South America/Antarctica Cruise on the HAL Zaandam
1/6/18 to 1/28/18

The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.

Page 1 – Embarkation, Ship
Page 2 -  Dining, Entertainment, Activities, Ports of Call: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Montevideo, Uruguay; Puerto Madryn, Argentina; Stanley, Falkland Islands; Antarctica Day 1
Page 4 -  Antarctica Day 2; Antarctica Day 3; Antarctica Day 4
Page 5 - Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina; Punta Arenas, Chile; Cruise Chilean Fjords; Puerto Chacabuco, Chile
Page 6 - Ports of Call:  Castro,  Isla Chiloe, Chile; Puerto Montt, Chile; San Antonio (Santiago), Chile

 

Sea Days (Drake Passage & Cape Horn)

After leaving Antarctica, we would have to cross the Drake Passage to get back to South America.  The trip can be very rough, or it can be so smooth that it is called Drake Lake.  For most of the first day, the trip was relatively smooth even with 40+ mph winds and relatively rough looking 9-12-foot seas.  With us being on deck 2, the movement was minimal, except at night when the captain went faster.  But since we were in bed, it didn’t bother us at all.  When we were on the upper decks or in the theater at the front of the ship, the movement was much more noticeable; but the ship was quite stable for the most part.

During the Captain’s announcements, he said that we would be arriving at Cape Horn by 9:30 AM the next day.  He also said that he would try to get us to Ushuaia by 8:30 PM that night, rather than 7:00 AM on the next morning as listed on the itinerary.  After seven days on the ship with no ports, that was most welcome news.  We were ready to walk on land again.

Since the Captain had said that we would pick up the Chilean pilots at 8:30 AM, I went out on deck not long after 8:00 AM.  We were already at the Cape Horn station; but the weather was not that good.  It was hazy, windy and we were getting some drizzle.  That was a bummer.  The pilot was at the ship early, 8:15 AM.  I was glad that I was early to see them arrive; since that meant that we would be getting closer sooner.

The pilots took us into a protected area, where the wind was much less, and the seas were relatively mild.  Since we had been there before, I knew that I needed to take photos of the albatross statue, dedicated to those lost at sea, when it came into view.  As the ship moves, it is hidden.  The station can still be seen; but the statue disappears.  I was pleased that the ship stayed in a good position, where those people that were not aware that we had arrived at Cape Horn early had a chance to get out and take photos.  From our position, we could see the station itself, along with a good view of the rocks around it being crashed into by the waves.  It is easy to see why so many ships were crashed into rocks in this area.

   

   

The Captain then announced that we would be cruising by the actual Cape Horn island and rocks a little over a mile away.  The small rock in front of the large rock island is the southernmost point or Cape Horn.

   

Once we got back into open water on the way to Ushuaia, the winds and seas picked up; but were still relatively smooth.  We were only going about 100 miles to Ushuaia and most of that would be in the protected Beagle Channel.  In the afternoon, we enjoyed our Beagle Channel cruise in bright sunlight.  It was nice to see green foliage again after seeing so much snow, ice and rock in Antarctica.

   

The mountains of Patagonia in the distance were hazy, but quite lovely in person.

   

There were lots of different types of birds flying around or near the ship.  It was most entertaining to watch them flying over the water. 

   

In one area, there were a couple islands in the middle of the channel with lots of birds on them.  As I was talking photos of them, I realized that they were Magellanic penguins.  When I went over to the other side of the ship, there were lots of penguins on the beach along the channel.  I was thoroughly enjoying this scenic cruising.  Once again, I was on the outer decks for many hours that day.

   

   

After dinner, we started to see some signs of civilization along the channel.  I checked my iPhone to see if there was any cell coverage.  It did show that we had some; but it wasn’t strong enough to pull down any email yet.  After 9 days without internet, I was ready to read my email.  I was surprised how little I missed it, when I knew I couldn’t get it.  But now that it was almost available, I wanted it now!  Once we got to Ushuaia, my mailbox began filling up.  We arrived at 8:00 PM; but had to wait for the Silver Cloud cruise ship to leave port before we could dock. 

   

At 8:40 PM we were docked; but had to wait for clearance.  Just after 9:00 PM, the announcement was made that we could leave the ship.  Talk about abandoning a ship!  The stairwells were filled with cruisers anxious to go into Ushuaia.  I went back to my cabin to wait a bit before attempting to try to leave again.  It was a good idea, since the line to leave wasn’t that long.  When I got to the exit, I was surprised to see some people already returning.  It was raining, and the wind was over 40 mph on the dock.  The attendant said that the wind was much less once you got off the dock.  So, I decided that I would go on in.  It was not a good decision.  It was cold, wet and windy.  I had to keep my head down with the coat hood protecting me from the rain.  It didn’t take long to realize that this was a really long dock.  It didn’t seem like it would ever end.  I got to the small terminal building, where the chairs were full of cruisers using the free Wi-Fi.  Since we get free international data with T-Mobile, I didn’t need to join the crowd.  I instead continued the uncomfortable walk down the pier.  There were several shops there; but only one small one was open.  I continued to the end of the dock to see if there was anything else do.  I entered the small security building, where others were evaluating their options.  When one women said that she was going back to the ship, since it was already 9:40 PM, it put some sense into my head and I headed back.  It was a much faster walk, since the strong wind was pushing me along.  I was ready for bed.  
           

