Day 54 – Sunday, February 27 – General San Martin – Ballestas Islands, Peru

 

Pisco is a city located in the Ica Region of Peru, the capital of the Pisco Province. The city is around 9 metres (28 feet) above sea level. Originally the villa of Pisco was founded in 1640, close to the indigenous emplacement of the same name. Pisco is a Quechua word that means “bird.” Pisco originally prospered because of its nearby vineyards and is the namesake of the Peruvian grape liquor, pisco.

The area is normally visited because of the concentration of marine animals and birds at the Paracas National Reservation, or the Peruvian Galapagos. At the reserve there are the Islas Ballestas, a collection of islands which are off limits to people, but boat tours can get close. The Chincha Islands are also near its coast. On the islands there are many birds, including pelicans, penguins, cormorants, Peruvian boobies, and Inca terns. There are also sea lions, turtles, dolphins, and whales.

Another attraction in the area is “El Candelabro”, a giant lamp dug in the rough sand in the method use by the creators of the Nazca Lines. The origins of “El Candelabro” are not known and theories vary. Experts are divided over the authenticity of the lines.

The Pisco origins are from one of the major ancient civilizations in Peru, the Paracas culture. Due to its ease of access, and its crossroads to the Andes the Spanish considered making Pisco the capital, before they decided on Lima.

In the city is the Plaza de Armas, where people hang out and buy tejas, small sweets made from pecans and assorted dried fruits. Many different building that surround the Plaza are the statue of José de San Martín, the mansion he lived in, and the Municipal Palace. Other building in the city is the heavy Baroque Iglesia de la Compañía, begun in 1689, features a superb carved pulpit and gold-leaf altarpiece.

Near the town, just off the road to Ayacucho, lies the large well-preserved Inca site of Tambo Colorado.

The city has a population of 116,865 people.

We arrived at General San Martin about 8:00 AM. There is literally nothing here but a pier and a commercial dock work. It appeared that the major export from General San Martin is salt. There were hundreds of trucks lined up the road waiting to unburden their load. Our tour was one arranged with the Cruise Critic forum group. We numbered about 20 and were picked up by bus about 10:00 AM. We were some of the first off the ship after released by customs. We traveled through a portion of the Paracas National Reserveration to reach the small town of Paracas. Here we boarded our boat to the Ballestas Islands. The boat ride itself was an adventure. There was lots of wind and water but it was worth it for the unbelievable wildlife at Ballestas.

Before arriving at Ballestas, we passed by El Candelabra, the Nazca like lines in one of the hills on the bayl

 

The design is about 600 feet tall and the grooves are up to 3 feet deep.

I was totally unprepared for the magnitude of animal life on the Ballestas Islands. There were Sea Lions by the hundreds, perhaps thousands. Birds of all types by the 100,000’s. Pelicans, cormorants, and even penguins.

 

 

 

 

 

Humboldt Penguins

 

The photos below are all taken in the Paracas National Reserve. This is a desert park with beautiful shore scenes and much salt. This area was formerly undersea and there are huge deposits of salt.

 

 

One lonely Porta-Potty!

This hardy gentleman peddled his vending boot over 5 miles through the desert to sell ice-cream treats. Anyone willing to work this hard, I’ll certainly help him out. The ice-cream was good too…

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One of the rare photos with all six of us!

The photographs are of a few locals in Paracas

I didn’t have time for much commentary, I am already a day behind.. Today we toured Lima and visited a fantastic museum. I will try to get some of these photos uploaded soon.

 

 

 

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Day 50 & 51 – Wednesday & Thursday, February 23 & 24 – Valparaiso, Chile

Below is a collage of photographs from this beautiful and colorful city.

Valparaíso is a city and commune of Chile, center of its third largest conurbation (Greater Valparaíso) and one of the country’s most important seaports and an increasing cultural center in the Southwest Pacific hemisphere. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region. Although Santiago is Chile’s official capital, the National Congress of Chile was established in the city in 1990.

Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco” and “The Jewel of the Pacific.”

Examples of Valparaiso’s former glory include Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.

Though nearby San Antonio has taken the reins as the country’s most commercially important seaport (greater tonnage moved), the City of Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture, and the Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area (which includes Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Quilpué and Villa Alemana) has the third largest concentration of population in the country after Greater Santiago and Greater Concepción. Valparaíso’s bay was probably first populated by Picunches Indians, who were dedicated to agriculture. Other accounts say that it was the Changos Indians who were nomads dedicated to fishing traveling between Caldera and Concepcion. Spanish explorers arrived in 1536, on board the Santiaguillo, a supply ship sent by Diego de Almagro, who is considered the first European explorer, or discoverer, of Chile. The Santiaguillo carried men and supplies for Almagro’s expedition, under the command of Juan de Saavedra, who named the town after his native village of Valparaíso de Arriba in Cuenca, Spain.

