Retired, Gardeners, Golfers, Skiers, Travellers, enjoying the good life in Collingwood, Ontario
  • Dec22

    Collingwood

    December 22, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 4 °C

    After the three hour flight to Toronto, we used a wheelchair all the way through the baggage pick up area and Customs and right to our car that David, thankfully, had driven down from Collingwood to pick us up. He then drove us back to his house in Collingwood, jumped out, and we continued on our own back to our house.

    When we walked into the house, we had a great surprise; David, Kate, Lilah and Callie had decorated the house with our Christmas decorations, including our tree. How they found all the decorations is a mystery but a real feat. We were so thankful.

    It was a wonderful way to come home and to end our trip.

    The next day, on December 23rd, Lee got another most welcomed Christmas surprise. She was advised that the surgery for her hip replacement was scheduled for January 9th!
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  • Dec21

    Santiago, Chile

    December 21, 2019 in Chile ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Valparaiso . Santiago. Toronto

    Today is debarkation day and essentially, everyone gets off the ship at the same time but peoples’ flights to go home leave at various times even late into the night. like ours. We had arranged a tour in the morning and paid a bit extra to be able to stay at a hotel until our flight leaves at 8:15pm.

    We left the ship around 9:15 in Valparaiso and started our hour long bus drive to
    Santiago. The countryside looked a bit like desert at the beginning but, as we drove north, it became greener and we saw lots of irrigated vineyards with the mountains surrounding the valleys, very pretty.

    A brief history of Chile: Nomadic hunters and gatherers wandered here as early as 10,000 BC. In 800 BC Mapuche settlers began to populate the area. During the Inca period this area became a major hub on the 2500 km. north/south road network. In 1541 Pedro de Valdiva founded the city of Santiago. Although the Mapuche people tried to oust him, the Spanish remained, and Santiago began to grow. Santiago declared Chile’s independence from Spain in 1810. There were many dictator/Presidents, and dark years of executions especially under Augusto Pinochet until 1990. Democratic government was restored under Patricio Aylwyn. However, the gap between rich and poor widened and riots continued through the 1990’s. There were five presidents of Chile during the transition to democracy (1990–2017).

    On 17 December 2017, Sebastián Piñera was elected president of Chile for a second term. In October 2019 there were violent protests about costs of living and inequality, resulting in Piñera declaring a state of emergency. Apparently, there was no money in the budget for things that matter to the citizens. -Trams have been stopped due to no funding. Workers were fired at the end of the day and rehired the next day to avoid having to pay benefits. As a result, the core of the city was a hotbed of turmoil with hundreds of protesters in the streets. The worst time for protests was from 6pm and on into the night. Box stores like Walmart, banks and major businesses were the targets for the protests. Graffiti was rampant with messages of discontent, blackening and defacing beautiful buildings everywhere in the central core of the city. Income gaps are part of the reason for the protest. as well as the sense that the government claimed to be right, and the people were not, all added fuel to the fire. We heard all about the riots as we travelled around South America and wondered if we would be able to see anything of Valparaiso and Santiago once we got there.

    On the 15th of November 2019, most of the political parties represented in the National Congress signed an agreement to call a national referendum April 2020 regarding the creation of a new Constitution. This brought calm to the country and only time will tell what happens next. As of the writing of this book (in March 2020), the date has now been moved to October 25, 2020 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

    Our entry to the downtown centre showed lots of people out walking and going about their business in a normal way. They did not seem to be concerned about the riots that had ravaged the city for 2 months. There were over 200 large murals defaced with black spray and they even sprayed marks on private houses to tell others how good the house is to rob. We learned that there is a major drug problem in Santiago, also they used to have 8 hospitals but now only have one.

