Hurry up and wait. Max and Anne, the Aussies, joined us for breakfast again and we sat and talked for over an hour. They were great company in the morning and we will miss them. Check out time was noon so we took our time packing and enjoyed lounging in the room and surfing the free wifi.
Down the hill for a small lunch and then we hung out in the park to people watch until 2:30PM. There was a very large police presence and barricades being put up for the race in a few hours. The Dakar race moved to South America five years ago because the drivers were being shot at in Dakar. This will be the first year that it finishes in Valparaiso.
Our taxi picked us up at 3:15 which was great and we say our goodbyes to Uve, our hostess. Our driver took us down the hill and the opposite way from where we thought we should go. We just needed to trust however that he knew where he was going.
Arriving at a large warehouse looking building on the water we see many people milling about and a young man with a trolley comes to collect our suitcases.
Princess Cruises? I ask
He left with our bags and we went to the lineups to check in and deal with paperwork. At the end of the building we were directed outside where we find a large bus.
Oh, that is why I can not see the ship.
It was in the Port that we thought it was at after all, they just don't have enough room for the processing there. The road to the ship hugged the coast so the Dakar race barricades were not an issue and we arrived and boarded the ship in no time.
Our room is located mid ship on the 11th floor and is lovely. Smaller than our last cabin but that is because we have a balcony this time.
We just had dinner at the buffet and then explored the ship for an hour or so. A talk about the ports we will be visiting was being held so we attended that for 45 minutes and then to our cabin to unpack. Ah, unpacking everything in our suitcase for 2 weeks. What a treat.
Day 19. Sunday Jan 19th.
A light breakfast at the buffet and then I went to join in the Zumba class. The instructor was very high energy and a lot of fun. This was the most intense Zumba class I have ever done and he also threw in a couple of Bollywood dances as well which I loved. I was exhausted at the end, but in a good way. I look forward to it again in two days.
Doug and I sat in on a basic Spanish class. They will happen for the two weeks and get harder as we go along. It was good because he told us how the same word is pronounced differently in Mexico, Spain and South America.
The dining room was open for lunch so we chose a table for 8 and were joined by 6 others. Two separate couples from the States, one originally from southern India, and two women from Israel now living in Toronto. We had a pleasant lunch and it was great to meet new people.
On our way back to the room we realize how hot it is outside and decided to take advantage of the weather and enjoy one of the four pools on board. The one by the gym was adult only and no one was in it. We found out why. It was not heated and quite cool to say the least, but once in it was very refreshing.
We flaked out in the room for a few hours and then Doug was happy to find that the football games were on our tv and also in the lounge and outdoor theatre . I sat on the deck and listened to music and played solitaire on my iPad quite happily.
Tonight is formal wear night, but we just went up for a buffet diner at half time so that Doug could get back to his game. I went off to a show in the theatre of dancers and singers but found it rather boring I am afraid. The costumes and talent were good, but I felt like I was at a Lawrence Welk Show. Not my thing.
I was going to hang out in the lounge area but everyone was dressed to the nines, except me, and I felt a little out of place so I went to the room and watched a movie while Doug watched the second football game on the big screen by the pool.
Port Day. The morning finds us at Puerto Mont, Chile. We can not dock here as they don't have a pier big enough, so they 'tender' you in. This means that they anchor out in the harbour and you board the covered life boats to get ashore.
As we just spent 8 days in this area we decided to stay on board today and continue to relax. Doug got a haircut and I am working on my blog. Any more relaxed and I may be comatose.
This cruise is quite different from the last one. For one thing there are a lot of South Americans on board. Now why that would surprise me I don't know. But a lot of folks don't speak any English. Everything on the ship is written in English but a lot of the verbal talks are English and Spanish.
Not as many Americans it appears. A number of Canadians and Europeans (mainly English and Swiss) but a lot of people from Argentina it seems
Most people are fit, some very thin, and it seems to be more formal and quieter than the last one. The ship has 2500 passengers and it is easier to get around than the Carnival cruise. It is very crowded as the ship is sold out. As a matter of fact it must have been oversold, as we got an offer to change to next year that was quite inviting, but the email came where we were already in Santiago.
The staff on the other ship were from all over the world. On this one they are predominately from the Philippines with some from Peru, Mexico and Thailand.
Apparently Filipino and Spanish are similar and therefore a lot of the staff speak Spanish as well as English.
I will reserve my final review at the end of the 14 days however.
