Saturday, January 19, 2019

Puerto Montt, Chile

In the early morning, the Star Princess made her approach to Puerto Montt.  At 6:35 am, the ship anchored in the bay area.  Shortly after, tendered services began and kept running throughout the day, ferrying passengers and crew ashore.

As Kenny and I entered the tender, we could tell that we were now further north as the temperature was much warmer.  We were in awe of the multitude of snow-capped volcanoes and the alpine valleys surrounded by rolling hills.  The Osorno Volcano is often called the “Fujiyama of South America”.  This iconic snow-capped landmark rises over 8,700 feet and is an active, but currently dormant volcano.

The climate in Puerto Montt provides highs in the 70s in summer and in the high 30s during winter.  Precipitation is frequent, with an average of 219  rainy days each year.  That morning at breakfast, one of the crew members commented that they would probably go ashore as it wasn’t raining.  He said each time they were in this port, it was raining.  The daylight length has decreased here and not as long as the 17 hours we experience in Cape Horn.

Puerto Montt’s population is approximately 250,000.  It is currently one of Chile’s most rapidly expanding cities due to its booming salmon industry.  It is one of Chile’s top five exports.

This town was once layered in dense forest and was named Melipulli.  Following the clearing of the region, the city was established in 1853 and was named in honor of Manuel Montt, Chile’s president from 1851 to 1861. 

We started our tour with a visit to Monumento Natural Lahuen Nadi.  It is home to some of the oldest trees in the world.  Its’ forest is one of the few places in the Chilean Central Valley, where mature Alerce stands are preserved, some of them reaching ages of 1,800 years.   Throughout the tour, we heard the calls of birds like Chucao, Huet-Huet, Diucon, Traile and others.

In 1848, Chile encouraged German immigrantion due to a war in Germany.  During WWII, many German Jews fled to Chile.   Kenny and I visited a charming German Settlers Museum located in Frutillar.  The structure resembled a small Swiss Chalet.  Everything was so clean and orderly.  It was an unbelievable sight of blacksmith tools, phonographs, stoves, carriages, clothing, photographs, etc. that have been preserved here.  We were able to walk through 150 years of history.

Our next stop was Puerto Varas, the “City of Roses”, for its many rose-lined streets.  This village was built by German immigrants over 150 years ago and proudly boasts its’ Bavarian charms.  It rests on the shores of Llanquihue Lake (second largest lake in Chile).  Due to dense clouds, we were unable to see the snow-capped Osorno Volcano.  The town was filled with buses and tourists.  I felt as if we were walking through the square in Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the summer.

After leaving the “City of Roses”, we returned to the pier for the tender ride to the ship. Then it was time to set sail for San Antonio Port and then drive to Santiago.

Amalia Glacier

On Sunday, around 5:40 pm, we reached the beautiful Amalia Glacier.  This is located in southern Chile on the edge of Sarmiento Channel.  It is a tidewater glacier located within the massive Bernardo O’Higgins National Park. 

It seemed as if every passenger was on top of the ship waiting to arrive at the Amalia Glacier.  As we approached the area, you could see the massive, jagged mountains in the distance.  Coming upon the glacier, one was in awe at the eerie baby blue color.  The fresh air, the stillness of the bay and the coloration of the glacier took your breath away.  The ship made a complete turn-around so everyone had an opportunity to enjoy a picturesque view of the glacier.

As I looked at the glacier, all I could think about was the beauty of God’s creation and the opportunity I had to enjoy it.

After about an hour, the Captain gave the order and the ship proceeded out of the bay and on toward our next port of call, Puerto Montt.

Punta Arenas, Chile

In the early hours of the morning, the ship approached Punta Arenas, located inside the Magellan Strait. 

Punta Arenas is the capital city of Chile’s southernmost region.  This is a nice town with a population of 130,000.  This area is known for tourism, cruises and scientific expeditions.  It is a base for Antarctic Expeditions.

In 1843, this area was used as a penal colony and a disciplinary posting for military personnel with “problematic” behavior.  Immigrants settled here in 1851.  From 1890 to 1940, it was one of the most important sheep raising regions in the country.

It is summer in the area, so the average temp is 50 degrees.  Rainfall is highest in April and May and the snowy season runs throughout the winter months of June to September.  This city is also known for its strong winds of up to 80 mph, which are strongest during the summer.

The day before, while on the ship, I noticed several passengers with their bags marked “Antarctica.”  One of the excursions was an Antarctica landing expedition.  They would fly to Antarctica for a full-day excursion to Villa Las Estrellas, a Chilean Antarctic settlement.  It was a 2.5 hour flight from Punta Arenas.  When they landed, they would go to one of the oldest and most important meteorological stations.  They would then hike to see wildlife preserves and glaciers.  After four hours, they would board the plane back to Punta Arenas.  This excursion sounded exciting, but it was pricey.  Also, I didn’t know if I could handle the weather.