During Spanish colonial times, Valparaíso remained a small village, with only a few houses and a church. After Chile’s independence from Spain, Valparaíso became the main harbor for the nascent Chilean navy, and opened to international trade, which had been limited to commerce with Spain and its other colonies. Valparaíso soon became a required stopover for ships crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, via the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn, and gained particular importance supporting and supplying the California Gold Rush (1848–1858). In its role as a major seaport, Valparaíso received immigrants from many European countries, mainly from Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. German, French, Italian and English were commonly spoken among its citizens, who also had newspapers in these same languages.

International immigration transformed the local culture from its Spanish origins. Football was introduced to Chile by English immigrants, and the first private catholic school in Chile was founded by French immigrants in Valparaíso: Le Collège des Sacrés Cœurs (The Sacred Hearts School) which has been operating for about 170 years. Immigrants from Scotland and Germany founded the first private, secular schools, (The Mackay School, and Die Deutsche Schule respectively). Immigrants also formed the first volunteer fire-fighting units (still a volunteer activity in Chile), while their architecture reflected various European styles, not just Spanish traditions.

The golden age of Valparaiso’s commerce ended after the opening of the Panama Canal (1914), as most ships sought to avoid the Strait of Magellan, and the port’s importance and use was reduced substantially. Traffic has increased in the last few decades with fruit exports, increasing opening of the Chilean economy to world commerce, and Post-Panama ships that do not fit the Panama Canal.

We arrived in Valparaiso about 11:00 AM on Wednesday. Kay, Carl, Janet and I had a private tour which I had scheduled on the internet before leaving home. David and Sandra were doing a HAL tour of a winery and horse farm. We met our guide and driver at 1:00 PM at the customs terminal. This was not as easy as it sounds! Valparaiso is one of the busiest ports in South America. After we docked and were cleared by customs, it was necessary to board a shuttle and be transported over a mile though the docks to the terminal building. Once we were on our way with our guide Jackie and driver Marlene, we had a great time. Jackie is a native of Chile, who lived in Australia from age 2 to 15, thus she spoke excellent English. We had a combination driving/walking tour of Valpo and Vina del Mar. We stopped along the way for a quick light lunch. Valpo is a beautiful city and is much larger than I thought. It has a rich cultural heritage in the arts which is apparent everywhere you look.

For my photos I am concentrating on the graffiti art and the Ascensors (elevators). The Ascensors are a major means of transportation for the people between the lower and upper levels of the city. I was fascinated by these carriages which were built in the late 1800’s and are still in operation. I believe there is in excess of 20 Asensors in the city, but currently only about 16 are in operation. Each one basically consists of two wooden cars with windows which are mounted on a rail track at a steep angle up the hill. As one car ascends the hill the other car descends. The one way fare is 300 pesos, about 75 cents.

 

These are is couple of photos of the hillside homes. With all of the earthquakes in the area, you wonder how they stay in place!

We met Juan Valdez on the street.

Now for some street art. It was everywhere and not done is a disfiguring way. There was some very well done artwork and it was respected by not being marked over.

 

 

 

The art was not just on the street, but everywhere. While walking we needed to make a bathroom stop. Our guide spoke with a vendor near the top of one of the acensors. She graciously allowed us to go downstairs into their private area, where they obviously occasionally entertained. The walls were covered with drawings and we had a beautiful view as well. We could even see the Prinsendam.

 

We visited the home of a local artist and here even the refrigerator was decorated!

 

A beautiful tile mural in a small courtyard outside his home.

The next few photographs are of one of the Asensors we rode. This is Asensor Artileria.

This photograph was taken from our veranda on the ship. Note the blue Asensor in the lower right of the picture. The blue building has a restaurant on the middle floor where we ate. There are more photographs of the restaurant later.

Entry to the elevator, looking back to the street

Inside the car, note cracks in the floor!

 

The restaurant taken from the elevator car, kinda scary!

Young lovers, also taken from the elevator car window

This photo was taken in the restaurant. I am having a Pisco sour and we are literally hanging over the cliff above the ascensor. You can see the Prinsendam in the background. We had scallops and cheese empanadas the best ever!