Most days are similar. Breakfast, then I go to a Zumba class, Spanish lessons and there are some educational talks on the landscape history and animals of Patagonia which is very interesting. Lunch followed by a decaf cappuccino in the lounge and then a few hours in the cabin napping.
Dinner is in the dining room where we sit with 6 new people each night which is usually good, and then some form of entertainment such as a dancing/singing show or game show. Back to the cabin to read, sleep and start it all again the next day.
Port days of course add a diversion to the itinerary.
Today the ship was really rocking. Up until this point it was almost like glass, you could hardly tell we were on a ship.
We were in very rough waters now and at times the ship was creaking and groaning so much it felt like it may snap if half. But of course it didn't, it is quite used to these waters. But I am not. Surprisingly I am not sea sick and quite enjoying the big waves. Who knew?
I woke at 4:30AM and the ship was still. We had stopped and I opened the curtains to see a land mass beside us but it was too dark to make out.
I had set the alarm for 7A but at 6:30 I heard the captain come over the loudspeaker in the hall way. We had arrived at Amalia Glacier early. Opening the curtains revealed a large glacier a short distance from our ship. Big pieces of ice were floating by.
Quickly getting dressed we went out onto our balcony and marvelled at the amazing scenery. Today alone was worth the price of a balcony stateroom. We cruised very slowly by and then the captain did a 360 so the people on the other side could see as well. Gorgeous. The waters are very calm here.
Not so this afternoon. We went out on deck 7 and the ship was being pounded by the huge waves. It was so windy that we could barely get the doors open. It was very exciting.
Day 21. Port Day. Punta Arenas.
Again the ship anchored out and this time we did go ashore and climbed onto the tender for the 10 minute ride to the dock.
We had not purchased a shore excursion and had planned on just walking around the town. A young man met us outside the pier and suggested a taxi to Otway Sound to see the penguins. There were two women from England there as well, so the four of us shared a cab for the one hour trip, mostly by dirt road, to the Sound.
We were so happy that we made this decision. At the end of the road we had to get out and walk for a km along the ocean on boardwalk paths. The scenery was breathtaking. A very harsh and windy area means that the vegetation is very low to the ground and colors of yellows greens with patches of white and blue flowers.
Magellanic penguins were right beside us. They are known as the jackass penguins, not because they are so funny, which they are, but because they bray just like donkeys. Chicks are two months old and almost as big as the parents but have a fluffy brown down and look very fat. They will be fed until March and then the parents will take to the waters again and leave them behind to fend for themselves. At this point their down will be gone and they will be able to swim and leave shortly after.
The male penguins will come back to the site in the Spring (our Fall), a month before the females to get the nest ready. They have 'burrows' in the ground and the males spend time cleaning them out and making a nice home for the little woman. When she arrives on the beach somehow she will find her mate from among the thousands who are there and then she inspects the new home. If she does not approve, she will go off and find someone else with a nicer home for her and the new family. So they mate for life, as long as he can provide a good home to her liking.
A few hours were spent in town walking through the Plaza de Armas and then to a very modern hotel for some lunch and free wifi before catching the tender back to the ship.
Day 22. Port Day, Ushuaia.
We did not arrive at port until noon so we enjoyed breakfast lunch and Zumba beforehand. The ship was able to dock today so we walked down the gangway and the pier into the town. We are now in Argentina. Having not made any plans we went ashore to see if we could arrange to join a tour to the national park. No such luck, they had all left.
A taxi stand was close by and as we were looking at the rates a young man said "hello" in English.
" Are you a driver?" I ask.
" And you speak English?" Hooray. We arranged a price for a few hours and he drove us through the national park dropping us off in areas so we could do some small hikes in the hills and along the lakes.
You can find many t shirts and hats with " fin del mundo" or 'end of the world ' printed on them. This is where the Alaska highway ends and is the southernmost city before Antarctica.
There are a number of fox walking around, looking for handouts from the tourists. They are about the size of a labrador dog and beautiful colors of reds and browns. I actually had a fox fur coat that looked exactly like that when I was in my 20s and living in Alberta. I felt so guilty looking at this beautiful animal, thinking that he must know and was looking at me saying "murderer!!"
I have seen the light since then Mr. Fox.
We are in mid summer here. The temperature is 12C and when the wind is not blowing it is quite pleasant. The average high is 18-20C and the winters get down to -10C. The many lakes we see are rarely swam in as they are all glacier fed. Ushuaia is at the foot of very rugged mountains with the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the city. The town of 100,000 relies solely on tourism.
