Punta Arenas – beginning of the end.


Our next stop was Punta Arenas, located at southern tip of Patagonia, on the strait of Magellan, and with a population of 124,169 in 2017.

The scene below was more or less typical of how empty the streets were of traffic.

The other thing we noticed were how many buildings in the down town were boarded up. It seemed that most of them were financial institutions.

We wondered for a little while, but finding nothing of interest, we decided to take a taxi to the ski hill. Once there, we grabbed an ancient chair lift to the top of the mountain, with the plan to walk down one of the trails. We were in the clouds at this point, so no pictures. Once pointed in the right direction, we did come across some interesting foliage.

Part way down we came to a clearing and no clouds.

Our next  scheduled stop was to be Ushuaia, Argentina via the Cockburn and Beagle channels and Glacier Alley. We never got there. That was on March 14/2020.

I feel the best way to document the rest of our cruise, and keep it short and concise, is to do it in point form.

– On the morning of the 14th the captain announced the termination of the cruise in San Antonio, Chile. All passengers to disembark, as Holland America made the decision to pause global operations. We would then fly back home from there, not Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We never got to San Antonio.  

– On the same date, Argentina closed all ports to cruise ships. Our stop in Ushuaia was cancelled.

– Plan was to cruise the channels for the next 4 days with a stop in Puerto Montt, Chile, on March 20,2020 with San Antonio the next day. That did not happen.

– On March 14th, we were advised by the Chilean Port Authority that effective 8:00 am of the 15th, all cruise ships will be banned from entering Chile. Captain decided to head back to Punta Arenas and dock at 2:30 am. Chile closed all ports at 12:00 midnight. We were left adrift. 

– Chile closes all transportation by air, land and sea, on March 16th. Holland America pressures Chilean authorities to allow us to disembark within the next two days. Chile says that would work only if we remain outside the city for 14 days. The captain makes the decision to sail to San Antonio to pick up fuel and supplies. This was done while at anchor just off the harbour in Valparaiso.

Fuel tanker at Valparaiso  

– It took several days for all supplies to be loaded. Once done, we headed north, final destination undetermined. There were a number of destinations open to the captain were we could secure a port. They ranged from Panama City, Puerto Vallarta, Seattle and Fort Lauderdale. Holland America finally got the green light for Fort Lauderdale.

– Between March 20th and until April 2nd, the balance of our cruise, we were confined to our state room. A number of the serving staff had come down with the bug, so consequently, all restaurants and bars were off limits. Our meals were left at the door which we slid into the room. Fortunately, we had upgraded to a balcony, so we had the option of fresh air.

– One part of our trip that I was originally looking forward to was our passage through the Panama Canal. That turned out to be a non event. By this time we had been transferred to the Rotterdam, (it met us at sea bringing extra medical supplies and personnel). We were instructed to pull our curtains, turn off our lights. Essentially, stay invisible. We travelled the canal around midnight, and with no stops we were through in about 45 minutes. We did sneak some pictures.

On April 2nd, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale; our arrival was expected.

Going fishing?

– We did not have to stay in Fort Lauderdale long. We had a charter flight arranged by Holland America for all healthy Canadians, with leaving on April 3rd. We boarded busses at the ferry terminal and got a motorcycle police escort to the airport. We had already been cleared by customs and immigration so the busses pulled up right beside the plane.

– We arrived in Toronto around 4:00pm, but being delayed by a health check of all 245 passengers, we missed our 6:00pm flight to Vancouver, B.C. We were able to re-book on a flight leaving at 7:50, arriving in Vancouver around 10:00pm. Being too late to get a flight to Vancouver Island, we stayed over night at the Fairmont Hotel at the airport, compliments of Holland America. The next day April 4th, we arrived home at 5:00pm, and never so glad to be there. For me, it is going to take a long time before I book another cruise, which is unfortunate, because I love cruising.

