At it’s extremes the Drake passage is referred to as the Drake Shake or the Drake Lake. With a fresh 15-30 knot wind and and the rolling of the ship in 15 foot swells we are some where in between. There are 85 of us on this ship and we look like cast members from The Living Dead as we struggle to find our sea legs. Thank heavens for Gravol – a lot of people are sick at the moment. If you go take your sea sick meds – even if you never get sick. The are bags in every conceivable area on board the ship in case people get caught away from their cabins. Interesting touch….. The food is excellent and the staff are top notch. We have been attending a number of lectures on birds and animals found in the area. The sun is rising at about 3:50 am and sets about 10:30 pm -so lots of daylight to watch the dozens of sea birds following the ship.
The ships historian also gave an excellent talk on the early history of European discovery of the Antarctic which occurred in 1820. . My respect for the first European explorers who went through this passage has increased substantially – the pounding the boats and the men took must have been dreadful. … Drake Passage was named after Sir Francis Drake who was the first man to circumnavigate the globe going in one direction.
After the lectures we did the bio-security check of our outdoor clothing and shoes. This is compulsory to go ashore in the Antarctic to ensure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the environment. We have one more day at sea and then we will be in the South Shetland islands. We are looking forward to getting out of these seas.
OK – day 2 at sea. Still seeing the zombie waddle but we are getting our sea legs. Seems that every 20 waves or so a particularly big one comes along. You get in the rhythm of it after a while. We had to “drake proof” our cabin as the rolling sends glasses, phones, tablets, anything not in a drawer or nailed down sliding across the cabin floor.
Another day of rare good weather in Ushuaia for our trip down the Beagle Channel. The channel was named by Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle who Darwin sailed with. I was trying to imagine Darwin’s thoughts as he sailed down the channel for the first time.
Our first penguin colony greeted us today. The catamaran we were aboard ran right up on the beach by the penguins and we spent a lovely 30 minutes with the little birds before heading on our way. Our trip meeting is tonight and we board our ship tomorrow. Will be out of Internet range until the 19th – hope to load Antarctic photos and blog in Chile when we stop over in Puento Arenas.
Today was a wonderful day in Tierra del Fuego national Park. Human habitation goes back here almost 10,000 years. The Yamana people lived along the coast living on sea mammals and fish. We also had the opportunity to taste some of the mushrooms and other native plants that they ate during our trek today.
There were 3000 Yamana in 1880, 1000 in 1890 and about 100 left in 1910. Disease and genocide by settlers and sealers was the main cause. Today there is one 85 year old woman who still speaks the Yamana language.
The scenery along the route of our trek was incredible as we walked through forests and along beaches bordering the Beagle Channel. A lot of similarities between the PNW coastal forests and a lot of differences. Same windblown trees – no conifers though – three types of Beech trees – 2 deciduous and one evergreen, lots of plants in miniature. Climate here is pretty uniform. 10 degrees C average in summer, 0 degrees C average in the winter.
At the end of the day we boarded a raft that floated us down the river and into the ocean where we disembarked at the end of Hwy #3 – the Pan American Hwy that starts in Alaska. A magical day 🙂
Had an awesome morning walking around taking photos. The town has a lovely memorial to the Argentine soldiers that fought and died in the Falkland Islands. We got up high enough in the town to take some nice photos of the area and surrounding scenery. Ushuaia is a very busy cruise ship terminal – ships that travel to the Antarctic and those that circumnavigate the tip of South America. The day is sparkling sunshine – excellent day for taking photos and leisurely exploring the town.
Taking it easy today as tomorrow we have a trek and canoe trip in Tierra Del Fuego National Park.
After a lovely sleep in we were driven to the airport in Buenos Aires for our onward flight to Ushuaia. Our guide very kindly drove us through some upscale residential areas on the way to the airport. you can live very nicely in Buenos Aires if you have lots of money. The airport is located right alongside the river that runs from Iguaza Falls – it is dark brown and pretty awful looking.
Th airport was incredibly crowded and we just got checked in in time – our first inclination of trouble was when we went to the gate listed on our boarding pass and nothing happening, nada. A quick check of the departure board showed our flight delayed until 4:45 am the next day. Turned out both the board and our our boarding pass were wrong – we found the correct gate and the flight left only about 1/2 hr late. As we were sitting onboard we were informed that the plane was refuelling so no one was to smoke, all electronic devises were to be turned off, the doors were left open and we were not to put our seat belts on in case a hasty exit was required. Just after that -both of us feeling full of confidence by this point 🙂 – the old bucket of bolts waddled down the runway and was airborne. The landing gear badly needs some WD40 on it’s next scheduled maintenance.
Ushuaia – we made it!!!! A small Port city of 70,000 people – cold raw, clean air – just like home 🙂 We both fell in love with it the minute we landed. We needed to take a cab to town and flagged one down that was driven by Atilla the hunlet. The old adage get an agreement before you step into a cab served us well here. First of all she told us her meter was broken and it was $35 USD to town and then she tried to force us into the cab- don’t think so – we got a translator, Carol refused to get into the cab until the price was clear -all of a sudden presto – her meter worked – $8 to get to our hotel.
I took some photos on the way in to town – we hope to walk around town tomorrow and them Monday we head to Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Traveling through La Paz to the airport at three am in a cab driven by a driver over stimulated by coca leaves was interesting…. The cabbie spoke no English and our spanish is pretty rudimentary – charades come in handy. Anyway we got there – and after filling out forms, more forms, paying to leave and then yes you guessed it more forms, we got our bags searched by narcotics police and finally got on the plane. Get to the airport early if you go…..
