Wk 8 Farewell Chile

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March 11th 2012
Published: June 13th 2017
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Geo: -18.4874, -70.3222

Saturday 03/03/12 Castro, Chile 14c Sunny spells with a few showers

The approach up river to Costa is lined by Salmon fish farms on both sides, as the river is fairly narrow it can be challenging getting larger ships upstream especially if there's something coming downstream. Apparently this is a five billion dollar industry for them and they're now expanding the operation to double its size, impressive.

We'd no sooner been tendered across to the terminal building when the heavens opened up fortunately after half an hour it stopped and the sun came out which enabled us to wander the town which is renowned for its wood carvings and all things wooden. We visited the San Francisco cathedral which looks impressive from a distance but as you get closer you can see it's really in a sad way and rapidly deteriorating, however the inside is surprising, it's all made of wood everything except the windows, it was really quite beautiful and radiated a warmth which with the silence produced an overwhelming sense of peace and calm.

Most of the older houses are clad with ornate designs of wooden tiles or ship lapped panels, whilst making our way around the older parts of town we came across a new house being constructed in the original fashion between two existing wooden houses so I think it was a complete rebuild of an old property. Anyway there was an old guy upstairs watching us, we wished him good day in our best Spanish and I stuck my thumb up to indicate that we liked the house, with that he waved us in, shot down the stairs and insisted we look around.

It turned out this guy wasn't the owner but the builder/ carpenter, everything was wooden and handmade, it looked lovely, and then we moved to the back where there was a kitchen / diner with a large patio which protrudes out onto the river and is built on stilts affording marvellous views across the river. Despite his invitation we declined to go up the ladder to view the upstairs but somehow you just know what it'll be like.

Here's a lesson for us all how many times have you been told don't judge a book by its cover?

There's a very nice Australian single woman Merrell on board who since she learnt she's got cancer set out to enjoy herself before the inevitable and as a result now cruises ten months of the year. Unbeknown to everybody around her when she joined the ship she'd just completed her last session of chemo, had lost all her hair and was wearing a wig, anyway one day she was out on deck and of course the inevitable happened and it blew off, she was as you might imagine devastated but as the result of that she made so many new friends, anyway I digress.

Apparently when considering this cruise she mentioned it in passing to a group of friends at home and was lamenting the cost of a single supplement which is nearly the equivalent of the second persons charge. At a later date one of the people she had been talking to mentioned that he wouldn't mind doing the trip with her and sharing the cabin (stop it, separate beds).

From the story she tells she's known this guy for years and didn't foresee any real problems as they'd always had shared interests, they would both get to do the trip at effectively half price and have each other for company if that's what they wanted.

Well and it's a big well (both metaphorically and otherwise). Apparently it was agreed for whatever reasons that he'd pay for the holiday and she would repay him, which she did before setting off. Now P&O like most other cruise lines issue you with a cruise card which you use for all payments on board. At the start of the cruise you have to present a credit or charge card, and sign an authorisation slip effectively pre authorising payment for any charges made against your cruise card. All your shipboard purchases are then made with the cruise card and it's then automatically charged to your declared credit card.

Early on in the cruise problems developed between these two as it transpired the guys a closet alcoholic who spends most of his time drinking, coming back late in the evening or the early hours drunk as a rat, swearing, cursing, and falling over everything, before finally falling asleep snoring loudly and to cap it all has a problem which is measured on the Beaufort scale if you get my meaning. Oh my.

As times gone on things have deteriorated and despite broaching the subject with him it's only made things worse. She's being driven mad and wants to either abandon the holiday or move to another cabin, but now either way it's not just her that would incur the single person supplement but him as well. (I know what you're thinking, he's caused the problem, but if either of them can't or won't pay the supplement they're stuck) If it's possible to make matters worse both cruise cards are debited to his authorised card and as there can only be the one card all purchases are still being charged to him which he's now being funny about. How well do you know your friends?

Sunday 04/03/12 Puerto Montt, Chile 14c sunny but windy

Up at 05:30 as we're on an all day excursion to visit the mountains, lakes, and volcano of what is Chile's lake district we we're really looking forward to this trip, we we're supposed to be off at 07:40 but as I looked out of the window it was obvious to me we would be late arriving. Now I'm not claiming any nautical experience whatsoever but the journey from Castro to Puerto Montt is less than 100 miles, when our call at Chacabuco was cancelled and we were told we would be going to Castro instead we queried why we we're going to Castro in the first place as it was so close to Puerto Montt. Anyway as we were leaving Castro at 17:00 we suggested that we could get to Puerto Montt in the evening and then if people wanted to go out to the town in the evening they could, but to no avail the captain declared we would take a slow cruise through the night, so it was with some annoyance I realised that having taken 14hrs to cover less than 100 mls we would arrive late.

