A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: gaddingabout

Cruising the Chilean Fjords - Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Late breakfast this morning and we will be maneouvring the ship through the Kirke Passage when the tides are right.  It was supposed to be at 9am but the Captain just announced that it will be an hour or more before he can do this.

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Navigated the Kirke Passage successfully and then it was time for lunch.  Rikus and Jane joined us in our cabin for a long lunch.  It was nice to chat about old times in Africa with Rikus and get to know a bit more about Jane.

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Time for an afternoon snooze and then at 6.00pm we went into the theatre to hear Francesco Matus play the guitar and pan flute.  It was lovely.  Lesley and Peter asked us if we would like to have dinner with them and Francesco, which we did.  Pete and Deb also joined us.

We finished dinner quite late and have to get up early in the morning for our zodiac excursion to the Pie XI Glacier.

This ship now has predomintantly French speaking passengers as opposed to all English speaking in Antarctica.  Consequently, all announcements are made in French and English.  But we have noticed that the French are very quiet when their announcement is being made and talk when the English announcements are being made.  Very rude but typical!

Posted by gaddingabout 21:29 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Quito, Ecuador - Thursday, 19 March 2015

Visit to the centre of Quito

overcast 18 °C

The weather looked a bit brighter this morning when we woke. There is still a lot of mist and fog covering the mountain but at least the road is dry, which is encouraging. So after breakfast we hopped in a taxi and headed for the main square of Quito. Our taxi driver's name is Gregory.

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(For some reason I am unable to upload any pictures into my blog which is causing me great concern. I was going to finish the Chilean Fjords blogs today, but now this obstacle.)

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On the way down town, we spied a huge statue of an angel up on a hill, so asked the driver to take us up there first. He did and on the way we drove through some amazingly narrow, windy streets, up very steep hills. The view over the city from up there was great and because it was reasonably fine, we could see a lot of the houses built on the side of the mountains. Quito is a very hilly/mountainous city.

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We were dropped off in the city centre and there is obviously something going on. There are groups of police on every corner - thousands of them - with batons, shields, dogs and mounted. A girl came out of a museum and told us they were closing the museum at 12 noon, because there is going to be a demonstration against the Government for higher wages. The demo should start at about 4pm, so it would be wise for us to get out of the city by 2pm or else we may not find a taxi. Even though there are a lot of demonstrators around, we feel pretty safe because there are police every few metres.

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Phil found a barber and proceeded to have a hair cut, followed by a shave. Turns out the place he chose is quite famous. The barber took about 45mins and gave Phil a great haircut. While all this was happening, I was standing in the doorway taking photos of the main square. At one stage, I couldn't get out the door because 20 of the police dog squad were lined up out the front. We'll have to watch the local TV news tonight to see what happened.

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This is how you spell Button in Spanish.

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I'm not sure how these spikes are supposed to protect the window or the display!

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Pinyata (not sure how to spell that) shops everywhere.

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We wandered a few blocks away from the main square and came to the San Francisco Square where there is a lovely church, purportedly built over an Inca temple in 1535. There was a nice little restaurant there so we sat outside and had a nice relaxing lunch. I had nacchos and a chocolate milkshake and Phil had Shrimp Encocoda De Cameron. We enjoyed our meal. The weather is cooling down and looks like rain.

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We walked a few more blocks, police on every corner and hailed a taxi and came back to the hotel. We went for a short walk to the supermarket and on the way stopped into a small market. I looked at some Alpaca scarves but they were a bit scratchy. Still deciding whether to buy them here or in Peru. Back at the hotel I learnt that there are different quality Alpaca scarves so maybe the more expensive ones will be a lot softer.

Spent the night in our room relaxing as our next and final tour starts tomorrow and from the look of the itinerary, it is going to be full on.

Posted by gaddingabout 08:43 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Santiago, Chile - Saturday, 14 March 2015

Travel through the picturesque wine valley of Casablanca and enjoy lunch in a boutique winery, sampling some delicious Chilean wine.

Strolled down to breakfast at 8.30 am and found half of our group there but a lot of the food was depleted.

We have coffee and tea making facilities in our room but no cups and no milk.  Trying to make the restaurant staff understand this requirement, was hilarious!  I ended up with two polystyrene cups full of warm milk!  Well at least I have some cups and milk.

