2010 World Cruise


Prologue


When we did the World Cruise in 2008, both of us figured that it would be the only one we’d ever do.  Until Susan was selling her condo and her friend Tina - who was her real estate broker - asked Susan if she’d like to make enough money to take another world cruise…  Of course the answer was ‘yes’, and the rest is history.  Join us for our first world cruise together.

January 4, 2010

We will be heading out very early on Wednesday morning, flying from San Antonio to Fort Lauderdale, to board Holland America Line’s ms Amsterdam for the 114 day voyage around the world.  We are looking forward to being on the Amsterdam again.  Both of us have fond memories of it from the 2008 Grand World Voyage where we met.  We are glad that we can share the experience this time, instead of just meeting on sea days for team trivia.  And we are very much looking forward to the discoveries that await us.


We will be sending our usual email updates, on as regular a basis as we can.  We will not be able to post to this site unless we can find Internet cafes that will allow us to use our own computers, since the ship’s Internet connection is slower than dial-up.  However, we will be working on this while we are on the cruise, since we can do it offline, so it will be ready to upload whenever we have the opportunity.  This is our itinerary:

Day     Date                     Port                                                          Arrive                            Depart

0         06 Jan 2010         Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US VC                                                      05:00 PM

1         07 Jan 2010         At Sea

2         08 Jan 2010         At Sea

3         09 Jan 2010         Puerto Limon, Costa Rica                         08:00 AM                        05:00 PM

4         10 Jan 2010         Enter Panama Canal Cristobal CO            05:00 AM

4         10 Jan 2010         Exit Panama Canal Balboa CO                                                         07:00 PM

4         10 Jan 2010         Fuerte Amador, Panama TR ON SE           08:00 PM

5         11 Jan 2010         Fuerte Amador, Panama TR SE                                                        04:00 PM

6         12 Jan 2010         At Sea

7         13 Jan 2010         Manta, Ecuador                                       05:00 AM                         11:00 PM

8         14 Jan 2010         At Sea

9         15 Jan 2010         At Sea

10       16 Jan 2010         Callao (Lima), Peru ON                            08:00 AM

11       17 Jan 2010         Callao (Lima), Peru                                                                          06:00 PM

12       18 Jan 2010         At Sea

13       19 Jan 2010         Arica, Chile                                             07:00 AM                         05:00 PM

14       20 Jan 2010         At Sea

15       21 Jan 2010         Coquimbo (La Serena), Chile                   08:00 AM                         05:00 PM

16       22 Jan 2010         Santiago (Valparaiso), Chile                     07:00 AM                         05:00 PM

17       23 Jan 2010         Isla Robinson Crusoe, Chile TR                Noon                                06:00 PM

18       24 Jan 2010         At Sea

19       25 Jan 2010         Puerto Montt, Chile                                 08:00 AM                          05:00 PM

20       26 Jan 2010         Darwin Channel Chilean Fjords CO

21       27 Jan 2010         Amalia Glacier Canal Sarmiento CO

22       28 Jan 2010         Strait of Magellan CO

22       28 Jan 2010         Punta Arenas, Chile                                 07:00 AM                          08:00 PM

22       28 Jan 2010         Cockburn & Beagle Channels CO

23       29 Jan 2010         Romanche & Alemania Glaciers CO

23       29 Jan 2010         Ushuaia, Argentina                                  01:00 PM                          07:00 PM 

24       30 Jan 2010         Cape Horn & Drake Passage CO

25       31 Jan 2010         Wilhelm Archipelago CO WP BD               08:00 AM

26       01 Feb 2010        South Shetland Islands CO WP BD

27       02 Feb 2010        The Antarctic Sound CO WP BD                                                         10:00 PM

28       03 Feb 2010        At Sea

29       04 Feb 2010        Pt. Stanley, Falkland Islands TR WP          07:00 AM                           03:00 PM

30       05 Feb 2010         At Sea

31       06 Feb 2010         At Sea

32       07 Feb 2010         Buenos Aires, Argentina ON                    06:00 AM

33       08 Feb 2010         Buenos Aires, Argentina                                                                    05:00 PM

34       09 Feb 2010         Montevideo, Uruguay                              08:00 AM                           05:00 PM