– Being confined to our room for that period of time, (two weeks), was the final blow to our being able to enjoy?? the cruise back. As I mentioned earlier, a number of the serving staff had come down with the bug, including a good number of kitchen staff. The quality and variety of the food went down hill. On top of that, because of my recently being diagnosed with atrial fibulation, (now back to normal rhythm), my taste buds nearly shut down to the point of not being interested in eating. I became a rather picky eater. As well as that, because of the afore mentioned a-fib, I came down with edema, (now gone), and my energy level went a way down.

– On the plus side, we had a daily liquor selection card to fill out, all provided gratis by Holland America. The weather on our way to Fort Lauderdale was great. I am sure that these small positives helped us endure those last two weeks.

I am sure that somewhere down this road, I will muster up enough enthusiasm to cruise again. In the mean time, we are going to embark on another kind of water adventure – kayaking. Cheers.

 

Doggie Story


It has been quite a while since I delved into a little bit of silliness, but since I seemed to have a lot of time on my hands, I thought it must be that time for another limerick. so for your moans and groans…….

Lizzie from Bordon had a rather large schnauzer,

Known far and wide from Hoboken to Tannhauser.

A sure winner from the start,

Ever ready to perform it’s art,

Which never, ever failed to arouse her.

Falkland Islands, Volunteer Point.


Gentoo Penguin

That furry guy (girl?) above is the main drawing card for the stop at Falkland Islands. That, and the off road foray to get there more than made up for the dull day.

Must not forget this fellow, suiting up to welcome travelers to their adventure.

The vehicles we used to get to Volunteer Point, are all 4 wheel drive with high clearance and mud tires. The drive starts out on a paved road from town, drops down to gravel, and then the fun begins. The balance of the trip is off road, and over very rough (jostled so much that I wacked my head several times while in the back seat) and boggy terrain. The trip takes just over an hour, and our convoy is made up of about 6 vehicles, all driven by local villagers.

The 3 resident penguins at Volunteer Point are the Magellanic, the Gentoo and the King.

The King, although the most vocal, only comprise about 1500 breeding pair.

There was a few young king penguins, but very hard to get a clear shot of one, except this little one near the edge.

The King’s seem to congregate the most as you will notice in the picture below.

What a varied and interesting day. Two firsts. The off roading, and getting to mingle with the penguins. They must be very used to having people about. If a half dozen or so wandered towards your direction, they would just waddle by, relatively close, and pay no attention to your presence. What a rewarding experience. Speaking of people, it was a pleasure to be able to observe and share some time with the birds without having to navigate a crowd.

Our next stop was Punta Arenas, Chile, where our 31 day pleasure cruise died very quickly. Stay tuned.

Montevideo, Uruguay


The first stop on our voyage was Montevideo. Established in 1724, it is the capital of Uruguay with a population in 2017 of 1.381 million.

The first sight to greet us when walking out on our balcony, was this ship grave yard. Most unusual sight.

If I may go back to the harbour in Buenos Aries, this was a much more pleasant surprise that stayed with us on the balcony for several days. It is a moth called the Gaudy Sphinx. Did not move from this spot until we were ready to set sail.

As we quite often do, we just walked around the city on our own taking lots of pictures. One of the structures that did impress was the Theatre Teatro Solis. Opened in 1856, and capable of seating 1500, it was Europe’s answer to La Scala. Sadly it was not open that day for tours.

Another eye catcher was the Salvo Palace, a very unique structure.

The rest of the pictures were taken in and around the city, including the waterfront.

Our next stop was the Falkland Islands, which I consider the most fun and highlight of the cruise.

Iguazu Falls – Argentina and Brazil


After two full days in Buenos Aries, we got up in the middle of the night for a 2 hour flight to the Iguazu Falls. The falls lies at the junction of 3 countries; Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. We started our tour from the Argentina side, as that was where we were staying. Our accommodation was a small dwelling, a cabin if you like,split to handle 2 families, and connected to the main lodge by board walks. Did I mention that we were in the middle of the jungle?, the Iguazu National Park.

 

 

Later that day we got a cab into the town of Iguazu for to explore. The carved panels below are just 2 of about 7 all done by a local artist.

 

This scenic view is from an elevated lookout overlooking the Iguazu and Parana Rivers. The ferry you see here became our transportation the next day as we bribed our way into Paraguay.

