A Travellerspoint blog

The Sacred Valley

sunny 19 °C

Pisac and Ollyantambo.

Day 63

We thought about taking a direct bus or taxi to Ollyantambo, but in the end decided to do a bus tour so that we could explore Pisac on the way.

We left our luggage at the hotel in Cusco and only took two small backpacks with enough for three days.

We were picked up in a comfortable tourist bus just off the square. Our guide spoke in English and Spanish. The scenery on the way was beautiful and after two hours we arrived in Pisac. The guide said we had a half hour in the market but the first ten minutes were in a silver factory to tell us how the silver jewelry was made.

I really resent this part of a tour, where they take you to a factory or somewhere where I am sure the guide gets a cut of what you buy. I know everyone has to make a living, but that only gave us 20 minutes left to shop and look around the Pisac market.

We did manage to find a couple of little things in the market and then back on the bus to head up the hill to the ruins.
You need to purchase a tourist ticket to visit all the sites in the Sacred Valley and Cuzco, so we purchased it here at the gate. Our guide had the blue flag for us to follow her. Ugg, I hate bus tours but this seemed the best option.

She took us to a few different viewpoints and explained about the site and the history which was really interesting. Then we had a half hour on our own. A half hour? I could have easily spent another hour or so here. It is a lovely setting in the mountains and very peaceful and interesting.

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Our time was up all too soon and then it was to Urubamba for lunch. Lunch was included in the tour price and really had low expectations of what we would get, but was very pleasantly surprised.

The drive from Urubamba to Ollyantambo is gorgeous. Hills of emerald green with the Urubamba river flowing by. I think that this is the most beautiful scenery of our entire trip. I was in Ollyantambo six years ago and loved it then, but really loved it this time. Here is the best surviving example of an ancient Inca town with many of the original homes. The cobblestone streets are narrow with high walls on each side. Ollyantambo is sandwiched between two mountains with ruins on each side. It is spectacular.

There are many men and women walking around town wearing their local dress which is very colorful. The town feels very relaxed and tranquil.

Our tour included a visit to the main ruins, but it was only for an hour. The stairs are very steep and it looked like I would want more than an hour here so we just took our small packs from the bus and went to find our hotel. It turned out to be a great decision because at 4:30 the skies opened and it just poured with thunder and lightening accompanying it.

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Day 64 Ollyantamo.

Check out time was at 10AM that that was a good thing because it got us up and about early. We were at the bottom of the ruins by 9:30AM under beautiful blue skies. The sun was warm but not oppressive. There were a couple of young men at the bottom of the ruins offering their services as a guide. We were happy to hire one of them for the short tour, one hour.

Climbing the many stairs up was a slow go, but there were many others climbing at a similar pace. Having a guide really enhanced our experience as he gave us so much information about this site as well as Inca and pre Inca life. It was just fascinating and so beautiful up there. We were so happy that we decided not to go yesterday.

Most of the tour busses arrive around 3PM, so going early in the morning there was very few people up there.

After our hour was up we had the option to continue on for another 40 minutes to explore more of the site, which we did. As I said, I think that this is one of the favourite places we have been so far, we just loved it.

Heading back to the square we came upon a tiny restaurant which is owned and run by a lovely young man and has only been open for six months. The coffee was amazing and the food delicious.

Full and satisfied we explored the narrow cobblestone streets and town square.

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If you see this red flag in front of a house, they sell the local moonshine made from corn, Chicha

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The little girl wanted to wear my sunglasses for the picture

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At 2:30P we headed back to our hotel to pick up our small backpacks and walked the road by the river down to the train station.

We chose the Vista Dome train, on Peru Rail. The 3:30P train only had two cars, (most people go up earlier) and we sat with two German men and had four women from the US beside us which made for interesting conversation.

It was a wonderful 1 1/2 hour ride through the mountains and there were large windows and windows in the ceiling too for a great view. Very professional staff and we were even served coffee and sandwiches on the way.

Half an hour from Agua Calliente the rain started. By the time we reached our destination it was pouring.

A young woman was at the station holding a placard with our name on it, as well as another couple's, We were grateful for that as she led us through some mazes to get to our hotel for the next two nights.
We all agreed to stop at the bus station for the transfer tickets to Machu Picchu first to avoid the inevitable line up in the morning.

As we rest in our room for a couple of hours we hear the rain pelting down on the roof. It is torrential.

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At 7 PM there is a break in the weather so we venture out to find dinner. I remember Agua Calliente as not being a great place to be, just a place you had to stay to get to Macchu Picchu. But now it is just lovely, a wonderful surprise.

Lonely Planet recommended a place called Indio Feliz which was not far from our hotel. It is owned and run by a man originally from France and the decor is very French Pub looking with two lovely big fireplaces which was wonderful as it was getting cold.

The decor was fun and all the painting and decorating was done by him. The food was amazing. We could hear everyone at the tables around us raving about the food.

Two great meals in one day, what a treat.

Returning to the hotel we met the owner (Bill's) son Lawrence in the lobby. He wanted to make sure that everything was okay and asked if we had arranged a guide for tomorrow. We said we hadn't and half an hour later he called our room and said he had a guide for us and he will be here at 6:30AM to pick us up. Wonderful service.

Day 65 Matchu Picchu

Alain our guide met us in the lobby at 6:30AM and we walked a block to the waiting busses. We were able to get right on and start the 25 minute ride to the top . This is the only way to get to the site, other than walking, and has us going on many switchbacks up the mountain.

We started at the bottom of the site as the clouds had the mountains completely socked in. Alain was a wonderful guide and told us so many new things about the Inca's and Matchu Picchu life. At this time of the morning there were not too many people around and it was quite pleasant.

The clouds rolled in and out quickly. One minute you could see the other mountains and a moment later it was completely covered again. It made it all that much more mystical.

We slowly made our way to the top of the site stopping every once in a while to learn more from Alain. Two hours later we paid for his services and he went back down and we climbed higher to visit the Inca Bridge.

This was part of the old Inca Trail and took around 20 minutes each way on a narrow path with a steep drop off to the valley below. It brought back memories of my time here six years ago when I did the short Inca Trail and how I was terrified I would go off the edge with my vertigo and fear of heights.

When we returned the crowds had arrived, it was 11AM. I thought it was much more crowded than the last time I was here. Many large groups of Japanese tourists were everywhere as well as a number of other groups. We were glad we came early to have some time with fewer people.

At noon the rain started and we decided to go, we both needed the bathroom. There are no services on the site, it is the way it was all those years ago. By the time we climbed the stairs to the bottom the rain was coming down quite heavily so we just caught the bus and went back into town. It was a great morning. This is still one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.

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Day 66

I thought I knew rain, living on the west coast, but last night the sound of the pouring rain work us up. It sounded like we were in the middle of Niagara Falls.

We woke to a gorgeous blue cloudless sky. Our train left at 11 AM and we were joined by a lovely young man named Edwin who was a tour guide. He had just finished taking a group on the short Inca Trail and was now heading home to Cusco. He was a great source of information for us about the Inca life and the area.

The train stopped for fifteen minutes to wait for the other train to pass by. During that time we were entertained by a dancer in a costume and then a fashion show of beautiful Alpaca clothing.

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We disembarked at Ollyantambo and saw a young man with my name written on a placard. He directed us to a mini bus to take us to Cusco. Edwin joined us and I ended up on a spare middle seat, made of plywood I think, in a 12 passenger van. It was a very long one and a half hour drive, no air and a lot of close bodies.

By the time we got to Cusco I was feeling rather ill. We walked a few blocks to our hotel and I flaked out for a few hours while Doug went out for lunch.

This evening we went to a show of dancers and singers wearing the traditional costumes of the area. It was very entertaining and we enjoyed it a lot.

Day 67.

Edwin (whom we met on the train yesterday) had a friend who was a local tour guide and had a nice car, so he arranged for him to pick us up at our hotel at 10AM. Marco took us to three sites in Cusco and explained a lot more about the Inca Life.
A common theme in all the ruins is the three levels, the underlife is represented by the snake, the present is represented by the Puma, and the after life the Condor. There are still a few tribes who live the way the Incas did hundreds of years ago, wearing the traditional clothing and way of life. There are no roads there and it takes a few days to get to them, but they do not accept any outsiders.
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After we said goodbye to Marco and had our lunch we went to the Pre Columbian Museum. The artifacts and display were outstanding, a very well presented museum.

Down the hill was the Inca Museum which we visited as well, but I just did a whirlwind tour in half and hour and then went back to the hotel. It was a very long day with a number of things packed into it.

Today is our last day in Peru.

Day 68. Flying around South America.

6AM came all too early to catch a cab to the airport. When we checked in for our 8AM flight we were informed that nothing was leaving Cusco because of the weather. It looked fine outside to us, but for what ever reason nothing was flying.

Our connection in Lima to Quito was not going to happen. I paid more money for this flight in order to arrive into Quito at 1PM, but now we were going to be routed through Bogota Columbia and arrive at our destination at 1AM.

The gate area was standing room only, as all flights were grounded, but we arrived early enough to secure two seats. Our four hour wait was pleasant however as we met a lovely couple from New York and spent the time chatting to them.

We finally left for Lima and had another five hour layover which allowed us plenty of time to grab some lunch. At the gate two hours early we met a couple from Saskatchewan (Glenys and Randy )and a solo woman traveller from Australia, (Kath) and we had some wonderful conversations. We all hung out together for the rest of the journey.

The flight was late by about 45 minutes and we were all concerned that our luggage would not make it. Next stop Bogota Columbia. What a gorgeous airport and the shops had such beautiful things in it. Thankfully we did not have a lot of time to spend shopping as our flight to Quito was leaving in less than an hour.

We finally arrived in Quito at 1AM, (12 hours after our scheduled arrival time and 19 hours later). We were all so happy to see that our luggage arrived with us too.

Kath shared her arranged cab with us and we took the one hour commute to the centre of town. The airport is new, very modern, but very far out of the city.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 2:30AM and the young fellow helped us with our bags to our room and we collapsed.

Now our adventure in Ecuador begins. This is the last country we will visit in South America.

On Monday we are heading deep into the Amazon for five days. I hope the natives are friendly!!!!! We will not have any internet or communication while there.

Posted by debbep 11:28 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

La Paz, Lake Titicaca and Cuzco

Day 57
La Paz Bolivia

Arrival in La Paz was one of the easiest of anywhere we have been.We were on a smaller plane and walked off onto the Tarmac and into the baggage claim area. Our bags arrived in five minutes and we went outside to waiting marked taxis.

Cab ride into the centre was a fixed rate of 60 BOL. On the way we saw hundreds of riot police. Not a comforting feeling really.

It took about half an hour to get to town and then about 45 minutes to go a few blocks to the hotel. Complete gridlock.

We met a couple from Australia who just arrived and said that their bus had to circle the city for ages before being able to come to the airport area. They then took a cab and videoed what was going on and showed me. The sex trade workers in the El Alto area are experiencing violence from the residents there, so they are striking, making it all but impossible for traffic to go through.

On the video I saw tear gas canisters, small bombs, yelling etc and then this lovely looking older woman starting throwing large rocks at the cab they were in and smashed the window.

These two were really shook up about it, understandably. It appears that the strikes are a common occurrence here, as I found out when I googled it.