 

Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina

With the ship only being in port until 1:00 PM, there was no reason to even think about an excursion.  Especially, since we had an excellent full day excursion visiting Tiera del Fuego National Park on our first Ushuaia visit.  Since we had been at the park most of the day, we hadn’t gotten to do much in town itself, so I was looking forward to exploring it.  I woke up early, so I had breakfast and got off the ship to get a head start.  As I left the Zaandam, it was a pleasure to feel that it wasn’t windy, rainy or as cold as the previous evening.  With the sun shining, the town looked so pretty.  Being set in front of the Andes does help.

   

Once I left the dock, there was a nice area right across the street, where a beautiful monument in the shape of an eagle had been built.  It was the monument to the ancient and pioneering villagers of Ushuaia.  I had to get photos of it from all angles to show all the artwork. 

   

   

While there, Hans and Barbara came walking by.  We chatted a bit and they said where they were heading; which was an area I planned on going to with Carol later that morning.  So, as they turned right on the main street, I turned left.  While walking to my first destination, I remembered that Ushuaia is built on a hill and does require some climbing to get to the other streets.  This would prevent Carol from getting to them with her TravelScoot.

   

As I continued my walk, I came to an unusual looking building.  It was the local casino.  I passed on checking out the interior, I was more interested in what I saw not far from the casino.

The Plaza Malvinas is a park that was dedicated on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war, in 2012, the year after we first visited Ushuaia.  It is a very nice memorial to the 323 Ushuaians that lost their lives in that war.

   

   

In addition to an eternal flame, the names of the individuals are listed on a wall, similar to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

   

I had spent more time exploring than I had planned and needed to get back to the ship to get Carol.  When I got back to the blue roofed port building, I could see how far of a walk the Zaandam was from the blue roofed port entrance.

Carol was ready to leave when I got back to the cabin, so she got on her TravelScoot and we headed back down the long dock. 

The first place we headed to was the fin del mundo (end of the world) sign. It is a popular photo stop.  It had been moved to a small park area where there were small shops set up.  A penguin statue had also been added.

   

The area near the port had lots of flowers along and near the road.

   

We walked over to the monument to the ancient and pioneering villagers of Ushuaia that I had visited earlier.  We then looked at some of the other decorations and statues near the port.  We were going to go down to the side of town I hadn't yet visited, where Hans and Barbara had gone to earlier.  As we moved down the street, there wasn't much to see or do there.  Most of the tourist attractions and shops were on San Martin street, one block up the hill.  The road was too steep for Carol's scooter to power up, so she decided that she would go back and look at the shops on the dock and then go back to the ship.

The post office building had an interesting mural of prisoners.  The prisons built in Ushuaia around 1900 were designed for the worst prisoners from Argentina, since it was considered to be difficult to escape from.  With Ushuaia being a penal colony, the prisoners ended up building much of the city including the End of the World train, which is now a popular tourist destination.

   

Continuing down the street, I passed by a artesan and souvenir mall. 

 

Just down the street was the Galeria Temaitica.  It is a real eye catcher, with its various manequins, especially the ones of prisoners.  From what I have read, the first floor is a souvenir shop, the second and third floors are a museum of the area and the fourth floor is a restaurant.

   

Continuing down the street, I came to the Ushuaia Maritime Museum.   It is in a building that was part of a huge prison complex.  There was an unusual statue in the small park in front of the prison.

   

I checked my map and walked around to see if there were any other attractions in the area. Since I had been walking all morning, I decided that it was time to head back to the ship.  On the way there I spotted a shop that had a particular kind of treat that I had read about that should be tried when in Argentina, alfajores.  It is a type of cookie.  I had to try one.  It was quite good and I controlled myself by not trying other flavors.

Further down the street I saw a model of a king penguin.  I had hoped to find a king penguin t-shirt; but there were none to be found in Ushuaia.  I guess that since there are no king penguins to be found anywhere near Ushuaia, they just do shirts with Magellanic penguins on them.  This model was the closest I would get to a king that day.

Along the way, I saw a bar that had a German touch to it and an impressive looking bank building.

   

When I came to the street back to the port terminal, I was glad that Carol had gone back to the ship earlier.  The streets looked even steeper from above.

Down at the dock level, I came to the small park I had seen earlier when walking around with Carol.  At that time, I hadn't realized that it was a memorial garden dedicated to Evita Peron.  Now that I was closer, I recognized that it was a bust of Evita.  There were plaques on the wall behind the bust, that I assume were from contributors.

   

Close to the garden was an unusual looking pointed top building that I had seen from the ship.  It is a unique shape.  Near it was the visitor center.

