20 Feb 2017
Lucky for me, the weather didn’t permit our ship to stop at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Instead, the captain decided to make an unscheduled stop at Puerto Madryn, Argentina where Southern Right Whales, the world's largest mammal, migrate to breed from May to December. So what’s a girl to do in February?
My Barry found a company, Patagonian Divers, that would pick me up and drive me about an hour to Península Valdés, a Patagonian nature reserve that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. A cruise friend joined me for the adventure.
Driving inside the protected area, I saw magnificent indigenous species such as the rhea (a relative of the African ostrich) and the guanaco (related to the llama).
And that was just to whet my appetite on the WAY to the main adventure which was SNORKELING with sea lions!!!! We arrived at their shop, suited up and headed to the boat. After twenty minutes of sailing, we dove into the water in search of our marine friends. Then the magic began!
Being that close with nature is heaven on earth to me. The sea lions swam around me as I tried to follow closely. Pure bliss.
If that weren’t enough, sailing back, we happened upon some young Magellanic penguins. I will remember this magical day forever.
18 Feb 2017
Ushuaia is the southernmost city of the world; nickname bottom of the world. Just being here is pretty interesting. There is much to do here and a trip around Beagle Channel is one of the best.
The world famouse Les Esclaires Lighthouse is featured on many postcards and travel brochures about these parts.
We saw no beagles. It is named after HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin’s boat used for his research here almost 200 years ago. There were certainly plenty of penguins and sea lions though.
I took my one selfie of the year from our balcony wearing my once a year sweater which is almost always too warm.
15 Feb 2017
It was just 1964 when nautical directions changed to "port” and “starboard” from “left” and ”right”.
That is when the Santa Leonara, on her maiden voyage, was wrecked.
The pilot and the captain were speaking and the captain signed off saying “Alright pilot.”
The helmsman thought that was an order and applied full right (starboard) rudder. Oops.
No lives were lost. The passengers were rescued the next day.
Since then all directions on the ship are given as ‘starboard’ (right) and ‘port’ (left).
12 Feb 2017
Always looking for a thrill, Allyn dragged me to The Petrohue River for a white water rafting trip.
I must admit the scenery was terrific and the experience certainly exhilarating. After 10 kilometers and many class 3 rapids, I was thoroughly drenched, but happy I went along.
05 Feb 2017
Machu Picchu sits high on the bucket list of most serious world travelers. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2007 was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll. Well, it is one of the world’s most important archeological sites.
The Incas had no written language, but it seems that it was built as a ceremonial site, or a retreat for ruling elites and scholars.
It was built in the mid 1400s and abandoned just about 100 years later. Some speculate the inhabitants died of smallpox thanks to that gift from the Spanish who were conquering the area although they were not at Machu Picchu.
Landscape and engineering skills are quite apparent here. The stones are put together with no mortar yet a knife blade cannot penetrate the space between rocks.
Machu Picchu only housed 700 – 1200 people depending on assumptions of room occupancy. They had no iron, steel or wheels making it quite an accomplishment.
Yale professor Hiram Bingham was the first Westerner to lay eyes on Machu Picchu, yet that was just in 1911.
Peru’s Spanish conquerors never did discover it, which most certainly helped its preservation.
It’s a chore just getting there. However, even that part was filled with amazing scenery along the way. The 8,000-foot altitude alone is enough to debilitate many visitors. Even though Cuzco is the accepted and closest departure point, we had to leave the hotel at 6 AM to take a bus to a train to a bus to get us there at lunch time.
Coming home we finished the tour at 5 to arrive back at the hotel at 10. To add a bit of excitement a giant bolder decided to fall down and block the road for about 45 minutes.
75,000 hikers a year go on the official historical 26-mile Inca trail to get there. Just walking around the site is amazing enough for me. It is quite strenuous. That doesn’t even address the vertigo that comes with the territory. Allyn would like to go back and do the hike. You can assume I won’t be joining her for that.