We went for a walk down to the main square, or pigeon park you could call it. There were thousands of pigeons and people would stand with food in their hands to feed the birds so they would land on them. There were many photos taken of people with six or more pigeons on arms, shoulders and heads.

We sat and people watched for over an hour and a half and then went into a small modern art museum nearby, admission was free.

I am having a terrible time breathing. I almost collapsed at one point. It is mostly due to all the diesel fumes as La Paz is very busy. The population is around 4 million and there are so many small busses and cars on the road. The altitude is also at 14,000 feet so the combination of the two is not working well for me.

We decided not to stay in La Paz and arranged for a bus to pick us up in the morning and go to Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca.

We purchased tickets on line and will arrive in Copacabana at 11AM, overnight and then leave at 6:30PM the next day to Puno. Puno for two nights and then the bus to Cuzco. It is a nice tourist bus with reclining seats and the total for all three legs is only $34 each.

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Day 58,

Copacabana Bolivia.

The scenery on the way to Copacabana is beautiful past rolling hills and countryside.

The girls in front of us reclined their seats and we were feeling a little cramped, until we looked out the window and saw an 18 passenger van with twenty people and lots of packages in it.

Copacabana is around the same altitude as La Paz but there is very little traffic so the air is much cleaner. We took a cab the short distance to our hotel because it was up a hill and rolling suitcases don't do too well on cobblestones.

The Hotel Cupula is just perfect. We have a lovely room overlooking the bay and the grounds are full of flowers and hammocks. You can tell that the people who run it have a lot of pride in their work. The building is Moorish in style, all white and rounded tops. There are a great many different styles of buildings in Copacabana, some very unique and interesting buildings.

A walk down to the town and along the boardwalk shows many paddle boats and kayaks for rent. It is low season so not many people are out on the water.

Copacabana is definitely a tourist town, and probably in the high season the tourists would outnumber the 6,000 residents I would think. It is again a backpacker haven and we are clearly at least 30 years older than any other tourist we have seen in town. Rastafarian hippies are everywhere as well as lots of young people making their way around South America, just like we are.

I would much rather be in a town where the average age of the tourist is 25 rather than 85 however.

The local shopkeepers and people on the street are not very friendly I found. They seem fed up with tourists even though it looks like the town's main source of income.
The people in hotels and restaurants are nice however.

We did not do much in Copacabana. We just relaxed, walked around and enjoyed the clean air. It was lovely during the day but really cooled off at night and early in the morning. There are tours to the outlying islands and that is why most people come here. I had done it 6 years ago and didn't care to go again and Doug was just fine with that as well.

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Day 59. PUNO, Peru

Our bus to Puno left at 6:30PM so we paid for a late check out of the room. The cost of the hotel was only $33 a night. Once again, we are the oldest on the bus by far. We had to sign in and put our names, nationality and age. I looked up the list and the youngest was 18 and the oldest (other than us) was 33.

This was a double decker bus with the nice seats downstairs. I asked if we could sit downstairs and she said yes which was great.

Half an hour out of Copacabana we stopped at customs control, checked out of Bolivia and then walked up the road to check into Peru. We were able to exchange our BOLs for Peruvian Soles there as well.

The trip took about three hours and just before we arrived in Puno a man got on the bus and was chatting us up, and eventually told us that he was selling tour tickets. We bought two tickets from him to go to the floating reed island (Uros) tomorrow for 35 Soles each.

Upon arrival in Puno we found a cab right away and for 7 Soles he took us to our hotel, Casona Plaza which is just off the main square and very nice. The cost is $41 per night including breakfast.

They kindly kept the restaurant open for us and we had a small dinner before bed.

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Day 60

I did not have a good morning, couldn't breathe. We are at 14,000 feet or more and I don't have the signs of altitude sickness, just really short of breath. I can't seem to walk more than a half a block without stopping to rest.
I asked reception if I could go on oxygen for a half and hour and that really seemed to help. Most hotels in Puno and in Cusco will have oxygen available as it is a common occurrence for people to be short of breath when they first arrive.

We walked the short couple of blocks to the main square to look around and find an ATM. We can only take out 400 soles, or around $160 a day here which again is a pain.

It is international women's day and many of the women are walking around dressed in their traditional outfits. I spoke to one woman in Spanish who was from the island of Amanti and she had embroidered her blouse and shawl. It was just beautiful.

I don't remember these from six years ago, but there are hundreds of small taxis, like Asian Tuk Tuks on the streets as well as the bicycle tuk tuks.

At noon we were picked up by a van with 12 others and taken to the pier where our boat waited for us. We sat inside on route while the guide told us about Lake Titicaca and the reed islands we were on our way to visit. There are many islands in the lake, some are real islands but a lot are floating islands made of reeds.

We came to one of these floating islands and disembarked to sit in the hot hot sun while the guide and the local president of the island explained how the islands were built from the reeds. The homes are also made from the reeds, which grow in abundance in the lake. They even eat them and we were each given one to try. I just pretended to eat it.

This island has six families that live here full time. The children are taken by reed boats to school every day and there they learn to speak English and Spanish. The local dialect here is Aymara.

Each group of us were taken inside one of the huts, which were very pleasant inside. It was scorching hot outside, but rather cool inside. The hut is very small and only a bed and a few blankets plus hooks along the walls to hang clothes. They have solar power and two light bulbs hung in the middle and they had a small tv. I asked how many channels they got and they replied 6, but Dad likes to watch sports most of the time.

Then the embroidery came out, wall hangings and pillow covers. They were very beautiful but you couldn't help feeling like a fish in a barrel in their home while they show you this beautiful work. Of course we did buy one pillow cover for 50 soles ($20) which is a lot but the work that goes into it is amazing.

From there a few of us went on the reed boat to the next island while a man and woman rowed us. It looked like very hard work and we felt guilty just laying back while they seemed to be struggling. The kids came along for the ride too.

The next island had a restaurant and gift shop which I did not go into. I had been here six years ago and it was a different experience from this one. It is very touristy and you feel like you are being set up to buy things, but it is also a great experience to be able to see how they have lived for over 900 years on these islands. There are a lot of islands that people live on where tourists are not allowed to go to, only those who choose to share the experience do, and it is a source of income for them as well.

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On the way back we asked to be dropped off at the bus depot as we needed to get our seat assignment for our bus tomorrow. I am so glad we did because in Copacabana the woman took my voucher and gave me a piece of paper in return. When I handed it to the fellow in Puno today he said there was no leg from Puno to Cusco. It took more than half an hour to sort out, but in the end he said we had paid.

I then found out that the 8AM bus were were booked on did not have a bathroom. 8 hours with out a bathroom was not an inviting thought. He changed us to the 11:30AM bus instead, so we were so glad we made this stop on the way back to the hotel.

Day 61. Puno to Cusco

The bus left on time and we had upstairs seats with a platform in front of us, so plenty of leg room. I had brought lots of books and things to do on the 8 hour journey but the scenery was so beautiful we just looked out the window the entire time until it got dark.

Green rolling hills with farmland and the snow capped Andes behind. Half way into the journey four women got on with buckets and baskets, one with a baby bundled on her back and oldest one with a huge bundle in a blanket. She threw it down on the platform in front of us, opened it up and peeled back the brown paper inside. It was a huge piece of cooked meat of some kind.

From one of the baskets she withdrew a huge butcher knife and started cutting and hacking away at the meat, putting pieces into a plastic bag and then a potato from somewhere went in too. The other women were going up and down the aisles taking orders and delivering the goods. The bus has taken of again now and the women worked for the next half hour of so until the next stop. I assume they would hop another bus and make their way back again. It was great entertainment

Especially because she was right beside this 30 something European ( German I think) couple who were so serious and impeccably dressed and seemed really uptight.
The older woman had her butt right in his space the entire time and they would lean over him to pass things. Very entertaining. He didn't say anything but did not look pleased.

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The bus station in Cusco is huge and there were probably hundreds of big tourists buses like ours. We needed to move from the bus with our luggage to get to the taxi area and it was just jammed with people.

A cab to the Plaza de Armas was supposed to be 5 soles but we were quoted 10 which was fine.
Our hotel is La casa de selenque and is right off the plaza. Cost for one night with breakfast is $70CAD. The rooms is spacious and clean and you can't beat the location.

I was here 6 years ago and can't believe the difference. There is a Starbucks beside our hotel, KFC on the square and high end shops. The square was packed with people, Saturday night, and it was exciting to be back here.

Sticker shock. I don't remember it being this expensive, but maybe it was just because Bolivia was so inexpensive. We got to the point in Northern Argentina and Bolivia that I didn't even look at the prices any more, they were so inexpensive.

We ate on the plaza tonight, each having a bowl of soup, salad and leamonaid and it came in at 80 soles. With a tip that is $35 and it wasn't very good either. I guess we need to look more closely at prices and realize that Cusco is expensive now.

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Day 62
Cusco
How lucky are we? We woke to find that there is a parade today for Carnival, and right in front of our hotel in the Plaza de Armas.
First we did go to Starbucks for a real cup of coffee and it was wonderful. It's been a long time since we have had a good cup of coffee, as a matter of fact I have just not even bothered for a long time.
The parade lasted a few hours and had many dancers, singers and musicians in their native dress from the different areas. This was a much more polished parade than the one we saw in Sucre, but we still enjoyed both.

The plaza was packed with both locals and tourists. There are many tourists here, and a lot of young backpackers. Once again there are many people with waterguns, balloons and the foam spray cans. Everyone seemed to get in on the act here, and so many of the young tourists were having such a great time spraying the locals, who returned the favor. No one was off limits and everyone just took it in great spirit.

We were talking to some of the people in the parade and they took pictures of us in their hats and gave Doug on of their guitars for the pose.

The day was beautiful and warm and at 5PM the skies opened up and it just poured. How wonderful that it held off and the parade did not get rained out.

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the little goat (kid) is only four days old.

My breathing is so much better here. I can make it up a couple of flights of stairs without problems now. Such a relief.
We will be heading to lower altitudes now. We purchased train tickets on PeruRail to Machu Picchu but this time of year the train does not leave from Cusco, so we need to take a bus to Ollyantambo first. A visit to a travel agent to arrange all the other details and we are off tomorrow morning to the Sacred Valley.

We had two wonderful meals today and really enjoyed our time in Cusco so far.

Posted by debbep 19:32 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Bolivia

Please pass the salt

sunny 23 °C

Day 49

We arranged a cab to pick us up at our hotel in Purmamarca and the driver took us to Tilcara which was the next town where the bus station was. The station was just an area where the bus pulled in and our 11AM bus showed up at 10 to 1.

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The bus arrived at the border town of La Quicaca around 5, where we grabbed a cab for $2 to take us to the border into Bolivia. There was a line up to leave Argentina, paperwork filled out and handed in, and then another line up to enter Bolivia with more paperwork. The entire process took around 40 minutes.

We are in Bolivia now. There are money exchange stalls every two feet so we are able to trade our Argentine pesos for Bolivarios. There were busses that went to the town of Tupiza, where we were headed, but instead we negotiated a cab for $34 for the two hour ride.

Tupiza is a small town in a lovely setting with mountains surrounding it. Our hostel is very basic but only cost $28 including a very meager breakfast. We immediately went off to find our travel agent that we had been working with to pay for our tour tomorrow.

Day 50.
Mario picked us up at 9AM for our two day tour in a Toyota 4x4. He spoke very little English, but that was okay as we wanted to practice our Spanish.