35       10 Feb 2010         At Sea

36       11 Feb 2010         At Sea

37       12 Feb 2010         At Sea

38       13 Feb 2010         At Sea

39       14 Feb 2010         At Sea

40       15 Feb 2010         At Sea

41       16 Feb 2010         At Sea

42       17 Feb 2010         At Sea

43       18 Feb 2010         Walvis Bay, Namibia                                 08:00 AM                           05:00 PM

44       19 Feb 2010         Lüderitz, Namibia                                    08:00 AM                           05:00 PM

45       20 Feb 2010         At Sea

46       21 Feb 2010         Cape Town, South Africa ON                    08:00 AM

47       22 Feb 2010         Cape Town, South Africa                                                                    11:00 PM

48       23 Feb 2010         At Sea

49       24 Feb 2010         Port Elizabeth, South Africa                      06:00 AM                           11:00 PM

50       25 Feb 2010         At Sea

51       26 Feb 2010         Durban, South Africa                                06:00 AM                           11:00 PM

52       27 Feb 2010         At Sea

53       28 Feb 2010         At Sea

54       01 Mar 2010         At Sea

55       02 Mar 2010        La Possession, Reunion                             08:00 AM                            05:00 PM

56       03 Mar 2010        Port Louis, Mauritius                                 07:00 AM                            06:00 PM

57       04 Mar 2010        At Sea

58       05 Mar 2010        At Sea

59       06 Mar 2010        Victoria, Seychelles ON                              07:00 AM

60       07 Mar 2010        Victoria, Seychelles                                                                               10:00 AM

61       08 Mar 2010        At Sea

62       09 Mar 2010        At Sea

63       10 Mar 2010        At Sea

64       11 Mar 2010        Mumbai (Bombay), India ON VX                 06:00 AM

65       12 Mar 2010        Mumbai (Bombay), India VX                                                                   06:00 PM

66       13 Mar 2010        Marmagao (Goa), India VX                         08:00 AM                              05:00 PM

67       14 Mar 2010         At Sea

68       15 Mar 2010         At Sea

69       16 Mar 2010         At Sea

70       17 Mar 2010         At Sea

71       18 Mar 2010         Port Kelang, Malaysia                               08:00 AM                              06:00 PM

72       19 Mar 2010         Singapore ON                                           07:00 AM

73       20 Mar 2010         Singapore                                                                                              05:00 PM

74       21 Mar 2010         At Sea

75       22 Mar 2010         Sihanoukville, Cambodia VX                     07:00 AM                              06:00 PM

76       23 Mar 2010         At Sea

77       24 Mar 2010         Phu My, Vietnam VX                                  06:00 AM                             08:00 PM

78       25 Mar 2010         At Sea

79       26 Mar 2010         Halong Bay, Vietnam TR VX                       10:00 AM                             06:00 PM

80       27 Mar 2010         At Sea

81       28 Mar 2010         Hong Kong, China ON                               07:00 AM

82       29 Mar 2010         Hong Kong, China                                                                                 06:00 PM

83       30 Mar 2010         At Sea

84       31 Mar 2010         At Sea

85       01 Apr 2010         Shanghai, China ON VX                              08:00 AM

86       02 Apr 2010         Shanghai, China VX                                                                                05:00 PM

87       03 Apr 2010         At Sea

88       04 Apr 2010         At Sea

89       05 Apr 2010         Xingang (Beijing), China ON VX                  08:00 AM

90       06 Apr 2010         Xingang (Beijing), China VX                                                                    05:00 PM

91       07 Apr 2010         At Sea

92       08 Apr 2010         Jeju (Cheju) City, Korea                              07:00 AM                              02:00 PM

93       09 Apr 2010         Kagoshima, Japan                                      08:00 AM                              05:00 PM

94       10 Apr 2010         Kobe, Japan ON                                         03:00 PM

95       11 Apr 2010         Kobe, Japan                                                                                            05:00 PM

96       12 Apr 2010         Yokohama, Japan ON                                 02:00 PM

97       13 Apr 2010         Yokohama, Japan                                                                                    06:00 PM

98       14 Apr 2010         At Sea

99       15 Apr 2010         Hakodate, Japan                                        07:00 AM                               06:00 PM

100     16 Apr 2010         At Sea

101     17 Apr 2010         At Sea

102     18 Apr 2010         Petropavlovsk, Russia TR VX                      07:00 AM                                05:00 PM

