PUERTO MADRYN, ARGENTINA--Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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December 11th 2013
Published: January 27th 2014
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Monday, December 9th --Tierra del Fuego, Cape of Good Horn

46 degrees out and fairly clear.

Valerie and I were up by 6ish to see us sail completely around the “Cabo de Hornos,” which if you look at a map, is the last little island in the Chilean Archipelago—yes, we were back in Chilean waters.

The weather started out looking rainy but cleared up quite nicely and the water was very smooth with no wind. The crew was amazed at the good weather, since this is usually one of the most hazardous sailing areas in the world as the strong currents from the Atlantic and the Pacific meet and clash causing large waves. Strong winds usually prevail as there is no land to stop them plus there is a draft off the Andes Mountains. To add more danger, icebergs are often found in these waters.

For decades, going around the “Horn” was a major deal on the clipper sailing ship route, by which trade was carried around the world. The need for ships to round Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Still today, sailing around the Horn, is widely regarded as one of the major challenges in yachting and is included in some of the "round the world" races. Everyone on board the cruise ship was issued a certificate for accomplishing this feat--not that WE had anything to do with the calm waters nor sailing the ship.

Most of the passengers are up this morning hanging out on one side of the deck taking pictures. On the tip of the island is a small Chilean Naval Station—wonder what you have to do wrong to get posted there? There is also a monument in the shape of an albatross to all the men lost at sea in these waters. I had so wanted to see a real live albatross in this area, but none of the birds we saw looked like they had the 41-53 foot wingspan of the albatross.

After watching the ship make her circle, and then head off up the eastern coast of South America, we went down a floor for breakfast. We then headed back to the cabin to work on our blog. We both ordered club sandwiches with avocado from room service and ate lunch in. We spent the rest of the time relaxing in our usual manner, until going up to dinner at 7ish. Valerie then went up to see “Now You See Me”, a movie about magicians whose illusions included daring bank robberies.

I continued working on the blog narrative and set up my play list of Christmas music. Not really happy with the quality of sound on my new computer compared to my old laptop--oh well, guess can't have everything better.

Tuesday, December 10th--Sailing toward Puerto Madryn, Argentina

55 degrees out today with clear blue skies.

So many choices of things to do today! We could learn to make Spanish Empanadas, hear a lecture on the history of the Tango, learn to speak Spanish, learn how to play all sorts of casino and card games, learn the secrets to a flatter stomach (do you think that means you exercise?), attend an art auction, or just relax and read a book. Guess what activity (ies) we chose to do? I am sure you guessed right, on the first try. Guess you have been following this blog awhile and can see a pattern.

Valerie is going to attach some pictures of this ship’s amenities and some of the artwork on board. The library is especially nice and we get books out to read and also sit and read there in their comfy chairs. They have paperbacks that are on a "take one, leave one system" although we were more likely to take "two, leave none". We figured it worked out as we left all our paperbacks that we brought on board there.

Wednesday, December 11th--Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Clear blue skies.

The Location Director had mentioned that the bay or Gulfo Nuevo that we were sailing into to get to the town of Puerto Madryn, was a prime hang-out for Right Whales and their babies and then Orcas who come in hunting the babies. So, we were up at 5:30, in the Crow’s Nest, to see if we could spot any whales as we sailed into port, but no luck. As we were going to breakfast the people in the dining room were pointing at the water and there was clearly a whale right outside the window and much closer into port than I thought they came.

We didn’t plan anything for this port in the way of excursions as they were really expensive--whale watching costs $269 each, for example. Many people were taking wine tours as this is a big wine growing region. This didn’t ring our chimes as we have made numerous wine tasting trips to Napa Valley, CA growing up and you know how much wine we drink. I think that would be nil, nada, zip, zero.

What we plan to do as soon as the ship has been cleared by the authorities, is to catch the free shuttle bus into the port terminal (more of a port office) and set up and do e-mail for a couple of hours. Valerie has some blog entries ready to go from the Caribbean part of this trip and I haven’t been on at all since I left home. So, we got off in town and walked along the waterfront esplanade to the tourist office where free wifi was touted. There we were told that their signal wasn’t very good, but that next door in the Café and in the mall they had a good signal.

So, we walked next door and found that the mall wasn’t opened yet, so we fell back on plan C, the café. Here we saw other people off the cruise ship typing away on their i-pods, computers, and phones. Later, when the mall opened, many gathered by benches checking in with the outside world. Valerie ordered a diet coke and we both sat up at the itty-bitty round table and worked away on our laptop computers for a couple of hours. Since we were feeling guilty about taking a table, we finally broke down and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich to split. The menu said in the English translation that it was “crude” ham. We think it might be like “country” ham as it was really salty.

After sending out e-mails and several blogs, we walked as far as the plaza/park, which was a couple of blocks. There were some wooden art there that I am not sure I know what they represented. This was also where people set up little booths with things to sell, but most od it was uninteresting bead jewelry.

This town was founded in 1865 by a group of 150 Welsh immigrants. It is semi-desert and we were not sure why anyone would want to settle here. Course we don’t understand why people live in all kinds of places—El Paso, Texas, comes readily to mind. We would have just kept looking for a prettier place. Anyway, again, the town had nothing Spanish about it. It just looked like a tired town. The people here did look more indigenous than any place we have been so far.

On our way back toward the ship, we stopped at a very small Carrefour Grocery store, more like a mini-mart, to buy some cokes and to see what they had for sale. We found the meat counter had a large selection of chorizos and other sausages and that both milk and salad dressing (mostly Hellman’s brand) were sold in plastic pouches. (They must really be fun to pour from as I can’t manage a juice “Box” without squishing the sides and getting liquid on me.) All soda was sold in bottles, no cans could be found. In the produce section, we found a bin of round green squash (we think) about the size of a softball.

We walked back to the main street along the shore looking at some metal art work, people playing in the surf, and for birds in the trees and on the shoreline. We then took the shuttle bus back to the ship. When we got to the room, we found a “towel” monkey made up by our room steward that was the most elaborate we have ever seen. The monkey's arms were hanging from coat hanger clips across our room art/painting. He had on a baby onesies outfit, a stocking cap, sunglasses, and beads around his neck. He was also clutching a baby monkey in the crook of his arm. Really cute and a lot of work.

That afternoon, as we left port, we saw another whale. Still looking for one to "breach" like the insurance ads.

Additional photos below
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29th January 2014

Pic 1312-220, 221
These pix remind me of a Stegosaurus in the sea. I wonder if the round green squash were what we call: 'gem squash'?

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