The scenery north changes every half hour and is beautiful. This is where Butch Cassidy and the SunDance kid had their last big shoot out.

llamas are everywhere, large groups of them on the hills and in the meadows.

The road to Uyuni is a very narrow, winding gravel road with many switchbacks over the mountains. This is the only road and the one we would have taken had we decided to take the bus for the five hour non stop ride. It would have driven me crazy to not be able and stop to take pictures on the way. Mario would stop many times during the day to let us take photos and just walk on some trails and meadows.

Three hours later he pulled off the road and down into a meadow where he suggested Doug and I walk for an hour. There was a large group of llamas and donkeys with their new born babies, some only weeks old. They were not too sure about us and kept moving further into the hills as we walked towards them
Upon our return we find lunch waiting for us, set up on the tailgate of the Toyota.

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The road is in great condition for the most part. We seem to be following the Dakar race route as this where it started off before ending in Valparaiso Chile on the day we were there. There are areas however where the road just seems to disappear into a river bed, lots of times with water flowing quite strongly in the river. I am not sure how the bus does this route.

A small mining town was on the way so we stopped and walked around for about half an hour. Everyone in town does some sort of job associated with the mining. Bolivia is very rich in minerals. They have been mining for hundreds of years but the supply is still plentiful.

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Quinoa was growing in fields on the top of the mountain. It does not require any irrigation, only rainwater, and grows in the high altitudes. It is more expensive to buy quinoa here than at home. Bolivia does not export it's quinoa to other countries only uses it for themselves.

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Mario once again pulled off the road up onto a hill and told us to walk down to the lagoon and he would meet us on the other side. The water was a pinkish color and we see that there are many flamingos in the lake which was a nice surprise.

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An hour out of Uyuni the landscape changes to flat land with small brush, certainly not as attractive as the area around Tupiza. Mario drove us into the town and helped us to buy our bus ticket for two days from now which was great.

There is a tourist attraction that is on all the tours called the 'train graveyard'. We drove past it but said we did not need to get out of the truck. It was just a bunch of rusted out trains in my opinion. Sure they were the first ones involved with the mining industry, but not that interesting in my opinion. Train travel is very scare in Bolivia now. Every thing goes by truck and passengers by bus.

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We finally arrived at the Salt Flats outside of Uyuni town. The lake is massive. Mario said it is the size of Switzerland but I have not checked that out yet.
We are lined up on the edge waiting for the sunset. A shallow skim of water in on the ground and when the sun goes down it looks like a mirror on the ground. It was so beautiful.

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It is really chilling off now as we head to our hotel for the night. A lot of people, especially the younger back packer crowd, do a four day tour staying in dorms with no heat, shared bathrooms and bunk beds. We considered this but it would be far too tiring for me to have four full days in a row. They also sometimes put up to six people into the trucks which can be rather uncomfortable on these long rides to say the least.

We arranged a two day private tour and were so happy we did. We saw everything that we wanted to see and could go at our own pace.
We also opted for a unique hotel instead of the unheated dorms. A salt hotel on the lake, with everything made of salt. Walls, furniture, even the floor. This is a newer hotel and quite nice. Dinner and breakfast were included, which was a good thing seeing as how the hotel is miles from anywhere, and we enjoyed this unique experience. It gets extremely cold here at night but we had electric blankets to keep us warm.
The only thing I did not like was that the floors in our bedroom were salt, coarse grains of salt which made walking in your bare feet to the bathroom at night a little uncomfortable.

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Day 51. Salt Flats.

Mario arrived at 8:30AM and we drove through the water of the lake for around 15 minutes and then there was only salt. Miles and miles of blinding white salt. It is so hard to get your head around the fact that it is not an ice field.

We stopped to take some of these goofy pictures for fun and then headed to an island a couple of hours away.

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The flats are now dry, which is so lucky for us as it is the rainy season. We could drive right up to the island and Mario told us to go for a walk for and hour or so while he made lunch. The island is covered in huge cactus and had a lot of lava rock and coral rock on it. It is very well designed and well taken care of by the five residents who live here. We walked the trail to the top of the hill, slowly. The altitude is getting to me here, we are at 12,000 feet already and then climbing higher. We had to sign in when we arrived with our name, nationality and age. Mario and I looked at the ages of the people over the past few weeks and they were all 20 or 30 something. The other older folk like us did not climb to the top so we were quite pleased with ourselves that we made it. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, but we did it. It was so peaceful at the top, we had this part of the flats to ourselves, not another truck in sight.

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From this vantage point we have a 360 degree view of the salt flats and can imagine just how big they are. Bolivia again does not export any of this salt, just for their own use.

After we made our way back to the bottom we find that Mario had cooked some quinoa for me ( I told him I loved quinoa) as well as some meat for Doug and vegetables. We enjoyed a wonderful picnic in this amazing setting.

Our long ride back across the salt flats I am wishing that I had a good pair of sunglasses instead of the cheap ones I bought on the street in Santiago. It is like the Arctic, blinding white everywhere. A large flock of flamingos flew overhead in formation like Canada geese, but they were pink. So cool.

Mario takes us to our hotel and we say our goodbyes. After checking into our room and a short rest we head out to explore the town of Uyuni for an hour.
The women all dress in the traditional way, the bowler hats, large skirts, and long braids. Some of the women wear straw hats and look like a darker version of Anne of Green Gables with the braids. There are street stalls set up and everything from clothing to food being sold.

Teenagers are all running around with water balloons and large squirt guns shooting at each other. They also spray each other with foam and we hear firecrackers going off. Not sure what the celebration is, we will have to check it out.

Uyuni is backpacker haven. There are so many young people here with huge backpacks and most likely doing one of the many treks or adventures available in the area. It seems most are South American or European.

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Day 52

Our bus to Sucre was not a luxury bus, but not as bad as I had feared. No bathrooms for the four hour journey, but they promised to stop half way. The cost of the trip was $5.

Our departure time was to be at 10 AM. At 10:15 the locals are yelling, "Vamos, it's past 10" in Spanish. Bolivians appear not to be a patient as Argentinians, but it worked, we left.
The scenery through the mountains is again very beautiful as we climb even higher.
As promised two hours in we stopped at a roadside building for refreshments and a bathroom or smoke break, and none too soon. (the bathroom, not the smoke).
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We arrived in the city of Potosi just after 2PM. It is a large city high in the mountains, 13,450 feet. There is a three hour layover here so we decided to see about taking a cab the rest of the way. The taxis that went to Sucre were on the other side of the station, up a steep hill. I am so winded I can only do three steps at a time, but we finally get to the top.

Women are running full speed towards us. I guess we don't blend in like we thought we did..... " Sucre??? " They were offering transportation to Sucre.

The first quote was for 400 Bolivanos, twice what we were told it should be. When we said "no, 200" one woman looked at the other one and said in Spanish something like "what are you nuts? It's not 400 BOL"

In the end they quoted us 160, ($26) which is funny cos we said we would pay 200. The car looked good, the driver was a young man in his late twenties, Nicholas. It ended up not being a cab, but the police were there and he had a receipt book that we needed to fill out with our names and this seemed to make it all legal.

One hour in I realize that the exhaust is coming into the car. We have a 2 1/2 hour ride ahead of us and we are being asphyxiated. We travelled with the window open the entire way, listening to 80s disco. One of the longest rides of my life. The scenery was spectacular however, through the winding mountain roads. These roads have been recently paved which makes the journey much more pleasant and faster. The only way to get to Sucre from Uyuni is by bus, the flights go through La Paz to get here.

We finally arrived in Sucre around 6 PM and are dropped off at our hostel which is right across from the Central Market. A lovely hostel with a large clean room and only $35 a night with private bath and breakfast.

Day 53. Sucre

Saturday. The altitude here is down to 9,200 feet and it feels much better. The population is 600,000 and there are a number of Universities so lots of young people. The sidewalks are very narrow and extremely busy. Sucre is in a valley, with the main square being in the middle and then it all goes up from there.

We made our way up to a travel agency that claims to be non profit. We sat and had a wonderful Cappuccino and a cup of cocoa tea as well while we waited for our guide Rogero to show up. A private three hour tour was arranged for $10 each. Rogero was a lovely young man of around 25 or so and we started off walking towards the main square, Plaza de Mayo.

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Rogero told us a lot about the city of Sucre, history and the country of Bolivia as well. His English was pretty good and we would revert to Spanish sometimes as well so that we could practice which he appreciated.

One of our stops was in the market across from our hostel where we enjoyed a fruit smoothie which was delicious. There were a lot of potatoes for sale in this area. Bolivia has over 350 different varieties.

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Our last stop was the Mirador, which means lookout. Of course this means that it is on top of the hill, up a very steep hill. I did well however, stopping at the end of each block, but not as bad as I had feared from the bottom looking up. The view overlooking the city was wonderful and the air was so much cleaner up there. There is a lot of diesel fumes in the busy streets which makes my breathing ever harder. The side streets are so much better for both of us.

We said our goodbyes to Rogero and went for lunch at a wonderful cafe at the top and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Muy Rico!!

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There are a number of stalls at the top of the hill selling hand made alpaca items as well as other handicrafts. We just looked and took stock of what was available.

Later in the evening we went to a dinner show which was fantastic. Three hours of dancing representing the different tribes and communities in Bolivia. The young people performing had endless energy and we really enjoyed it.

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Day 54
Next week is carnival in Sucre. This morning there is a parade for 'pre carnival' which will have people in different costumes from the various regions in the area.

Even yesterday no one knew exactly what time it started, even Rogero who is in the parade! They figured it would end up at the main square at noon, so we headed off at 10. This was after finding out that the final hockey game at the Olympics was on our TV (we haven't turned the tv on since we left home) It looked like a shoe in for the Canadians so we headed off for the parade.

A few blocks away we can see that the sidewalks are packed with people eeking out their spot. A few blocks up we found a little space, in the shade which was a bonus, and sat on the curb and waited about a half hour until we could here the bands coming.

It was a lot of fun to watch, most of the participants are either really young, (like 7 or so ) or really old, in their 80s some of them. Got to give them credit for dancing for a few hours non stop.

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We found out that the water fights are all about carnival. For at least a week the young people go after each other with the water balloons, water guns and an aerosol spray can of soap foam. Everyone in the parade was fair game for the water or foam and everyone took it all on good fun. When there was a break in the parade the young ones would go into the street and soak each other.

We had a lot of really young ones sitting near us and they would get about two feet away from each other and have all out wars. We got quite a bit in the cross fire, but it was only water and soap. I did put my camera away however when it got really crazy.

Doug and I were the only tourists in our area that we could see, so when the women in the parade would come by with bags of rose petals or confetti they would put a big handful on my head which they thought was pretty funny.

Some of the participants were handing out eggs. The woman beside us gave it to me and we figured out that it was a hollowed out egg shell, filled with water and then sealed over again with paper. They instructed me to break it over Doug's head, which I did quite happily.

It was a really fun time and we are glad that we were able to see some of carnival as it seems we are a week too early everywhere we go.

In the streets are many vendors with masks, colorful wigs and other dress up items for the main festivities next week.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in our room until time to go out for dinner.

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Selling water balloons is big business during carnival

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Day 55.

