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Published: March 3rd 2020
Saturday 22nd February 2020
Another sea day and we didn’t get to Magellan Straights until mid afternoon. Bitterly cold wind, even though the sun was out - it was Chile!! Lol. The straights narrow to a gap about a mile wide which we reached about 7.30pm – we saw a few Comison dolphins but otherwise very quiet! Sea wise!!
Sunday 23rd February 2020
I hope the penguins appreciated the effort (and cost – $310!!) to see them!! I somehow doubt it!! Up at 6.00 am to meet in the Theatre for our Cunard trip at 7.45am. Onto the tender, then onto the coach and along to our transport to Magdelena Island that was declared a national monument in 1982 and had a pinguinera (penguin colony!!)
Transport left a lot to be desired!! It was an old car ferry that we all trooped through, up the steps, down some steps, then up a very narrow steep stairway to our seat! It was impossible to see out of the windows as they were too high, so fortunately we could get outside – until the sea got too rough, the wind got too strong and the rain got too heavy!!
Loads of Imperial cormorants and skewers on the way as well as a few dolphins. Reached the island just after 12.00pm (it was a 2 hour ferry ride!!) and we all duly got off and filed our way around the walkway on the island, up to the lighthouse and back to the start again! Saw quite a few groups of magdelena penguins. Some babies, and some sheltering from the bitterly cold wind as well as a gull colony with their babies still begging the parents for food and the opportunist predatory skewers flying about!
An hour on the island, then nearly a two hour journey back with ½ hour to spare until the last tender boat at 3.30pm, just driving past the sea front and the Monumento a Tripulantes Goleta Ancud. Walked up to the main square – Plaza de Armas. Lined with trees and spring flowers in beds, it is dominated by a bronze statue of Magellan perched precariously on a galleon cannon, At his feet are a mermaid and a pair of relining Indians, which local legends say that if you rub the big toe of one of the Indians, then you will return one day. Just
about made the last Tender (we were the last people on !!) and went up to Deck 9 as there were Sei Whales about! Managed to see quite a few blows and get a picture of an actual whale! Wow! Might have to go to South Africa in October to see the whales now!!!
Monday 24th February & Tuesday 25th February & Wednesday 26th February 2020
Three sea days!! It was supposed to be scenic cruising to see Amalia glacier & Pio XI (named after Pope Pius 11th) but the weather has been really bad with fog and low clouds, showers and its quite cold as well. Both glaciers are in the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park which includes a great part of the southern Patagonian Ice Field. Snow that falls on the Ice Field takes 100 years to reach the edge of the glacier that drains the ice capped, storm swept elevations. We reached the Amalia Glacier about 16.00hrs, after travelling the Sarmiento Channel.
Mmmmm…well after all the build up to it, I was expecting something really special, but I think due to the weather we were just lucky to see it at all!! The ship was
staying at the Glacier for 3hrs, turning 360 degrees several times – I think twenty minutes would have just done it!! We were about 1 km from the end of the glacier which is about 1 km wide and It was shining blue (the only colour in a very grey day!!) as the ice absorbs all colours except blue!!
The next glacier, Pio IX, that we reached at 7.00am the next morning was supposed to be 6x larger than Amalia Glacier. Its very difficult to take photographs that can show how large these glaciers are – you need a small boat alongside to get the perspective of it, but they are absolutely massive. With clouds around the fiords, it was very atmospheric – and totally silent!!
The weather was due to get worse, so we left the glacier about 10 .00am and went back up the fiord, through heavy rain showers to the Pacific Ocean, passing loads of small uninhabited islands.
Thursday 27th February 2020
After three days at sea, I was going a bit stir crazy (there’s only so many whales and seabirds you can spot!!) so it was good to arrive at Puerto Montt
at 7.00am! We knew that we weren’t going to be first off the ship, on the Tender, as we did not have a Cunard Excursion booked, so we duly made our way to the Queens Room at 9.00am – only to have the Captain announce that the swell was dangerous for Passengers to go ashore, and that they woudn’t be running the Tenders. Agghhh………...another day at sea – although we did see pygmy blue whales!! And guess what…….tomorrow is another sea day!!!