    The city is routinely subjected to earthquakes and there is little to no money for damage repairs. They are worried, but resigned, about the certainty a major earthquake will come in the future, the last of which was in 1906. In the meantime, they often have minor quakes on an average of every 7 years. Of course, earthquakes often cause Tsunamis, but they haven’t had one since 2017. Not a lot of comfort there! It was such a beautiful city and so disappointing to see the downtown area badly covered in graffiti and subject to riots and demonstrations.

    When our bus got close to the City Centre in Santiago, our guide, worried about our security, he said that we could stay on the bus to take pictures or perhaps take a cautious walk around the square. Don was probably the first to say, we are walking. It was weird to walk around a beautiful square with lots of lovely looking people and constantly trying to be aware of our environment from a safety point of view, due to pickpockets. At one point, when we were about to cross the street, there were 3 men dressed rather shabbily in black, with headbands, close to our group. There were also two rather scruffy dogs near us and as soon as we all started walking, the dogs went nuts, running over to the 3 men, barking incessantly and trying to chase them away. They succeeded. I asked our guide if the city had trained them to try to protect the tourist, he said no, they just do it on their own. Whatever, it was sure amazing.

    Surrounding the plaza there are several old buildings, Correos Chile (central Post Office), Royal Court Palace, built in 1804 for the Home of the Courts of Justice, now the Chilean History Museum. We also saw the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral built in 1753, a stone monument created to honour the Indigenous People. Also, a statue of a man on a horse to honour Don Pedro Valdivia the founder of Santiago. We boarded our bus and continued to tour the downtown area. We passed the Academia Diplomatica, the Chilean Embassy. We drove out alongside the Mapocho River that flows from the Andes and divides Santiago in two. We saw miles of artwork painted on the walls along the river and also a lot of graffiti. Lots of modern high rises along the river both apartments and office buildings.

    We drove up into one of the many hills and saw a lovely residential area overlooking the city.

    We then drove to a Chilean Traditional and Contemporary Crafts Center with 140 workshops representing all regions of Chile with their fabrics, stones, lapis lazuli (Chile’s national stone), wood, natural products, copper Mapuche art, Chiloe art, (very vibrant colours) on wood and clay pottery, also wickerwork, jewelry, antiques, wooden toys, weaving and more. It was a great center with good quality crafts, Lee bought a necklace and earrings of Lapis Lazuli (the Chilean sapphire blue stone), and an Alpaca woven shawl.

    After our tour, we had a very pleasant lunch at the hotel and then Lee wanted to go for a walk to a nearby shopping plaza. Well it turned out not to be that close and it was very hot. Once we found it, we browsed around for a while and then found a shady spot to rest. Well, Lee rested, and Don fell asleep!

    We returned to the hotel and waited until it was our turn to board the bus to the airport. After leaving the customs area we started walking to our gate which was a really long way. I noticed that Lee was lagging behind. I didn’t realize that, because of her hip, she was really in a lot of pain. It only became obvious to me when she stopped a customer service gentleman who was returning from the boarding gate with an empty wheelchair and asked him for help. He took her right to the gate area where I took over and wheeled her right to the door to the plane. She loaded herself up with pills and somehow survived the flight (8 hours) to our stopover in Houston. Lee slept for much of the time in Houston in another wheelchair. We were able to upgrade to the last two business class seats to Toronto, in the hope that Lee would be more comfortable. Because of all the pills she promptly fell asleep until we arrived in Toronto.
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  • Dec20

    Valparaiso, Chile

    December 20, 2019 in Chile ⋅ ⛅ -3 °C

    Tours of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar

    We set the alarm for 6:00am and the ship landed at the dock at about 7.30am. We had time for a leisurely breakfast overlooking the sunbathed city of Valparaiso. It looked like we were going to be blessed with fantastic weather. There were large buses waiting for us at the bottom of the gang plank which took us to the cruise terminal where we got off and back onto the correct bus for the tour that we had selected for the day.