103     19 Apr 2010         Cross International Dateline CO

104     20 Apr 2010         At Sea

105     21 Apr 2010         At Sea

106     22 Apr 2010         At Sea

107     23 Apr 2010         At Sea

108     24 Apr 2010         At Sea

109     25 Apr 2010         Vancouver, B.C., CA                                   08:00 AM                                05:00 PM

110     26 Apr 2010         Seattle, Washington, US                             08:00 AM                                05:00 PM

111     27 Apr 2010         At Sea

112     28 Apr 2010         At Sea

113     29 Apr 2010         Los Angeles, California, US                         07:00 AM


Puerto Limón, Costa Rica

                                                                Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary

January 9, 2010

Puerto Limón was a return trip for us.  We had both done the Tortuguera Canal trip on our first visit, but were still interested in learning about the wildlife of the area.  So we chose a visit to the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, which included a jungle canoe ride.  When we arrived at the sanctuary, the first order of business was a walk through the jungle (on a well-defined path).  Our first wildlife sighting was a dog, who apparently regularly escorts tour groups.  We learned that the Panamá hat “palm” is actually in the same family as philodendrons - those ubiquitous house plants.  We learned something about the venomous snakes of the area, and our guide also instructed us on some natural remedies.  He was quite knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area.

It was interesting to watch and learn about the sloths.  The two-fingered and three-fingered are really not closely related at all.  But both are related to the armadillo.

This photo is of Spiderman, a six-year-old two-finger sloth, who still sucks his fingers!  The photo at the top with Susan is of Buttercup, who is a 3-finger sloth.  The coloration of each type is distinctive.  The male 3-fingered sloth may be distinguished by the yellow patch on its back. 

We learned that sloths are very clean animals, and they have a very slow metabolism, which makes them essentially cold-blooded, like reptiles.  They come down out of the trees only once a week to perform their bodily functions.  In the wild they have algae growing on their backs, and have flightless moths in their fur which keep the algae under control.  The moths lay their eggs in the sloth dung when the sloths descend from the trees.  At the end of our time at the sanctuary we met some orphan baby sloths.  They were cute and very personable.  All of the sloths we encountered moved far more than we expected.

In the middle of the excursion we went on a short canoe ride through the jungle.   From the canoe we saw a wild sloth, a couple of yellow-crowned night herons, a large green fancy lizard, and an oriole snake (very small).  We also saw another kind of heron at the end, which we have not yet been able to identify.

The final stop on this excursion was a place where we could buy souvenirs and listen to a trio of musicians.  In all it was a good trip and we learned a lot.  We liked it better than the Tortuguera canals, because it was a much more intimate way to experience tropical wildlife.          

                                                       Señor Aviarios and Susan with Buttercup

Panama Canal Transit

                                                                        Gatun Locks

January 10, 2010

This was our second transit of the Panamá Canal.  We made sure we were up in time to see the Gatun locks - the first set on the Atlantic end of the canal.  The three locks combined raise the ship approximately 85 feet, and it is an amazing sensation to both feel and watch that process.  It takes only about 15 minutes per lock, and the sensations are totally different from the locks that lower the ship to sea level.  A considerable amount of time is spent traversing Gatun Lake before entering the Pedro Miguel lock, which starts the process of lowering the ship to sea level on the Pacific side.  Just a mile further south from the Pedro Miguel lock are the Miraflores locks, where the process of lowering the ship back to sea level is completed.  It takes three locks to raise the ship and three to lower it back to sea level.  Gatun lake was formed by damming the Chagres River, which was one of the greatest challenges to the construction of the canal.  The other huge challenge to the canal construction was the Culebra Cut, now known as the Gaillard Cut, which has always been unstable.  If you plan to travel through the Panamá Canal, we strongly recommend that you read David McCulloch’s book, The Path Between The Seas before you go.  The experience is much deeper when you understand what went into the building of the canal.  At this point anyone traveling through the canal will see where they have started construction on the new sets of locks that will accommodate the huge container ships & larger cruise ships.  The locks will be able to accommodate ships that are both wider and longer than the current locks can.  They have also started the dredging necessary to widen the canal in some places.  The current plan is to have the new locks completed by 2014, exactly 100 years after the original opening of the canal.