Had an easy couple of hours in our room doing some washing in the spa bath before we go on our winery tour.  I am taking a motion sickness pill today as that bus made me sick yesterday.

It took about an hour to get to Casablanca winery and we arrived and went straight into lunch. It was a very lovely setting and we all enjoyed our lunch very much.

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For the first time in my life I had Cheveche fish which is basically raw fish which you pour lime juice over and it is supposed to "cook" it. It was a bit like eating raw fish and if you could get that our of your mind it was okay.

Phil and I both had slow cooked beef for main course. It was very tender but such a huge piece of meat. Too much for me!

Dessert was lovely - caramel and hazelnut tart with chocolate ice cream. Yum. Yum. Yum.

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After lunch we had a guided tour of the winery and then a tasting. Chile's white wines are a bit strong for me but everyone really liked the reds. It was an organic winery and seemed to be very profitable.

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We are very impressed with Chile. The country and the economy seem to be in a good place. Children start school at 4 years of age, until 12. There are private and public schools. The public schools are free and the hours are 8am to 4.30pm. The State pays for the public school uniforms, all the books that are needed, plus they provide breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack for the children. How wonderful.

Back to the hotel by about 6.30 pm and Rikus started handing out boarding passes as our tour has now ended and people will be leaving tomorrow. Some are leaving at 10.30 am and another group at 8.00 pm.

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Chile is so funny. It is due to come off summer time about now but the government can't decide when they'll do it so poor Rikus has to be careful that he gets everyone to the airport on time, regardless of the changes in time or not - whenever it happens. The joys of being a tour guide!

Posted by gaddingabout 07:59 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Santiago, Chile - Friday, 13 March 2015

Walking tour of Barrio Lastarria district and morning tea Chilean style.

Woke up early as we were starting our city tour at 9.30 am.  Our guide Jose conducted our tour of Santiago city.  He is very knowledgeable and is very easy to understand.

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We drove around the city in the bus and after a while I started to feel quite car sick so put my wrist bands on, but it was probably a bit too late.  It is a very nice city with wide streets and is very clean.  No dogs wandering around like in Valpariso.  In fact, Jose said that all the dogs have been desexed, and a lot of them have been taken away and rabies has been cleared up.

A lot of the old facades of the buildings must be kept and people are allowed to build a modern house behind these old buildings.

We went to the main square and saw where the President works.  It was very interesting to hear about President Allendi and Pinochet with a local just putting forth the facts and not his own opinion.  We all thought Pinochet was a dictator but Jose explained that under his rule, the yearly basic wage rose from $2,400 to $23,000.  There were about 16,000 people captured, tortured and murdered or still missing, but Jose said they were from socialist, communist or other terrorist groups.  I must say that Chile seems to be in pretty good shape and the population is not obese at all.

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We called into a lovely little restaurant called La Fournil for morning tea and had coffee and a choc chip muffin.  It was yummy.

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Then into the Central Market for a quick walk through as we were running out of time.  I would have liked to spend more time in there as it was quite fascinating.

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Then up to the top of city hill for a panoramic view of the city.

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We returned to the hotel at about 3.00 pm and Phil and I walked up to the Mall to try to get his glasses fixed.  The arm has fallen off.  No luck there but they have given him the address of a place that may be able to help him.  We'll go there tomorrow.

We had a quick snack at the Mall and then back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dressing for our Farewell Dinner in the hotel's dining room.

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I could hardly eat my meal as I am so full.  I just keep eating and eating.  Alex and Shirley came up to see our room after dinner.  We all laughed at how big it is.  It is obscene!

Then Jane arrived with some body lotion for me.  I didn't think I had any and then we found some in the drawer.  Chatted to her for a while and got to bed quite late, but we can have a sleep in tomorrow as we don't leave for ouf winery tour until 11.45 am.

Posted by gaddingabout 07:44 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Valparaiso to Santiago, Chile - Thursday, 12 March 2015

Up at 6.00 am for breakfast.  Bags out at 6.30 am.  Tess and Baptiste came in at about 8.00 am and we had photos taken with them and gave them their gifts.

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It was very, very sad saying goodbye to Baptiste.  We had a bit of a cry.  He came down to deck 3 with us and said goodbye to the others in our group who had enjoyed his "butlering" and then he carried our bags out to the bus for us.  The Captain, Sarah and Jessica were standing on the gangway and kissed us goodbye.  The Captain gave me a big cuddle and I told him how wonderful Baptiste was to us.  We will also be writing to Ponant to tell them how good he is.