    Some general information about Valparaiso

    -The population of Valparaiso is 400,000. Valparaiso is a very busy commercial port and we were docked right in the middle of it so there was a lot of activity to watch from the ship.
    -There are ski areas in the Valparaíso Region, with an estimated 20 kilometres of slopes, served by 14 ski lifts. The highest ski mountain is Portillo at 3310m
    -The hills of Valparaíso (Cerros Valparaíso) are the predominant geographical features of the city. There are 42 separate hills, and, in most cases, the name of the community is tied to the name of the specific hill.
    -There are Tsunami warning signs all along the coast.
    -The language spoken is Castilian. They drop letters at the end of words and speak very rapidly.

    We took a funicular, (El Peral) to the highest lookout point to overlook the city. The funicular was originally built in 1902 but upgraded (thankfully) several times since then. There used to be 10 funiculars, but they have been rendered unusable because of earthquakes, and no funding to restore them. From there, it was an easy walk to the 2000sq meter Palacio Baburizza built around 1916 by one of the most important families of Valparaiso, the Ottorino Zanelli family who came from Italy. He built it for his wife Margarita, with whom he had 7 children, but they lived in it for only one year before he died. After Ottorino died, she sold the building to Pascual Baburizza in 1925 and went to Italy with her family.

    Pascual Baburizza made his fortune as an investor in the saltpetre trade in Chile. He devoted his fortune largely to philanthropic works. He never formed a family, so he did not have direct descendants. It is said that Baburizza felt lonely in Chile, which was his second home, so he returned to his native country Croatia. Since he was a huge admirer and collector of art, he willed his entire art collection to the city of Valparaíso. The government acquired the Palacio Baburizza in 1971 and turned it into the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts of Valparaíso. We toured the huge house with its many rooms displaying an incredible number of fine paintings. After descending on the funicular, we took a trolley car to Villa Victoria, a 19th century mansion, home to one of the wealthiest women of the city, Dona Blanca Vergarad. It was not a great tour and far too long. We had to finally leave in the midst of it as we had to be ready for our afternoon tour. We returned the ship for a hasty lunch.

    For our next tour, we headed out towards Viña del Mar and saw the university along the way. Vina del Mar is a region within Valparaiso known as the Garden City, its most famous sight being an enormous working clock, the Reloj de Flores (Flower Clock) made of flowers that bloom throughout the year. It is set on a sloping lawn at the foot of Cerro Castillo and is a masterpiece of landscape gardening making use of an abundance of colorful flowers. This botanical landmark is an actual working clock and was inaugurated in 1962 as part of the FIFA World Cup, for which Viña del Mar was one of the host cities. The hour hand is 10 feet long, and guess what? Vandals stole the hands of the clock and it will cost $35,000 to replace them. Not going to happen anytime soon!

    Our tour concluded with a drive by of a stunning 1930 casino (didn’t go in) and then stopped at the Fonck Museum which had exhibits from Chile and Easter Island.
    We returned to the ship for a multimedia show at the pool deck on the big screen, depicting the musical culture and dances of Chile.

    Dinner that night was at The Chef’s Table for a French themed 5-course dinner with wine parings. The menu was called Anthony’s Bistro.
    After dinner we started the sad necessity of packing up our suitcases for the next day’s debarkation.
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  • Dec20

    Enroute Puerto Montt to Valparaiso

    December 20, 2019, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Puerto Montt. Day at sea. Cruise the Pacific. 14 degrees C.

    Today we will be sailing through the last of the Fjords out to the South Pacific Ocean towards Valparaiso. Our Viking Daily brochure outlined some of the early statistics of Viking explorers. While other Viking explorers in the eighth and 11th century discovered Iceland, it fell to Leif Erickson the son of Eric the Red, with a crew of 35 in a 42-foot boat to discover L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland in the year 992. Hard to imagine!