A trip to the post office to mail some winter clothes back home, but it was going to cost over $90 so we said forget it.
Three small museums were explored today. The Anthropology museum which was interesting and had artifacts from all over Bolivia and from thousands of years ago. There were many weapons, pottery and jewelry on display as well as six mummies, but not in as good repair as the ones we saw in Salta. A number of elongated skulls were there as well. The Inca royalty would bind the heads of children to have them change to conical shape, similar to what the Japanese did to children's feet.

There were two other museums in the same building but one was closed so we only went to the small modern art museum. It had some really great paintings on display.

I thought that I would have a very difficult time with finding vegetarian restaurants in Bolivia, but I have had some amazing meals here, as has Doug. For me I have a different salad and sometimes soup every day for lunch and dinner. There have been some fantastic varieties that I will try when I get home too.

Back up to the Mirador to visit a textile museum. On display were various styles of embroidery and clothing from the different areas of Bolivia. Fascinating and intricate works by some very talented men and women. I bought Doug a leather and embroidered wallet that he liked as an early birthday present.

Some alpaca items were purchased from the street vendors and then back to the hotel for a rest while Doug went on a fruitless search for more Coca leaves.

Tomorrow we fly to La Paz in the north. We really enjoyed Sucre and Bolivia in general. Now to explore the north.

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Posted by debbep 20:43 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Salta Argentina

Getting High in Northern Argentina

sunny 30 °C

Day 42. Salta Argentina.

Our one bedroom apartment is just perfect, with room to put everything away. Just five blocks from the the main square we are really happy here. Salta is a lovely town. Very clean and everyone is laid back. The main square is surrounded by many restaurants and museums which we shall explore later.
The traffic here is wild however. Even on a green light pedestrians don't seem to have the right of way, you must really be careful when crossing the road.
Our first stop was the tourist info center and then a travel agent to book some tours for our time here.

The people, dress and items for sale are more Bolivian now as we get closer to the border.

While having our lunch in one of the outdoor cafes we and the other patrons are serenaded by different groups either playing guitar and singing or groups of men playing pan pipes and drums. Children are often coming up to patrons selling small items and in some cases begging. Adults too are selling small items such as necklaces, coca leaves, shoe shines and other things. They are not aggressive in the least however, as they leave if you say no. Salta is a lot poorer than other places we have been.

Many young families here, but not sure if they live here or are vacationing. There appears to be a baby boom as we see lots of toddlers, infants and pregnant women. Breastfeeding while walking or sitting in crowded area is quite acceptable here which is great.

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some graffiti art near our hotel

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Day 43.

In the morning we went to one of the museums in the square, the modern art museum. It did not cost money, which is a good thing because only one small room was open. It had large pieces of paper on the wall with what looked like finger painting by children on it. But with modern art you can never tell.

In the afternoon we were picked up by our arranged mini van and had a tour of the city with 7 other tourists. This time of year is off season for foreign tourists as it is the rainy season. We were the only English speakers on the bus and the guide did her best to narrate in both Spanish and English, but I noticed that the Spanish explanations were much longer.

The city of Salta has just over 600,000 people so when we took the tour we could see how big this city is. In the area we are in it seems so small. We are at 3750 feet in altitude and doing okay with that A drive to the top of San Bernardo hill takes us higher to the top of where you can ascend by cable car. It offers a great view of the city but the day is getting cloudy and starts to rain
Locals walk, run and bike up this steep hill as a form of exercise If you still need more before going back down there are stationary bikes at the top.

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Day 44.
The Museum of High Mountain Archeology was another on the square that we visited today. This was a small museum housing Inca treasures, but one of the best that I have seen. There is a very long story here, but the Readers Digest version is that in the early 1990s a team of archeologists found three child mummies on a mountain top in the area. They were from the Incan times and aged 6, 7 and15. The Incas wanted to unite the different regions, even countries, so young children who were of nobility in their area, would be chosen to marry one of another region to unite man with the gods. After the ceremony the children were given a potion that would put them in a coma like sleep and then they would be buried, facing different directions.

Because these children were buried in the mountains and it is so cold they are almost perfectly preserved 500 years later. The boy still has coca leaves in his mouth.
Custom was to also bury them with many items that were also recovered at the site in almost perfect condition.
Only one child is on display at a time, to keep them preserved, and in a climate controlled display.

We watch a film of the excavation as they had a fellow from National Geographic on the dig with them. It was fascinating. Sounds gruesome I know, but it really was amazing.
We were not allowed to take pictures so I copied this from the internet. We saw the boy on the right.

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Day 45

Another tour day in a mini van, this one had 16 Spanish speakers aboard, plus us. Cachi is an area south of Salta and to get there we travelled through many hills and mountains.
Driving through a few small towns on the outskirts of Salta we see many fields of tobacco and corn.
The landscape changes to forests of cactus, hundreds of years old, growing with deciduous trees which I have never seen together before. This area gets a lot of rain in the summer, (now), and everything is very green. The first half of the journey the road is paved, but then turns to gravel. Water coming down from the mountains, over the roads which create a waterfall over the edge. We would slowly drive through these creeks and see that the road is being eroded away by the water. Large rocks are on the side of the road from the mountains above.
A lovely couple from Buenos Aires kind of took us under their wing for the day, he an ex teacher felt we needed help with everything. We probably did.
Lunch was in the small town of Cachi, I had some Quinoa and a salad and Doug tried goat stew. Both were okay but nothing we would want again.

This woman was in the main square banging the drum and chanting and then saying prayers for the tourists who visit.

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The elevation is 8300 feet and to try and acclimatize our guide suggests we take coca leaves. We purchased a bag from one of the sellers around the square yesterday and you don't chew it but rather take three leaves, which look like fig leaves to me, and put them in your cheek. You keep them there for a couple of hours and then replace them with more.
They make you very thirsty however and so we went through a lot of water. They also act as a diuretic which can be inconvenient trying to find a place to pee in a desert with only small bushes and cactus.
The trip back had us in thick fog and pouring rain. The roads were one lane switchbacks through the mountains, so adding the fog and rain to that was un nerving. I was glad to be at the back of the van where I could not see anything. I slept most of the way back.

All in all an enjoyable but very long day, we did not get back until 7PM.

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Day 46

Siesta time is in most cities in Argentina. In Salta everything except resteraunts pretty much close up between 1 and 5PM. After re opening they will stay open until 9. Restaurants don't open for dinner until 9PM and stay open until at least midnight.

Off of the main square are pedestrian streets which are like huge open malls. A big police presence, people on the sidewalks selling everything from socks and sunglasses to popcorn and cotton candy. It is like a mosh pit at a rock concert it is so crowded. Seriously, and this is on weekdays as well as weekends. So many people out shopping.

Argentinians are the most patient people on the planet I think. I mentioned the line ups for everything. Well tonight I found a blouse I wanted to buy, there was a huge lineup for the change rooms so I just tried it on over my top and decided to buy it.

There were three checkers at tills and each one had 20 people in line. The fellow who was checking out our line was so slow it was un real. But nobody got impatient or said anything, they all just stood and waited. I could use some of that in my life

I am dreaming in Spanish now. I don't understand anything that anyone is saying.

Day 47. Salinas Grande

At 7AM we were picked up by Lewis our driver in a Ford SUV for our tour north. Rather than come back to Salta we are taking our luggage and will stay in a town that is at the end of the tour. We are joined by two young girls, Kim age 20 from Switzerland and Isabel age 18 from Austria. They are lovely young women and as they speak English our driver gives the tour mostly in English.

Again we are traveling though the mountains and the scenery changes a half dozen times during the day. Unfortunately I think that the lovely meal that I had last night was not so lovely after all. I was sick as a dog all day today and it was not the best day to be spending 12 hours in a truck. Our driver was wonderful however and stopped many times for bathroom breaks where we could.
On the way we saw a lot of cactus again, many llamas, donkeys, horses and guanaco, which are smaller and more delicate looking than llamas

The elevation was up to 14,000 feet and at this point we went for a hike up a hill to see
some ruins of pre inca times. The ruins were fascinating and we even had two condors flying overhead. The elevation however was a bit tough, especially when I was not feeling well anyhow.
We stopped in a small town for lunch where Doug had a quinoa soup and a Llama stew which he said was good. I stuck to water.

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We had a flat tire one the way down one of the gravel roads. We were wondering what would happen if we had another, as we only had one spare and we did not pass too many other vehicles out here.

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Our final destination of Salinas Grande was fantastic. It looked like a huge lake frozen over with ice. It is however solid salt, meters deep. Walking on it is a bit unnerving, I kept expecting the ice to crack as there is a layer of water on the top.

They extract salt from the lake as well as lithium. Borax is also mined in the area as well.

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Purmamarca was over the mountain and 40 minutes away, our home for the next two nights. The hills are called the hills of 7 colors because of the many colors of the rocks. Our little cabin at the foot of the small mountain is just perfect and I was so happy to arrive and flake out in bed.
Doug went into the small town to have dinner but food was not in the cards for me today. I slept for a long time. It gets quite cold at night.

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The last one is a copy of a post card because we could not stop the truck to take a picture.

Day 48 Purmamarca

A much better day for me today, thank goodness. I woke thinking I was in the Amazon, it sounded like parrots outside. Yes it was. Flocks of green parrots flying all over town. Strange really.

I just love this town. The population is 2000 and the elevation is now at 7625 feet. After breakfast we walked up into the hills for a hike for a couple of hours. One the many things in my shopping basket full of ailments is mild COPD, or lung disease. I have a hard time breathing when going up hill as it is, so throw in an 8000 ft attitude and it was a challenge to say the least. We stopped every few minutes to catch our breath, Doug felt a bit winded too, but not like me. It felt like I was hyperventilating and my arms and face were tingling. The sun was strong but not too hot. We were so lucky to have an almost cloud free day.

The scenery is gorgeous. After a while we reached the top and then I felt adjusted to the elevation. The trail did a loop and ended up on the other side of the town. The streets and shops are postcard prefect. Everything is in pristine condition and there are so many colorful goods for sale.
The main square is lined with tables of alpaca goods, hats, jewelry and trinkets. A tour bus has just arrived, a day trip from Salta most likely. After they leave the streets are quiet again, not many tourists here.

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Tonight we will head back into town for dinner when the restaurants open at 830PM. It is hard to get used to eating so late.

So now it is off to Bolivia tomorrow. Don't Cry For Me Argentina, we had a great time in your country.

Posted by debbep 18:38 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Buenos Aires and Cordoba

sunny 28 °C

Day 30, Feb 01, 2014. Buenos Aires

10AM was our scheduled departure time from the ship and we walked down the gangway to pouring rain. A tent was set up at the bottom where umbrellas were handed out. Yesterday when we returned to the ship in the sweltering heat we were given ice cold towels. Nice touch.

A waiting bus took us to the terminal where we found our luggage and grabbed a cab to our hotel.

The sidewalk in front of our hotel was torn up and three men were working in front of the entrance doors. Our hotel staff greeted us and apologized profusely for the inconvenience of no electricity. in the middle of the night the lines 'blew up' and they were now fixing them and should be done in a few hours. I have heard this story before and was concerned it could turn in to days.

The manager assured us that this happens quite often. The electrical lines are old and rather than maintain them the city electrical company decided to just fix them as they break.

We are given a candle and are shown to our room on the second floor. It is a lovely room and we are glad that it is not has hot as yesterday as the air conditioning is not working.

