Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Spent all day touring Valparaiosa on the coast. It is a great OLD coastal town, with beautiful rocky beaches and great seafood empanadas. Our flt leaves late tonight, so we had all day to explore before heading to the airport. We loved both Chile and Argentina, and they are very different from one another. Patagonia is a place of it's own, but each country claims part of it, but it really seems like a separate country. Kind of wild and wooly and still untamed. Argentina is busy and messy, and fun and exciting, the wild child of the two countries. They are still struggling with their government and social policies and inflation and unemployment. Chile on the other hand, seems to have found a stride that works for them, after the terrible years of Pinochet. They are proud of what they have accomplished in the years since the dictatorship. They have low unemployment, a strong military, good police, a strong currency, clean and orderly cities with great traffic flow, and beautiful uncrowded freeways and roads. They are working hard at eliminating poverty and moving the homeless into better housing. The country is an easy place in which to travel.
We have had such an interesting and varied few weeks. I just throw some random pictures out of this and that. I cannot say "adios" to South America, because our guide says that is used for a final goodby, when you do not plan to c e back or see the person again...and I definitely want to come back and explore more...so....hasta la vista.


On the long ride we were on to Torres, we traveled a rural road that I have dubbed the "the Saints Rd". There were quite a few places where local legend had caught fire with the people of Patagonia, and the sacrificed people of this area had become saints. The Catholic church has ignored this, because of course, they need to be in charge of who or whom is a recognized saint. While Difunta Correa is not officially recognized, literally thousands of people pay homage to this woman who sacrificed her life for her child. During a Chilean conflict, she was looking for her husband and and got lost. She died of dehydration, but when searchers found her, her baby was still alive, nursing at her breast. She became a hero and then a "saint" to everyone in Chile. People come from all over to pray for miracles and also bring bottles of water as an offering. It is a strange sight to travel along the road and see a huge area of plastic water bottles....."caps off, so she can drink the water". It looks gross, but it is so real many people of this area. We stopped and 2 of our group were chosen to bring bottles to the offering.
Gauachito was a different story. He was hung by the opposing military for doing something he did not do. Before he died, he told the officer who captured him, that the officer 's son would become very sick, but if the officer prayed to El Gauachito for forgiveness and help, the son would recover. Instead of water, patrons offer beer, whiskey, cigarettes, girly magazines......I was handed a can of beer, unopened, and asked to make 2 specific wishes, and then open the can of beer and offer it to Gauachito. One wish had to be for the group, and one wish had to be personal. So far, neither has materialized, but the trip is not quite over. I may have jinxed it by trying to take a sip from the can(well, it was a hot day!), but our guide screamed for me to stop...and please respect the saint "Gauachito Gil". Gauchito has a huge following and growing each year for people wanting miracles and afraid of jinxes.

Monday, February 18, 2013


OK...what does one do if money is no object, and they LOVE and have a passion for WINE and HORSES!
They,the Matte family of Chile, bought 1500 acres on the slopes of the Andes and raise thoroughbreds and grapes and both are doing extremely well. This morning we ventured to this vineyard for a private tour and tasting. As we drove along grassy fields of beautiful horses, which then turned into acres of grape laden vines, I thought......omg! wow! And all those overused phrases!
So then we do the obligatory tour, which was quite interesting, since this endeavor was only established in 1991, and now one of Italy's renowned vintner has become a 50% owner. After the tour we were led into the tasting room which was "under" the waterfall, and the sun was shining through the water and lighting the room. There was a thick glass inverted ceiling that the waterfall cascaded on. No standing at the wine bar here. Noooooo...we had seats with our glasses in front, and an array of palate cleansing munchies. It was only 10 AM! But..ok. We were giving small booklets and little goodies as we left. It was so fun. The sommelier told me that, yes....their wines were available in the states and their only distributor was St Michele of Washington State. So anyone is remotely interested the wine is distributed under the labels of: "Equus" , "Haras", and "Albis" (this one made with both winemakers...Chilean and Italian).
I thought it was an excellent way to spend a Monday morning! Salut!