There are only two bridges across the canal: the first one built is the Bridge of the Americas, which is just toward the Pacific Ocean from the Gatun Locks.  The other bridge is the Centennial Bridge, a cable suspension bridge, which is located just north of the Pedro Miguel lock.

During the time of our transit, there was a Panamanian couple on board wearing traditional costumes.  The lady’s costume is completely hand-embroidered in cross stitch (see photo below).  It takes up to two years to complete such a costume, and the workmanship is exquisite.  Last time we went through the canal our evening’s entertainment was a local group demonstrating folk dances.  Unfortunately we did not have that this time.




Fuerte Amador, Panamá

                                           View from Observation Deck of Miraflores Visitor Center

January 11, 2010

Since we had done the rainforest trip last time we were here, we decided to become more closely acquainted with the Miraflores locks.  The visitor center building next to the locks is quite conspicuous, as there are usually a lot of people on the observation deck watching the ships go by.  The building houses a museum which occupies three floors, and which covers the history of the canal on the first floor, and information on the native flora and fauna on the second floor.  We did not see the third floor this time.  Harry went to see the video presentation, while Susan went up to the observation deck to take photographs.

While driving through town we passed a grassy mall which is lined with palm trees (shown above).  Our guide told us that the mall is the exact size of a lock on the canal - about 1000 feet long and 110 feet wide.  Seeing this representation on land makes it easier to understand how large the locks really are.  We also saw a crocodile in the Miraflores River.  Our guide pointed out several former US military bases, which have been repurposed in various ways.  

We also drove past the canal headquarters and the US embassy and had a photo stop for the Bridge of the Americas.

The tour was pleasant, but we really did not have enough time at the  visitor’s center to see everything there was to see, especially if you wanted to take your time looking at the exhibits.  It was a small disappointment that there were no ships passing through the locks while we were there.  One of the visitor center workers said that because of the economic crisis, shipping is no longer predictable.

                                 This park replicates the dimensions of a lock of the canal.

                                                       Susan with Bridge of the Americas

Manta, Ecuador


                                                          Weaving a Panamá Hat

January 13, 2010

Manta, Ecuador - our first port in South America.  Our surroundings, while unfamiliar, still had a familiar look to them.  The style of building communities behind walls was reminiscent of Egypt, as are the half-finished buildings.  

Manta is a deep water port, which makes it ideal for shipping.  It is also the tuna-fishing capital of the world, according to our guide.  The design of the fishing boats, with their cranes makes it clear that fishing is a serious industry here.  The cranes are used to lift the fish out of the ship’s hold.  It was a surprise to see the fish market (photo below) still partially in operation around noon.  Of course the area was swarming with birds - the usual pelicans and seagulls, along with large numbers of magnificent frigate birds, and even a few egrets! 

Our tour took us first to a small but very nice cultural museum that holds artifacts from the very early cultures of the area (dating from 7,000-9,000 years before Christ!), as well as some modern art.

Following this we went to the village of El Chorillo, where we were introduced to the last family in Ecuador to work with sisal, an agave fiber.  They make bath mitts and back scrubbers from the fiber, as well as burlap sacks for coffee, rice etc.

They have an interesting loom that throws the shuttle automatically - when the loom operator pulls a rope.  He is constantly working that rope and foot pedals to weave the fabric.  The process is otherwise pretty primitive, but interesting to watch.

Our next stop was in the village of Montecristi, the birthplace of the Panama hat.  The hats got their name because they were used by workers on the Panama canal.  As with the burlap bags, we saw the process of hat making (see photo above) from the fiber-producing plant to the finished product.  Across the street from the tent with the hatmakers was a row of booths selling various local handicrafts; almost all the booths were selling Panama hats.  There were different styles and qualties, with prices varying from $5 (we didn’t see any of those) to about $1000, for the hats made with very fine fibers.  Of course we each got a hat.  It was difficult to decide where to buy one because the selection was somewhat different in each place, and by the time we’d been to all of them it was difficult to remember where we’d seen the ones we liked.

The final stop on the tour was at a factory that makes carvings from Tagua nuts.  The Tagua nut is also known as vegetable ivory, due to the color, and the fact that it becomes very hard when sun dried.  The nuts come from a palm related to the coconut palm.  When our bus drove through the factory gate we were greeted with the sight of large quantities of drying nuts, as well as a flock of turkeys and a few chickens.  Inside the very high-roofed building we found one man carving the nuts.  There was a line of people slicing the nuts, and another line of people stamping buttons out of the slices, and a small group of women sorting for quality.  They also had some display tables at the other end of the building, filled with the buttons and carvings of animals.  They were not expensive so we bought three of the carvings.  We learned that until the current economic crisis all the fashion houses in Italy insisted on using only Tagua nut buttons.