Beaver were brought here from Canada in the 1800s to breed for the fur trade. The fur changed in this climate however so the fur was not good to use. With no natural predator there are now many beaver and they wreak havoc on the forests and rivers cutting down trees and damming rivers. Bloody Canadians!
Day 23. Cape Horn.
What a rough night. It felt like the ship was being assaulted from all sides at points. The winds were over 80 miles an hour and waves coming from a different direction at times.
Woke a few times in the night to take some ginger pills to settle my queasiness. I had a bit of a panicked moment at times but remembered that the captain has done this many times.
Coffee arrived at our room at 7AM and we sat in our cabin and watched as we went around the Horn. I did not realize that Cape Horn is an island just below the tip of South America. It was named after a Dutch business man who sent his son on a ship here and was one of the first to successfully go around it.
The land is very barren, a light house is at the end and the huge waves are crashing on the rocks. I can imagine being in a much smaller wooden sailing ship of years gone by. The wind is howling and all the outer decks are closed to passengers. Once again we are so happy with ourselves that we splurged on a balcony as we sit in our bathrobes, drinking our coffee and watching as we sail around the Horn.
We are crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back to the Atlantic.
Once we round the corner a ways the seas die down. The captain came on and said that the last few crossings have been very calm and that we were lucky to have experienced the real feel of rounding the Horn. I agree, now that it has calmed down.
Tradition has it that sailors who survived the trip would get one ear pierced and have a free drink a the next stop. I am trying to convince Doug that he needs to pierce one ear to commemorate achieving his goal of sailing around the Horn.
Day 24. The Falkland Islands.
Once again we are tendered in. The ship anchored quite a ways off land and we were very lucky that the seas were fairly calm this morning. Quite often the shore excursions are cancelled because of high seas. On one occasion the passengers got ashore but had to overnight as the tenders could not get them back.
The morning started off with a drizzle but improved as the day went on. Summer weather of a pleasant 13C but a very strong wind made it feel cooler at times.
The main town of Stanley has around 1500 residents with another 1000 living on the outlying farms. Sheep farming is the main industry followed by tourism during the summer months of November to March.
A very barren looking island. Not much in the way of any vegetation other than low ground cover.
The island is British and feels as though you are in a small English seaside town. The British flag is flying and there are lovely flower gardens in front of the modest homes.
The cars drive on the left, the currency is the British pound and folks speak with a proper English accent.
In Argentina you need to refer to this as "the Malvinas" and not the Falklands. The 'conflict' in 1982 between Argentina and England left casualties on both sides, but mostly on the Argentine side. There is a long history here of different counties laying claim to this land. I am personally not sure why anyone would want to live here, but that is just my opinion.
We had arranged a tour through the ship and 14 others joined us on a van which took us out to a sheep farm where we transferred to four waiting 4x4s. The terrain was very rough and nothing short of this land rover would make the journey without getting stuck in the huge potholes and fields of mud. We are travelling over miles of sheep grazing area and going no more than 10 miles an hour. I sat in the front and asked our driver, Mike, many questions about life on the Falklands. There is not much grown here so everything is imported and very expensive. They don't eat much in the way of fruit or vegetables so I would not do well here at all.
Oil exploration is coming to the Falklands, with an offshore drill to be located south of the island within the next couple of years. The population is divided on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
Finally, feeling banged and bruised, we arrive at our destination. The coast line of Berkeley Sound is home to a rookery of Rockhopper penguins. These are the smallest of penguins, only around 21 inches high and weighing in at 5 lbs.
Most of the adults are out fishing and will return later in the day to regurgitate their un digested fish to feed the babies.
A few dozen adults are left to be the 'babysitters' to the hundreds of brown fluffy chicks. Born in December a lot are already moulting much of their down and getting ready to leave the nest in March. The parents will leave first and then the babies will follow. They stay in the water until November when they come back to nest again. Mating for life they always come back to the same place.
Not a pleasant smelling animal that is for sure. These guys have a chirping sound and get their name because they hop from rock to rock with great agility. Yellow eyebrows and head feathers set the Rockhopper apart from the others and they are quite endearing. A rope is laid on the ground and we must stay on one side of it. The penguins however are very curious and they don't follow the rules, coming right up to us. I was crouched down taking a picture when one came right up looking into my camera lens.
It was so windy that my camera was bouncing around while I was trying to video, but we really enjoyed our time here.
The hour passed far too quickly and then we had to make the rough trip back to the farm and then to Stanley. After exploring the town for a couple of hours we made our way back to the ship on the tender. We were so fortunate to have such a calm and almost sunny day.