What follows are just a few of the hundreds of shots of the falls. It would have been easy if there was only one or two to photo, but Iguazu Falls covers a vast area, 1.7 k long and 30% higher than Niagara Falls, and all just a little bit different.

The pictures below were all taken the next day from the Brazil side.

While in Brazil, the Parque des Aves, or bird sanctuary was located across the road from the entrance to the falls so we decided to spend some time there in the morning.

This is a privately owned and operated sanctuary, first established in 1994, and located in 16 hectares of forest. Their main interest is bird rehabilitation, but they also have some butterflies and various other animals.

While in the park, some of the wildlife kept seeking us out. The next couple of pictures are of just two very different dwellers of the forest who seemed quite intent on checking us out for food. The ones on the right are called coati’s. They look like a cross between a badger and a ring-tailed lemur. I am told that they are related to the racoon. I do know that you do not leave any food or drink unguarded. One snuck up behind me on the table and started to help himself to my can of beer. I quickly recovered my brew, and the coati took off to join the other partners in crime!

The picture on the left is of capuchin monkeys. A mother and youngster who had just grabbed some food from the road and scampered to the tree branch to enjoy, all the while keeping a watchful eye on us for more.

I can’t help it. Just one more Iguazu Falls pic.

Buenos Aries


Prior to our cruise, we wanted to spend some time exploring the sights of Buenos Aries and the Iguasu Falls. Our trip to the falls will be covered in my next blog. What follows are just a few of the pictures that were taken in Buenos Aries.

After about a 35 hour flight from Vancouver Island, we arrived at our hotel Saturday evening. Our plan was to spend Sunday and Monday exploring the city. A number of the streets were closed to traffic, while others were bustling with market goers.

The Obelisco De Buenos Aries is located in the Plaza De La Republica. Erected in 1936 to commemorate the Quadricentennial of the first foundation of the city. Its’ height of 68m is fully illuminated with coloured lights on special occasions.

One of the attractions within walking distance was the Ateno Grand Splendid bookstore. Opened in 1919, as a theatre, later turned into a movie house, and finally reopened at the start of the 2000’s as a bookstore. Now it entertains more than a million visitors a year.

The gentleman below appears to be in a hurry, actually he is not moving and his coat and scarf is rigged to look like it is a windy day.

The young man with the “alp” horn was doing a mean beat to the music. The sound was rather intriguing.

Our last stop of the day was at La Recoleta Cemetery. Established in 1822, it houses some 5000 vaults covering 14 acres. Just a few of the dignitaries resting there are Eva Peron, presidents of Argentina and various Nobel prize winners. A few of the vaults are newer, but most are showing the wear and tear of the years.

We finished our day by walking to a recommended restaurant to sample some Argentine beef. The tenderloin came in at just over a pound, so it was shared. It did not disappoint. A bottle of Malbec, a shared desert and we waddled back to our hotel!

Little did we know what was waiting for us down the road. Our 31 day cruise with Holland America around the Horn was still 5 days away. Our first week cruising went well and as planned. Then the plug was pulled. Stay tuned.


                                                              CHARLEY

It rained again last night. That is to be expected though, being here as we are on the West Coast of British Columbia, just long enough to pay no attention to it. It did not bring any threat, just puddles. Since moving to this new part of town, some of the roads are finished, some are not. And this is where the puddles come into play. Our part of the development was where one phase ended; and the next phase was just ruffed in. The pavement ended in front of our house. The rest of the road, well, you could use it, but the construction traffic rendered it pretty rough, leaving behind ruts and potholes. Hence the puddles.

As we finished breakfast, I noticed that the rained had just about stopped. Still too wet, my wife and I took our coffees out to the enclosed porch and watched the sun push the clouds away. That’s when I noticed Charley. Charley is our neighbours boy from across the road. I think he found the biggest puddle, and he was having a great time running through and jumping into it. Good for him that he had his rubber boots on, the thing was, that was all he was wearing.