   

I went back through the terminal entrance, where I was able to get a photo of all the shops lining the dock and back the other way to the ship in the middle of freighters.  I couldn't get a photo in the rain the previous night.  I was surprised that they were unloading cargo right next to the path the ship passengers walked by.  There was no security to keep people away from the action.  It looked like an accident waiting to happen to me.

   

The small security office was also where free wi-fi was available. 

When I got back on board, I went to the upper decks to check out the views.  On the other side of the ship, I could see the small airport with a snow capped mountain background.

With the ship leaving port at 1:00 PM, passengers were supposed to be back on board by 12:30 PM.  This is what the line looked like to get back on the ship at 1:00 PM.  We wouldn't be leaving on time.

We did surprisingly leave by 1:30 PM.  I got to take a last photo of Ushuaia's beautiful setting in the mountains.

   

A main reason we were leaving at 1:00 PM was so that we would be able to view Glacier Alley.  When we were in Ushuaia in 2011, our ship left port at 5:00 PM.  This meant that we would have gotten to Glacier alley at 8:30 PM, with sunset at 8:00 PM.  We were able to see some of the glaciers in the twighlight; but I was looking forward to seeing them in the daytime. We got to the first glacier around 5:00 PM.  There was plenty of sunlight; but much of it was coming through the low clouds.  It was still much better than our previous visit.

The next glacier was higher up in the mountains, so it wasn't as impressive as the first

As we approached the next one, it was obvious that this was going to be a good looking glacier.  And it was.

   

There were some small glaciers on the other side of the Beagle Channel; but the main attraction was the numerous waterfalls created by the glacier run off.

Below are photos from other glaciers we saw during the drive-by.

   

   

I had thought that we would be through Glacier Alley in about an hour; but it was taking longer.  We had dinner reservations at 6:00 PM, and I was already a bit late.  I knew the others would start withouth me; but I didn't want to be too late.  I also didn't want to miss an upcoming glacier that looked promising. As we approached the last glacier I was going to look at, I could tell it was going to be special.  There was a large waterfall pouring out of it from runoff.  The ship passing between us and the glacier, shows a scale of how large the glacier and waterfall were.

   

I rushed back to the cabin to get rid of my cold weather gear and get ready for dinner.  I was about 20 minutes late for dinner; but easily caught up with the others, since service was at a different table that night and slower than normal.  It had been a great day; but I was exhausted from all the running around.

Punta Arenas, Chile

As we pulled up to the dock area, it was obvious that this was mainly an industrial port; since there was no terminal building at all near the facility.   When we were in Punta Arenas in 2011, I remembered that we were able to walk back to the ship from town, which was convenient.  Looking around, it just didn’t look the same; but it had been seven years since we were there.   The skies were cloudy, but the sun was shining through in a nice pattern nearby.

   

We had booked a tour to go to Magdalena Island to see penguins and cruise by Marta Island to see seals with Solo Expeditions (www.soloexpediciones.com/home).  This was supposed to the best excursion to do when in Punta Arenas.  Last time we went to the Ottway Sound penguin colony.  It was rather disappointing, since there weren’t that many penguins there.  We found that since then, it has closed down to visitors, since the penguins have, for the most part, quit going there.  We had not booked the tour I was taking this time, since it is a relatively long boat ride to Magdalena Island, that many people complained about being very rough at times.  I did not want to risk it, especially since Carol was touring with me, and she does not like rough boat rides.  This time, Carol was doing a different tour through the ship, since she couldn’t physically handle this type tour any more.

With the tour not starting until 10:30 AM, Barbara, Hans and I had plenty of time to get ready and not rush to get to the tour office, which was supposed to be just a 10-minute walk from the ship.  We had the map and were going to head that way, when a Cruise Critic friend came up to us to tell us we would need to take a cab.  I didn’t understand why, since the office was so close.  Apparently, we were at a different pier than the cruise ships normally go to, that is three miles away.  That was why it looked so different from our first visit.   When we got to the end of the pier, there were lots of taxis available, so we tried to find one that would handle the three of us and the couple who told us that we would need a cab.  The taxi coordinator found a driver that had a nice SUV that easily accommodated us.  The best part was that for the five of us, the cab fare for all of us was just $10.  Quite reasonable!  We found out later that there were free busses that would take us into the main square of the town; which was very close to the Solo office.  No mention was ever made on the ship about the free transfers, which seemed strange.

When we got to the Solo office, we paid for the tour and sat to wait for the tour to start.  Since we were about a half hour early, we had a long wait before the vans arrived.  I couldn’t believe how many people were in the small office.  A lot had to wait outside.  I was surprised that so many people could fit into one boat.  Everyone fit into a small bus and three large vans. 

