Seychelles, Africa

After 5 or 6 days at sea, I lost track, we arrived at La Digue, Seychelle on Tuesday, March 15th. La Digue is the 3rd largest island in the Seychelles archipelago and has about 2,000 permanent residents. There are no airport so the main transportation is by ferry to Praslin, my next stop, and then Mahe. The waters here on incredibly blue, clear and warm year round. We’re about 3 degrees south of the equator, so year round it’s warm and then hotter. The water temperature runs between 84 and 86 degrees, so really nice for snorkeling and swimming. Even though we’re this close to the equator, the water and sea breeze keeps it very comfortable on land. The beaches are the finest sugar sand we’re told exists in the world. There are no private beaches, so even the 4 Seasons has to allow you access to the beach through their property if you like. Also, because there are so many beaches they are never crowded, at least by US standards. You might see 50 people on a large beach if it was busy. The nearest land is Kenya, which is a little over 1,000 miles away.

First thing in La Digue was a snorkel trip to Coco Island. Island is being very generous as it’s a granite outcropping of rocks and a few palm trees. The real attraction is the area around it with reefs and colorful fish. The group I was with went in the morning and we saw a lot of the reef fish but the afternoon group was there when the tide was coming in and they saw sea turtles, dolphins and a few sharks. This was a short stop and then on to the island of Praslin which was only an hour away.

Next stop is Praslin which is known for beaches and the Vallee De Mai forest which is the home to the Coco de Mer palm. The Coco de Mer nut is the largest nut in the world and weighs 50-60 pounds when ripe. It’s also known for it’s unique shape and there are many local stories and superstitions around it. This is the only place in the world you can see this in a native environment. There are a handful of other places that have planted the nut and grown trees but it takes over 15 years just to find out if it’s a male or female then another 10 years to start producing the giant nuts. The tree is now heavily protected and there are heavy fines if you are found in possession of one without out all the approvals and permits. After walking through the forest, we had some beach time just to hang out before returning to the ship.

Mahe Island, March 15/16 port of Victoria. Mahe is the largest island and has the largest population in Seychelles with about 55,000 people living here. There are only about 80,000 in all of Seychelles which spreads over a little over 100 islands, many of which are uninhabited. The language here is Creole, which is a mixture of French and African language. The island is about 35 miles long and 15 miles wide with beaches all around it.

First day was just a walking tour of Victoria and then a trip to the botanical garden which is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Because of the weather, they have a growing season for almost everything year round.

Last day was a tour of the southern end of the island, an old spice plantation and a beach. Mainly just a lot of great scenery and views. The giant turtles are native here and in the Galapagos Islands. These were not like the ones we see in the zoo at home. Lots of them and very active.

Next stop Jeddah, Saudi Arabia after 7 sea days. We will dock in Jeddah on Wednesday, March 23rd. This was not a planned stop but Egypt made a change to their Covid requirements and now if ANY one on board tests positive, they can’t dock. This was a real disappointment for many because this stop including Luxor, Valley of the Kings. Silversea didn’t want to risk us having to sit for several days, so opted for more time in Saudi Arabia. We will be headed through the Suez Canal a few days after this and that is a timed passage, so if we got there early, we would just have to wait.

Now for the real fun, we’re in pirate waters and had a 2 page letter outlining procedures in case we encounter any. We’re off the coast of Somalia now and the ship is darkened at night and has security with binoculars posted on the upper decks at all times. The captain informed us on the noon announcement today that we’ll be entering the Gulf of Aden which runs between Somalia and Yemen in a little over a day at which time, we’ll pick up a military escorts until we get closer to Jeddah.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

We just spent 3 days in Zanzibar and it was another great experience. There were a variety of choices for excursions from snorkeling at a resort, tours of national parks, the old town area of Zanzibar to name a few. My choices were the Jozani Forest and Nature Reserve with a large population of monkeys. Day 2 was a walking tour of Stone Town which is the old town of Zanzibar with narrow streets, shops and food vendors. Last day was a tour of a spice plantation which may have been one of the best tours.