Charley was different, and special. But not without his problems and unique needs. My wife and I and a few of the neighbours, were familiar with these needs, having lived beside them for a while. Charley and his Mom and Dad moved into town about the same time we did. In fact, they were one of our first neighbours. We noticed right away that there was something different with Charley. It was not unusual for him to be found trying to hide in his front yard, generally the result of a confrontation that could be heard by all. After a period of raised voices, resistance to his mother’s pleas, tears, on both sides, usually followed by a hug, he would be persuaded to go back inside. We would give a sigh of relief and resume our usual activities. Support not required.

With his Dad being in the armed forces, and stationed in Esquimalt, he was not always around to help when this happened. But we were, and our presence seemed to be all that was needed to ensure that no harm came to anyone. Now, to put things into perspective, Charley is a full blown teenager, and if you did not know about him, you would think that he was not too different from any other 16 year old. We were all friends with Charley. Maybe better put, he was friends with all of us. It was common place for him to show up at your door, with all his clothes on, and sometimes at mealtime, sit down at the table just like an invited guest, and partake of what was being offered. He was like that. He was always welcome. I sometimes wandered what meant more to him, the meal or the company. Though he was not likely to say much. And when he was finished, he would leave as quietly and mysteriously as he arrived. After a while we started referring to him as the mayor of Beatty Street. I think he liked that.

Bill Bradley is the new neighbour down the street. Nice fellow, volunteer fireman, member of rotary, and plays the bagpipes. Seems he was hosting a BBQ for the band next weekend in his back yard, and he invited all his neighbours, including Charley and his family. I had to really wonder though if they would come. You see, they had this thing about music in their religion. It was not allowed. The same for dancing. But the invite was out there, we would just have to wait and see.

When we wandered into Bill’s back yard, the band was already there. Eight pipers, three drummers, and this guy with a long fancy spear. The way I have seen them toss that thing about, I know now why they put him at the front. I was informed later that it was referred to as a mace. A ceremonial thing and not meant to harm anyone. Several of the pipers were warming up when they realized it would be too loud for people in the rather smallish back yard. Luckily living on the outskirts of town, they had access to a field next to the back yard. Off they went, practised several pieces, and we could still talk and be heard, and enjoy the music.

Then Charley and his family arrived. His father was able to make it and an older sister that we don’t see too often as she was away at college. The guys in the field regrouped, commenced to play a real slow tune, almost a lament that none of us payed much attention to, except Charley. He was half way across the field before most of us new it. The guys were still playing not noticing that they had a singular audience. By this time the rest of the family had walked out to join him; we just watched not really knowing what was going to transpire.

We could tell that Charley was excited with his new found discovery. But what happened next was totally unexpected. Charley was beside himself with excitement. He could not stand still. It was all that mom and dad could do to keep him in check while he danced around one of the pipers and kept pointing at the bagpipe, uttering some sounds, and every now and then pushing on the bladder so that it made a rude honk. We could see that the piper was talking to Charley, but they were too far away to be heard. Whatever was going on got Charley excited as he grabbed his Mom and Dad and pulled them along behind the pipers as they struck up a familiar march tune, and then commenced to march around the field, into the back yard, headed for the street, picking up marchers as they went.

When we got home later that evening, I asked my wife, what exactly did we witness today? Something very special happened out there. I wanted to know more.

Music has been a part of my life since I can remember. As a young boy of 7 or 8, I would sit in front of our flour model radio, ear glued to the huge speaker and take in the Saturday afternoon opera on the CBC. I couldn’t handle the whole offering, probably much to the relief of the old folks, but that is where it all started. Later in life there would be piano lessens, choirs, school bands, and many records, tapes, and CD’s. With the exception of a few categories, all music was welcomed.

Music has that ability to run your emotions from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. It can instantly flood you with tears, send shivers up and down your spine or send you to la-la land. I know, I have been there.

That thought brings me back to Charley. As I noted earlier, music was not in his home. Music therapy has been employed for many years now, being especially effective in young children. Music therapy is effective for reducing stress, common negative side effects, such as emotional and behavioural problems. And for those involved, it has had very far reaching effects, on both sides of the music.