Soon after we grabbed a cab and headed back to Recoleta to the 'Belle Arts Museum' (museum of fine arts). Not having any expectations we are blown away by this small building.
Admission is free and although there were three floors, the second is under construction.

Starting on the third floor we find ourselves at a temporary exhibit called 'Madre"
Large black and white photos in three rooms of the faces of women aged 50-70 I would guess. They are the mothers of young people, mostly boys, who went missing after a demonstration in the 70s. I have never seen portrait photography this amazing and so sorry that I did not bring my camera. The expressions on their faces and in their eyes was so moving.

Downstairs contains a very impressive collection of wonderful Argentine art as well as many of the European masters which was a surprise. Rembrandt, Goya, Mattise, and Van Gogh just to name a few. There was a very strong connection to Europe in the arts.

Later in the evening we walked the pedestrian mall, Florida Street, to people watch and get some exercise. The rain was merely spitting now and the temperature comfortable.

Dinner was at a restaurant near our hotel and we went back there twice more during our time here.

I had a salad and Doug ordered a steak. Argentina is known for it's beef, free range and grass fed it did not disappoint. Covering the plate it was about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide. The cost for his meal, with salad was only $13.

Cattle ranching is becoming less and less in Argentina. One of the last places where cows are able to graze the fields freely is not as lucrative as growing soybeans. Per square foot you produce more soybeans than beef on the land here. The future is unclear for the beef industry.

Day 31.

We walked for hours exploring our area. A church and then the Parliament buildings were in the first area we stopped. There is so much history here and there were large pictures of many of Argentinas past leaders hanging in the Parliament. There was even a picture of Che Gueverra. I had my pictures taken with these two guards but it is quite fuzzy.

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I had really hoped to be able to see a concert at the Opera house but it seems that the entire city of Buenos Aires almost closes shop in February. It is the equivalent to our August and many locals go to the beach or mountains to escape the heat.

We opted for a tour of the building instead and it was fantastic.

Our guide, Emmanuel, was a student there and was very informative and had a great sense of humor. The theatre took over 32 years to build and seemed to have a bit of a curse on it, so they thought. The first two architects died at the age of 44 as did a few of the workers. From then on any worker about to turn 44 would quit. It took a lot of convincing to finally find a third to finish the job. He was told he would be safe as he was age 65, but taking no chances he said he would do it but not take a salary.

When it finally opened, the price of a ticket to a show was about three months salary of an average worker. It was a place where the rich and politicians would come. Most people came to the Opera house, not for the show, but to be seen and to see who was there and what they were wearing.
The building itself is very ornate and beautiful but not gaudy. It reminded us of a combination of the Hermitage and Marinski Theatre in St. Petersburg.

Every chair, drape, carpet and piece of wood was designed in a way to accentuate the acoustics. When you hear a show at the Opera house it is unlike any show you have ever been to according to our guide. He was so passionate about this place. If I were to ever come back to Buenos Aires I would plan it around a concert here.
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Day 32

Today we explored the area of San Telmo. Yesterday Buenos Aires was like a ghost town, there were only tourists on the street as it was Sunday. The day before it was the same. It seems that in Buenos Aires people love to go out at night, and they don't start until midnight and go to 4 or so in the morning. So on Saturday and Sunday a great deal of the shops are closed and everyone except the tourists, are sleeping

Today however is Monday and the streets are packed with people. Argentina is in a financial crisis right now. The peso has dropped considerably since we have arrived. You would never know it however, the locals are still out with lots of bags of their purchases and filling cafes and restaurants.

We are only able to withdraw $1,000 pesos a day, the equivalent of $140 CAD which is inconvenient and expensive with the service charges added to each withdrawal.

Police have a very big presence and almost every store has a security guard. We have never felt unsafe however. We find the people here all extremely friendly and helpful when asked questions. A young man from Belgium who is staying at our hotel remarked how the Argentinians are so relaxed and laid back. No one is stressed out. It is true, they never seem in a hurry, I have never heard a raised voice or cross word from or to anyone.

When two people meet they do the fake kiss on the cheek. Co workers, people who know each other on the street, men to men, women to women etc. Everybody seems generally happy to see someone they know.

Line ups are for everything. In the morning we see maybe 100 people or more lined up at the insta banks all over town. There are even more lined up inside. Line ups for grocery lines, movie theatres, and post offices. But no one ever complains or looks annoyed. You never hear anyone say
"Come on......hurry up already!!" They all just stand and patiently wait.

San Telmo is an area of antique stores. Items are sold in areas here. If you want appliances you go to one area of Buenos Aires, another for cameras, somewhere else for eyeglasses etc.

Here were many antique shops. Most were closed today however as yesterday, Sunday, was a big day for a lot of antique flea markets in the streets etc.

Lunch was at a square where two young people were dancing the tango for donations. They were quite good, but on the cruise ship we were fortunate to have a couple who performed a number of times for us and I can not imagine anyone could be better than they were.

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Day 33

Palermo Soho was the place we explored today. It was quite a distance so we ventured onto the subway to take us there, which is very inexpensive to ride.

After walking around for a few hours we went into a botanical park which was an oasis in the middle of all the traffic and heat.

We see people all over with cups full of green leaves and a metal straw coming out that they suck on. It looks like a big Sherlock Holmes pipe. We thought it was a drug pipe, pot or something, and were thinking how liberal they are here. Old and young were using these early morning until late afternoon.

I saw two girls on a park bench chatting and indulging so I went up and asked. They thought it was quite funny that I thought it was pot. It is Yerba Matte tea.
They put the tea in the cup, pour hot water over top from the ever present thermos and then drink through the straw. You can not get these in cafes, only use your own. As a matter of fact you can not buy a cup of Yerbe matte tea in any cafe.

Back to the hotel on the subway. It was so hot out, over 33 and 100% humidity. The subway was packed to the gunnels. It was a sardine can sauna. No one else had a bead of sweat on them and I looked like I just stepped out of the shower. How do they do that, look so cool all the time?

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Day 34.

Another day of walking the city. We purchased bus tickets for our trip north tomorrow.
I mentioned how wide the roads are here, but last night when we were walking I counted. You can not cross on one light, it takes at least three of the six total to make it.

There are five lanes of traffic going east, then a boulevard and a walk sign. Then four more going east, two bus lanes going east, then two more going west. Another boulevard and a walk sign. Then 4 lanes west, boulevard and then 5 west. A grand total of 22 lanes in the city. This is only a few blocks from our hotel and not a freeway.

You really have to look both ways here to get across without getting run over.

Day 35, Feb 5.

The bus to Salta left on time at 10:30AM . Travel by bus in Argentina is like travelling by plane. We purchased the more expensive seats ($10 more) for the downstairs part of the double decker bus. The seats are two across, an aisle and then one single seat. They are wider than normal and recline 150degrees. With only four rows downstairs it will be quieter and the bathroom is on this floor as well. You can almost lie down in the seats and there is a foot rest.

The bad thing is of course that the seat in front of you also reclines 150 degrees.A young girl and her grandma sat in front of us and grandma had her head in my lap it seemed pretty much the entire trip.

The air conditioning stopped working about a half hour into the trip. It was so hot it became unbearable. The 10 hour journey was not as enjoyable as I had hoped.

Day 36. Cordoba.

Cordoba is a city with four Universities. Unlike Buenos Aires the sidewalks are in good repair and there is no garbage in the streets. There are a few older buildings but for the most part it is very modern and young looking. We walked every day for four or five hours to explore

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Day 37.

We are staying in a hotel that encourages families and there are many young children and babies with their parents. It is great to hear young children playing and having fun. The other hotels were so quiet where people barely spoke at breakfast.
Again we walk the city but it is very hot.

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This statue is an optical illusion. The statue is actually two feet above the water.

Day 38

I am so tired of wearing the same clothes day in and day out. A large, air conditioned, mall was nearby by so I went to look for a new top or blouse. Every store int he building was very small and the clothes hung perfectly on the racks with spaces in between. They all looked like very exclusive boutiques from West Van or Robson Street. .
These little boutiques also had every size, up to size 6. The fashions were all geared to the young thin student. I am not sure where the fat people that I see shop, they must send them all out of town, as I have never seen any clothes over size 8 since we have been here.

Day 39.

Yesterday we took all of our clothes, pretty much everything, to a laundromat around the corner from our hotel. He said they would be ready at 7:30PM. The sign on the wall said ' Monday to Sunday, 9AM to 8PM'
We showed up at 7:45P and he was closed. The sign on the door had something different. Monday to Friday, 9-7:30P. Yesterday was Friday. We have a bus ticket for Salta on Sunday. Well that sucks.
We figured that four days was already one day too many for Cordoba and now we were here for one more. Thankfully we could extend our stay here one more night.

Another very hot day. We went to a movie at the mall, (air conditioned). It was '12 Years A Slave' , an amazing movie.

Day 40.

Cooler and rainy today. We went for a walk and later back the the movie theatre to watch 'August' with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Another amazing movie.

Day 41.

Standing in front of the laundromat at 9AM we were so worried that the fellow would not show up on time. We changed our bus tickets to leave today and only had a one hour window. A flood of relief when we saw him walk up at 9:15.
Our 10:30 bus never left until 11:30AM. We used a different company this time and got the two seats at the front which was much better. This bus has a steward who served a small lunch and keeps the bathroom cleanish,although sitting at the front meant we could smel the unpleasant bathroom during the trip. My only complaint.

Movies play on the bus. The first one was 'My name is Khan' which we had wanted to see for a few years now. Great movie. The second one was ' 12 Years A Slave' !' I worked on my blog and slept through most of that one as we had just seen it.

One reason we took the bus was to see the scenery but the steward came back and asked us to close our curtains to keep it cool on the bus.

There were non stop movies. We also saw three more, two really bad ones with terrible swearing, 'Heat' with Sandra Bullock and then the 'Internship 'with Vince Vaughn and finally ' Despicable Me ' which had Spanish subtitles and was also in Spanish.
I read , played solitaire and slept through the last few.

We were served an airline style dinner and finally arrived in Salta at 1AM. We are going to spend a week here I think. We have a lovely one bedroom modern apartment and the elevation is now at 3700 feet. We hope to climb gradually before reaching La Paz which is at 14,000 feet.

The weather looks good outside so now we are off to explore the north of Argentina.

Posted by debbep 18:41 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Cruise around Cape Horn in South America

Day 18.
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

Yes seƱora.

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.

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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.

Day 18.
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.

Day19.
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?

Day 20.
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.

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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.

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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.
Yes Mam
" 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!

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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.

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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.

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Day 25.
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.

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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.

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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.
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Posted by debbep 17:56 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Valparaiso

sunny 26 °C

Day 13.
John, our host, suggested we may like a drive to the coastal town of Maullin.
It was on the way to the ferry to Chiloe and on the same highway we had done twice before, but we decided to check it out. We were hoping to do some hiking in the area but the bugs have us turned off the idea unfortunately.

The first town was a typical small Chilean town and we talked to some locals and sat in the park by the lake for a short while.

We headed to the next town which was on the Pacific Ocean. The bay was dotted with many colorful fishing boats and quite picturesque.
Lunch was in order so we stopped at a small store and purchased cheese, bread and ham. There was a policeman in the store and he gave us directions to a larger beach close by to have our picnic.
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We drove to the end of a road and found a wide expanse of sandy beach before us.
There were no picnic tables so we ate our lunch of sandwiches, cucumber and carrot in the car and were entranced by the many different birds that landed on the sand in front of us. Some looked like they belonged to the falcon family.