For those of you back in the states, I’m 8 hours ahead of my normal eastern time and when I checked my ring camera this morning, I saw it was snowing hard with a temp in the low 30’s expected to go lower over night. Here in the Indian Ocean, we’re averaging about 88 degrees with a water temp of 84, so not bad.

So day one, we docked in Zanzibar about 9:00 am and were informed by the port authorities we would need to do a PCR test before going ashore. This delayed getting off the ship for a couple of hours, but after that, there were no issues. At 1:00pm, we boarded a bus to the Jozani National Forest and Reserve where a large group of Colobus monkeys live. It took a little over an hour to get there and one of the interesting things is getting in to the countryside like this to see how the people live here. Upon arrival to the park, we were met by our guide who took us on a brief walking tour of a huge Mahogany forest filled with red and white Mahogany trees over 100ft tall. Then we went in search of the monkeys which were not difficult to find. There are two types of them here a blue and red Colobus monkey. The blues are supposed to be a little more standoffish than the red ones, however my experience was that was not exactly correct. To see them, the guide would take us down some trails in to the forest and you would see a group in the trees and suddenly seemed like they were everywhere. I’ll add a photo of the one I had a run in with. It seemed he took a liking to my hat and kept coming down to the branches over my head and was trying to grab it from me. After completing the tour it was on the bus back to the ship and some cool air.

Day 2 was a walking tour of Stone Town which is the original Zanzibar and is called Stone Town because all the buildings are made of coral stone and a concrete mixture. Zanzibar has a rich history of being ruled by Sultans from Oman, and was actually the capital of Oman for a time until the Sultan and his brother decided to split Oman and Zanzibar with each being a Sultan over there own kingdom. With that in mind, there were a couple of buildings on the tour that we could only see from the outside. The first being the Sultan’s city palace which is being restored and turned in to a museum. The second is a place called the House of Wonder. It was built in the late 1800’s and was the tallest building in the eastern part of Africa, had the first elevator, electricity and running water. It was built next to the palace and served as a place the Sultan would entertain large parties. Unfortunately, it had fallen in to disrepair and part of it collapsed a few years ago and is currently undergoing a full restoration, so most of what you saw with the palace and House of Wonder was scaffolding and construction equipment. Another highlight on the tour was the house Freddie Mercury of the group Queen was born. His father was a British diplomat to Zanzibar and he lived here as a child. Last, Zanzibar was one of the largest slave markets in eastern Africa and made many people, including the Sultan’s very rich. Learning the history was very interesting as most of the slaves were captured and brought here by rival tribes. Then when sold, they would chain them together in threes but make sure they were from different tribes so they couldn’t communicate with each other and plan an escape. There was a lot more information that I’ll share with people when we talk. We also did a quick walk through the old Portuguese fort. Most of these places in the Carribean, South America and Africa were ports conquered by either the Spanish, Portuguese, British or French in the 1500’s and of course they all built forts to protect their interests from pirates and other countries. I’m now in the “if you’ve seen one 1500’s forts you’ve seen them all mode”

Day 3, ruins of Maruhubi Palace and spice plantation. The palace ruins we stopped to see is the palace the 3rd Sultan kept his girlfriends at and he would visit, and as our guide said in Swahili to Giki Giki, Boonga Boonga, I’ll let you decide what that means. She did take time to make sure we could all say it correctly. So in addition to that I learned Jambo which means hello and Hakuna Matata that’s the extent of my Swahili. The palace was destroyed by fire and then weather many years ago. What used to be the beach in front of it is now a boat yard where they build and repair their Dhows. It’s in pretty rough shape now, but as our guide showed us, it would have been pretty impressive in it’s day with running water through a series of canals and indoor pools and steam room. The boat yard was very interesting because when you first look, you think look at all the wrecked boats, then realize they are tied up to trees on the shore because when the tide comes in, they still float.