The ride to the boat dock took about 30 minutes.  When we got there, we could see a narrow wooden pier going out into the water and a boat anchored away from it.  We assumed that was the boat we would be using.  It looked too small for our large group.   The leader from the tour company told us that our boat should be arriving in about 10 minutes.  Hopefully, it was bigger than the anchored one.  Since it was kind of cold outside and the winds were blowing, it wasn’t that enjoyable waiting for a boat.  The ten minutes turned into about 20 minutes, when we saw a boat approaching.  It was the exact same type boat as was anchored. 

   

This should be interesting to see how they can stuff us all in there.  When the boat docked, our guide for the day came out of the boat and told us that they would have to unload the current group on the boat, clean it up and get it ready for our tour before we could board.  More waiting.  As people started leaving the boat, we were amazed at how many people it held.  They just kept coming.  As we boarded the boat, we were welcomed by the captain, who was dressed in pirate attire.  The boat didn’t look that large, but it apparently holds 68 people.  I was surprised, but it was relatively comfortable and not too crowded.  By the time we left the dock, it was almost noon.  This was supposed to be a 4.5-hour tour.  We had already used up an hour and a half.

   

The guide told us that the boat ride to Magdalena Island would take about 40 minutes.  We would stay an hour and then take a 30-minute boat ride to Marta Island to cruise around it looking at the seals and then return to the dock.  The boat ride itself was surprisingly smooth.  We were quite pleased that at least we didn’t have rough seas.  I was already doubting the decision to even take this tour, since we had already seen plenty of penguins on the cruise; and the seals we had seen were pretty boring to look at.  I felt particularly bad for Hans and Barbara, since I had recommended the tour, since they wanted to see lots of wildlife.  Well, we were on the boat and we would make the best of it.

When we finally got to Magdalena Island, we had to exit the boat from the back and walk along the narrow ledge back toward the middle of the boat, where we walked on a wooden plank to the wooden dock.  It didn’t feel like the safest way to exit the boat.  There was a nice sign welcoming us to the island.  As we started along the path to the center of the island, all of my concerns about this tour were quickly forgotten.  There were penguins everywhere. 

   

There were just so many penguins to look at.  We couldn’t believe it.  The chicks in many cases look larger than their parents, since they still have thick fur, rather than the sleek skin we are used to seeing on penguins.  Many were in their burrows; but most were just standing by them.  Some were so close to the walkway.  I was quite pleased we were able to get so close to them.  They weren't concerned about us at all

   

   

I just couldn't believe how many penguins were on this island.  The guide told us that there were 60,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins plus chicks on the island.  That is a lot of penguins to living on a small island.  Everywhere I looked were penguins, burrows and more penguins. They were just too cute.

   

   

   

The guide had told us to leave all of our bags on the boat.  We asked if we could bring our umbrellas, since it was raining.  The three of us were the only people on the island with umbrellas.  We were glad we had them, since the rain was pretty steady, although the wind made it challenging at times to hold on to them.  It did help keep rain off the camera lens though.  I spent so much time just watching the antics of the many penguins that were so close to me.  It was so entertaining, since they are just so cute and appear to have no fear of humans.  I took some videos of this amazing place; but it was quite challenging, since the wind would blow the umbrella, which would move my hands and make the video jumpy.  At least I was able to capture some of the experience.

One little fellow was very curious about me.  He kept staring and turning his head to get different views of me.  Perhaps he was curious about the umbrella, since Barbara said penguins were acting the same way around them.  I had to take a video to show what he was doing.

The below video shows how the island is covered with penguins.  You can also hear the sound the penguins make.  The Magellanic penguins are referred to as jackass penguins, due to the braying sound they make.

The guide had told us to walk up to the lighthouse and then walk around the other side of the island.  Since I had spent so much time observing the penguins on the one side of the island, I was running out of time to get to the lighthouse.   I started up that way; but as I got closer, the rain got heavier.  I decided that it made more sense to just head back to the boat, before I got even more water logged.  I didn’t want to get even further away from shelter if the rain was getting heavier.  Plus, I assumed that the other side of the island probably looked much the same as the side I was on. 

With the penguin burrows being so close to the path, the penguins would frequently walk across it to get to the other side.  One fellow had a mouth full of grass to use in his burrow.  He looked kind of suspicious, like he might have taken it from a neighbor’s burrow.  He was moving quite fast and hurried to put his new-found wealth into his burrow.

   

A little further down the path a penguin was getting ready to cross the path, so I stopped walking to yield to the cute fellow.  Rather than crossing the path, he walked up to me and started to pull on my jeans.  He then walked around and pulled a while on my other leg to see if he could use my jeans in his burrow.  Before he gave up, I was able to get one quick photo of him trying to steal my jeans.

I headed back to the boat and since I was early, there was no crowd.  Barbara and Hans were close behind me.  We were all so thrilled about our visit to this amazing island. 

The long boat ride there was more than worth it.  After everyone was back on board, we headed to our next destination, Marta Island.  The ride went pretty quickly, since everyone was looking at and talking about their penguin photos.  We would not be getting off the boat, just riding around the island to see the seals.  In order to go out back or stand on the outer sides of the boat, we would have to put on our life jackets.  I didn’t know if it would be worth even putting it on just to see a bunch of seals lying around on the beach; but I did, since I didn’t want to miss anything.  I asked the guide how close we would be to the island and if I would need my telephoto lens.  She told me to use it.   She was right!