Only a few others were enjoying the beach, a couple of families with young children playing in the waves. I put my feet in the water, but as is our west coast ocean, the water was quite cold. We didn't see any indications of life on the beach other than birds. No small crabs or even kelp. Just sand and beautifully colored smooth rocks with fossils.

Tall cliffs bordered the beach and it looked like the trees on the crest would topple down at any moment. We walked to one end and found two young men in the water harvesting what we think were mussels from the rocks in the water.

I really enjoyed walking barefoot on the sand for a while, it was warm and felt great on my feet.
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This evening was spent down by the lake enjoying a wonderful dinner and the view of Osorno volcano. The temperature is up to 24C today and the lake was packed with families enjoying the water.

Day 14.
We had planned to just spend our last day here hanging around town, but Theresa, our hostess, suggested heading north to the hot springs. As the morning was cloudy and drizzly we thought it might be a good idea.

We should have stuck with our original plan. It was a much longer drive than we had anticipated with the many delays due to road construction and never did get to the hot springs. The sun came out and it got very hot so the allure of the hot water was not so inviting any more.

We got as far as Entrelagos, bought some picnic food and went to the lake to have our lunch before headed back.

This evening we walked back into town and Doug had some Chilean sea bass which he said was amazing. I had some tomato soup which was really good as well.

Our last evening sitting by the lake and enjoying this lovely little town of Puerto Varas before heading back to pack our suitcases for our flight north in the morning.

Day 15.
We are going to miss this amazing breakfasts that Theresa prepares for us in the morning. Fresh plates of pineapple, mango, strawberries, banana and other fruit, eggs and toast start our day off well every day.

Today we were joined by a fellow who was a fishing guide from Montana and came to do some fishing with John. John is also a fishing guide and people come for catch and release of trout and other lake fish. It was great to talk to him and find out about his travel plans in Chile, all based around fishing.

Our drive back to the airport was uneventful, we didn't get lost which is always a bonus, and the car return was easy.

Our flight to Santiago arrived at 1:30PM and after collecting our bags we took two busses to get to the town of Valparaiso, two hours to the west.

First impression of the town. Dodgy at best. But bus stations are usually not in the best area of town.

The centre is near the port and in a flat area. All the homes are on the hills, some would say the cliffs, above the town.
We found an area for taxis and I show the cab driver my hand written name of the b and b and street name. He shook his head. Did not know it. He drove off.

A man who had a sign around his neck saying he was a taxi guy came to help. I told him where we were staying. His English was great as he had lived in Calgary for a few years.

He proceeded to tell us that the B and B was in a bad area of town, a terrible place and a longs ways off from the centre and on a very steep hill. No taxis will go there.

I said, well then how do people get there?
He said, no one stays there. It is a terrible place.

Well this is not my first rodeo and I have been at train stations and bus stations in other parts of the world where they tell you the hotel burned down etc. so they can send you to their brothers place. The reviews of this B and B were outstanding so I did not back down. Although I did wonder...

We finally found a taxi that would take us there and the home was just fine. The woman who ran it was lovely and the room, although very small, was clean and charming.

Our hostess does not speak one word of English once again. After checking in we took a map and walked down the hill into town.

First impressions of Valparaiso? Still dodgy. But colorful and lively. A port town.

We walked for a couple of hours and then stopped at a local restaurant for some dinner. It was a very bizarre place called the Mastodon. It had very strange decor but the place was packed with locals and the food was good and prices cheap.

Valparaiso used to be the busiest port in South America until they built the Panama Canal. Cruise ships start or end here for trips around the tip of South America, The Horn.

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Day 16.
Vina Del Mar is the next town north so we walked down the hill and took the train (metro) for the short 20 minute or so ride. Our stop was under the ground and when we came up the stairs to the street we we so surprised to find a big modern noisy city. Somehow we envisioned a sleepy little beach resort town.

Completely unprepared for this we walked blindly for a while until we found a tourist center and got a map and some instructions of where to go. It was very hot walking to the beach but in half an hour or so we came to the waters edge and what was very obviously the tourist area.

Horses with carriages were lined up waiting to take you for a ride along the waters edge as were souvenir sellers and the many sidewalk cafes. We stopped to cool off at one of them for a cold drink and a snack and then continued on to the swimming beach area to look.

There are many lovely parks in the cities in Chile that we have been at so far, and Vina was no exception. We found a bench in the shade and just watched people for a half hour or so. Lots of young families were enjoying the playground and bike trails as well as having a picnic lunch and escaping the heat like we were.
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We made our way back to the metro and arrived back to Valparaiso where we climbed the hill back to our B and B to konk out for a few hours.

Tonight we found a very small cafe with traditional Chilean food which Doug enjoyed and I had a very nice salad. More chilean grapes were purchased from a sidewalk vendor to enjoy in our room.

There are two dishes that are very popular in this area, especially with the younger people. One is called Chorrillana and is often shared. It consists of a huge plate of french fries smothered in different kinds of meats in gravy, sausages, and then all topped off with two eggs sunny side up.

The other is a hot dog with lots of avocado, tomatoes and then I thought it was topped with melted mozzarella , but it is thick with mayonnaise.

Needless to say neither of us tried either one of these.

Day 17.
We were joined by two Ozzies about our age for breakfast this morning and we had a great conversation. They are traveling for 6 months and have been to Ecuador already so it was great to get some information from them.

There is a walking tour of Valparaiso so we high tailed it down to the meeting place and arrived just before the departure time of 10AM. There were five other Canadians on this tour. Two are from Chilliwack and on our cruise tomorrow, and the other three from Calgary. They have a brother who is racing in the Dakar race, which unfortunately for us, ends here tomorrow right near the cruise ship terminal right around the time we are supposed to be there.......hmmmm. We will have to do some homework on that.

The others were American and three young girls from Uruguay whom I talked to. They did not speak much English but I was asking questions about where to go in Uruguay and got some great ideas.

The tour took 3 1/2 hours and went to places we would have never seen on our own. We both love walking tours as they consist of small groups and you get to see places that the busses cant get to.

As I mentioned Valparaiso is on a series of steep hills, so we climbed a few of them up some narrow streets. We also rode two funiculars up and then would walk down. All in all we had a really wonderful morning. Our opinion of Valparaiso has changed dramatically, and now we can see the charm of this port town.
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On our way back to our B and B we stopped at a vegetarian restaurant and had lunch.
It is very hot today and by the time we climbed the hill back home we collapsed on the bed in our room and lay in front of the welcome breeze from the fan.

Our last night in Valparaiso and in Chile, except for on the cruise. The folks from Calgary told us that they ate at a restaurant that we passed on our tour and that it was fantastic.
We flagged down a cab and he dropped us at the museum at the top of the hill on the other side of town.
I thought I remembered where the restaurant was, but I was wrong. We wandered up and down the hills for about an hour and things were getting a little tense between us.
We were on the verge of giving up and voila....there it was. Complete fluke as we were no where near where we thought it was.

The patio overlooked the harbor and the furnishings and decor were beautiful. It was a very high end and expensive restaurant but we didn't care at this point. Luckily we were able to get a table without a reservation and both had the best meal we have had for a long time.

Doug had a curried shrimp and rice dish and I had a vegetarian gluten free lasagne that was the best I have ever had.

They called us a cab and we arranged with the driver to pick us up again at our hotel tomorrow to take us to the cruise ship. Hopefully it all works out okay.

I won't be posting until around the 2nd of February now as internet on the ship will be very slow and extremely expensive.

We will be able to check email and face book once a day, so would love to hear from you.
Our cruise leaves Valparaiso tomorrow night and heads south, around Cape Horn, past some glaciers and then over to the Falkland Islands. From there we continue north ending up in Buenos Aires on Feb. 01.

Thanks for coming along with us on our South American adventure.

Posted by debbep 18:04 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Patagonia, Chile

sunny 20 °C

Day 5.
We had a lazy day and did not get out until around noon. We walked back down to the Plaza de Armas and went into the Museum of National History. It was small and had a few interesting pieces in it. From there we walked across the old part of Santiago and over a bridge that crossed a fast running river the color of chocolate milk.
The area across the river is called Bario Lastarria which was a funky little place with many restaurants and shops on two main roads. Most of the buildings had amazing graffiti art paintings and made it a very interesting afternoon.

Our walk back took us through a park that is narrow and spans around 10 or 12 blocks in the middle of town. Always a well used park, it appears to be full of mostly middle class, not many affluent people here. Many families and lots of young [and old] lovers laying on the grass escaping the oppressive heat.

In the middle of the park is a huge four story fountain and it is full of children and some adults trying to beat the heat. Many fountains are around Santiago and we see people dunking their heads in the water to cool off. Dogs go into the lower fountains to drink and cool off as well.
The park in the city had a number of dog houses for the many strays.

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Day 6
A change in plans meant a visit to the local airline office which was very busy and consumed a few hours this morning. The plan was to take a bus to Concepcion, a five hour ride, spend the night and then rent a car to head south. Looking at it on the map last night we figured we would be spending most of the 8 days in the car, which is not my idea of a good time.

Instead we will fly to Puerto Montt and rent a car for the time and then fly back to Santiago to head over to where our cruise leaves from.

We went for a walk back to the first restaurant for another quinoa avocado salad and then I went back to the room and Doug went off walking. He came across an old railroad station, unused for trains since the Second World War, and found them getting ready for a huge art show in two weeks. Some limes and bananas were purchased at the local market and then we went back to pack for tomorrows flight.

Day 7. The flight from Santiago to Puerto Montt showed fantastic views over the Andes mountains, many lakes and a few volcanos

Upon arrival we collected our bags, (thankfully they arrived with us) and our rental car. This was the fastest and easiest car rental of any we have done. They upgraded us from a small Chevy sprint to a mid size car which is very comfortable. The highway 5 runs from Alaska all the way here and ends at the bottom of the island we are going to.

Following the highway finds us to a port and a large blue and yellow ferry waiting for us. We are waved aboard and there is not an inch to spare as we are sandwiched between many large semis. The island will do all it's import and exporting by these ferrys which leave continuously all day. It is about the size of the Denman Island ferry and takes 40 minutes to reach the other side. The weather is much cooler here, in the low 20s and wonderful. I got out of the car to look at the ocean and thought I saw a very strange looking duck in the water beside me. Upon closer investigation I realized it was a penguin. My first penguin sighting. We also saw a couple of very large sea lions swimming beside us.

Continuing our drive south on the Pan American highway takes us through rolling hills of perfect patchwork squares of greens yellows and browns. Sheep and cattle graze on the Patagonian hillsides. We are on the island of Chiloe, pronounced Chee Low way and not the way I was saying it, Chloe, like our grand daughter's name.
It is very pastoral and peaceful and we are glad to be here.

Two hours later we arrive at our destination of Castro. Lunch was in order and we found a restaurant and the food was so so. This is the second largest town on the island with a population of around 20,000 people. It is a town that is all one way streets and we seemed to go down the wrong way a few times. No one got mad at us they just flashed their lights and waved.

We found our B and B which we had booked last night on line for three nights. It was the nicest house on the street, which is not saying much, a very middle class home with early 60s decor. We had the only room with a private bathroom and it came in at just under $100 per night. Why? We kept asking ourselves that question. Castro is very expensive and we are not sure why that is. I immediately changed our reservation to two nights instead of three which was not a problem.