Our excuse for a captain who's already been named by previous cruisers passaport Perkins (pass a port) was that we had a 30mph headwind which delayed us! We have on board all the technical equipment necessary to predict weather, current position, and sufficient computing power to be able to predict our eta at anytime but our captain still gets us in late.

Just as we're approaching our berth the captain announces we've been refused permission to dock by the port officials as there's now a 35 mph offshore wind and the port will only allow operations with winds up to 20mph. (once again the curse of passaport Perkins has struck, thank goodness he's getting off at Valparaiso assuming we can berth there if not we'll throw him off anyway)

The passengers are now really p*****d off and this was made worse when instead of trying to make for Valparaiso early and have an extra day there we're told it's not an option as the weather you may remember is due to be bad as we exit the fiord into the Pacific.

Things are just not adding up there's a feeling that we're being deliberately lied to with little effort being made to consider the requirements of passengers and more to do with saving cost for P&O every missed port saves them berthing fees and reduced speeds save running costs.

During the day as anyone whose cruised will know rumours abound, one which may have some bearing is the problem we're having with the dreaded norovirus ( I forgot to mention that it started last week and seems to be escalating, which is worrying) and that when the Customs and Health officials checked our records declined us entry on that basis. Given that we have two Chilean pilots on board who are well versed with all our ports of entry and their operating capabilities, the fact that we had more than sufficient time to arrive earlier before the wind increased, plus the fact we were within 400m of berthing before being declined does beg the question just why were we being refused entry?

Anyway now we'll be exiting the fiord out into the Pacific a day earlier than expected, the Captain has informed us that the storm has receded somewhat and he'll be hugging the coast as much as possible to limit the seas effect on the ship.

Monday 05/03/12 At sea 17c bright and windy

Tuesday 06/03/12 Valparaiso, Chile 21c bright & Sunny

Valparaiso is a beautiful harbour with all the surrounding house set out in the hillsides of what is a natural amphitheatre encompassing the harbour. We took the Metro to Vina Del Mar some 5 mls away the journey cost the equivalent of £4 of which £1.50 was the purchase of the plastic card upon which your credit is then added so in reality the actual return journey in a spotless clean and punctual train for two people return was in fact £2.50 . Why can't we learn the lesson that higher prices drives customers away so profit margins reduce and only the stupid would then increase price to recoup the loss, sorry that's not what this bogs about but it annoys me.

We had a great day in the town and were once again followed by dogs everywhere we went and we walked miles. It transpires that the Chileans love dogs as well as having their own they feed the strays in the street, groom them, and take them to the vet when necessary; but that's the end of it they don't let them in their homes or have anything else to do with them, so there's dogs everywhere! We visited the normal plaza's, churches' etc but when we went to visit the local park it was closed for cleaning in preparation for a local festival, which was a shame as it was supposed to be beautiful.

After lunch time we took the train back to Valparaiso and noticed as we passed by what I can only describe as the worst car wash I've ever seen in my life (sorry but until I can upload the photos later you'll just have to trust me that you won't believe the it) so when we got off the metro we made our way back to get some photographs of the cars being dried off. On the way we came across what I thought was a monument of an Albatross although closer inspection actually showed the figure to be a full size Albatross on a rotating base and was in fact a weather vane with a pointer indicating the direction of the wind, a brilliant piece of work albeit in an out of the way spot missed by most people which was just a shame. Unfortunately to gain access to be able to get photos of the cars being dried after being washing I had to squeeze through a hole in a fence to get access to the railway tracks (just hoping there's no CCTV coverage) and then make my way along by the tracks to get the shots, all the while hoping I've not been spotted; mission accomplished I made my way back and we slowly walked back along the seafront whilst watching the seals and sea lions play in the bay.

The town of Valparaiso was interesting architecturally and after a couple of hours we back to make our way back to the ship, as we crossed a plaza Linda said to me have you seen the guy with the Didgeridoo although I had heard him once you've seen one they're all pretty much the same so I said as much, to which she replied just look at him. There was me looking for a guy with a long Didgeridoo playing away but I couldn't see him, and then sitting under a tree was a gut playing the biggest whatever I've ever seen, it was all made from a single tree and was coiled in the circular shape of an ammonite it was amazing, photos duly taken (to be uploaded later) and payment we made we made our way back to the ship after a good day out.