One of only three genuine Easter Island icons ever removed from the Island.

Famous Flower Clock in Vina de Mar, resort town north of Valparaiso

Everything is GOOD!

Except for a few… A rare site, not very many homeless were seen in Valparaiso or anywhere else in the Chilean cities we visited. I am sure Santiago has a larger problem; I will have to ask David and Sandra, they went there today.

Yokee, one of our evening waiters enjoying a break between dinner seatings

The dock at night with the city in the background.

A great time was had in the City of Valparaiso!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 47 – Sunday, February 20 Puerto Montt, Chile

Puerto Montt is a port city in southern Chile, locdated at the northern end of the Reloncavi Sound in th Llanquihue Province, the Lake Region. The population of Puerto Montt is approximately 180,000 and is part of Chilean Patagonia.

Puerto Montt is the capital of the X (tenth) region of Chile and is the main seaport at the end of the western continental land of Chile. One of the many industries in the area is salmon aquaculture. Puerto Montt is often referred to as the Salmon Capital of Chile. Outside of Norway, the cityis configured as the hub of the largest salmon industry of the world. Other important industries include agriculture, forestry and touristy.

Known for its natural beauty, the Lake District’s unofficial boundary is the Bio Bio River which demarcates Chilean Patagonia’s northern boundary. South of the river, earth and water contrive in a series of cerulean lakes that reflect majestic ice-capped volcanoes, and ancient trees.

Named for its 12 largest glacially carved lakes, the region has dozens of smaller lakes as well. Rivers and streams link to some of Chile’s richest freshwater fishing grounds. Six volcanoes line the district’s center.

The area has a definite German influence. The first German colonists arrived in the area in 1852 and their descendants have remained a small but influential part of the culture. This influence may be seen in the European architecture.

 

View from our anchorage in Puerto Montt

We arrived in Puerto Montt about 8:00 AM. We had a full day tour planned to start at 10:00. The ship was cleared by customs a little early, and Thom our Cruise Director was kind enough to give our group the first tender tickets, since the HAL tours did not start until 10:00 AM. We were on our bus and our tour started by 10:30 which was pretty good time.

Soon after boarding the bus and beginning our fairly long travel to the lake country, we observed a scene from the window which I wish I could have videoed. There was a young boy about 10 or 11 years old obviously taking his younger sister (about 6) to church. It was about 10:30 Sunday morning. They were walking hand in hand down the sidewalk. They met another young man slightly older, maybe 14. As the two young men met each other they stopped, greeted each other and then shook hands. Then the older boy bent over and gave the little girl a hug. They then nodded to each other and continue on their way in opposite directions.

Not the little girl described above, but a cutie I saw in a local market.

The bus ride was long and hot. It was a nice bus, but there was no airconditioning, and the area was experiencing the warmest day of the year. In fact I believe they actually set a record high of around 80 degrees. In addition of the heat, there were several delays due to road construction, even on Sunday. The area is still recovering from the earthquakes experienced last year. There was considerable damage done to their roads. Other than what was under repair, the highways are in excellent condition and the area is most beautiful.

I literally took hundreds of photos of volcanoes and falls, but I will only include a few for your viewing enjoyment!

Our guide Philippe, teaches English and speaks several other languages.

Osorno Volcano

 

We had a lot of scenic view as we made our way to Petrohue Waterfalls. The falls were crowded, but the falls were wonderful. Supplied from glacial melt, and cut through volcanic rock, the views were spectacular.

This photo was taken from the back yard of the owner of the restaurant where we ate lunch. How would you like this view every morning?

Our lunch was a delicious Chilean Steak and vegetables. It was served with bread and I had a local beer. Dessert was a type of cheesecake with blueberries, I believe. Fruits and berries grow plentiful in this region. Our lunch also included the national drink, a Pisco Sour. As much as I would have like to try the drink, we had been warned before leaving the ship to be careful. One of the ingredients is whipped raw egg white. If it is not prepared properly, food poisoning to our uninitiated stomach can result. Most of our group passed up the Pisco. Hopefully our host was not offended.

During lunch we were entertained by this young couple who performed some of the traditional dances of the region. The young lady was the daughter of the owners of our tour company.

We made our way back through the construction to the small town of Puerto Varas, located on Lake Llanguihue. Here we watch thousands of people enjoy the chilly waters of the lake. It’s a Sunday and it’s summer here. The locals were not only enjoying the beaches, but each other as well!

The little girl was holding a cell phone, perhaps to call 911 in case of an emergency?