It was a family home and Maria, Mom, did not speak one word of English. Her Spanish was a completely different dialect so it was very difficult to communicate. Her son came home and he spoke a small amount of English so he changed our reservation for us and answered a few questions.
Then we met a young woman, Elaina, who was working there for two weeks helping out in exchange for room and board. She was around twenty something, incredibly well travelled for her young age, and from Italy but currently living in Portugal. She said that even she had a hard time understanding their Spanish so I don't feel so bad. The island was separated from the mainland for so long that they kept a lot of their own language.

Elaina gave us a lot of information on the area and ideas of where to go on the island. Other than her we are the only guests in the home at the moment.
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Dogs. There are a lot of dogs here. Most families seem to have two or three but there are still so many strays. They are all mid size nice looking dogs, docile, friendly and quiet. Driving down the side streets are like an obstacle course going around them sleeping in the road. They sure don't look like they are going to move. They must be tired after all, they spend all night marauding and barking non stop.

Day 8. Breakfast was included in our room rate and consisted of home made breads jams and nescafe coffee. I will be off coffee until we get on the cruise ship I think. Tea will substitute for the time being.

There are two tourist draws to Castro. One is the colorful row houses on stilts at the edge of the water. The other are the over 16 wooden Jesuit churches in the area painted many bright colors.

Starting off to take a picture of the homes on stilts we are reminded of Ucluelet and Bamfield homes on the waterfront. The older wooden homes of the working class, but painted in bright colors. We went for a walk on the street side and went into a gorgeous cafe to get a real cup of coffee. The cafe was wonderful but the coffee was once again a disappointment. Being summer there are many beautiful roses, hydrangeas and other flowers in bloom.

Driving south we came upon one of the churches and stopped to explore. They remind me of the little houses we built as kids in summer camp with the wooden popsicle sticks.
We only looked a three churches and not all 16. Having just done similar ones in Romania and Russia we were not interested in seeing churches all day again.

The scenery is breathtaking as we go past many rolling hills of farmland and fields.
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Road construction ahead. There was a red sign, Pare, so we stopped. The young man just looked at us. We gestured "do we go?" He just stared at us.
So we went.
We looked back and realized that we just passed a long line of cars at the side of the road waiting.
Well we are committed now, keep going.
No one is yelling at us to stop, they are all just staring at us as we drive by. The road is being widened and we are driving on rough gravel beside large machines at rest and men working and resting.

After about ten minutes of driving on this one lane gravel road we see big trucks barreling towards us. Thankfully there was a place to pull to the side as they passed. We can see a woman ahead with a sign, the red side is facing us. As the last truck passes she turns the sign around and the green is facing us. We continue on. She gives us a look as we drive by. I think it was " stupid tourists" look.

After the next few check points we figured it out. There was a sign that they put up that said stop and they would disappear into a shed to get out of the sun. When we could go they came out and flipped the sign around to green.

This was the longest road construction we have ever seen. It went on for hours.

We finally came to what we think was the end and had lost our desire to go further south at this point. Looking at the map showed a different route back, but
we had to go down a short dirt road to get there , only 7 KMs.

This one lane road took us by few farms and a lot of vacant land over high hills with a large lake below. Traveling at 10KM an hour it took close to an hour to get to our destination. It was a very dicey road for sure. It didn't look like it was going to improve any time soon. I saw a woman in front of her home so went to ask if a paved road was in our future. Charades had me shaking like I was on a bumpy road and then on a paved road nice and smooth. It must have looked hilarious. She kept insisting that we needed to turn around however. No paved roads ahead. Damn

The fields are full of Gunnera, also known as Chilian Rhubarb. It is a prehistoric looking plant with huge green leaves and it can get 6 feet tall. It is everywhere here.

On the side of the road we spot a small animal. We find that it is the elusive Pudu, a small Chilian deer that is hard to see. It almost makes this detour worth while. Almost.
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The road seems worse going back. Chiloe only gets 60 days a year without rain so these roads get washed out all the time. They are very steep and we were so worried we would get a flat or other car problems and be stuck out here.

But we made it. The pavement, for the short time we had it felt wonderful, and then back to the long construction road north. We knew the rules this time however.

One of Chile's National Parks was off to the left so we ventured down this long winding, but paved road past more farms with sheep cows and horses. We picked up two young people hitchhiking to the park and had a bit of a conversation as they had little English and we little Spanish. It is the summer time here and the kids are off school and out of University so you will see many backpackers and families on vacation.

One of Chile's longest beaches is beside this park and the vegetation once again changes. The trees are small and bent from the constant west coast winds, very similar to the West Coast of the island. We spent a bit of time here but it was getting late and so we headed back. It is great that it does not get dark until 10:30PM here now.
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Day 9. What the B and B lacked in style and charm it more than made up for in hospitality. The family was so wonderful and caring and we felt bad thinking that it was not worth the price.

Driving south again we decided to walk the park we were at yesterday. There were some hiking trails that looked inviting.

We picked up a young man hitchhiking who was from from Argentina. He spoke English quite well and told us of places to visit when we are in Argentina.

The paths around the park are mostly boardwalk and the landscape changes again to a combination west coast moss and ferns but with some tropical plants as well. The temperature here is very similar to Vancouver Island and usually does not get much colder than 0.

After a great lunch at a roadside stop we headed back to the north to our destination for the night, Ancud. This is the town that is very near the ferry to the mainland.
I had booked the hotel the night before and it did not take long to find it. The setting was spectacular. On a bluff above the Pacific with views of small islands and rock outcroppings below.
The lovely woman at reception showed us our room. It was very similar to the one we stayed in last night, basic furnishings, very dated, but two main differences.
The large window looking out to the view made it so you didn't even look at the room. And this one only cost $63. We were thrilled to be here.

I had wanted to spend the night here to be able to do the penguin tour in the morning so we found our way into town and a travel agent to book the tour. Thank goodness for Google Translate. The young man did not speak English and I had a million questions so we would just type in our question/response on his laptop. In a half an hour we had all our questions answered and bought two tickets for 11 AM tomorrow .

On the way back we purchased some fruit, bread, cheese and ham and then sat on the front area of the hotel at a picnic table to have a small dinner and drink in the view.

We were joined by a young Chilean woman with three children for a while. She did not speak any English and I tried to communicate but she was rapid fire with her questions and I could not keep up. Her husband joined us and he spoke English so we had a wonderful conversation with them. Their young boy has Down Syndrome and was quite a handful and made me nervous sitting at the edge of the bluff.
When they left us they hugged and did the fake kiss on the cheek thing. This is very common here.
Two young men traveling from Argentina joined us next. Everyone here is so friendly and helpful.
We saw two black faced Ibis wandering the grounds. The bird life here is quite different and interesting.

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Day 10. The hotel provided a small breakfast which we enjoyed and then went out to the parking lot to wait for our 'closed box' (aka van). There was another woman waiting as well and we spent the afternoon with her. She was a recently divorced 63 year old gorgeous German woman who works at a hotel in Majorca in the summer and travels in the winter.
We were the only two non Spanish people on the tour so it was great to get a few explanations from her here and there.
Our group of 10 drove south and stopped a couple of places on the way to see the wonderful views. The landscape keeps changing but it is always so beautiful.

The van drove through a small stream and then down the beach to a restaurant at the end. We were to preorder lunch before going out on the boat.

We are definitely on the west coast, Pacific Ocean. It is so familiar yet so different as well.

We put on our life jackets and then walked to the edge of the water. A cart on wheels was our chariot as a man pushed us out to the boat so we wouldn't get wet. How decadent. It is an open boat with around 18 seats.
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This is the only place in the world where the Humboldt and Magellan penguins live in the same place. We cruise by three small islands that are not far from shore. Some of the younger ones still have their fluffy down. They are born in December and will leave in March. It was fun to watch them jumping into the water and splashing around.

We also saw a number of different birds, cormorants, Ibis, and some others that I could not name. A river otter also swam beside us and made his way up to the rocks on the island.
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We were so lucky to have such a beautiful sunny and calm day. The beach was gorgeous. Kelp was being harvested by some men and women. Seafood is very abundant in Chile. Salmon, Chinook, and fresh water fish as well and many mussels and shrimp. We see a number of Atlantic Salmon Fish farms,( Norwegian) and in the past some sea lions broke into some of the nets and a lot of the salmon escaped. Now there is Atlantic Salmon in the ocean as well as the fish farms.

Our tour was to have us back by 2PM, but at 2:15 we were still at the beach. Chilean time. No one is worried.
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Upon arrival back at the hotel we said our goodbyes and drove to the ferry. Once again we were waved on right way for the crossing back to the mainland. Our destination was Puerto Varas, about 2 hours from here and in the lakes district.

Our B and B owner gave us great instructions and we found it easily. Puerto Varas in on lake Llanquihue and a town and seems to be the centre for a lot of backpackers and hikers. There is every outdoor store you can imagine here. North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, Soloman, just to name a few. Prices are the same as at home.

Our B and B is a big home that has lovely gardens, and looks like an old character home but was built in the 50s. John is from the USA and his wife Chilean. They have three lovely children and we are the only guests. We have the entire upstairs to ourselves and the room is beautifully decorated. We are here for five nights to explore the lakes district.

We walked down to the main centre and the boardwalk on the lake. We were overwhelmed by the snowcapped volcano on the other side of the lake. It is so impressive and the reason a lot of people come here. Osorno is the most impressive but there are two others on the mountain range as well. Just stunning.
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Day 11. We spent the morning walking around the town and getting a feel for the area. There are a lot of other vacationers but most of them are Chilean. Children are playing in the lake, people kayaking, canoeing sailing and windsurfing. It appears to be a very popular summer vacation spot.

The temperature is only about 16-20 C but feels so much hotter. The ozone layer is very thin here. Even with sunscreen on and only after a short while I had a sunburn.

We heard some music coming from the Plaza De Armas so headed over to escape the heat and enjoy some chilean grapes that we bought from a sidewalk vendor. A trio was playing Chilean music and they were fantastic. Various pan pipes from 12 inch to 5 feet long, the sounds were amazing. We enjoyed the music for about and hour and then bought three of their CDs and hope they work at home.

After enjoying some down time in our room we headed north to two other lake side towns. There is a very large German influence here and then next town had a lot of Bavarian homes. Many more people were swimming in the lake here, the beach was packed.

Our drive north and the scenery just seems to get better at every turn. So pastoral and peaceful with so many farms of cows horses and sheep.
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Day 12. After an early breakfast John drove us down to the main square to catch our bus for our day trip to Lake Todos los Santos. We started on a large comfortable bus and the guide narrated in both English and Spanish which was great. Our first stop was a small waterfall. It was flowing over black lava rock which was different for us.

We then boarded a large 200 passenger catamaran for our two hour journey across the lake. The catamaran had seats inside which was good to escape the strong sun. We could go outside to take pictures and enjoy the fresh air from time to time. The lake is glacier fed, emerald green located at the foot of the Osorno volcano and very striking. The trip was very enjoyable and peaceful on the lake.
Outside was a bit of a challenge due to the horseflies the size of hummingbirds. There were large in numbers and very tenacious. I was bit a few times, it was not that bad but really annoying.