There were other tours to Paine National Park, which is known for its soaring mountains, bright blue icebergs that cleave from glaciers and golden pampas (grasslands).  This entailed a forty minute flight to Puerto Natales and then a 2.5 hour drive to the park.

Several of the passengers chose to do a city tour.  Kenny and I selected a catamaran trip to Magdalena Island to observe a Magellanic penguin colony of approximately 25,000.  This is one of Chile’s largest and most important Magellanic penguin breeding sites.  These penguins are sometimes called Jackass penguin, and one of the largest of the warm-water penguin colonies. 

We began our morning with another beautiful rainbow to the north.  We boarded the catamaran with about 65 other passengers and 10 crew.  It was a nice ride to the island with dolphins following alongside most of the way to the island.  A whale was also spotted in the distance.

It was an exciting approach to the island, as you could see a great number of penguins along the shore and swimming in the ocean.  As we arrived, the tour guide asked us each to put on an orange life-jacket.  I thought it was odd, since we were already docking.  But we all obeyed and put them on.  I thought that with the orange life jackets on, the tour guide would be able to spot everyone on the island and to make sure that people stayed on the correct hiking path.

As we walked the plank from the boat to land, we noticed that the wind was beginning to pick up and the boat was swaying from side to side. 

The penguins were there to greet us. We walked to the official sign “Welcome To Monumento Natural Los Pinguinos”.  Lots of photos were taken.  We then proceeded on the trail to the top of the island where there was a lighthouse.  We were told not to touch the penguins and that they always had the “right of way”. 

I had on several layers of clothing as well as my hat and gloves.  I was comfortable, but I could tell the temperature was dropping and the wind was getting stronger.

As I walked along the trail, I could see many burrows of breeding pairs.  The colony was filled with penguins and baby chicks that were squawking and shrieking.  Every few steps I was stopping and taking photos of the penguins.  It was hard to believe I was in the middle of a colony of penguins. 
The trail up to the lighthouse was steep and rocky, but I made it.  As soon as I turned the corner at the top, the wind was gusting to at least 50 mph.  I had to hold on to a guide rope in order to stay on the trail.  As I began the descent, it felt as if the wind would blow me away.  I finally got down the hill and the wind decreased.

We spent about one hour on the island enjoying the penguins, seagulls and the ocean in front of us.

As I boarded the ferry, I noticed white caps out in the water.  I thought it might be a rough ride back, but did not yet realize how rough it would actually be.  We had barely pushed away from the island, when one passenger got seasick.  The domino effect began.  The seas were rough, with swells at about 6 feet.  Instead of our return taking 1.5 hours to Punta Arenas, it took 3 hours.  

Out of the 75 passenger/crew members, only 10 people didn’t get sick.  I am glad to say that once again, Kenny and I, were 2 of the ten that were fortunate enough not to get seasick.  I had never seen anything like it.  There were three passengers that became quite ill and could not make it off the ferry on their own when we finally docked.  The crew members said it was one of their worst rides.
Everybody was glad to be back to the dock, but we weren’t excited about boarding the ship, as we had tendered to the dock from the ship.  So that meant, we had to get back on the water in a small tender boat to get to the ship. 

Among the passengers waiting to get on the tender, I overheard that the Antarctic trip had been cancelled due to the stormy weather and ferries going out that afternoon to Magdalena Island had also been cancelled.  People on the Park excursion were able to get there and back.

We were glad to be back on the ship.  When I got in my cabin, I checked a brochure about the Magdalena Island excursion and read the part that said:  “Rough sea conditions can be experienced on this catamaran ride to Magdalena Island; passengers prone to seasickness should take this into consideration”.  Lesson learned.  Make sure you read everything about an excursion beforehand.  Everybody was just excited about seeing the penguins. No one gave any thought about getting seasick.

Ushaia, Argentina - "End of the World"

The ship entered the port of Ushaia at 10:30 p.m.  The sunset and the twinkling of the city lights nestled into the mountains made a great photo.

The next morning as I ate breakfast I captured some beautiful photographs of this quaint little town.  Fishing boats and small barges were docked throughout.  There were homes and businesses of various colors. The blues, yellows & reds offered a palette of color.

It wasn’t time to go ashore, so Kenny and I walked around the ship to see all sides of Ushaia.  As I turned a corner, I captured a rainbow on the port side.  I knew that it was going to be a beautiful day. 