When we got to the island, I couldn’t believe how many seals were there; and they were very active.  There were seals swimming, jumping around in the water, moving around on the beach and just so much more active than I had imagined.  I was out on the back of the boat and holding on for dear life.  With the boat pretty much sitting still in the water, it was rocking all over the place.  I was able to find a position where I was able to straddle the strapped down water cooler with my knees to keep from falling down.  I was snapping photos like crazy.  The seals were moving around all over the island and playing with each other.  Perhaps the guys were trying to impress the gals. 

   

   

   

   

Some of the seals were so large.  I had never seen any like that before.

The ones in the water were popping their heads up to see what was going on around them and then jumping up in the air to go to a different area.

   

After I was thoroughly soaked, tired of trying to keep standing and photo’d out, I came back into the boat.  I was so glad I had put on my telephoto lens, not only for the closer photos; but because it has a much larger lens hood that kept the rain water off of the lens itself.  I hadn’t even thought about it when I was outside; but when I was back in I saw others cleaning the rain off of their lenses, I realized I had been most fortunate not to have that issue. 

Hans was still outside taking photos when I returned.  After he came in we all discussed what an amazing experience it had been to see seals in their native environment being very active.  It was just so unexpected.  What a great excursion this had been.  I was so glad we booked it.  We still had to drive back to the dock.  I didn’t know how long it would take; but I assumed that it would be no more than the 45 minutes it took to get to Magdalena Island.  They had coffee, tea and cookies as refreshments.  Since we weren’t allowed to take any food off of the ship, I was happy to see those cookies.  Of course, with all the excitement of the day, I wasn’t really hungry.

After about 20 minutes, the Captain/pirate came out and started performing.  The crew put pirate hats on everyone and passed out some noise makers. 

   

Music was played that we were singing to and the pirate was picking out women to dance with.  He was quite a character.  He chose to dance with Barbara, which was most embarrassing for her; but she will never see any of those people again.  That is why I thought it appropriate to put a photo in the review to help her remember it.

The antics did make the trip back go quicker.  It took almost an hour, but seemed less, since we were entertained.  When we got onto our van, we asked the driver if he could drop us off at the ship.  No problem!  That made it much easier.   It was quite cold going walking back to the ship, since our clothes were wet, and the wind was really blowing.  It felt great to get back on the ship.  I couldn’t wait to tell Carol what a wonderful experience it had been.

 

Cruise Chilean Fjords – Day 1

We had previously cruised the Chilean fjords on our first South America cruise.  The area is quite pretty; but that time, we had foggy rainy weather with terrible visibility.  It was most disappointing that we weren’t able to experience it the way it should be.  Unfortunately, this time, the weather wasn’t looking much better.  When I went outside in the morning, I could only look at the scenery from the covered Promenade Deck.  With the temperature in the low 40’s, the last thing I wanted to be was wet too.  So, for the rest of the morning, I took photos of the ship and attended an enrichment lecture.  By afternoon, we were getting some sun shining on the mountains in some areas, so we were able to take some photos and enjoy the surroundings.  It is a very beautiful place; but photos just look so flat, it is almost a waste to include them.  I found this out when we were in the gorgeous Norwegian Fjords.  I took lots of photos and most of them just looked quite bland.  Without being able to see the size and the depth in person, it just can’t be appreciated as much.  The first part of the day it was pretty overcast.

   

   

 

After lunch, the clouds started to lift and the fjord cruising was much more enjoyable.

   

The highlight of the day’s scenic cruising was to be a visit to the Brujo Glacier around 5:00 PM.  After being so disappointed in how much the glaciers had receded in Glacier Bay, I was setting my expectations low for Brujo.  I, of course, had been waiting outside since 4:30 PM, since I didn’t want to miss a thing.  I went up to deck 6 to the nice forward viewing area.  When I opened the door, the winds were very strong.  The view of the fjord was beautiful, with the blue green glacier water in front of the mountains.  I was so glad that the sun was shining brightly; but with the many clouds around, I didn’t know if the sun would last until we got to the glacier.

I wanted to stay there until we came to the glacier; but the winds made it difficult for me to even stand in one place without getting blown around.  I had seen some people on the bow deck; but decided that I would go out there when we slowed down and got closer to the glacier.  When 5:00 PM came, we were cruising slowly up the fjord, very slowly.  I assumed that the glacier was at the end of the fjord; but couldn’t tell which side of the ship to be on.   Since we were now going so slowly, I thought it would be safe to go out on the bow deck viewing area.  For some reason, the door to it from the Promenade Deck was closed.  Since I had seen people on it earlier, I opened the door, climbed the steps to the bow deck level and walked out to join the others.  It wasn’t windy at all and it was the perfect place to view the glacier.  But where was the glacier?  The ship was almost stopped, but we couldn’t see a glacier.  We could see some small ice chunks in the water, so I would assume the Captain was going very slow for safety reasons.