We were going to have a three hour stop at the end of the lake and the company offered some excursions, one of which was horseback riding which I was looking forward to.
The young man said that it was cancelled due to the horseflies. I assumed it was because they would bother the horses, and then figured no, it would be the tourists flailing their arms around that would terrorize the horses.
The only other one that appealed to me was the helicopter tour to the glacier, but it was quite expensive.

We were out on the deck and I was standing next to a German man about my age. We were almost at our destination when a helicopter buzzed overhead, circling and banking left and right, having a great time. He and I looked at each other and said "oh yeah, that's what I am doing!!!" He said " hey, you can't take it with you!"

It only took four people so Doug and I and he and his wife ran down and booked it. Talk about an effective sales pitch.

When we arrived we were taken to the helicopter pad and waited in a screened canopy tent to escape the flys. Unfortunately there were as many inside as out.

Our 12:30 helicopter arrived for us at 1:30PM. We went to board and the fellow told me to get in the front in the copilot seat. YES!!! I love the front seat, you have glass in front, side, above and below you. The young man flying was very cute and personable. We took off in no time and were flying about 10 feet up from a river down towards the mountain, banking this way and that. It was like a roller coaster ride.
We flew over the glaciers and the tops of the mountains over many lakes and waterfalls. It was breathtaking and worth every penny. We were very glad we were so impulsive.
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All in all a wonderful day and after a great lunch we took the boat and bus back to town. We slept most of the way back and enjoyed dinner before heading back to our home. We are here a couple more days and then fly north again.

We would love an email with any of your news at ho

Posted by debbep 05:28 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

Part two. South America.

Hola Amigos, desde Santiago Chile.

sunny 30 °C

Day 1.
Jan 01, 2014. Our flight is on the 2nd but we decided to play it safe and overnight in Vancouver. Sydney picked us up at the ferry and we went for a wonderful Malaysian meal before checking into our airport hotel for the night. It made it so much less stressful than trying to do it all in one day.

Day 2. Our flight to Dallas left at 1:40PM, or it was supposed to anyhow. A mechanical had us delayed on the runway for over an hour and then upon arrival in Dallas they could not find a gate for us. There were a lot of folks connecting to other flights and therefore some very anxious passengers. We had originally two hours until our next flight and we had made up some time on the way so still had an hour. As we were leaving from the same terminal we were not too worried.

Our flight from Dallas to Santiago left on time at 9:30PM and the next 9 hours were incredibly long. We are seriously going to try to avoid overnight flights from now on.

Day 3. Arrival in Santiago was on time at 9:30AM. So were the other five international flights. It was crazy busy in the small airport. We had to line up for 40 minutes to pay our reciprocal fee of $135 US and then another hour or so in the immigration line, to be followed by fighting our way through the congestion to the baggage area. We were the last carousel and because we took so long to get there all the baggage was off. Unfortunately ours was not among the ones there. Our bags did not make the flight.

We then stood in another long line behind many other American Airlines passengers who did not get their bags either. When we finally got the the front she said they located one bag in Dallas but the other was still unlocated.......... Hopefully both will be on the flight tomorrow and we will have them tomorrow night.

We then had to stand in another very long line to go through agriculture, where you put your baggage through an xray machine [leaving the airport], to check for plants and food etc.

Finally, outside we catch a cab to our hotel.

Santiago is a very large city, 6 million people [almost half the population of Chile lives here]. Our apartment in the the centre of the old part of town and because it was only 1PM we had to wait an hour to check in. We both felt like zombies from lack of sleep but ventured out to find a cafe for some lunch. We managed to find an excellent little sidewalk cafe and had a wonderful quinoa salad and vegetable crepe. And the best Americano Coffee that we have every had, or it seemed that way anyhow.

At 2P we were back and checked into our very trendy, Bohemian style small apartment. It looks like something that would be in Yaletown. The downstairs has a small leather couch, basic kitchen and brick wall and a small balcony overlooking Santiago. We are on the 16th floor and have a great view of not only the city but the Andes which surround Santiago.

There is a floating staircase to the second floor where we find our bed and bathroom. There is another small balcony here. The only thing kind of strange is that the balcony door is glass and there are not any curtains on this window, just the ones in the living room. The sun rises at 6:30 so I guess we will be getting an early start which is okay.

We slept for a few hours and then went out to find dinner. We came upon a recommended area that has many cafes with out door seating and alive with wonderful street musicians and artisans selling from stalls. It is Friday night and the places are packed with young couples out on the town. It is a very young area but that means it is very lively as well.

Our food was wonderful in the chic artsy restaurant that we found. Dinner is usually not until 8PM or later here. On the walk home we stopped at a grocery store to get some breakfast food and fruit.

Day 4. Slept through the night until 9AM!!! What a treat. At 11 we wandered off to the main area, Plaza de Armas. A large church invited us inside and we sat and listened to taped music by a woman with a magnificent voice.

We spent the day wandering the old city. The two museums that we really wanted to see are both closed which is disappointing, but we went to a very small archeological museum which had some hats and decorative items that I had never seen before. A very small sidewalk cafe was attached and we both had fantastic salads and amazing iced tea.

The weather is 30C but there is not a lot of humidity. By the time we walked back to our apartment, around 4PM, the smog was thick. We could not see the mountains from our room, and could barely see the skyscrapers near by. Santiago has a big problem with smog because it is surrounded by the mountains. There was no wind today which made it worse.

We were so ecstatic to see both of our suitcases in our room upon our return. Mine had been opened, which I don't mind, it looks like everything is there, however they did not put my lock back on. But we are thrilled to have our bags, and summer clothes!

After a sleep we went back to the same area as last night for another great meal but at a different restaurant.

My Spanish is coming back. Not many people speak English which is great and I am hoping by the end of the three months I am pretty comfortable speaking and understanding.

We are in Santiago for a couple more nights and then will take a bus to the coast and rent a car to explore for a week. I will post around once a week again,.
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Posted by debbep 18:49 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

New Orleans

Day 71
The ship sent out a schedule for disembarking, ranging in time from 6AM to 930AM. We were scheduled at 830A which was civilized. We went up for breakfast and sat with some people from USA, ex England. Today we are hearing a lot of people saying they did not like the ship for various reasons. Having nothing to compare it to we thought it was great, for the most part. Nothing is perfect, especially for 16 days, but we're happy overall. Some people expect a lot for their $50 a day I guess.

Our turn came but we were instructed to wait in the lounge as there was too much congestion at customs. We were finally able to line up around 9 and it was like the lines at Disneyland. They snaked around and you weren't really sure how long the line was.

It was long.

We stood, shuffling slowly ahead for over an hour and a half.

Finally got to customs which took two seconds and then a cab to our hotel. We booked " The Inn on St. Peter " which was in the French Quarter and a block off Bourbon St. A very charming small heritage hotel that we fell in love with. Our second floor room was beautifully furnished and recently renovated.

We explored Bourbon St. and up to the Main Street of Canal. I have already used 3 memory cards for my camera and on the look out for a new one,which I found.

New Orleans is very busy with a convention of Ophthalmologists from all over the world as well as a big football game, New Orleans against San Francisco. New Orleans is very passionate about their football and the streets were teaming with fans wearing jerseys, shirts and "Saint" apparel. It was now noon and the drinking and partying has already long started.

After a rest in the room Doug decided to go to the game, which started at 3PM, but he went a bit later to get a ticket for less, which he did. He really enjoyed the game and The Saints had a big come back late in the game and won. The crowd went wild.

I decided to go check out a shopping mall about 1/2 hour away by cab. I found the prices rather high but did manage to find a couple of pieces of clothing that wanted to come home with me,

When it was time to leave the mall you had to line up to wait for a cab. There were lots of people waiting, and no cabs because the game also just got out.

I loudly asked if anyone in the line was also going to the French quarter and wanted to share a cab. I just got blank stares like I was nuts.

There was a gorgeous woman around 30 something in front of me who finally said we could share. She was an ophthalmologist from Brazil and we had a great conversation.

After waiting an hour we finally caught a cab back and then Doug and I went down to Bourbon St. to have dinner. We ate on a terrace overlooking the street, and although the food was mediocre the view and entertainment was fantastic.

People were partying, dancing and generally having a great time. Drinking is allowed on the streets and strongly encouraged here. This area is actually very seedy, the underbelly of Louisiana I think.

Lots of strip clubs, Larry Flint " barely legal" bars on every block, three for one drinks, huge novelty glasses with slushy bar drinks and lots of loud music. From where we were sitting we could hear four different songs all blaring. There is not a lot of jazz in this area, mostly country rock and rock.

A lot of people are wearing the mardi gras beads, masks and feather boas. It was such great fun to watch it all from our vantage point above the street. It looked like it was going to go on for a long time into the night

They block the street off every night so it is a no vehicle zone.
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Day 72
Walking down Bourbon St at 9AM looked like a ghost town. This part of town does not rise early. Street cleaners erase all evidence of the previous night to start it all fresh again later this evening.

Today we wandered around the French quarter and then took a small bus tour which we really enjoyed. Our driver had a great sense of humor and full of wonderful and insightful information about New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.

We toured one of the areas that was devastated by Katrina and learned a lot about what it was like for people who lived there, and what it is like today as well.

From there we went to a cemetery. The dead are buried in above ground crypts. George, or guide, explains that the water table is so high here that if you bury someone in the ground ,"Grandmas going to be popping up outta her coffin the first big rain"

A bunch of families will all be buried in one crypt, going back many generations.

We toured the levies, a beautiful park, and an area of town with gorgeous wooden heritage houses.
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Day 73
After wandering for a while we decided on either a plantation tour or a swamp tour. We decided on the latter. A van picked up 23 passengers from various parts of the city which seemed to take forever but we finally reached the Bayou River at 2PM. We chose an air boat tour that held 12 passengers and our pilot, Bebop, was a very cute young man with a great sense of humor.

Our tour took us through a few arms of the swamp looking for alligator and swamp creatures. I am not sure however if they ever see any animals as this boat is so incredibly loud, we need to wear ear protection. I would think that they would scare everything within 10 miles away.

The boat goes quite fast when he opens it up, but it did get cold. It was called a " swamp tour" and not an alligator tour, but he did have a baby alligator on board which he showed us, and let us hold. They do rescues for the area and he has 5 babies at his house. When they are old enough they release the females into the swamp but the males will go to zoos. He gave us lots of interesting information about the animals, vegetation and history of the area.

Back in the French quarter we had an early dinner and then back to the room to pack. Bourbon St was just starting to wake up.
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Day 74
Going home today. I am now in Dallas waiting for our flight to Vancouver to leave. We were taxiing out when they noticed a nail in the wheel and we are delayed over an hour to fix it. Not sure if we will make our connection to Nanaimo but it is all out of our control at this point.

Southern hospitality was very apparent in New Orleans, people were so wonderful. Overall, however, I find that everywhere we have traveled in the world people are so kind and helpful.

We had such an amazing trip, learned so much about each of the areas that we visited and loved it all.

We are home now for six weeks for Christmas and really looking forward to reconnecting with our family and friends.

On January 2nd we are off again to South America.

Stay posted and thanks for following along with us for this half of our trip.

P.S. Well the stars aligned and we made our harbor air flight with one minute to spare, literally. We flew over the islands to Nanaimo on a cold but beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.

Like Dorothy said " there is no place like home".

Posted by debbep 19:27 Comments (2)

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