Been in Santiago for a couple days of sightseeing and walking all over this very lovely city. I like it a lot. It clean and easy to get around and the subways, and other infrastructure make it a delight to navigate. After a long afternoon of seeing the downtown area yesterday, we got cleaned up and prepared to go to some Chileans homes for dinner. These are regular professional people who live and work in Santiago, and enjoy meeting visitors and opening up their homes and "sharing" good conversation. Jorge picked us up at out hotel and drove us to his home near the foothills. His wife, Marianna, and her friend, Pilar, had prepared a traditional Chilean meal and the wine was flowing and no topic was off limits! Jorge was well versed in many subjects, but we mainly bantered about politics and social issues of South American countries and the US. I loved it! But sensed not everyone was as comfortable as I was with the subjects. Chile has become a model for the other countries in SA with their robust economy, growing middle class, safety, and attracting visitors with their diverse travel opportunities.
It was getting late, and since Jorge had had a bit of wine(the DUI laws are really strict here, and enforced) , Pilar said she would take all the ladies home in her car. As soon as we closed the car door, she leaned over and said..."wanna go dancing"? Be still my heart. Tempting. It was almost 11:30 PM and I knew the next day was going to be busy again.... But.....it would have been fun!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Two days of go go go, but we've seen much, learned much, and experienced every kind of weather. We have been joined by "Charlie" , a very very funny man who is an American but has lived in Puerto Varas for over 30 years! While trekking around this rural area, he has shared hilarious anecdotes, and laughs. We have driven by countless sheep and cattle ranches. These Chileans and Argentines LOVE their meat. LOVE! We see so many beautiful horses, all working the herds with their dogs. It is beautiful to watch, and the gauchos aren't too shabby either!!
We went to do a small hike yesterday, and my friend, Ulricka, and I along with our Guide, Silvana...got lost on volcanic rocks. We got the giggles, but were found by "Charlie" and led back like bad little kids! We tried to get to one of the many volcanoes in the area, but it was socked in and starting to snow, so made the looooog winding road BACK to the flat land. This is where Charlie was instrumental and keeping me from getting too car sick. Finally, we arrived at a state park to see the river rushing through the lava fields. Silvana asked me if I wanted to go on a "raft" ride in the rushing torrents. Of course....until I had my life jacket on and saw the "raft" was a jet boat! Nothing against speed, just a flash back to my New Zealand Jet Boat fun. NOT!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


After our rounding Cape Horn, I was happy to abandon the ship and return to dry land. We spent half the day driving to Torres Paine National Park in a VERY rugged part of Patagonia. We were greeted by the staff of Las Torres, a huge sprawling ranch owned by one of the largest land owners in this country. We have spent the last three days driving gravel roads in the park, hiking windy mountain trails, and windy beaches, climbing bluffs, drinking Chilean wine, viewing wildlife, watching the Baqueanos round up over 100 horse every night, drinking more Chilean wine, listening to a very knowledgable Patagonia guide, and experiencing the minute by minute changing weather.
There is no civilization here at the ranch, except the ranch. No stores, towns, anything but endless country side. We travel to and from the ranch in small vans from the bus, because the road is so narrow and rough. Yet, the dinners and meals are delicious. They have their own organic garden in the back of the ranch, and pride themselves by labeling fresh veggies as "grown on ranch" on the buffet. Wine is plentiful and excellent. The pisco sours are still a big deal and we have one every night. I am starting to feel like I have been on a wine tour, but am so tired at night from hiking.....I just fall into bed. Yesterday we hiked 4 miles in the and after a long Chilean lunch, we hiked another 4 miles. The wind was blowing around 45 mph steadily, with 60 mph gusts. Truly wild and I had to stop or hang on to Steve to Not get blown over. It made the hike difficult, and more like 20 miles. We were exhausted. We are learning why no one really lives here. It is beautiful, but brutal conditions....and the wind rarely stops blowing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


We have spent 4 days cruising the Beagle Channel, Garibaldi Sound,Magellan Straight and the many small archipelagos and islands that are in this most Southern part of the world. We have had some sun, and LOTS of rain. We have suited up in rain gear and ventured out into zodiacs and gotten soaked. Always the crew welcomes us back with hot chocolate laced with scotch, a drink, for which I am developing a great fondness.
We have also been indulged with wonderful wines from Argentina and Chile. Everyone has their favorites, and at lunch and dinner the staff explains the selections to us and we choose. Believe me, it is difficult, because I am enjoying all of them. We have also learned and appreciated calafate and pisco sours which Chileans love to sip before meals. Our guide has introduced us to entirely unique Argentine liquiers called "Leggue", which is 29% alcohol, and "Gancia" which is less, and my favorite. They are not exported, but immensely enjoyed by the locals. Also, YerbaMate'' a herbal drink which is promoted a lot in the US now, and the national drink of Argentina. Our guide has spent numerous hours telling us of local customs, and social mores surrounding "mate' " and everything else in between.
We have been blessed by Silvana, a firecracker of a guide who's passion and enthusiasm have made us enjoy everything. Every evening we get a little treasure slipped under our room door. We never know what is inside, but it is always interesting, funny, and enjoyable. Sometimes the envelope contains "our own" schedule, as she veers away from big groups. Sometimes we get educational material on the area we are in along with book marks, pictures, magnets, and small goodies. I really look forward to these envelopes. Sometimes she writes a personal note, and ALWAYS....SHE IS RECYCLING! I have even noticed old envelopes from other tours with cute stamps covering their logos, or messages printed on the other side of old news bulletins.
She loves to talk about politics, as do most Argentines, and of course, while they sit and sip mate' they can cure the world of all it's problems.
We disembark tomorrow in Chile, and I am looking forward to 8 more days of fun with Silvana and the rest of the group. And hope my clothes dry out in time to pack!