The landscape in the area around Manta is described as “dry forest”.  The area receives only about an inch of rain per year, so the plants are specially adapted to the environment.  There are cacti, of course.  The ones we saw were called candelabra cactus.  The other very noticeable kind of vegetation is the kapok trees, which are also known as barrel trees, for the strange shape they acquire as a result of storing water for the dry season.  The fluff in the pods was used to stuff pillows and the like before the advent of polyester.

Although the poverty in this area is very noticeable, the people seem happy, and they are very friendly.  We enjoyed our short visit to Ecuador and are interested in seeing more of the country.

                                                Fish Market and Great Egret

Callao & Lima, Peru Day 1


                                                      Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru

January 16, 2010

Lima, Peru unexpectedly swept us off our feet, figuratively speaking.  We were not sure what to expect, but both of our excursions and the folkloric show were a marvelous introduction to Peru.  One of our major impressions was that Lima is a city of walls and iron bars.  We saw a lot of commercial areas, and many buildings with earthquake damage.  We also saw neighborhoods for every economic class.  Many of the larger buildings are of French design, and quite ornate.  Lima is in a very seismic area.  It’s climate is seemingly oxymoronic: a very humid desert.   

Today we had an excursion with our American Express group.  Our first stop was Plaza Mayor, where there were many painted cows which reminded us of the wolves in Abingdon, VA and the horses in Kittyhawk, NC which were painted by artists.  There is a contest to determine the best of the cows;  that one will be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity.  The ones that don’t win will be washed off and sent to another town, where the same process will happen anew.  The designs ranged from one that looked like an erect Miss Piggy, to one that looked like Inca pottery.  After this we went to the San Francisco monastery, where we saw their library, much beautiful tile work, paintings depicting the life of St. Francis, and frescoes which were discovered after an earthquake cracked the plaster surface of the building.  Especially after what just happened in Haiti, it is nice to know that some good can come from an earthquake.

Next we drove to Casa Luna, a beautiful home where the Luna family has an amazing collection of nativity scenes.  There are 1500 of them in the collection, mostly gifts to the family.  They are made of every imaginable material, including silver, abalone, straw, gourds, and porcelain, and they come from all over the world.  As with every other home in Lima, this property was enclosed with walls and wrought iron fencing.  As the last person was boarding the bus, we watched the gate close.

Our last stop of the day was at Casa Diez Canseco, where we were greeted by the owner, Dr. Francisco Diez-Canseco Tavara, who introduced to the Pisco Sour, a drink we were told is native to Peru, no matter what the Chileans say.  Pisco is a kind of grape brandy, 30% alcohol, made from the grapes the Spaniards introduced to Peru.  These grapes are of a quality that would not make good wine, and apparently the choice was deliberate, as the Spaniards did not want any competition.

Our host showed us around his home, which was once a farm house, but is now located in the middle of the city.  He introduced us to some of his wonderful family history, and some of the objects that were special to him.   We then were served a delicious lunch of Peruvian food on the patio, which was a beautiful setting.  Our tables were placed under some Acacia trees with dense foliage that provided good shade.  

One of our host’s ancestors orchestrated a revolution in Peru to get rid of bad government, and once he got the new government going - without standing for election - he returned to his farm.  We were told that he was judged to be not ambitious, but we wish our politicians would take lessons from a man who was truly interested in the good of his country rather than having personal ambition.

This was a delightful day, which gave us some insight into the culture of Peru.  In the evening we had a Peruvian Folkloric show, called The Magic of Peru, which was both beautiful and very entertaining (see photo below and here and here).  The show participants quite obviously were enjoying what they were doing.  It was probably the most interesting and well done folkloric show we’ve seen.



Callao & Lima, Peru Day 2

                                                       Sun Temple

January 17, 2010

For day two in Lima, we chose a tour called Inca Cultures and Pachacamac.  Pachacamac is the ruins of an ancient temple compex, which has 18 pyramids with ramps, a sun temple, and a beautiful, mostly restored Inca moon temple.  The sun temple (representing good) was for men’s worship, while the moon temple (representing bad) was for women’s worship.