After the palace we went to a spice plantation. This was special built for tours as it was just a sample of all the spice trees and plants they use so they can take you through and show how they grow, what they smell like and what they are used for. There was a huge difference in some of these spices when experienced fresh from that what we see in a market. For example, they cut off some lemon grass and it was very soft and smelled exactly like the inside of a lemon. Much different from the dried form we see. The next big surprise for me was the cinnamon tree. We’re all familiar with the look and tasted of cinnamon but what I didn’t know was the leaves also smell strongly of cinnamon and are used in teas and medicines. The bark is where you actually get the cinnamon we know but the root was the real surprise to me. The root is where you get menthol, like Vic’s Vapo Rub, and that’s exactly what a piece of the root smells like when you scratch the surface. Here, they take the roots and boil them then hold their head over the steam with a towel over their head for a stuffy nose. The tour included many spices from cloves (one of Zanzibar’s biggest exports), cardamon, ginger, whole peppers which we ate from the tree, to nutmeg and many others. To wrap up the tour, they had some young guys who would demonstrate how to climb a palm tree to get a coconut by just grabbing on and climbing. Afterwards, they opened coconuts for us to drink the water then eat the coconut inside. The flesh of a fresh coconut is completely different from anything I remember of the dry coconut you get from a grocery store after breaking it with a hammer. The flesh on a fresh one is very soft and almost a little bit chewy with a very mild sweet taste that is much lighter than we’re used too.

Last night was “Africa Night” in the dining room with a menu of typical African foods. It was outstanding and my entrée was “bunny chow” which is nothing like it sounds. It’s a mixture of vegetables, and maybe some meat, in curry served in a bread bowl and is a staple in south east Africa.

So next stop is the Seychelle Islands in a couple more days. One bit of great news was as we were leaving Zanzibar, we had about 35 passengers rejoin the ship who had gone on a short safari in the Serengeti along with a few new crew and entertainers. So another PCR test and the answer is: The entire ships crew and passengers are covid free!!!!

Hakuna Matata ya’all

WOW, Port Elizabeth to Durban

Let’s start with Port Elizabeth last Sunday, February 27th. Port Elizabeth is a major manufacturing town for cars and cars parts. Ford, Isuzu, and several others all have manufacturing plants along with tires and other major parts. Needless to say the town itself is not that exciting but the area around it is. One thing that becomes obvious is how good we have things in the US. Although Covid caused major issues for 2 years, the unemployment rate in South Africa is a 46%. The first things our guides would tell us is we were the first cruise ship to dock since 2020 and they thanked us profusely for helping to get their lives back to a more normal.

Now for the fun part, my excursion here was to the Addo National Elephant Park, which is the largest national park in South Africa at about 800,000 acres. The elephants were almost hunted to extinction in SA and they created this park with just a few elephants in the 1960’s and they now number in the 10,000’s. There are a few other animals here, but for the most part it’s all about the elephants. This is all native and they don’t feed or do anything for the animals other than protect them. So there are lions and cheetahs here as well as other animals, but you don’t see them often.

Next stop Richards Bay and the Hluhluwe National Park. One of the major attractions here are the white rhinos which are not named for their color. You can tell a white rhino by looking at it’s mouth and if it’s more square, that’s a white rhino. It enables them to graze better and get more grass as they feed. Much like Addo, the numbers of rhinos were close to extinction when this park was created. They won’t tell you how many live there today because poaching is still a major problem for people to kill them just to harvest the horn. This is the home of the Zulu tribe and is the majority of the population is SA. All the villages around the park are Zulu families and the park now employs many of them to help stop the poaching. Because they knew the area so well, the poachers would approach them with large amounts of cash for them to lead them to the rhinos. Hence, by employing them to work in the park, they were able to curb much of the poaching. This park is also known for having the “big five” of African animals, lion/cheetah/bush elephant/rhino/water buffalo. We didn’t see the lions and cheetahs as we were there mid day and they were most likely napping. One of the biggest things about this park is that all white rhinos alive today can be traced back to this park. Zoos may have bred their own, but they are all genetically linked to this park in South Africa. For those in Knoxville, that includes Dolly and Polly, the two rhinos at our zoo.