There is hiking, and there is HIKING!! We have been doing the later. I knew we would get some hikes on this trip, but I really did not think of the details. Most of our hiking has been during the ship part. We debark on the zodiacs, which is a pain because of the life jackets, gear, and the amount of clothes we haul because the weather here can change in minutes. It IS challenging! There is a little core group of hearty(or crazy) people who seem to go for every challenge. I joined this group and have been having a lot of fun with Steve, our guide(Silvana), and Ulricka. There are usually two hikes each day, returning to the ship for lunch and before dinner. Most of the hikes have been very much like hiking the Olympics on cool summer days..55 degrees, steep areas, but easy if one is in hiking shape............this was true, until yesterday.
Not sure exactly how to describe this adventure, except to say,if we were doing "Survivor", I would still be on the team! Right before lunch we had an "excursion briefing" with a short slide presentation of hike that the crew wanted to make sure you knew what was ahead, because there was absolutely NO dropping out or turning back. The ship would drop us off at a big waterfall, where we would climb a steep Muddy, Wet, Forested tangled slope with precarious ledges, rope tow holds, and YES..we would get wet...and very dirty. For my friends who did the mud run with me in Sept.....this was just as muddy, but that was the only similarity. It WAS STEEP! We crawled under logs, over logs, under big rock outcropping, hands and knees scrambling, and crossing rivers were the water was knee deep, and yes, we got wet. I did notice it was every man for him/her self and people were SO focused on the difficult route before them,that they could only concentrate on that! Out of 120 passenger, 23 attempted the climb. As a reward for making it to the top of the falls, we were asked if we wanted to be baptized in the falls. They held your arms and leaned you backwards into a torrent of rushing water.......Steve went for it. I did not. We were wet,muddy, cold, but exhilarated to have done it.
We only could take a few pics because of the precarious conditions, and the last one is our little team of hikers.


Our ship pulled up to the disembark area of Cape Horn about 6:00 am. The crew and guides were SOOO happy because it was almost a perfect summer day for trying to climb to the lighthouse and albatross. Raining, 40 mph winds, slippery, 40 degrees. Perfect. I had a couple quick cups of coffee in the "early risers" area, and went back to don all my rain gear, gloves, hats, boots, lifejacket. We all piled into zodiacs for a beach landing and then started a very steep climb up the wettest rickety steps ever! Actually, some people stayed back. Since I was recently fueled with caffeine, I was MOVING! I managed to be the second person to get to the Albatross Monument. This interesting monument is made out of 10 steel plates, each one 1/2 inch thick. It was erected by the Chilean Navy on the Chilean section of Cape Horn in memory of the "men of the sea" from every nation that lost their lives fighting the "merciless forces of Nature of the Southern Ocean" that prevail in the vicinity of the legendary cape. Wow, I was thinking as I was almost blown off the perch..."good thing our boat was not scheduled to actually sail around the "legendary cape". Hahahahahahahahahah.
A hearty breakfast never tasted so good after a romp for a couple hours in the wind and rain, so I really stuffed my self and was about to go take a shower, when the Captain's cheery voice came on and said this was a "special cruise because the weather seemed right and he was was going to attempt to round the actual CAPE HORN, where the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean meet, and god knows, over 10,000 people have lost their lives in the shipwrecks that have occurred in that mess of a caldron they call the confluence of oceans. He added that ONLY 1 in 10 try's actually make it and he invited us to enjoy this adventure with him. I was about to cry, but not for happiness. Someone else was very excited, and some else was already downing the seasick meds. It was ROUGH, I got sick....you know the drill. I fed the fishes.
Oh yeah, I get a certificate.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


After "sleeping in" and having a late breakfast, we packed up for a visit to Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Since it is summer here and the start of a national holiday, people were arriving to camp and hike and enjoy this large area boarding Chile. Steve and I ventured on a short hike by the beach, and kept saying how much the area reminded us of home, in the winter. It was cloudy, cool, raining off and on, very green, with many islands dotting the Strait. The mountains in the area even looked like the Olympics! So we felt right at home, while all people from the south were so bundled up,they looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. People, it's 45 degrees!
Last night while my friend, Ulrika from Germany, and I were bonding over some glasses of wine in the hotel lounge, some of the others in our group had discovered another gastronomical treasure of this land at the end of the earth. KING CRAB. FRESH. LIVE. BIG. CHEAP! I couldn't remember the Spanish word for crab, so when I saw it written all over town, It didn't register. Basically, one would enter a restaurant, and select your own live enormous crab from the enormous tank and while your little seafood buddy was being "dispatched", you were sipping a pisco sour or wine and snacks and waiting for the most succulent crab legs ever. About 21 dollars US! We missed out, and were bummed.
Late in the afternoon, we boarded the Chilean Ship, Australis, which, with all passengers AND crew, were about 80 of us ready for 4 days of cruising through the many channels, inlets and the Atlantic AND Pacific Ocean. We were welcomed by the Captain and crew with drinks and yummies, and ended by dining late in the dinning room on...........yes! King Crab apps, and the best Argentine Wines. Unlike other ships, this one is truly all inclusive, with a full bar opened, and any and all tours included. They said, it was because this was an "adventure, NOT, a cruise. How right they were........