We boarded the bus for our half-day tour of Ushaia.  Our guide, Anna, was a young lady in her 20’s.  Her parents were doctors who had left Buenos Aires thirty years ago to settle in this community.  Forty years ago the population was about 5,000 and today it is 70,000.  Anna said that she loved Ushaia, but the one thing missing is the older generation, there are no grandparents.  Sixty percent of the population is under the age of 18.

Ushaia is known as the southernmost city in the world and is the capital of the Tierra del Fuego province, which includes the Argentine arctic islands and the Islas Malvinas.   It is nicknamed the “End of the World”.   

As picturesque as Ushaia is, it was known as the “Siberia of Argentina”.   A penal colony was set up in 1896.  The early city’s buildings and infrastructure, including the railway were built by forced convict labor.  The prison closed in 1947.
The main economy is lumber, sheep, fishing, trapping and tourism. 

On our tour, we would visit the Pipo River Valley in the Tierra del Fuego National Park; Ensenada Bay overlooking Beagle Channel; Roca Lake and Lapataia Bay (which is the last stop on the Pan-American Highway that begins in Alaska and stretches nearly 12,000 miles are two continents.
When we arrived at Lapataia Bay, there were other busses with tourists there as well to see this beautiful area.  This bay was formed by the glacier forces that shaped the entire area. 

Many individuals were hiking through this area, which winds through stunning coastal scenery and offers an opportunity to see wildlife, such as dolphins, otters, ducks, etc.  Of course, Kenny and I had our picture taken with the sign for Tierra del Fuego National Park.

Off to the visitor center, we took a coffee break.  While we were waiting for everyone to get on the bus, Kenny and I walked down to the lake and in the distance we could hear a bird quacking.  It was a male, White Fronted Goose.  A few yards to the right, we could see a dark head bobbing in the grass.  It was the female and she had seven goslings.  All at once, the male wobbled over to the female and their young and they moved away from the lake.  With the female in the lead, the seven goslings followed in a line and the male brought up the rear.  They moved through the tall grass, across a gravel road and then up the hill to the Visitor Center.  It was as if they wanted to show off their family to the tourists.

Ensenada Bay overlooks the Beagle Channel. This is named after the ship that carried English naturalist, Charles Darwin.  This is also where the Post Office at the “End of the World” is located.  Another great photo shot is with the sign showing different distances from the “End of the World”: Buenos Aires, the Arctic, Antarctica, Paris, New York, etc.

Last stop was Roca Lake.  One third of this lake is Argentinian territory and the remaining portion is the territory of Chile.  When we got off the bus to take photos it was sunny and warm and within seconds, the wind began to blow and it became overcast and the temperature dropped.  We didn’t stay long.

We returned to the pier to board the ship and sail forth to Punta Arenas.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rounding Cape Horn

I could hardly believe that I was sailing around Cape Horn.  In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would be at the end of the world.

It was overcast, windy and chilly outside.  The temperature was in the upper 40s with a wind chill of about 30.  The seas were still rough, but not as rough as they were the day before.  Fortunately it is summer season at the southern tip of South America.  Since it is summer, the days are longer as well.

The sun rises at 5:00 am and sets around 10:15 pm.  Almost 17 hours of daylight.  I would hate to be here during the winter months, when the days and nights are a lot colder and you only have about 6 to 7 hours of daylight.

It was about noon and Kenny and I wanted to be on the upper deck to be able to experience rounding the Horn.  We bundled up with several layers of clothes and grabbed our cameras.  There was already at least 800 passengers on top.

As we began to round the Cape, a historical expert on the ship provided the background of the Horn via the ships’ intercom. 

Cape Horn is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern-Chile and it is located on the small Hornos Island.  It marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage and where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet.

Cape Horn was discovered and first rounded by the Dutchman Willem Schouten, who named it after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands.

To imagine all the sailors and vessels that have traveled this path.  Columbus and Magellan were trying to find a quick passage West in order to bring spices from the Asian countries back to Europe.  Pepper, nutmeg and cloves were worth their weight in gold. Columbus went west and discovered America. Magellan discovered the fast passage West via the Magellan Strait and then was the first to circumnavigate the globe. 

Looking out at the land, it was hard to imagine anyone every living in this area.  All I could think about was the frigid water, bleak days and the barren land.

After experiencing this adventure, I am ready to return home and read more about these men that were determined to discover new lands and therefore prove that the world was indeed round and it could be sailed around without falling off the edge.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Falkland Islands

Today was a sea day and we were sailing to the Falkland Islands.  Everybody on board was excited.  There were passengers that had tried reaching the Falklands several years ago, but due to bad weather the ship was not able to reach the Island.

