernmost (small) city in the world. To the north of this island is the Strait of Magellan. The city itself sits on the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego, on a bay just off the Beagle Channel, and farther to the south over a number of desolate islands is land’s end at Cape Horn. Confused? Look at a map.
|Ushuaia city scape|
|view of ship in harbor|
Ushuaia was founded in October 12, 1884, when an Argentine expedition arrived to establish a sub-prefecture. However, some 300 Anglican missionaries of the South American Missionary Society already populated the area. They built the first houses and took care to evangelize the natives. For Argentinean people, Ushuaia began to be known in the early twentieth century when it was decided to build there a prison. The prison of Ushuaia is part of the city’s history and the prisoners were, more or less, the “first settlers.”
|Ushuaia mountain scape|
Coming up from our inside cabin into the light was a complete surprise. It is cold, white and foggy. As we climb off the ship fairly early in the morning in a semi-dazed sleep we are greeted with the most charming little town, nestled at the foot of the snowcapped Martial Mountains. It feels like we have been transported to a small town like Sitka in Alaska. The mountains are snow covered, unusually shaped and gorgeous. Ushuaia is a little sea port fishing village with tourist growing pains.
This place is a special place and should definitely be on your bucket list. It is literally at the end of the earth. Ushuaia is the end of the road or the end of the Pan-American Highway that starts in Alaska. It is the jumping off point for some going to Antarctica, and it is one of the most expensive cities to live in Argentina.
|Inside End of the Earth Post office|
|End of the Earth Post office|
Once off the boat we loaded into a small van and headed for a nice ride through town and up the mountain side, eventually reaching the “El Tren Del Fin Del Mundo” or “The End of the World Train”. It took us through some beautiful mountain territory and into a National Park. During the train and van ride we see a hidden lake and beautiful landscapes, flowers, woodlands, and animals.
Train end of line
We even saw a number of wild horses and red foxes. Before our trip is finished we stop at a rock and gem store to check out Argentinian stones to see what I might use for some of my creations. OH….what fun!! I’d go back to Ushuaia tomorrow, or could have jumped ship, if they didn’t keep such good track of us onboard the ship.
Next stop Punta Arenas, Chile. Stay tuned…..we have just gone around the bottom, but could not see Cape Horn due to the rough weather. Now we have gone over to the other side! We should have smoother sailing now that we are in the Peaceful Ocean, better known as the Pacific.