Next stop was Durban for two days. Day one was a trip to the Tala Private Game Preserve. Although there was an abundance of animals and varieties, it felt a lot more like a ride through zoo after being in the national parks. The animals are still wild and they feed and live naturally, they were clearly much more accustomed to people than the parks. The one thing they do however is provide guards on what looks like deer stands to keep people from poaching the animals. Although not the size of the national parks Tala is still over 100,000 acres so it’s very difficult to protect all of them all the time

Day two was the African Market in Durban. Basically tourists don’t go there without a guide and security and it’s a real view in to the daily life of the people who live there. There are several different markets all connected where you can buy anything from fresh spices to live animals.

Last, just a cruising update. One of my go to foods at lunch on the last cruise was a hamburger at lunch. I tried one at the pool and another through room service and they were horrible. So during a dinner I was having with the cruise director and hotel director, they were asking about things and I brought this up. Next day I have an invite to dinner with the head of food and beverage and he admits after trying one, they were not good. His answer however was whenever I would like a hamburger, give them a days notice and they would grind hamburger and cook it for me whenever I wanted one. That was a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, the F & B manager stopped me and let me know at the last stop in South Africa they had resupplied with different hamburgers and to try them when I was ready. This is somewhat silly, but it’s how serious they take customer satisfaction on Silversea.

The butlers welcoming us back to the ship yesterday. My butler, Mahesh, is second from the right.

Today is the first sea day in a while, so getting caught up with things today. Next stop will be Maputo, Mozambique tomorrow. I think I’ll head up to the pool now and check out a hamburger even though this is the seafood buffet in the dining room. It’s going on 12:30, so we’re about 7 hours ahead of Knoxville.

Cape Town

I’m a little late in getting this out because the internet has been flakey and would not cooperate. We spent 3 days in Cape Town and were able to venture out on our own in addition to the shore excursions. That improved the mood of everyone and Cape Town was a fun stop.

First day was a cable car ride up Table Mountain which is the iconic backdrop of any Cape Town pictures. The weather was incredible with warm temps and clear weather. We were told that there is often significant cloud buildup that limits visibility, but we were very fortunate to have such great weather. There are a number of trails and observation points so you can pretty much wander around and see views from a number of different areas. While up there I did see a group of people getting ready to rappel down the side. Given the amount of rope I watched them throw over the side, it was somewhere between 500-1000 feet down from where they were. I couldn’t see over the side but the mountain itself is over 3,000 feet and most of it is a shear drop off.

Day 2 was mostly spent exploring the town and doing some shopping. I was really getting tired of looking at the same clothes in my closet, so I acquired a few new things. I do know there are clothes that will not be making the trip home with me. The main shopping area by the cruise terminal is called the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and is a fairly new area of over 400 shops and restaurants so there was a lot to see and do. That evening, we had one of our world cruise events which was a night of dinner and music at a winery. Everything was fantastic from the time you went to board a bus to travel to the winery, the greeting when you got there, the food and the music. They had setup a clear tent in an old rock quarry for dinner under the stars. Unfortunately most of my pictures were videos and I don’t have the bandwidth to upload them now. A number of videos are of the performances and in particular, the “elephants” that met us. They were life sized and powered by people inside, but jointed so that walked and acted like real elephants. I’ll try at a later date to load them again.

Day 3, I went on a tour to a place called Streetwires. They make all types of things using steel wire and glass beads to make everything from life size animals to key chains. They work with people off the street and show them how to do this and provide employment. Most of the employees have been there for several years. After giving us a tour and telling us the history, they had us make our own souvenirs while they taught us how to wrap the beads/wire. We finished a little early so our guide took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood to see the murals painted on the sides of buildings. This is a really big thing here with artists coming from all over the world and each year there is a theme to the paintings such as technology, environment and so on. The paintings stay on the building, so this just gets bigger every year.

Last day in Cape Town was also my birthday. My butler had the room decorated and then the Maitre’d brought me a cake that Auston had contacted the cruise line about.

Today, we’re in Mossel Bay which didn’t appear to be too impressive. When the tour is called an orientation and not a city highlights tour, that is kind of a warning. I was told by several who went, I made the correct choice.

That said, tomorrow and the next several stops are all some type of game ranch/game drive. Tomorrow is the Addo Elephant Park by 4×4, so I’m really looking forward to this section.