Mid-morning, the Captain announced that due to a weather depression coming from Antarctica, the Star Princess would not be able to sail to the Islands.  The ship would be slowing down to handle the rough seas that we would soon be encountering.  Staying on our current course, we would be able to arrive at Cape Horn on our scheduled date.  You could hear many passengers complaining, but we all knew that the Captain was making a smart choice and keeping us safe.

I began to think of all the small ships that sailed to the Falkland Islands never knowing what weather they would encounter.  How many lives and ships were lost in the early years? 

As the morning progressed, the swells became large and the ship was creaking and moaning.  The swells were eight to ten feet.  Passengers were staying in their cabins due to sea sickness.

Kenny and I attended various lectures, ate, took cha-cha lessons and read.  It was a quiet day on board.

We will have to see the Falkland Islands another time.

Falkland Islands have played a large part in military history.  The Island is east of the lower extent of Argentina and is still a part of Britain.  Two well-known battles have been fought for this island.  In 1914, there was a battle between British and German fleets, which Britain won.  The second battle was in 1982 between Britain and Argentina and Britain won.  This island remains a very sensitive issue with the Argentineans.

Sights that you can see:
* Christ Church Cathedral, the southern most Anglican cathedral in the world
* Whalebone Arch, made from the jaws of two blue whales
* Rockhoppers penguins. The smallest of penguins, with elaborately curled “eyebrows”.

Rough seas continued throughout the day and evening. In two days, we would be rounding the Horn.

Montivideo, Uruguay

As the early morning sunrise woke me in my cabin, I could see the burnt orange sun rising above the horizon to the east.  The beauty took my breath away.

I began my day on the fourteenth floor of the ship having breakfast and then I headed to the top deck to watch the cruise ship guided in by a tug boat to Puerto de Montevideo.

Here I was in South American enjoying another beautiful sunny day.

From the cruise ship, one could see palm trees and the buildings of lovely European-influenced architecture.  This city’s diverse range of art deco and colonial style architecture clearly reflects its multicultural history, drawing on Portuguese, Spanish, British, French and Italian influences.

There were taxis and buses waiting on the dock to take passengers on their excursions.  Kenny and mine’s tour was going to be of the city, the soccer museum and the Legislative Palace.  We were anxious to discover a new city. 

Some interesting facts that I learned about Uruguay:

* second smallest country in South America
* located on the southern-most point on the Rio de la Plata’s northern shore.  Rio de la Plata is the widest river in the world.
* situated between Brazil and Argentina
* population of approximately 3 ½ million
* 52% of the population are women
* over 450 species of birds
* 12 million head of cattle/4 head per person

Interesting facts about Montevideo:
* capitol of Uruguay
* Origin of the name, Montevideo. One theory is that it refers to the Hill of Montevideo on the bay of Montevideo’s western side.  “Monte” is Spanish for mountain or hill.
* known for being very literate.  Many established writers are from this city.
* “El Tango Supremo” song originated in Montevideo

The first stop was Plaza Independencia, which divides the Old Town and the newer downtown.  The gateway is all that remains of the wall that once protected the oldest neighborhood in Montevideo.  From the plaza is the main street, Avenida 18 de Julio.  Along the palm street of the Avenue are historical buildings, shops and cafes.  This major street was named in honor of the day that Uruguay obtained independence from Brazil and Argentina.

We then drove to the beautiful Legislative Palace.  This palace is considered one of the three most beautiful legislative buildings in the world.  The guards that stand outside and inside the building are dressed in uniforms that offer the appearance of the time of the French Revolution.  The paintings, stained glass windows and marble structure within the building are so ornate.

From the Palace we then went to the Futbol Museum.  The national futbol stadium, Estadio Centernario, opened in 1930, for the first World Cup.  Uruguay won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950.

One of our last stops was to see the location of the Battle of the River Plate. The wind was blowing and  green parakeets were flying everywhere.  They blended in so well with the trees that you could hardly see them. This site was the first naval battle of WWII between a German ship and two British cruisers.

On our way back to the ship, we saw Punta Del Este, which is South America’s most famous seaside resort. The sandy beaches were all along the shoreline with families enjoying their holiday at the beach. 

We dropped some passengers off at the Port Market, where there are vendors grilling meats, selling clothes, crafts and souvenirs, as well as musicians performing.

Even though Uruguay is a very small country, the people are friendly and eager to share and explain about their beautiful land to others.

We boarded the ship and prepared for our 5:30 p.m. departure.  Tomorrow will be a sea day as we sail to Puerto Madryn, Argentina.