On our way back, we stopped at a supermarket. Most of us wanted to pick up a few things to take back to the ship. We got a fifth of Jack Daniels ($31) and a 6 pack of can coke ($4). Holland America is very considerate with their policy regarding alcohol, at least on the longer Grand Voyages. There has not been a problem with bringing beer, wine or liquor onboard. The market was as modern as any you might see in the states. It was located inside a larger mall. As we were leaving, Kay noticed a McDonalds. What was interesting it that it was a kiosk.

I don’t believe I have ever seen one like this before. McDonalds is everywhere…

Here are just a few more photos I will throw in which I took today.

Llama seen along the highway.

Another volcano photo

Carl look across from his veranda.

We are at sea on Monday and will be at Robinson Crusoe Island on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 45 & 46 – Friday & Saturday, February 18 & 19– Scenic cruising Chilean Fjords

Well, these two days were supposed to be scenic cruising of the Chilean Fjords, but unfortunately Friday was pretty much a wipe out. It was overcast and raining the entire day. I did take a few photos from the veranda; the one below was pretty much typical of what we say all day. Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful and I very much enjoyed watching the islands, inlets and hill pass by. It just wasn’t a photogenic day.

We pretty much spent the day getting caught up from two days of excursions. We straighten the cabin and put purchases away. It was a great “reading day”. It was quite pleasant to just sit on the sofa, read and watch the rainy scenery pass by our window.

Just after dinner it began to clear and I got a great sunset photograph from our veranda.

We are sailing north and since we have a port side cabin, we face due west.

At this point we have again left the narrow channels of the fjords and reentered the Pacific. The Prinsendam is just too large to safely sail at night through the fjords. We will be remaining in the Pacific until mid-afternoon Saturday. We will reenter the fjords at the Darwin Channel, and begin making our way to Puerto Montt, Chile. We are expected to dock around 10:00 AM Sunday. We have a full day tour scheduled. This is another tour we arranged with the Cruise Critic Forum group. So far these tours have been great. It is a fun group of people and the value of these tours are much better than the ship’s tours. The group is also a smaller, more intimate size.

This morning we were awake early, just before sunrise. The skies had cleared again and I managed to get this photograph of the moon setting on the Pacific.

I haven’t talked about food much lately, but I thought I would tell about breakfast this morning. I got dressed and went to the Lido about 6:45 AM. Kay was reading. I planned to have a light breakfast, cereal, fruit and coffee. When I got there I found the chefs had prepared a buffet style Pilipino breakfast. I could not pass up the opportunity to try these dishes.

I tried some of everything and it was all delicious. (I know some of the girls at Northside would not agree with meJ) I am afraid I cannot tell you the names of the dishes, but I will give you a description. I had garlic fried rice, a stewed dish of tomatoes and sardines (yes, sardines), a thinly sliced beef cooked with onions and garlic, pan seared mackerel again seasoned with onions and garlic. This was served with ordinary scrambled eggs. The bread was a delicious white wheat roll and also a small pastry made from rice flour, it was sweet and delicious. So much for my light breakfast, I will have to make up for it at lunch.

 

The weather is was today, unfortunately there was not much to see except the Pacific. That was until the captain came on the “all call” intercom of the ship at about 1:30 and announced we had a problem. Folks, it’s not good when the captain goes on all call and says there is a problem. Well, it turned out it wasn’t a real serious problem, and in the end everyone was joking about it. In fact, the entertainment this evening was a comedian and he actually based about half of his act around the incident.

It turned out that for the last several hours we had been passing through a very large concentration of krill or small shrimp. In fact the concentration was so large they were clogging the cooling intake filters of the ship. Despite continuous efforts by the crew to keep the filters clean, it had reached the point where it was necessary to stop the ship and clean then entire system. The captain said this could take hours, and it did.

The upside of this was that whales feed on the krill and so we were basically being carried along by the ocean current for several hours with all these whales having a buffet. I am sure many people who take whale watching escursions would have loved to been with us. Here are a few photos I took from our veranda.

 

Good photo of a blow

In this one you can see the whale and the blow

And finally one of just a whale. They were huge. I am sorry, but I haven’t even asked what species of whale these are.

We actually watched whales from our dinner table this evening, at which time the captain announced the system had been cleaned of shrimp and we would be glad to know we had enough shrimp to last us the remainder of the cruise with shrimp at every meal J.

The down side of the delay caused by the shrimp, we were not able to make our turn into Darwin Channel as planned. Instead we continued up the Pacific coast to another Channel, Ninualac Channel, I believe. After dinner we spent a couple of hours on deck to observe the beauty of the passing scenery and the sunset.