Friday 28th February 2020
Usual activities throughout the day including a really interesting lecture by Richard Cowley OBE, MA about the plane crash from Uruguay that crashed near Valparaiso in 1972, where they survived 73 days in the High Andes by eating their dead fellow travellers! Didn’t see any more whales or dolphins but there was an excess of sea birds!!
Saturday 29th February 2020
Today was disembarkation day and it all went very smoothly and we were off the ship by about 9.00ish.
Thoughts on the cruise and holiday: A long way to fly! Cruise seemed very well oiled. We had inside cabin 7134 near the back of the ship.
It was small, but very quiet – really nice pillows!!! . Food was hot and good. We didn’t go to the show every night but we did see Mike Doyle, the Welsh singer and comedian who was very good, local dance group – it all seems a bit samey and not that good!! The lectures were very good, excellent speakers, and the wildlife talks and sightings were outstanding. Only criticisms are a) that the drinks are very expensive ie $14.00 for a large glass of wine, (but you get vouchers for the duty free which you can buy and drink in your cabin $13 for a litre of Gin) and b), the trips are very expensive. We used US$ from Rio to Santiago….in Chile it was easier to just use a Credit Card. US dollars are readily accepted in Argentina, even by street traders at a reasonable rate, and change in a Cambio for Argentinian pesos at reasonable rates.Thoughts of the cruise are that it seems very well oiled. We used US$ from Rio to Santiago….in Chile it was easier to just use a Credit Card. US dollars are readily accepted in Argentina, even by street traders at a reasonable
rate, and change in a Cambio for Argentinian pesos at reasonable rates. Currency section for all 4 Countries. High ATM Bank charges of 379 $pesos (6.50 $ US) even for small transactions.
Had to wait for our transfer who then drove us along the motorway for 105 kms, weaving in and out of the traffic and through narrow lanes of roadworks, at 140km an hour!! Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived (Room 402, Intercontinental Hotel) so after dumping our luggage, we set off to explore!! We had been booked into the Crown Plaza Hotel, but it was burned down in demonstrations a few weeks ago, so we were rebooked.
Quite complicated!! We walked towards the Costanera Centre, with its Sky Costanera Tower, but there was a huge demonstration going on. Eventually asked at Information Centre and we had to go up 5 floors, find the Turistik counter to buy Hop On, Hop Off bus tickets, before trying to find the bus stop! Even that was a challenge – until we spotted a group of tourists all sat on a wall wearing their red bracelet bus tickets!!!
Got on the bus and had a drive through the
financial district of Santiago, with some very tall sky scrapers, nice house and leafy streets. There were quite a few parks and statues and it looked quite interesting. Got off at Stop No 3 and made our way to the Cable Car that takes you up to San Cristobal Hill. Great!! If you like Cable Cars!!! It wasn’t too bad as it didn’t seem to go too high but after the first station the wind picked up and we went high over a valley!! I was sooo glad to get off – even more so when a guy said we could take a white bus back!! The top of San Cristobal was quite interesting with Penitance Crosses and various statues of the Pope and Christ, with a tiered garden and the statue of Virgin Mary (I think!) at the very top!! Santiago is seriously huge! 360 degree views at the top showed just how big it was with the City sprawled out in every direction, distinct areas of rich, with their house, gardens and swimming pools, and then Shanty-town for the very poor, where the houses are just shacks with corrugated iron roofs. Lots of apartment blocks as well!
Took the Fenicular back down the Hill and then had to get on another bus to view The Old Town. Mmmm….a bit rough!! Saw the Market place and train station and got off at Plaza de Armas which is supposed to be one of the highlights of Santiago. It’s a square with some old buildings around it such as a museum and a Correos (Old Post Office), with lots of trees and a fountain in the centre!! Masses of people hanging about, a few people painting and a demonstrator who had gathered quite a crowd!! We didn’t stay long but got the next bus, past Constitution Square and La Moneda Palace – both probably deserved a 5 minute wander and not a drive past!!!