And the big news today, is Silversea announced that masks are now optional except for the show lounge and casino!!! Before it was all public areas unless eating/drinking.

Tristan Da Cunha

This has been a looooong group of sea days since leaving South Georgia. Four days to get to Tristan Da Cunha, 1 day there and 5 days to Cape Town for which there are still 2 more sea days. We arrive about 6:00 am on Tuesday and have been told, for the first time, we can leave the ship on our own and go exploring if we like.

As for Tristan Da Cunha, this is the most remote inhabited island in the world. The closest place is Cape Town which is 5 days away. There are 243 people living on Tristan Da Cunha many of which have lived here most of their life. As I had mentioned previously, we were not allowed to go ashore on the inhabited island because they have had no covid cases at all. Even though we are covid fee on the ship, they didn’t want to take the chance.

Our first stop was Nightingale Island which is part of the island group. We did a zodiac tour of the island and saw more penguins and sea lions, I’ll spare you more photos as we’re all ready to see new life forms. The interesting thing about this island is in the early 1960’s, St Helena, which is the active volcano on Tristan erupted and the lava flow came close to the village, so they evacuated to Nightingale until ships could come from England to take that there.

We were the first cruise ship to even come by in 2 years, so when we pulled in to their harbor, most of the town came down to the docks to wave and the kids came out of their school and ran down the hill waving. I think they would like to have seen and talked to us as much as we would have them. They raise their own produce on the island, have some livestock, do commercial fishing and have solar electricity to supplement generators. Supply ships bring fuel and other supplies and then buy the lobsters to take home.

What happens on sea days you ask. The crew does some type of training exercise about once a week. This may be simulated fires, spills, etc. During that time, they remotely close all the fire doors and if you’re lucky, you’re locked in a restaurant or bar for 30 minutes while they practice. Basically they have their own fire department and hazmat teams on the ship. This week, they were showing some of the crew how to use various life saving devices and how deploy a raft. For this, they blocked off the pool for the demos and then deployed one of the rafts in the pool.

Next stop will be Tuesday in Cape Town for 3 days. One of those days will be another “world cruise” event of an evening of food, wine and music at an exclusive venue in an old quarry.

South Georgia

We arrived at South Georgia on Thursday, February 10th. The first stop was the old whaling station and now research station at Grytviken. There are less than 50 people on the island and they are at least 3 days sail to the closest hospital, so they did not want us to land there but we were able to go out on the zodiacs for a tour around the bay to take pictures and see the sights. This actually worked out well because other than the abandoned whaling station, that you can’t go in to because it’s falling apart, there isn’t much else here other than the wildlife and you could see it better from the zodiac. Silversea always tries to to what they can to make it a great experience, so after riding around for 45 minutes, we were met by a zodiac with a group of servers from the ship bringing hot chocolate, mulled wine and champaign. So we all enjoyed a refreshment break before heading back to the ship.

Next stop, Fortuna Bay. This has been almost breathtaking. It’s hard to describe the number of seals and penguins that are everywhere you look and they are not at all disturbed by us visiting them. The young ones will walk right up to you and investigate to see what you are and smell like. If you sit on the ground, the King Penguins will walk right up to you. The expedition team had to keep shooing them away from our landing site because we could not get in and out of the zodiacs. After doing some looking around, I headed off to the rookery where the King Penguins hatch their eggs and raise the babies. It was about a mile walk and ended up on a ridge overlooking the rookery.

The last stop was a place called Stromness which was a couple of more old whaling stations that were in even worse shape than Grytviken. The real draw here was going to be a hike to a waterfall that Ernest Shackelton climbed down to get to the whaling village to get help for his crew that was stranded back in Antarctica. I say climbed down because it was winter and the water fall was frozen. The bay here is pretty well protected, but we had a major storm coming in and even in this area it was going to be to rough to launch the zodiacs. We kind of toured the bay on the ship for about an hour and by then the winds were over 50mph and getting stronger, so the captain decided it was time to leave and start heading toward Tristan da Cunha which was supposed to be the next stop. I say “supposed to be” because we were informed several days ago that we would not be able to land there. Once again, very small population and they have had no Covid infections this whole time, so they’re a little protective.