 

 

 

 

The “Group”, protected behind a windscreen on the observation deck.

 

 

 

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Day 44 – Thursday, February 17 – Punta Arenas, Chile

 

Punta Arenas (English: “Sandy Point”) is the most prominent settlement on the Strait of Magellan.

Punta Arenas is the capital of the Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, Chile. The city itself was officially renamed Magallanes in 1927, but in 1938 it was changed back to Punta Arenas. It is regarded as the world’s southernmost city. (As noted earlier, this title is in contention with Ushuaia, Argentina depending on what population you define city)

Two early Spanish settlements attempted along this coast (on the Straits of Magellan), including the first (1584), called Nombre de Jesús, failed in large part due to the harsh weather and difficulty in obtaining food and water, and the enormous distances from other Spanish ports. A second colony, Rey don Felipe, was attempted at another location some 80 kilometers south of Punta Arenas. This became known later as Puerto Hambre, sometimes translated as Port Starvation or Famine Port. These Spanish settlements had been established with the intent to prevent piracy by English pirates, by controlling the Straits of Magellan. Ironically it was an English pirate captain, Thomas Cavendish, who rescued the last surviving member of Puerto Hambre in 1587.

As said above, in the year 1843 the Chilean government sent an expedition with the appointed task of establishing a permanent settlement on the shores of the Strait of Magellan. For this it built and commissioned a small sail ship called Goleta Ancud, which under the command of the British sailor John Williams transported a crew of 21 people (captain, eighteen crew, two women), plus cargo, to accomplish the mandate of the Chilean government. The founding act of the settlement took place on 21 September 1843.

Although the site was perfectly suited for a military garrison with the mission of coastal defence, since it is located on top of a small rocky peninsula, it was ill prepared to become a proper civilian settlement. With this in mind the Military Governor, José de los Santos Mardones, decided in 1848 to move the settlement to its current location, on the sides of the Las Minas river, renaming it Punta Arenas.

In the mid-19th century, Chile used Punta Arenas as a penal colony and a disciplinary posting for military personnel with “problematic” behavior, as well as a place for immigrant colonization. In December 1851, a prisoners’ mutiny led by Lieutenant Cambiaso, resulted in the murder of Governor Muñoz Gamero and the priest, and the destruction of the church and the hospital. The mutiny was put down by Commander Stewart of HMS Virago assisted by two Chilean ships: Indefatigable and Meteoro. In 1877 a mutiny, known as “El motín de los artilleros” (Mutiny of the Artillerymen) led to the destruction of a large part of the town and the murder of many civilians not directly associated with the prison. In time the city was restored and with the growth of the sheep industry and the discovery of gold, as well as increasing trade via sailing ships, began to prosper. Between about 1890 and 1940, the Magallanes region became one of the world’s most important sheep-raising regions, with one company (Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego) controlling over 10,000 square kilometres in southern Chile and Argentina. The headquarters of this company and the residences of the owners were in Punta Arenas. Visitors today can get a glimpse of the economic stature of the city, or at least of its leading citizens, by touring the Sarah Braun museum (sometimes called Braun-Menéndez mansion) in the centre of Punta Arenas. Other popular attractions include the two nearby rookeries for Magellanic penguins, and the rebuilt site of the failed Fuerte Bulnes settlement.

The Punta Arenas harbour, although exposed to storms, was considered one of the most important in Chile before the construction of the Panama Canal, because it was used as a coaling station by the steamships transiting between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Today it is mostly used by tourism cruises and scientific expeditions. The city is often a jumping-off point for Antarctic expeditions, although Ushuaia (Argentina) and Christchurch (New Zealand) are also common starting points.

We docked early in Punta Arenas. Our tour was one scheduled with the Cruise Critic group from the internet forum. We had about 30 people with a very nice bus and three guides. We were picked up at the dock and immediately started toward Otway Sound to see the colony of Magellan Penguins. This colony has over 60,000 pairs, but many have already begun their migration to the coast of Brazil and the Atlantic Islands. Most of the remaining birds are younger and haven’t yet begun to swim. Nevertheless, we did see a LOT of penguins.

 

 

 

The trip to Otway was mostly over a gravel road and the distance was about 30 miles. Along the way we saw much countryside. This area consists almost entirely of ranches, mostly sheep, which are a minimum of several thousand acres each. There are no small ranches because the land is so arid, it requires about one acre to support one animal. One of the things which most impressed me was the fencing. There were what had to be hundreds of miles of fence like the one picture below. There was a post about every two feet, and kilometer markers may be seen in many areas marking every one-tenth kilometer.