Sea day. A relaxing day meeting more new people. Breakfast was spent with a hilarious couple from New York.
Our lecture today was on the life of Evita, or Eva Peron which was great as I am currently reading her biography. I guess I don't need to finish the book now as I know how it ends.
Doug went to an art history lesson and I went to Zumba.
Day 26. Puerto Madryn Argentina.
Last night at dinner the captain came over the loud speaker which was unusual. By the tone of his voice I thought he was going to tell us we were sinking or boarded by pirates or something.
He informed us that the dock workers in Puerto Madryn are striking and although we will be able to get off the ship they will not let us back on! Our stop there has been cancelled and he decided that instead we will have another sea day today and then an extra day in Montevideo Uruguay.
This is just fine with us as we were not really excited about the stop anyhow.
Spent the day relaxing and I got a haircut. Formal night tonight so we got to wear the outfit we have been packing around for the past month. We are going to ditch them now. Doug's suit jacket and my skirt and top will be left on board.
Day 27, Montevideo Uruguay.
Time change last night. We lost an hour so my Zumba class this morning seemed very early.
Our ship docked at noon and after lunch we wandered into town to do a self guided walking tour for a few hours. This is a very old city and it must have a real connection to Coca Cola because I have never seen so many Coke signs or paraphernalia anywhere else.
The president of Uruguay is quite the guy. He drives an old VW, lives in a modest home, refusing to live in the palace, never wears a suit and donates all his salary to charity. He is in his second term of 5 years.
Over a million and a half people live in Montevideo and one of a few cities in South America that does not have a 'shanty town' around it. There are a number of pedestrian walkways lined with palm trees, many old colonial style buildings and it feels safe to walk here. The humidity is 100% today and although not too hot it is very close feeling.
Day 28, Montevideo
The hop on hop off bus started it's route very close to the cruise terminal so after breakfast we walked out to catch the 10AM bus. We did not get off but rather did the entire 2 1/2 hour trip. Montevideo is huge, and there is lots of traffic on the roads. Beautiful parks, lovely buildings and a few beaches were passed on our tour. The commentary was informative and we enjoyed the day.
The plan was to come back to stay five nights in Montevideo after we spent a few nights in Buenos Aires but we cancelled our reservation. We felt that we had seen enough for now and did not want to spend a day travelling back again.
Back to the ship to relax and start packing. We are reaching the end of our cruise already. Our luggage has to be out in the hall before 6PM tomorrow, but we will be in Buenos Aires all day so started tonight.
We sat out on our deck as we sailed away at 5PM towards Argentina. We will put our clocks back again tonight.
Day 29, Buenos Aires.
This massive city comes into view early this morning as we go out onto our balcony. 9AM finds us on a hop on hop off bus to explore the city. I don't think that either of us have ever been to such a huge city before. Buenos Aires has a population of over 11 million people and the city is spread out over many miles. Some of the main city streets are 10 lanes wide with millions of cars, busses and trucks.
It is hot. 89% humidity but the temperature is in the mid 30s. We sat on the top of the open air bus and looked forward to going down the shady tree lined streets. Buenos Aires as many different neighbour hoods and we hopped off at the Recoleta area. During the time of Eva Peron this was where you knew you 'made it' if you hung your hat in an apartment here.
A very charming area with a lovely park and an art museum we will come back to see. We stopped for a very refreshing iced leamonaid in a lovely little cafe and then went across the street to visit the Recoleta cemetery.
Similar to the cemeteries in New Orleans, the graveyard was full of above ground crypts. But this was like a city with old crypts that reminded me of the small temples in Burma, up to modern granite ones with glass doors and stairs down to the crypt.
A lot of money was spent in here, it was truly amazing. There are many trees and it looks like a park.
Eva Peron is buried here with her family under her maiden name Duarte.
Back on to the bus we decided to check out where our hotel is located and walked around that area for a bit. We are happy with the location.
A very long and hot ride back to the cruise terminal and after a rest and dinner we went up on the pool deck and watched an outdoor movie. The breeze made it very pleasant.
This is the last night on the ship. We sailed 4606 miles on this trip and saw some amazing scenery. We will miss the comfort of our room and having all our meals brought to us, our room cleaned for us every day and not having to drive anywhere. I can see the allure of cruising.
I just figured it out.....food cooked for you, your room cleaned, never having to drive anywhere. It's like being a kid again.
Now we will explore Argentina.