Charley’s parents did not pursue the option. Music was not allowed in the house. Music was not in the life.

As it happened, Charley’s Father was transferred to Edmonton later that same year. We never saw the family again.

Several years later news filtered back that Charley, sadly, was into drugs, no longer living at home. That was the last bit that we heard about Charley, until one day I ran into a retired army buddy of his Dad’s. I asked him about the family, especially Charley. Charley had committed suicide.

 

 

 

Sugarloaf Mountain, Nanaimo, B.C.


Little did I know that we had a “mountain” in the middle of Nanaimo. To describe this bulge of rock in such a manner, in my opinion, is pushing the word mountain a bit far. That being said, my wife and I and two friends who took us there, did the easy climb to the top. It was a gorgeous day, and the view did not disappoint.

Getting around is relatively easy, and that facilitates taking in a 360 degree view of the mountains and the Salish Sea, all from an elevation of about 250 feet.

The climb starts out on a couple of flights of wooden stairs. At the top of the stairs you have easy access to the rock for the balance of the climb.

This struck me as a lovely spot for a picnic, or just to watch the sunrise or sunset. Cheers.

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, British Columbia


Unlike Europe, Canada comes up a little lacking when it comes to castles.

Craigdarroch Castle, Vicoria, B.C.

Not intended as a castle, but as a manor house for coal baron Robert Dunsmuir. Completed in 1890, and situated on 28 acres, it boasts 4 floors, many glass windows and much intricate wood work. Sadly, Robert passed away before completion, leaving the manor to his wife Joan, 3 daughters and 2 grandchildren.

We were fortunate on our visit day. It was during the mid week and also a rainy day. This meant that not too may other people would be in the view finder.

The first sight to greet you is the magnificent staircase. The impressive woodwork for the most part was milled in Chicago and shipped on five rail cars.

The large salon-double style drawing room would have been the main entertaining area of the home.

Mrs. Dunsmuir sitting room.

One of the many stained glass windows. This one in the library.

The dining room, with seating for 14. The fireplace has a bent-flue to allow a stained glass window. This feature is also in the library and breakfast room.

Just one of the landings in the grand staircase.

The main hall and the beginning of the grand staircase.

Craigdarroch Castle stretches over 2,000 square metres and houses 39 rooms. It is believed to have cost around $500,000 when first built. The construction includes granite from British Columbia, tiles from San Francisco and an oak staircase that was imported from Chicago. While the castle is still dressed in 1800s’ Victoria-era furnishings, it is known for its stunning stained glass designs and intricate interior woodwork.

The castle’s name, Craigdarroch, means “a rocky oak place” in Gaelic and its design lives up to that name. The exterior is made of beautiful gray granite while the interior is given a warm atmosphere through the extensive use of wood. During the time period, it was thought that being surrounded by artistic beauty, such as the decor in the castle, would lead to a better development of personality in those that lived there. (Canadian Traveller).

I would like to visit the castle again. I could not get my camera to the right settings, hence, the hue is off in some, and a bit grainy in others. I had more success with my iPhone. More practice needed. Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two for the Price of One


Strathcona Provincial Park, located on Vancouver Island, is big. At 250,000 hectares, it was designated as a provincial park in 1911, and is the largest in British Columbia.

Within the park are several campgrounds, one of which is at Ralph River. So for a couple of days last week, my wife and I packed up the car and drove for over 3 hours to what turned out to be the most desirable campsite in the park.  

Little did we know, is that Wednesday was to be our best day weather wise. Thursday was wet and cool. After wandering around some of the shoreline of Buttle Lake, (named after John James Taylor Buttle, a surveyer and cartographer of the mid 1800’s), we decided to take a short drive to Mayra Falls. The pictures to follow are just before the final plummet to the lake.

The last time we were here, we walked out on these rocks, but not today; too wet and slippery.

On our way home Friday we stopped at Lupin Falls, just a short walk from the highway. Just like at Myra Falls, the rain had brought out all the hidden shades in the rock. This is an entirely different falls; not as much water, higher and in a much more lush setting.