If you ever wondered where the middle of no where is, I found it. We’re a thousand miles from South Georgia and two thousand from Antarctica and we still have a thousand miles to get to Tristan da Cunha. If you look at any of the ship tracking apps, there is no one close to us and won’t be for a couple more days. When we get to Tristan da Cunha, the plan is to circle the island from a very close distance so we can at least see some of the sights. This happened to us at Easter Island 2 years ago and is better than it sounds. The good news is once we get to Cape Town, we should be open for all the shore excursions going forward. I have several game drives scheduled, so I’m hopeful, we’ll get a feel for the wildlife there.

Greetings from Antarctica

This will be our last day in Antarctica and we’ll start crossing the Drake passage tonight enroute to South Georgia to see the Emperor and Macaroni (Rock Hoppers for Ava) penguins.

We arrived on Saturday the 5th to Yankee Harbor and went ashore. Due to the amount of ice in the harbor we couldn’t get all the way in to the colony but we did see penguins, seals and birds on the outer shore. It was very interesting as there were a number of things in addition to the wildlife like whale bones, seal bones and others. This appears to be a place where a lot of things wash up on shore besides ice. The weather was marginal with gray skies, a little wind and some drizzle, but we were dressed for it, so not a problem. In the photos below, you’ll see one photo with orange bags. Those are survival huts in case the weather changes and we can’t get back to the ship. Anytime you’re doing a shore landing here, at least with Silversea, those bags will be at the site along with first aid, a rescue boat in the water standing by etc. The first thing the expedition team does is go scout the landing site, setup all the safety equipment and then come back and start bringing us ashore.

On to Danco Island 300 miles south at 65 degrees latitude! In 2020 when we landed on Danco, it was rocky shores, 65 degrees Fahrenheit which was a record with very little snow and the ship pulled right in to the harbor for a short ride to the landing site. This time it’s been colder and where there were rocky shores, it was almost 3 feet of snow still and this is the middle of summer and it was almost a mile by zodiac to get to the same place. This is one of my favorite places here with a large active colony of Gentoo penguins who think they own the place. We had always been told about the penguin “highways” where they walk to and from the nesting area. In the rocky areas it was clear to see that path with no large rocks or obstacles but with the deep snow, you saw how they tramp down the snow and really do have highways to travel from the nest to the ocean to feed. We also had an incredible sunny day to enjoy the scenery. It was cool at 30 degrees and a little breezy but wonderful blue skies.

That brings us to today. We’re headed north to the Antarctica Sound which is named for a ship called Antarctica not the place. We were advised last night that we wouldn’t be able to land here today so kind of sightseeing around the sound looking at giant “tabular” icebergs that are several times the size of the ships and very flat on top. They come from a glacier in the Weddle Sea hundreds of miles south and are pushed by strong currents in to the Antarctica Sound where they continue floating north and melting. The other side of the entrance to the sound is where all these icebergs congregate before pushing through a narrow opening in to the sound. The only ships that can go through to the other side are the ice breakers and scientific ships built for that purpose. We saw some whales today and hundreds of penguins swimming by the ship. However, as forecast the weather is changing and we’re now in 10ft seas and growing and the win is 45 knots and increasing to over 50 so we’ve been advised to stay off any open deck areas. We were also planning to go by Elephant Island where Shackleton’s crew was stranded for 4 months and lived under a lifeboat with a diet of penguins and that has also been scrubbed for the day, so off through the Drake Passage enroute to South Georgia.

Adios Chile!

Today will be the non-update. The trip the through the fjords on the way to Punta Arenas was very interesting with great scenery (for what we could see). It was very gray/cloudy/rainy so photos very very difficult and you could not see very far but you’ll hear more about fjords shortly.