Our first stop on this tour was a cultural museum that had artifacts from the earliest cultures through the Incas.  This museum went into great detail about the cultures, including models of Machu Picchu and other villages, and had multiple examples of many types of artifacts from all the cultures.  Our guide on this tour was very knowledgeable but difficult to understand through her heavy Spanish accent.

The next stop was at Pachacamac, which is surrounded by shanty towns with brightly colored buildings.  We climbed to the top of the sun temple, but unfortunately did not have time to explore.

The highlight of our excursion was our last stop of the day, the Hacienda Mamacona, where they breed the Paso horses that Peru is famous for.  We were greeted by a brass band, and escorted to seats under a canopy at the corner of a large lawn.  The owner of the hacienda told us about what makes the horses special:  they are descended from the famous Andalusian show horses, but are smaller in size.  They are very spirited horses, and they have a special gait which gives them a very smooth walk.  When they walk their wrists make a circular motion, which gives them a very elegant and graceful appearance.  This is a genetic trait.  They brought out their newest foal, a colt only seven days old, along with his mother.  As the colt trotted around, the rotation of the wrists was clearly evident.  The show also included two couples who performed some traditional Peruvian dances.  One very special dance was with the two women and two men on horses.  While we were watching this show we were kept well supplied with Pisco sours and Alga Rovinas (another Pisco drink made with milk, sugar and lime juice), along with fried yucca and a dipping sauce.

Following the show we were treated to a wonderful Peruvian buffet, which included wine for those of us who wished to drink it.  During the meal there was more dancing entertainment.  The surprise of the day was being offered the opportunity to ride one of the horses.  Of course we decided to try that - never mind that neither of us had been on a horse for at least 40 years!  It was really more an adult version of a pony ride; one of the handlers led the horse around a big grassy area while we were in the saddle.  But it was still fun, and the walking gait was very smooth.

Finally we had to say goodbye, get back on the bus and head back to the ship.  We had a wonderful time, and would enjoy seeing more of Peru.


Arica, Chile

                                                                Presencias Tutelares Sculptures

January 19, 2010

Arica, Chile sits near the northern border of Chile.  This port is primarily a working one, with a lot of container shipping traffic; cruise ships are their secondary business.  

The excursion we chose was called “Off The Beaten Track:  Codpa Village.”   And Codpa Village was definitely off the beaten track, about 120 kilometers south of Arica.  Immediately upon leaving the city area, the land was flat, tan and completely barren.  Our guide let us know that it does not rain in the Atacama desert.  Ever.  The plants collect water from the dew, and the people of the area do everything they can to conserve water, including using drip irrigation systems.

Our first stop was the huge Presencias Tutelarias sculptures (see photo above), which represent male and female, and date from the mid-1990s.  They are striking for their size and their similarity to ancient forms.  After riding for a while more on the bus, we stopped at an area with many, many piles of stones, constructed originally to mark the trail through the desert, and now constructed by tour groups from cruise ships.  We were told that after we built our pile we could make a wish.  In this area there were so many rock piles it was difficult to find unused rocks, so the one we built was quite small.  By this time the country- side had gotten more interesting - somewhat like the Badlands of South Dakota, only with duller color and a much smoother surface - with mountains and ravines.  In a couple of places we could see areas of green at the bottom of canyons, where there was obviously some source of moisture, although there was no obvious water in what appeared to be the river bed.  We had also been climbing in altitude.

We made a stop to view the candelabra cacti, which grow only in the elevation range of 6000 to 9000 feet.  They were sparsely spaced, which is no surprise, given that they grow in the driest desert in the world.  They grow to be about twelve feet tall, and bloom once a year in August, for twenty four hours only.  They are apparently long-lived.  They are green when they are young, and then turn yellow and brown, so they appear dead.  They meet their moisture needs from the dew: their thorns have sponges at the base, which absorb water for the plant.  It was also interesting to see that there are lichens growing on the rocks in the general vicinity of the cactus.  