Can you imagine how many post this takes!

We didn’t see as many sheep as you would expect. Our guide explained that the ranchers have summer fields and winter fields and the fields we were traveling through were mostly summer fields and the ranchers had not yet moved their herds yet. They normally did this in March and April. We did see some sheep though and most had very poor haircuts! Sheep are mostly raised for meat export and wool is a by-product. The price of wool had decreased considerably over the past few years and is no longer the commodity it was once was

 

This is a real Chilean cowboy. This photo was taken from the bus window as we passed him and his dogs (he had three with him). Our guide explained that the ranchers had different dogs to herd cattle than to herd sheep. The cattle dogs were taught to bite to do the herding and the sheep dogs did not.

After returning from Otway Sound we had a city tour. Punta Arenas is a pleasant town with pretty harsh living conditions. I was impressed with how clean and maintained the city was. There was much evidence of the pride these people had for where they lived. We saw MUCH less graffiti here than in other cities farther north. My theory is that this climate is not inductive to being non-productive and there are better places to live if you want to be a hoodlum!

Statue of Magellan

Cathedral

A vendor’s stall in the city park.

I purchased an alpaca sweater here, it was beautiful and heavy. It can actually serve as a coat. It cost 14,000 pesos, $29.00.

Another stop we made which was very enjoyable was the Cemeterio Municipal. This is the main cemetery for the city where the common and elite are buried. It was beautifully maintained and has some incredible statuary and gardens. Here are a few photos.

 

 

This is the “apartments” mausoleum for the more common people.

 

We are sailing the Chilean Fjords for the next two days. If the weather clears and I get some decent photographs I will do another post. Until then, everyone take care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 43 – Wednesday, February 16 – Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

We arrived in Ushuaia at 7:00 AM. Our luck with the weather continues to hold. It was obvious even before dawn that it was going to be a beautiful day.

Dawn in Ushuaia, the small city is still lit up

This is a file photo of the town

This is my photo, most of the snow is gone except in the higher elevations since we are at the start of summer.

Below is a lot of history and background information about Ushuaia, the city which claims to be the “southernmost city in the world” although there are two other contenders. Puerto Williams on the Chilean island of Navarino is actually further south but only has 2,400 inhabitants. Punta Arenas, in Chile, (our next port), is much larger but farther north. There are also several continuously inhabited settlements further south of Ushuaia however these settlements have fewer than 100 residents and cannot be considered “cities”.

Please feel free to bypass this background if you would like.

The British ship HMS Beagle under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy first reached the channel on January 29, 1833 during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego. The city was originally named by early British missionaries using the native Yámana name for the area. Much of the early history of the city and its hinterland is described in Lucas Bridges’s book Uttermost Part of the Earth (1948). The name Ushuaia first appears in letters and reports of the South American Mission Societ] in England. The British missionary Waite Hockin Stirling became the first European to live in Ushuaia when he stayed with the Yámana people between the 18th of January and mid-September 1869. In 1870 more British missionaries arrived to establish a small settlement. The following year the first marriage was performed. During 1872, 36 baptisms and 7 marriages and the first European birth (Thomas Despard Bridges) in Tierra del Fuego were registered. The first house constructed in Ushuaia was a pre-assembled 3 room home prepared in the Falkland Islands in 1870 for Reverend Thomas Bridges. One room was for the Bridges family, a second was for a Yámana married couple, while the third served as the chapel.

During 1873 Juan and Clara Lawrence, the first Argentine citizens to visit Ushuaia, arrived to teach school. That same year the Argentine President Julio Argentino Roca promoted the establishment of a penal colony for re-offenders, modeled after one in Tasmania, Australia, in an effort to secure permanent residents from Argentina and to help establish Argentine sovereignty over all of Tierra del Fuego. But only after the Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina did formal efforts get underway to establish the township and its prison.

During the 1880s, many gold prospectors came to Ushuaia following rumors of large gold fields, which proved to be false. On the 12th of October 1884, as part of the South Atlantic Expedition, Commodore Augusto Lasserre established the sub-division of Ushuaia, with the missionaries and naval officers signing the Act of Ceremony. Don Feliz M Paz was named Governor of Tierra del Fuego and in 1885 named Ushuaia as its capital. In 1885 the territory police was organized under Antonio A Romero with headquarters also in Ushuaia. But it was not until 1904 that the Federal Government of Argentina recognized Ushuaia as the capital of Tierra del Fuego.