Finally, we could see a sliver of a bright blue glacier and we could slowly see more of it.  This was one gorgeous glacier.

   

   

It was also a very large glacier.  I was fascinated with the deep blue crevices over most of the glacier’s face.  I do believe that this is the prettiest glacier I have ever seen; and I have seen a bunch of them.

   

The Captain turned the ship around so that the other side of the ship could see the glacier; as well as to be in the right direction to continue our journey out of that fjord.  After the glacier viewing it was time for dinner, where we could still watch the beautiful scenery pass by.  It was a shame that the ship never washed the windows in most of the public rooms during the cruise, since there was so much to see and enjoy from the ship on this cruise.

 

Cruise Chilean Fjords – Day 2

This would be our second day of cruising through the Chilean fjords.  At night, we would leave the fjords and go out into the open sea, where the seas were much rougher.  Since most people were in bed at that time, it was not an issue.  With the day devoted to scenic cruising, it should be a relaxing day.  Once again, it was foggy outside in the morning.  The sun came out much quicker on this day, providing for a much prettier experience. 

   

Many people recommend taking this cruise starting in Santiago, so that you see the fjords before going to Antarctica.  I personally don’t think it would make any difference, since this area is so different from Antarctica.  It obviously isn’t as grand; but this is much greener and a totally different terrain.  It isn’t as grand as fjords we have seen in other parts of the world; but it is very worthwhile and enjoyable to visit.

   

   

The highlight of the day was passing by a wrecked ship in the Messier Canal.  The channel is about 900 feet deep, but there is one underwater rock that is not far below the surface.  This is where a ship, the Captain Leonidas, wrecked in 1963.  It was apparently grounded on purpose, so the Captain could make a lot of money through insurance fraud.  He had sold the cargo, sugar, to someone other than the original purchaser.  He then had the ship run aground to wreck it so that he could put in a claim for the ship and its cargo.  When the insurance investigators arrived, they didn’t find any sugar.   The Captain said it had dissolved in the sea water.  They didn’t buy it and he suffered severe consequences for the crime.

While walking around the Promenade Deck before we got to the wreck area, attendants were offering warm split pea soup to everyone that was walking by.  Since I had read that HAL does this, I had to try it.  I do like Split Pea Soup; and with the cold weather, it sounded great.  The soup was pretty good; but not as flavorful as I like.

As we approached the wreck, we could see that it was very rusty.  I was surprised at how upright it was.  I would have thought that it would have been on its side after over 40 years in the water. 

   

It also had lots of holes in it from the Chilean navy using it for target practice.

   

For the rest of the day, we continued through the fjords with it being a bit hazy, so I didn't take many photos. The fjords are much more enjoyable in sunny weather.

Once again, we had to wait in a line to get tender tickets for the next three ports, which were all tender ports.  They had learned from the Falklands experience and only allowed two tender tickets per person, which is a fairer way to do it, although a bit inconvenient if you are traveling with a group.  The tender ticket distribution was to start at 3:30 PM.  The location for each of the three ports’ ticket distribution was in a different location.  Since we had to have 4 tickets for our group, Carol and I were going to wait for one port and Hans and Barbara the other.  Since we were just walking around in the third port, we didn’t have to get off early and would get those after we got the ones for ports we had early tours in.

Previously for the Falklands, most people had gotten into the line starting a half hour early.  Since that distribution was in the morning, some people waited so they could get more sleep.  Since this was an afternoon distribution, I assumed that people would plan on arriving an hour early.  I had originally planned on getting there an hour and fifteen minutes early; but we ended up arriving an hour and a half early, at 2:00 PM.  It was good that we did, since once again, the ship had not planned it out well.  We were supposed to get the tickets in the Ocean Bar.  When we arrived, the Ocean Bar was full of people for an art auction, which was supposed to end at 2:45 PM.  With all the people who would be waiting for tickets, this could be a real problem.  No one would know what to do.  There were about 10 people in chairs around the atrium, who had started a line, so I put Carol at the end of that line. 

I then walked into the actual bar and there were four women there who had made up post it notes with numbers on them to show their place in line.  They said they were before the other people; but the others didn’t agree.  When I was discussing how disorganized this was going to be with the women, we thought someone should call guest services, so I volunteered.  I told guest services that we needed someone in the Ocean Bar to organize the line or there would be passenger fights going on.  Pretty soon, Cruise Director Nathan, was there telling us that the line Carol was waiting in would be the line, and she was first.  Everyone else needed to get in line and circle around the atrium.  Carol’s location was in front of where the distribution table was to be, so it did make sense.  I apologized to the people that had arrived before me; but they were just glad I got someone there to organize the line.  With the two tickets per person max, everyone there before me got the first available tender tickets the same as we received.  After a similar situation had occurred with the Falklands tender ticket distribution, I couldn’t believe that someone hadn’t prepared and thought about how to make it more organized for the next tenders; but they didn’t, other than limiting the number of tickets per person.