Once we got back on the bus our next stop was to be Codpa Village.  Before we got down into the valley we caught a glimpse of the intense green of the oasis.  The village itself is very simple.  The biggest building is the church (photo below).  Across from the church is the police station (do they really have that much crime in the area?)  There are three villages in the area with a total population of 500 people.  The main activity and source of income is agriculture.  Tourism, thanks to the cruise ships, has become their second major source of income.  We were greeted by a brass band and local dancers after we checked out the small museum.  This was followed by a prayer/wish ceremony with incense, wine and coca leaves, on the patio in front of the church entrance.  That seemed to us to be a strange place for such a ceremony.  We then had a chance to check out the vendors’ booths, where they were selling local fruit, wine, and a few crafts.  Their friendly and well-dressed llama was the biggest attraction in that area.

Then we proceeded to lunch at what was billed as the best restaurant in town.  We were told that there were actually several restaurants there.  We were given a small glass of homemade port wine, as well as commercially bottled wine.  There was a basket of fruit on the table which included figs, tiny Christmas pears, tiny mangoes, oranges, and a strange, spherical green fruit with a maple taste called lucuma.  Our first course was a variety of vegetables, served with a really good salsa and home baked bread with the taste and texture of biscuits.  The main course was roast beef with rice.  We were offered coca tea, which we were told is good for the lungs at high altitude.  With the exception of the rice, the food we ate was all locally grown.

After lunch we re-boarded our bus to return to the ship, a drive of about two hours.  Someone on the bus had a GPS instrument and told us that our maximum altitude was just over 8000 feet.  It was amazing to see such a thriving village in the middle of the desert, and nice to be able to see the Chilean culture in a more intimate way than one would have seen just staying in Arica.  Once we got acclimated to our surroundings, the scenery was beautiful and very interesting.  We made it back to the ship in time to help out our trivia team, which was good even though we didn’t win.  Overall, we had a very enjoyable day.                    

                                                    

Coquimbo, Chile


                                                               The Elqui Valley

January 21, 2010

Coquimbo, Chile is a place we had never heard of prior to this trip, but we found it well worth the visit.  Our tour was called “A Taste of Chile: Pisco Distillery.”  We figured that this would be a good way to get to know the country a little, and that having some Pisco wouldn’t hurt.  Then there was the intriguing competition between Chile and Peru with regard to Pisco.  One of our guides in Lima made sure we were aware that Pisco was invented in Peru, no matter what the Chileans said.  Cristobal, our guide for Coquimbo agreed that Pisco was invented in Peru.  However, he also let us know that the Chileans got the first patent on it, and by law it is the national drink of Chile.

Our first stop on this tour was El Faro lighthouse, in the town of La Serena.  Due to concern about safety around a broken water main, we had to view the lighthouse from a distance.  As you can see from the background in the photo, we had the usual Chilean morning fog to deal with.  From the lighthouse we drove through the countryside to the town of Vicuña, to visit a city park that boasts a sculpture of the head of Gabriela Mistral (see photo below), Chile’s first female winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  We also visited the Bauer Tower, which is a museum about the town’s history.  Vicuña is the main town in the Elqui Valley, a very fertile agricultural area, and it is also home to the CAPEL Pisco distillery.  CAPEL is an acronym for the cooperative that makes the Pisco.

We had a tour of the distillery, which took us through the whole process of producing Pisco.  The most interesting part was being able to watch the assembly line that filled and packed the bottles, getting them ready for shipping.  The conveyor belt that takes the cartons to where they will be loaded onto a pallet turns some boxes, while allowing others to go through straight, apparently creating the best arrangement for them on the pallet.  

Of course the best part was the tasting, which happened next.  We were given samples of the straight Pisco: first, the clear, lower alcohol grade that is used to make Pisco sours, and then the higher alcohol content, golden-colored grade that has been aged in oak barrels.  We found the former to be more interesting.  They also served us samples of Pisco sours, and piña colada made with Pisco.  Pisco makes an excellent piña colada.

Now that we were properly lubricated, we got back on our bus for a drive further into the Andes to the hotel where we were to have lunch.  We were supposed to stop in Montegrande, the village where Gabriela Mistral was born, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, we went straight to lunch.  We had both Pisco sours and wine with our lunch, which was very pleasant.  We ended up at a table for eight, and the couple next to us was the other couple who had gotten married as a result of going on the 2008 Grand World Voyage.  They got married nine days before we did.

On our way back to the ship we stopped very briefly at an organic winery.  Only a very few people got to taste any of the wine, which was a bit disappointing, but at the same time okay because we’d had plenty with lunch.