Ushuaia suffered several epidemics, including typhus, pertussis, and measles, that decimated the native population. But because the Yámana were not included in census data the exact numbers lost are not known. The first census was held in 1893 with 113 men and 36 women living in Ushuaia. The prison was formally announced in an Executive order by Roca in 1896. By 1911 the Yámana had all practically disappeared, so the mission was closed. The population grew to 1,558 by the 1914 census.

In 1896 the prison received its first inmates, mainly re-offenders and dangerous prisoners transferred from Buenos Aires but also some political prisoners. A separate military prison opened in 1903 at the nearby Puerto Golondrina. The two prisons merged in 1910, and that combined complex still stands today. It operated until 1947, when President Juan Perón closed it by executive order in response to the many reports of abuse and unsafe practices. Most of the guards stayed in Ushuaia, while the prisoners were relocated to other jails farther north. After the prison closed, it became a part of the Base Naval Ushuaia (Spanish), functioning as a storage and office facility until the early 1990s. Later it was converted into the current Museo Maritimo de Ushuaia.[20]

During the first half of the 20th century, the city centered around a prison built by the Argentine government to increase the Argentine population here and to ensure Argentine sovereignty over Tierra del Fuego. The prison was intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals, following the example of the British in Tasmania and the French in Devil’s Island. Escape from Tierra del Fuego was similarly difficult, although two prisoners managed to escape into the surrounding area for a few weeks. The prison population thus became forced colonists and spent much of their time building the town with timber from the forest around the prison. They also built a railway to the settlement, now a tourist attraction known as the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo), the southernmost railway in the world.

When we arrived and docked, one of the first things I saw was this beautiful yacht. The Octopus.

I soon found out this ship belongs to Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.

Here is some info I found about the Octopus.

Octopus is a 414 foot (126 m) megayacht owned by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. Delivered in 2003, it was believed to be the biggest such yacht at the time of its construction. It is currently the world’s 11th largest super yacht, the third largest superyacht not owned by a head of state.

Octopus sports two helicopters on the top deck (one in front and one on the back), and a 63-foot (19 m) tender docked in the transom (one of seven aboard). The yacht also has a pool, located aft on one of her upper decks, and two submarines (one of them operated by remote control for studying the bottom of the ocean). Side hatches at the water line form a dock for jet skis.

On January 31st 2011 one of the helicopters of the yacht had to perform an emergency landing on the water just after it took off from the yacht whilst sailing in Ushuaia, Argentina. According to an Argentine Coast Guard officer, no casualties were reported and the aircraft had not leaked oil on the sea.

Our guide today had already told us about the loss of the helicopter, but we have been unable to find out if Allen is here with the ship, or what it purpose her is. Apparently it has been in out of Ushuaia a few times recently.

Well, it would be nice to be able to sail on a private yacht like the Octopus, but I guess I better get back to reporting what I can afford to do J.

Kay and I arranged a trip through HAL which was advertised as the “4X4 Road Safari The Lumberjack Trail”. It included a “snack” and you must be physically fit. Maximum passinger weight 280lbs.

Interesting description. We boarded six persons per 4×4 vehicle, with a total of 4 vehicles. We left the dock area about 8:15 AM. We immediately left town and started up Highway No. 1, the main highway from Ushuaia. Well actually, it is the only highway from Ushuaia. Our guide explained it was the land lifeline of the city. In order to travel anywhere else in Argentina, the locals must take this highway and cross into Chile travel a number of miles and then take a 30 minute ferry ride to reach Argentina again. They are completely cut off from mainland Argentina.

After about a 20 minute ride we stopped and took some scenic photos while our guide showed us on a map where we were and where we were going.

 

 

Here is our guide, a native Ushuaian, who spoke very good English. He said English is taught in high school and they are beginning to teach it in middle school.

What a beautiful view. In the summer months (now) they get a lot of visitors who come for the trekking cross country and cruise ships. During their winter month this is a very popular area for cross country skiing.

After about another 10 minute ride, we veered off the highway onto a dirt track.

 

Here are some views from the back seat of the 4×4

We had a pretty wild and sometimes exciting ride, but it was worth it for the views.

Our guide explained that beavers were a serious problem in the area. At sometime in the past they were imported from Canada. They have no natural enemies here and do a tremendous amount of damage.