I really don’t like this tender ticket distribution method.  It creates a lot of stress and wasted time for people.  Most cruises we have been on have much easier and more organized methods.  We were fortunate to get decent tender times; but that was because we had to spend an hour and a half standing in line.  By the time we got our tender tickets, the ship had left the fjords and was entering the open sea again.  The boat was moving a lot and we had to be careful walking around the ship.

 

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile

When we saw that Puerto Chacabuco was on our itinerary, we didn’t know what to think.  It is a port that is not frequently included in cruise ship itineraries, so I had not seen photos or read many reviews about it.  What I had seen wasn’t bad; but just not a lot of information about this area.  It is located within the Chilean fjords, so I assumed that the scenery should be pretty good.  As we approached the town, I looked out our cabin window and could see that the steep mountains were pretty close to the ship, compared to our previous fjord cruising days.  I put on my jacket and grabbed my camera to go outside to see what was around us.  When I stepped out onto the Promenade Deck, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was an OMG moment, this place was gorgeous.  The tall snow topped tree covered mountains were so unexpected.  Plus, the sky was clear, and the sun was making the area look even prettier.

I was so glad that we had a tour booked that would show us around the area, since it was certainly an area I wanted to see a lot more of.  With this being a tender port, I looked around to find the dock the tenders would be going to.  I had to go to the back of the ship, to get a better view of small port area, that looked more like a marina.  There was no town to speak of within sight.  I understood why those that had been to Puerto Chacabuco said that you would have to have a tour, since there is nothing in the town to see.

We were meeting Barbara and Hans at 8:15 AM to walk down to get on the tender.   Since I was ready long before that time, I kept walking outside to look at the beauty all around us.  I couldn't believe how gorgeous this place was. 

When the time came, we were loaded onto the tender and took the quick 5-minute ride to the dock.  This is the kind of tender ride I like.  The dock and terminal appeared to be fairly new and quite nice.  The terminal had lots of chairs and free Wi-Fi.  So, lots of people were sitting around downloading their email. 

   

We had booked a tour with Enpatagonia Tours (www.enpatagoniatours.com).  Their instructions told us to take the free shuttle to the white domes, where independent tour companies would be waiting; and that they would have a sign with their name on it.  I didn’t see any shuttle busses at the terminal, so I asked one of the HAL excursion people where we should go for the bus.  She didn’t know, so she asked someone.  They told her that the busses don’t start running until 9:30 AM; which was when our tour was supposed to start.  I could see the white domes from the terminal; but all of our crew couldn’t walk up the hill and then all the way to the domes, so I got in hysterical mode.  I pulled out my iPhone and started to look up the contact info Enpatagonia.  Before I could find it, a small bus pulled up that had a sign in the front window that said Free Shuttle.  I don’t understand why the HAL people weren’t aware of this, similar to how they didn’t know about the shuttles in Punta Arenas.  We boarded the bus for the short ride to the domes.

It was actually a playground area and the white domes had shops inside.  We easily found our tour company.  They told us to sit in the blue mini-bus.  It was pretty nice and could hold 21 passengers comfortably.  Since we weren’t sure about the weather, we brought heavier coats along with lighter ones to cover all bases.  It was in the 40’s when we got on the tender; but it kept warming up during the day to where it was a very pleasant 69 degrees.  I mention this, because there was no place on the bus to stow the extra coats other than our laps.  This wasn’t a big deal; but wish I had left the heavy coat back on the ship, since it warmed up quickly.

   

We then met our guide for the day, Aldo.  He was a great guy and excellent tour guide.  He was easy to understand, and he told us lots about this part of Patagonia.  He kept us interested during the day made it a most enjoyable tour.

Our first stop was along a river where there was a nice view along with a large variety of boats.  I don’t know why they were all jammed together like that; but it did make for an unusual sight.

   

We next went into the town of Puerto Aysen for a quick restroom break.  Aldo said that we wouldn’t have another break for an hour, so everyone took advantage of it.  While there, Hans and I were curious about a tree that we had been seeing along the road.  Aldo told us that most people refer to it as a Monkey Puzzle tree.  It is quite pretty with unusual pine needles.  They are more like little spears.  Apparently, these are also in parts of North America; but we just hadn’t seen them before.

   

Our next stop was down a dirt road.  We drove for a while and pulled along side a river, where we got out of the van.  As we walked closer to the river, we could see why we had stopped there.  It was just a gorgeous place.

We continued the drive through the beautiful mountainous area, and passed by an alpaca farm.  I hadn’t seen one of them before.  They are cousins to the llamas and guanacos; who are all in the camel family.

   

We pulled off the road at an old one-lane bridge.  We stopped to get out to walk out onto it for photos.  I was glad we didn’t drive onto it.  The views were nice, just like the rest of what we had been seeing.

   

Further down the road, we passed by a huge rock that Aldo said was called the Cheese.  It was certainly a big cheese.