Wednesday 07/03/12 Coquimbo, Chile 22c Sunny with clear blue skies

This is port for the capital of Chile's " Norte Chico" La Serena and it main claim to fame is the 93m high Cross of the Third Millennium, the actual monument is in fact higher that the monument of Christ the Redeemer in Corcovado in Rio.

We took pre planned trip to visit La Serena which whilst pleasant enough was a complete waste of time and money, we could have done
Flora ClockFlora ClockFlora Clock

Vina Del Mar
the trip ourselves for a tenth of the cost and had more time to see what was of interest to us, oh well you win some and loss some.

On arrival back at the ship we hired a taxi to take us up to the cross where we paid the princely sum of $6 US to take the lift up to the arms of the cross where you can look through the windows at both the front and back as well as the ends of the arms to view the unfolding panorama beneath. On the way back on the coach we'd spotted a craft market alongside the local fish market, so asked the taxi driver to drop us of there and we'd then make our own way back to the ship.

Before we even got inside the market we noticed a flock of pelicans along with a couple of seals and a sea lion on the rocky foreshore so took time to watch and photograph them, ¾ hr later we managed to stroll through the market which was full of everything from cafes, clothes, leather goods, trinkets, souvenirs, and tat, all in all a really good little market better than the one we were taken to in La Serena this morning as well as being both cheaper and more varied.

Thursday 08/03/12 At Sea 19c Overcast

Time to catch up on some of the goings on from the last couple of days.

Our Captain Passaport Perkins left us at Valparaiso and on the day of his departure made an announcement that he was leaving ship and, well we never heard the rest as it was drowned out by the clapping and cheering of the passengers, I don't think I've ever seen a happier bunch of passengers.

Merrell the Australian Lady I told you about took a turn for the worse before arriving a Valparaiso and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance, where following a scan it was discovered her cancer had now developed in her larynx and to cut a long story short she was returned to the ship and told she would have to curtail her voyage at the next port whist arrangements were made for her to be flown back to Oz, she was so distraught when I saw her and being comforted by some of the female reception staff who she had got on with so well.

Now all the previous information regarding Merrell given in the entry Saturday 03/03/12 was told to us by Marie-Ann who had the conversation directly with Merrell, so you'd assume the information although one-sided to be correct, however Chas and Debbie ended up with the guy Merrell shared the cabin with at their table at lunch time and the story he tells is somewhat different, so it just goes to show you pay your money and you take your choice.

Thursday 08/03/12 Arica, Chile 22c Sunny with clear skies

Today we've booked an all tour to take us into the Atacama Desert to visit a remote village. The journey up into the dessert was interesting seeing all the different settlements and as we started to drive into the desert it was just as I expected to start off dark brown sand and wide open expanses, but very quickly it changed into a mountainous landscape full of ridges and extremely wide and deep gorges and ravines. I couldn't get over the amount of rock, I'd just expected sand, sand, and more sand, yes there's sand by the bucket load but it's a covering for the underlying rock.

Onwards and upwards we travelled up to 8881 feet where we stopped to see a plateau where countless travellers over the ages have built small mounds consisting of stones placed upon each other ( I've forgotten he correct name), I've often seen single ones and occasionally a dozen or so but here there's hundreds of them on the plateau overlooking what was at some time an enormous river at least half a mile across which over the aeons has carved its way through the rock and diminished to a river only 20m across and some third of a mile below its original position, it was quite a sight.

As we made our way through the hairpin bends toward the village the guide told us that Chile suffers more earthquakes and tsunamis than anywhere else in the world and on an average day the country will experience around 30 earthquakes although most are just tremors which the locals tend to ignore as they're common place. The road was somewhat precarious as the road was cut into the side of the mountain and the sheer rock wall on one side was worrying as it was only a matter of feet from the road with no retaining netting and perilously loose rocks and boulders from the size of a baseball to a lorry; if that wasn't bad enough on the other side it's a sheer drop. It would only need a slight tremor in the wrong palace and anything on the road which just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time wouldn't have a chance.

We spent a short time in the village being entertained by the local children before going for dinner in the local restaurant (don't read too much into restaurant) half way through the meal there was a tremor all the local ignored it, the 80 or so of us all looked at each other wondering if the there was more to come, was the only road into the village now blocked? Irrespective we would have to run the gauntlet going back up the mountain hoping all would be well, which it obviously was as I'm managing to update my blog.

Well this is our last port in Chile and I've been amazed by both the country and the people I'll certainly try and get back here it's a great place

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