The drive was very scenic, between the semi-arid mountains, which were in places put to agricultural use (like the avocado orchard that was so high up on the mountain that it is difficult to imagine planting it, let alone harvesting it), the abundant cacti, the deep blue skies and the fast-flowing rivers.  

We got back to the ship rather late, because our tour was supposed to last for 9 hours, but we were only scheduled to be in port for 8 hours.  Apparently there were some other groups with the same time issues, as there were two other buses besides ours that came back late to the dock.  This is a beautiful area and we enjoyed our time here.

                                                       Gabriela Mistral, Nobel Prize for Literature

Valparaiso, Chile

                                                               Mesquite Trees

January 22, 2010

Another foggy morning found us in the port of Valparaiso, Chile.  Fortunately, by now we knew that the sun would eventually burn off the fog, especially if we were headed inland.  This is another working port where they don’t want people walking around.  This is good, because we had a good long shuttle bus ride to get to the cruise terminal.  Once at the cruise terminal we had to go through security to get to our tour buses.  Our tour was considerably delayed by a woman with a walker who got onto our bus rather than the correct one for her tour.  We were surprised that it took so long to figure out the source of the problem with the passenger count.

Our tour was titled “Live The Chilean Spirit”, and involved two major things Chile is famous for: wine and horses.  By now you are probably detecting a pattern in our choice of tours.  The choice is more about learning about the significant aspects of the culture rather than about consuming alcohol.

Our first stop was at the Viño Mar winery in the Casablanca Valley, an area especially suited for growing white wine grapes.  As you can see from the photo, we had perfect weather, and the winery is beautiful.  They have many acres of grapes, and the building shown in the photograph houses every part of the wine-making operation.  The property was also a great place for birdwatching.  We were given a tour that taught us the entire process of wine-making, including the hand-made sparkling wines.  Following the tour we got to taste one of their white wines, a 2008 Chardonnay that was wonderful and that was grown right on that property.  The Casablanca valley is specifically suited to growing white wine grapes, which like cooler temperatures.  Then we tried a 2007 Merlot that was grown in the Maipo Valley, a location more suited to growing red wine grapes.  This was also a very nice wine.  And even though they are excellent wines, they are still inexpensive.  Our guide taught us proper technique for tasting wines.

After our wine tasting we reboarded our bus and headed for the most anticipated part of our trip - Puro Caballo - a fundo (what we would call a ranch) where they breed and raise Chilean rodeo horses.  

We were told that these horses are the second oldest breed in the world and that they came originally from Spain.  We were greeted by Christian (photo below), the owner of the fundo, who is Chilean by birth, but who spent twenty years in Houston, Texas and developed a great ability with the English language while there.  We immediately were given Pisco sours (or mango sours) and some wonderful empanadas.  While enjoying those we were introduced to the Chilean Rodeo horse and his rider, a huaso (or cowboy), whose traditional outfit includes a manta, a waist-length version of a poncho, that is passed down through the generations.  The designs on them are akin to the plaids of the Scottish clans.   We have noticed that the people who breed these horses, or the ones in Peru, are very passionate about their horses.

Seeing the animals demonstrate their skills helps us to understand their passion.  The Chilean rodeo horse helps with the process of branding calves, and the huaso never needs to get off his horse.  The horse learns to pin a calf against a bolster in the rodeo ring with all four feet off the ground long enough to brand the calf.  They did a “sort of” demonstration for us with a steer named Charlie.  They don’t try to pin Charlie, as that is something you really can do only once - the calves don’t like it much.  They did the traditional rooster/hen dance where the huaso on his horse dances with a woman; in this case the woman was Christian’s twelve year old daughter.  As we have seen before, the dance was very beautiful.  The Chilean rodeo horse has short hands (forearms) which makes them not as tall, and probably more maneuverable; they can stop on a dime.  They are also trained to walk sideways, similar to what the Andalusian horses do.

After the rodeo demonstration we went into the dining room for lunch, which included the traditional foods, including the wonderful salsa which they call “pembre”, and of course the obligatory wine.  We were treated to more music and dancing while we ate, and then it was time to say goodbye.  We were sorry to have to leave, because we had a wonderful time.  It would be nice to see a complete rodeo with these horses.

                                                      Puro Caballo Chilean Rodeo Horse                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


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