The shuttle bus drove us to the departure terminal where we had to identify our check in luggage and then put the carry on stuff through the xray machine.  I was pulled up and had to open up my carry on.  The offending item was a bag of things I have been carrying to give to the children in the village that we visit in Peru.  There were a couple of packets of hard, bouncing balls in there and they must have looked a bit suspect in the xray.  All good, boarded the bus and we then proceeded on a tour of Valpariso.

We drove up into the hills to see all the houses that seem to be clinging to the hillside.  Apparently, the residents aren't worried about earthquakes, but more about heavy rain and the landslides that it causes.  The houses don't seem to have very good foundations.

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They have some pretty good graffiti.

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Before we left Valpariso, we stopped at an original Easter Island statue.  Wow!  I would love to visit Easter Island and it was great to see this statue.

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This poor guy was trying to sell some beads and bangles but no one was interested so Phil thought he would help him. He did get a few sales!

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Then off we went for the two hour bus ride to Santaigo, with Fangio the bus driver.  We went over mountains, through tunnels, through valleys, over mountains again, more tunnels and finally we arrived at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Santiago.  I had my seat belt on because he was a lead foot driver.  We were passing everything on the highway! The Grand Hyatt, Santiago.

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Before we checked into the hotel, we were dropped off at a huge mall, within walking distance of the hotel, for lunch.  It had a really nice atmosphere.  There was music playing, it was warm, so we chose a restaurant outside and had a plate of Empanadas for lunch.  Each table at the restaurant had a clip dangling under the table to hang your bag from.  I thought it was to stop bag snatching, but one of our group said that in South America, putting your bag on the ground is frowned upon.

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After lunch we hopped back on the bus and drove around the corner to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt.  For those of you who have seen the Hyatt in Shanghai you will know what I mean when I describe this one.  It is round and hollow like a bee hive and the rooms are all around the edge, with a fabulous sky light on the top.  It is really a very stunning design.

Our room is 1905 which is on the top floor.  Our room is called "Chopin" and has a double door.  Well, when we opened it, we were just blown away.  The room, or should I say rooms, are huge.  We have two toilets, an office with a desk, a kitchen, a dining room with a chandelier and a table with eight chairs, a lounge room, two TVs, a huge bedroom, a spa bath, a shower and a bathroom and a dressing room AND A STATUE!  It is just ridiculous.  Rikus came to the door (it takes ages to get to the door from the bedroom) and I complained that our room was too small!!  He just laughed.  I have never seen a room like this ever in my life.

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Phil then proceeded to phone the Samsung Service Centre in Santiago to see if they could repair his Tablet.  Just as the phone rang, Sebastian from the hotel came to the door and as he could speak English and Spanish, he spoke to the Samsung guy and got the address of the Service Centre.  Phil went in a taxi to try to get his Tablet repaired.  For the last three weeks, he can't turn it off and it just won't work.

Meanwhile, I waited for Security to come to the room because the safe is unable to be locked.  Everything happens in "South American time" which is not very prompt.  Finally the Security lady came and she couldn't reset the safe and phoned for an engineer to come.  I raced down to the lounge on the sixteenth floor to tell Rikus that we wouldn't be meeting him and Jan and Greg Allen for a drink because Phil was at Samsung and I was waiting for the engineer to come and fix the safe.

Phil got back from Samsung - no luck there so he joined the Allens and Rikus while I still waited for the engineer.  He finally came and had a lot of trouble fixing the safe but after taking the entire back off the door, he got it working.

I joined them all for drinks and when Rikus and the Allens left, Steve an American, started talking to us about Antarctica as he had overheard us talking about it.  He and his partner Steve, travel a lot and spend a lot of money staying in the best rooms at hotels and take the best cabins on cruise ships.  They are joining a Celebrity Cruise Ship in Valpariso on Monday, to sail to Miami.  Don and Kate from our group are doing that too.

They were really nice guys and very interesting to talk to so we stayed there until about 9pm.  We came back to our room and ate our chocolates.  Missed dinner altogether but that didn't matter, because we are just over-eating so much.

Had a spa bath and hopped into bed.  Lovely bed and pillows.

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The view of sunset from our room. We are in here for five days!

Posted by gaddingabout 20:52 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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