Our next stop was at the Simpson River National Reserve visitor center.  This is a brand-new facility that is only about a year old.  It is quite nice and has lots of displays in their museum and is quite a nice-looking building.

   

They also had some stuffed animals from the area around.  The vulture was not a pretty sight.

   

We weren’t staying at the center for long; but I did want to see if I could see the Simpson River from there.  We had seen sections of it along the road we had taken; and the rapids looked quite good.  Since I couldn’t get photos of it, I thought this could be my chance.  Aldo told me where to go and I headed down the path.  I could hear the river; but just not see it.  The walk itself was quite refreshing in the fresh mountain air with a pine scent in the background.  I finally got a small view of the river; but someone on the path said there was a better one further down the path.

At last we reached the viewing spot.  Well, it wasn’t what I had hoped for.  I was surprised that there weren’t viewing areas closer to the rapids themselves.  Oh well, at least the walk was most refreshing.  I did have to hustle back, since it was getting to be time for the van to leave.  It had been a longer walk than expected.

We drove down the road till we pulled over at a waterfall.  From the road, it didn’t look like much; but it is considered a holy place.  The falls is called the Cascade of the Virgin at Mother Mary’s Grotto.  The grotto area is covered with flowers.

   

Inside the small grotto are more flowers and religious objects left by worshipers.

As we walked closer to the falls, we could see that it was in two steps.  From the road, we could only see a section of the lower falls.  It isn’t a big waterfall; but it was a pleasant stop. We all wanted couples photos at the falls.

   

After the falls we headed to where we would be having a Chilean lunch in the Pangal area.   The lunch would be served at a camp or country house.  It sounded like it would be a nice experience.  When we arrived at the location, those that couldn’t or didn’t want to walk to the house, could take the smaller van across the old narrow bridge.  The larger van we were in could not cross the bridge.  Which worked out great for us.  The three of us could walk and Carol could take the small van.  I personally felt safer walking across that bridge.  The views from the bridge were quite nice with the rushing water and green mountains in the background.

   

Not far from the bridge we came to an unusually colored horse.

The walk was quite pleasant.  There was beautiful scenery and the air was so clean and fresh.  It was nature at its best.  I loved it.

We went by a large monkey puzzle tree and small house.

We couldn’t see the camp from the road, but since the walk was so enjoyable, we didn’t mind at all.

We went down to a shallow gulley close to a small crop area.  Everything was dwarfed by the large mountains.

 

At last we saw the camp named Predio Aquelarre (www.quinchoaquelarre.cl).  It looked inviting and a golden lab welcomed us there.  As we entered the country home, the family welcomed us and handed us our utensils for lunch. The mother and very cute son would later entertain us.

   

The inside of the home was very pleasant with ivy along the ceiling.

In one corner was the oven with a lamb cooking that would be lunch for those of us that chose to eat the Asado al palo, or lamb dinner.  It looked mighty good.  I was glad I had ordered it.

On the table were Pisco Sours for everyone and a bottle of Chilean wine.  They also put out a soapapilla type bread and pico de gallo.  Both quite delicious.

   

While waiting for the meal to be prepared, we got to listen to traditional music and see Cueca, the Chilean national dance, performed.  The adults did an excellent job; but the young boy stole the show when he danced. 

   

When we booked the tour, we had to select what lunch we wanted.  We had the choice of lamb, empanadas, salmon or a vegetarian meal.  Three of us ordered the lamb and Barbara ordered the salmon.  When some of the other tables began to receive their meals, I had to go take photos of the items we wouldn’t be receiving.  The vegetarian and empanadas looked really good.

   

When our meals came, we couldn’t believe how large a piece of salmon Barbara received!  It was so big.  It was a shame, since there was no way it could all be eaten, even with help from the rest of us.  It was quite tasty too.

The lamb came, and it looked so good.  It was also quite tasty.  The portions were large, and they came around to ask if we wanted more.  I don’t think there were many takers.

After we finished the meal, there was more Chilean dancing to watch.  During the dance, I talked with some of the family members.  Some didn’t speak much English, but we communicated quite well.  They were a lovely and loving family.  They were a pleasure to spend the afternoon with.  When the dancing was completed, we went outside to stretch our legs.  The yard had roosters and chickens around; but our attention focused on a mother hen with her chicks scrambling around.  They were so cute.

When the meal was finished we took the ten-minute walk back to the van.  It was just as enjoyable as the walk there.  The views going back were even nicer than going.  Such a lovely peaceful place.   We really hated to have to leave.

   

When we got back to the cruise terminal, there were lots of folks taking advantage of the free internet.  It was slow; but better and much cheaper than that available on the ship.

When I got back on the ship and during sail away, I stayed on the open decks to watch the beautiful scenery.  I just couldn’t believe what a beautiful place that Puerto Chacabuco had turned out to be.  It is a shame that more ships don’t stop there; but then again if they did, maybe it wouldn’t have the innocent beauty that we were able to experience.
 

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