After getting back to Highway No. 1 we travel for a short distance to a lodge which hosts hikers during the summer and skiers during the winter. In this photo of me, you can see the woods in the distance where we are going. Our destination is into the woods below the mountain slope. We again take the 4×4’s to the edge of the woods and then have short 10-15 minute hike into the woods.

We arrive at an area which is actually used as a camp for wood cutters farther up into the mountains. There is a nice little cabin where a stove fire has been prepared. We are served an Argentinean steak prepared in a large cast iron pot along with a stew of potatoes, onions and peppers. It was accompanied by bread, cheese and wine. It was quite a meal in the middle of the woods and was very good.

That’s Kay on the left at the table talking with a couple from Quebec.

We then hiked back out, loaded up and made our way back into town and the ship. We had an early sailing, this being a short stop in Ushuaia. We would have loved to spend more time in this charming little city at the bottom of the world, but additional adventures beckon us.

We had a short rest, and then it was announced that the Prinsendam reached the first glaciers in the Beagle Channel. That was at about 4:00 PM. It is now about 9:00PM and the incredible views have been nonstop. We stayed on top, at the observations deck for about an hour and a half, until we were almost frozen, then had dinner. Kay went to tonight’s show while I write the blog and enjoy the beautiful, ever-changing view through the veranda windows.

I have the names for the different glaciers, but for now I am just going to post some more photos. We have a stargazing session with one of the ship’s officers at 9:30 tonight if clouds permit.

Enjoy the photos. We are in Punta Arenas, Chile tomorrow and have a trip planned to Otway Sound to see more penguins…..

 

Waterfall from a glacier melt

View up the Beagle Channel

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 42 – Tuesday, February 15 – Scenic cruising Cape Horn

Just after dinner this evening we rounded Cape Horn. Cape Horn is infamous as one of the most dangerous shipping passages in the world. The fierce sailing conditions in the Southern Ocean, the geography of the passage itself, and the extreme southern latitude of the Horn combine to make this passage the most formidable in the world. Cape Horn lies at an extreme 56 degrees south. The prevailing winds here can blow from west to east almost uninterrupted by land. The latitudes here have been nicknamed the “roaring forties”, the “furious fifties”, and the “screaming sixties” and although ships traveling east tend to stay not far below 40 degrees south latitude, rounding Cape Horn requires ships to press south to 56 degrees south latitude, into the zone of the fiercest winds. These winds account for large waves which can attain enormous size. When these waves encounter shallow water south of the Horn, it makes them shorter, steeper and more dangerous. Part of Cape Horn’s notoriety is due to the “rough waves”, which can reach heights up to 100 feet.

Fortunately for us today, the winds were fairly calm and the waves mild by Cape standards. For the previous several hours we have been under gray skies and light rain. About an hour before reaching the Cape, the skies open to some blue with sunshine streaming through the clouds. The rain stopped and we had beautiful viewing conditions.

Many of us came topside to enjoy the scenery. The temperature was a mild 46 degrees and after the captain turned the ship east to round the Cape, the wind was behind us and since we were traveling at about the same speed as the wind, it was almost nonexistent. It made for very pleasant viewing.

During the last several days HAL has given us several nice gifts. We received a matched set of mittens, scarf and wool cap. We also have received two very nice maps; one of Antarctica and last night one of the southern Chile Fjords and surrounding areas. These were large 24×36 inch folding maps on quality paper. Tonight we received two sets of designer postcard depicting cruise ships. We have been finding gifts left on the bed almost nightly for the past week. It is reaching the point that we are not sure how we will get them all home!

In addition to the gifts, our cabin stewards always leave a different and unique towel animal for us to enjoy. I don’t believe we have had a repetition in the entire 42 days of our cruise.

By the way, I did get a haircut today. It was done by Samantha, a pleasant young lady from South Africa. Samantha has been on the Prinsendam for 2 years, without taking a vacation. She said it’s like being on holiday all the time! She is leaving in March with us when this cruise ends for a visit home. She then intends to continue working with HAL, either back on the Prinsendam or the Amsterdam. Oh, the cost of a haircut was $25.00 (plus tip), not too bad when you have a captive clientele.

 

Valentine Day towel swans

Monkey our animal for tonight

Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America

Kay and I with the Horn in the background

 

Kay and Janet bundled up, but the conditions were not as bad as expected

Our Captain on the wing Bridge

The 3rd Officer taking a snap shot of the Captain with the Horn in the background… even the crew is not immune to the beauty of this area

 

Beautiful clouds…

The ship has turned northeast, heading for the Beagle Channel which we will enter around midnight tonight.

 

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