Some South Americanisms we have picked up on our trip so far.
1) Don’t worry – translation – we have a problem
2) No problem I’ll take of it – translation – We have a serious problem
3) No problem, I’ll take care of it,don’t worry – translation – time to get out of Dodge….
Our flights went fine – I had three seats to myself on the Lima to Buenos Aires haul and Carol had 2 – so we caught up on some much needed sleep. Buenos Aires is like most other big cities 14 million of the 42 million people n Argentina live here. Our driver took us the circuitous route to our hotel so we had a chance to see the outlying slum areas and then the inner city around the main square including the pink palace which is lit with pink lights at night. After a rest at our hotel we were picked up at 8:30 for a gourmet dinner and tango show. Fabulous dinner and fabulous show. On to Ushuaia tomorrow.
Ah…… the Bolivian border. If you go here are some tips. once you get to the border you will need to visit Peruvian immigration in the yellow building on your left.You will need to surrender your white visa paper and get your passport stamped. Once that is done, head across the street to the bathroom (it can be a long wait at Bolivian immigration) bathroom cost is 1 soles – and then change the money you need into Bolivianos at a money change place next to the bathrooms. Bolivianos are useless outside of Bolivia so change money conservatively. If you are a citizen of a country that requires a visa to get into Bolivia get a photocopy of your passport with the Peruvian exit Visa stamp on it before crossing the bridge into Bolivia. Stay in a group as you cross the bridge in to Bolivia and immigration. Both Peruvian and Bolivian immigration police can pull you aside, demand to see your passport and ask to see your money – you can be robbed at that point. it is safer to put all your cash in your pocket and have an empty wallet with a bank card in it to show them. If they ask how you will support yourself say ATM. If I were crossing the border alone I would attach myself to a group going across. You are less vulnerable that way. Bolivia is subject to power outages. the Bolivian immigration had no power when we went though. members in our group who needed Visa’s used the flashlight app on their IPhones to provide light for the immigration officials to work with. As we had no idea about the photocopy requirements of the exit Visa’s and because the power was out in immigration Carol and a couple of other group members had to walk back to Peru to get a photocopy of their stamped passport – they also had to re-enter and re-exit Peru to do this. By the time Carol came back with smoke coming out of her ears it was like Moses parting the waters as the crowds ahead of her scattered recognizing true authority 🙂
After a lunch of llama which had been pounded to about 1/8 inch thick and was quite nice:-) We visited the pre-Inca ruins of Tiwanuka. This civilization flourished from about 1200 BC to 1300 AD when they were wiped out by a 60-90 year drought. There was one particular temple that was very interesting. The culture had a good knowledge of medicine as well as penicillin. The temple walls were covered with faces showing various defects and diseases in the population – we saw everything from cleft palates to thyroid issues to fevers represented in the stone carvings.
The entry into La Paz is stunning – mountain ranges and plains, plus a beautiful pink roofed city.
We had a city tour today – mailed a bunch of stuff home as the Antarctic trip has strict weight limitations on luggage and have a 2:30 am wake up call to get to our flight to Buenos Aires tomorrow.
Our morning started with a tuk tuk ride to the harbour to catch our boat destined for the floating islands. There were two of us in a tuk tuk (small cart pushed by a bicycle) – the peddlers were all A type personalities and the trip was all downhill, it was a tuk tuk derby!
Some interesting cross intersection experiences….. – made the docks in record time. Got on our boat (already windblown) and headed out onto the Lake.
Lake Titicacca Factoids
84 floating reed islands 2000 people live on islands that have been settled for 2600 years
The temperature on the islands runs three degrees warmer than mainland
The Lake is 190 km long, 80 km wide largest navigable lake in the world.
48% of lake is full of huge reeds that the islands are made off – it is also a bird sanctuary.
The Islands are on 2 meters of reed matt and roots, covered with .5 meters of cut and cross hatched reeds. A new layer is added every 15 days. Dry reeds that are removed are used for cooking
The Islands can float up to 5 km and last a total of 8 months before replacement
Interestingly they were only discovered 35 years ago.
Our visit was awesome – we were warmly welcomed and shown how the village runs, how the islands are built and maintained and how the women make their textiles. The embroidery is exquisite, Diets are much improved now that tourism dollars are flowing into the community and life expectancy has basally doubled with the addition of fruits and vegetables obtained on the mainland.
Following our return to the mainland we headed to the pre-Incan (800 – 1400 AD) archeological site of Sillustani – a famous burial site for kings and other nobles. It was believed that in order for the soul to ascend to the next level the body must be mummified, not burnt. Mummies were placed in circular towers together with precious stones and metals as well as any slaves willing to make the trip. Although the contents are long gone due to the Spaniards, the burial towers are being gradually restored. It was a beautiful place overlooking Lake Titicacca. Nice spot to spend eternity.
An excellent lunch followed in Puno before headed back to the hotel and collapsing. It is about 13,000 feet here and the endurance just isn’t there… Tomorrow on to Bolivia.
Today was a 10 hour bus ride that actually turned into a good day. We set off at 7:30 from Cusco. Our first stop was Andahuaylillas where we visited the Temple of San pedro an san Pablo – it is called the Sistine Chapel of America and was built in 1580. The entire building is full of murals and paintings – not one inch of space is uncovered. Our next rest stop was at Raqchi – the Raqchi archeological complex is an outstanding Inca and pre-inca site that is being restored.
The highest point of the trip was La Raya (4000 + m). The desolate landscape supported a surprising amount of human and animal life.
Our journey ended with a stunning approach to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicacca . Tomorrow we head out onto the Lake to visit the floating islands.