We arrived in Punta Arenas yesterday only to be told by Chilean health officials not only could we not do any tours, we couldn’t get off the ship and honestly, we were not that disappointed. I say that because the winds here blow 30-50 mph almost constantly and it’s not warm. It was difficult to even go for a walk on the deck while docked to give you an idea of the wind. From the harbor, using a telephoto lens I could have taken pictures of a town and houses but chose not to make any additional memories of this place. 🙂

To make things worse, we were supposed to be there for 2 days and would be leaving this evening. So after having jumped through all the hoops of Chilean Mobility Passes and Covid tests every 48 hours, Silversea announced yesterday evening that we would be leaving Punta Arenas at 5:00 am this morning and sailing through some additional fjords on our way to the Drake Passage and Antarctica at which point you heard cheers and applause throughout the ship. So going forward, we currently have no restrictions for tours and to leave the ship!

Right now, we’re just sailing through the fjords on our way to Glacier Avenue and should arrive there in about 4 hours. There are celebrations planned in the upper lounges where we will have the best views of the glaciers. Then we’ll continue south and start through the Drake Passage at noon tomorrow. As we get closer to Antarctica the internet/satellite gets weaker so I may be out of touch for a few days but if that happens, I’ll be back with details and photos.

Puerto Mont and Castro Chile

It’s January 30th, we’re on our way to the Chilean Fiord’s and should arrive there in the morning for a day of cruising the fiords and glaciers. The last two days we were in Puerto Mont and then a short stop in Castro, Chiloe Island, Chile yesterday. We were still limited to staying on the bus, but the tours were much more interesting in both locations, so that was a real plus. In two days we’ll be in Punta Arenas, Chile with is the southern most city in Chile. A world cruise is broken up in to a number of smaller cruises for those that don’t want to do the entire cruise, so Punta Arenas is one of the spots where this segment ends on Tuesday and the new segment to Antarctica start on Wednesday.

Puerto Mont is a small industrial port and not a lot of touristy things right there. On the last cruise we did a trip to the local farmers market with one of the chefs and ended up buying lots of fruit, vegetables and cheese which we brought back to the ship. That wouldn’t be possible this time with the limitations, so we boarded the bus and it quickly took us through town and out to the “lake district” which is a big tourist stop for the Chileans and also pricey based on what the guide was telling us. Porto Varas is the town there and sits on the shores of the largest lake in Chile with a view of one of the local active volcanoes. We drove out towards the volcano and through one of the national forests and it was an interesting and scenic trip. Porto Varas gets about 200 inches of rain a year, so everything is really green. There are flowers everywhere and the city is also known for their roses. Photos were through the windows of the bus so sometimes not framed or focused well but I’ll share some of the better ones with you.

Castro, Chiloe Island is a small picturesque fishing village on Chile’s largest island and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site for some of the wooden churches that are hundreds of years old. The houses on stilts you will see are called Palafitos and there a only a few of them left due to earth quakes and fires. As a fishing village, the fishermen would tie there boats up at the house to get an early start on the fishing. They are packed close together and very colorful. A lot of them are now being converted to B & B’s and hotels. There was a fire there just a few weeks ago that took out several of the houses. This was also the site of the worlds largest recorded earthquake in 1960 and a tsunami that basically flooded all the houses and businesses under a wall of water. The Palafitos were all wiped out but built back as they have several times.

Valparaiso, Chile

Well, once again we were met by Chilean health officials when we docked yesterday and first told we could not go on any of our shore excursions. After discussions with Silversea, they agreed to let us do a short bus ride through the city but everyone had to stay on the bus. I opted not to go since I was here 2 years ago and was able to experience it first hand. Valparaiso is a fun city but you need to be able to walk the narrow winding streets to see all the street art, shops, etc. and the buses were too large for most of them. It’s very hilly so they have funiculars that will take you up and down the hills. These are basically a cog railway.

So the good news, is we’re supposed to be able to do our tours starting tomorrow in Porto Montt, but we’ll see. It’s somewhat disappointing not being able to see and experience these towns but if I wasn’t doing this, I’d be home complaining about the cold. I’ve also decided most of South America is not a place I will return to unless it’s something like Machu Pichu or Galapagos. We have 3 more stops in Chile then off to Antarctica where we’ll be able board the zodiacs and go ashore.

Colorful Funicular, these are typically 100+ years old.