In between we saw southern Patagonia on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. We rounded Cape Horn, thus earning the right to wear a gold earring in our left ear, sailed through the Straits of Magellan, and cruised the Chilean fjords. We saw penguins, llamas, and guanacos (sometimes all together) and the Skua Glacier. Here's the itinerary and some of the 750 photos we took:
Leaving Buenos Aires: the city looks much bigger from the sea than the land. We get ready for the shipwide "emergency" drill. Our stateroom is on Deck 3, one up from the water line, giving us a great view of rocking swells later on in the voyage.
Montevideo, Uruguay: the boat stops for 6 hours of shore time at Uruguay's capital. We wander the historical and downtown centers, buy a bottle of fine Uruguayan Tannat, then head back to the malecon skirting the Rio Plate to enjoy it and the view. Kurt says he's reminded of Havana.
Punta del Este, Uruguay: the Altantic beach retreat in this part of the world. Calm, clean and organized; Linda liked it a lot more than she thought she would. On the list for future short vacations. The fish market on the wharf is extra special.
Puerto Madryn, Argentina: we hook up with Modesto, Rosa, and Diego from Miami and grab a cab to Punta Tombo, home to 1.5 million magellenic penguins at the height of the season (plus assorted other Andean wildlife) before winter migration. Enough are still there to make the two-hour ride each way worthwhile. The scenery looks like a mix of Hill Country and West Texas. The penguins burrow into the ground.
Navigating Cape Horn & Environs: Chile claims title to this toenail of South America, protected by a light house and a garrison of naval personnel stationed for 6 months at a time. Fortunately, we have great weather; only later does the captain tell us that the same cruise a few weeks earlier had encountered 40-foot swells and Category 3 hurricane winds. The scenery is breathtaking.
Ushuaia, Argentina: "The end of the world," only 50 miles from the tip of Antarctica. It's a small town with nothing fancy except the scenery. It's gorgeous.
Punta Arenas, Chile: Chileans call this the southernmost city of the world (ignoring Ushuaia's claim to fame). Everything is neat and clean. The main plaza is centered on a huge monument to Magellan. The saying is you will return if you rub the Indian's toe. Around the square are turn of the century mansions and government buildings. We have a glass of wine in one former mansion now restaurant and hotel. The populace seem innured to the rainy weather; we're the only ones with an umbrella. Linda buys an alpaca sweater in the plaza for $15 USD; no one seems to have Chilean pesos here.
Strait of Magellan, Chilean Fjords, and Skua Glacier: We cruise through the strait, delineated by fjords and other remnants of glacial activity. The captain makes a slight detour to the Skua Glacier. Incredible.
Puerto Montt, Chile: Bigger and funkier than Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt is a haven for seafood lovers. The specialty is king crab. We later are told that the town was devastated in the early 1960s by a 9.5 earthquake that produced a tidal wave which also destroyed Hilo, Hawaii and did extensive damage in Japan. Another finding: trained llamas do their business just like dogs.
Santiago de Chile: We leave our ship at Valparaiso (with regrets after such a wonderful time!) and head inland to Chile's capital. Like the rest of Chile that we've seen, the city is very neat and clean, though the smog is unfortunately a real problem.
- Day 1: We spend our first full day exploring Cerro San Cristobal, the city's highest hill and home to the municipal park. We hike up part way, stopping at a hillside restaurant for a great lunch. We take the teleferico (like a ski lift) to the summit, wander around the shrine to the Virgin, and then take the funicular back down the hill. All along the way are places to eat and sit, all neat as a pin.
- Day 2: The next day we head out for quick tours of the neighorhood and central markets, the precolumbian museum (complete with figurines depicting all sorts of every day activities), and the other hill in town, the Cerro Santa Lucia.
- Day 3: We've just a few hours to wrap up our visit. We breeze through the plaza outside the government house (where we are treated to "saluting" dogs of the federal police), and catch the tail end of demonstration in front of the statue to Salvador Allende, who was overthrown by a Pinochet on Sept. 11, 1973. At the airport, we don masks against the threat of swine flu, only to find out later that they probably offer no defense.
What a trip!