Eventually got back to the White Bus Stop where after a bit of confusion we caught the bus to ………the first station ½ way up, where we were told we had to get off!!! We had to get the cable car down……but…..we got on the wrong side and instead of turning, we ended up going up to the top again, across the high valley!! Even worse, we had to get off at the top and
join the queue coming back down, and then I had to cross the high valley on the cable car yet again!!! Back down to the first station and then to the bottom!! Whew!! The last hop on hop off bus had gone so we ended up walking the 20 minutes back to our hotel! Had a nice Italian meal in one of the Hotel’s four restaurants.
Sunday 1st March 2020
We were up early as we had booked a trip last night at 10.00pm through GetYourGuide and hoped they were picking us up from the hotel at 8.00am!! The mini bus duly turned up, (Stampstour.com) and by coincidence had two people (Alison & Matt) that were also on the cruise AND who we had first met on our trip in Rio before we went on the cruise!! Our guide was Daniel who was excellent and filled us in on the history of Chile whilst we drove to Vina del Mar (via a coffee stop that had llamas!!) to see the Floral clock that had been donated by London as Chile had looked after their footballers in a World Cup! Had a quick peer at
the Pacific Ocean and a drive round, stopping at a Museum to see a Moai that was brought from Easter Island in 1951, donated by the natives of Easter Island, before we drove onto Valparaiso.
Valpraiso (123kms) was not an immediate wow, but it could have been because of the weather which was misty and drizzly!! Our first stop was a Fish Market that very quickly turned into a wow!! (Well apart from the smell of fish and the mud underfoot!!) First of all there were brown pelicans lined up on the roofs and swimming, then there were loads of brown, hairy sea lions waiting for the left over fish!! Fascinating to watch as they were playing in the sea and lazing about on the beach with the occasional fight breaking out amongst them. Loads of gulls also sat on railings, on the beach, flying around and pinching the heads of fish from the market!
Had various funiculars and buildings pointed out to us before stopping for a lunch that was organised for us, but not included in the price. We then looked at some tiled steps ( similar to the Selaron Steps in Rio – but without
the people!!) before driving up some very steep streets – reminded me of Madeira! , as well as stops to view the colourful houses on the Hill and numerous murals that decorate the whole area! Lots of street dogs that are looked after collectively by the people – they are very friendly and love nothing more than a bit of affection! They seem to be everywhere, just lying around. Not worried or troubled by anything!! Had a good walk down through the colourful streets and tiny alleys to a Palace and the Ascensor el Peral – a funicular over 100years old (and its not even the oldest in Valparaiso!!) and its very steep!!
Our last stop on the way back to Santiago, was wine tasting at a Vineyard (Veramonte!) Extensive gardens included water lily ponds, allotments and the vineyards! A taste of white wine and two glasses of red – both very nice! The highlight for me though was to spot an orange bird – no idea what it was!!
Back to the hotel by 7.00pm ( nearly 11 hrs sightseeing!!) and we then walked four blocks to the Sky Costanera where we went up to the 61st
floor to drink Pisco Sour ( the local Chilean cocktail) and watch the sunset! A fitting end to our time in Chile!
Monday 2nd March 2020
Except that it wasn’t – quite!! We had a few hours to spare Mónday morning as our transfer wasn’t due to collect us, from the hotel, for the airport until 12.35, so we walked for15 mins up to Bicentenial Park. It was a beautiful sunny day and a beautiful park! Huge statue of four buglers cycling as well as flamingos and black headed swans! Took loads of pictures of unusual birds as well, so I was happy!! Waiting for transfer to airport now for 14 hour, overnight flight back to Heathrow and then coach back to Wales!. Due to be back about 9.15 am tomorrow.
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