    The lecture this morning by Dr. Mark Callaghan, was on the Age of the Inca, the people, cultures and beliefs.
    Some of the points made during this lecture were as follows:
    -The Incas, a South American Indian people, were originally a small tribe in the southern highlands of Peru near Cusco, around the 12th century.
    -In the 1400’s an Inca ruler, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui led a campaign which conquered the Chimú and in less than a century he and then his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui built one of the largest, most tightly controlled empires the world has ever known. The capital was in Cusco.
    - Tawantinsuyu, (Quechua for 4 parts) was the name of the state they governed that spread North, South, East and West over parts of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina that by the 1460s, was all part of a single Inca state.
    -The Inca reign covered only a brief 100-year span between 1438 and 1533
    -Their skill in government was matched by their feats of engineering.
    - around Cusco it is said that the Inca Empire constructed 25,000 miles of roads and switchbacks in only 100 years.
    - there are 348 known sites of Inca origin with religious significance all around the area of Cusco.
    -The area under the Inca influence stretched 2500 miles north to south and encompassed geographic levels from sea level to 22,800 feet.
    -as the Incas took over increasing areas, the new people under their empire were not subjugated. They could remain living with their own cultures and traditions but men between the ages of 15 and 50 years old were compelled to do farm work and other duties.
    - At the height of their rule only 60,000 Inca people controlled 12 million people.

    It is amazing to think that their successes and accomplishments were executed without a language or even an alphabet and the largest animal they had for physical labour was the Llama.
    -For communication they had a system called Quipu (also spelled khipu), or talking knots. Recording devices fashioned from strings historically used by a number of cultures in the region of the Andean South America. Knotted strings consisted of cotton or camelid fiber strings. The Inca people used them for collecting data and keeping records, monitoring tax obligations, properly collecting census records, calendrical information, and for military organization. The cords stored numeric and other values encoded as knots, often in a base ten positional system. A quipu could have as few as 10 or thousands of cords. The configuration of the quipus has been "compared to string mops. Archaeological evidence has also shown the use of finely carved wood as a supplemental, and perhaps a sturdier base to which the color-coded cords would be attached. A relatively small number have survived.
    Objects that can be identified unambiguously as quipus first appear in the archaeological record in the first millennium AD. They subsequently played a key part in the administration of the Kingdom of Cusco and later Tawantinsuyu, the empire controlled by the Inca ethnic group who flourished across the Andes from c. 1100 to 1532 AD.
    As the region was taken over under the invading Spanish Empire, the quipu faded from use, to be replaced by European writing and numeral systems. However, in several villages, quipu continued to be important items for the local community, albeit for ritual rather than practical use. It is unclear as to where and how many intact quipus still exist, as many have been stored away in mausoleums.

    We had a relaxing lunch by the pool and made some progress on our blog.
    At 4:30 we attended our last Planetarium presentation and the subject was exploring deep space using the most modern telescopes on earth. The most current one is called the ALMA on a site, some 50 km east of San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile, it is in one of the driest places on Earth. There is now a future one called the James Watt being built that will enable even more distant explorations almost to the end of the universe. This will be a similar format to Hubble and will be launched by NASA when it is ready.

    After dinner we went to the Star Lounge for a performance by the Viking Vocalists, a musical journey through the decades of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
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  • Dec18

    Puerto Montt, Chile

    December 18, 2019 in Chile ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    Puerto Montt, located, in the Lake District on the western coast of southern Chile is considered to be the capital of northern Patagonia province at least economically if not politically. The city was founded in 1853 after the government sponsored immigration brought Germans here to populate and develop this remote region.

    We had hoped against hope last night for good weather today, but it was not a happy looking day at 7:30 am as the ship backed into its birth. Overcast and heavy rain as we made our way from the ship to the bus for our tour to Emerald Lake for a catamaran sightseeing cruise. On the way, we drove by Chile’s second largest lake, Lake Llanquihue, which the literature says, "is watched over by the snow-capped volcanos Osorno and Calbuco, creating one of Patagonia‘s most picturesque vistas". Because of the rain and fog we could see virtually nothing and got soaked getting on the boat. With about 150 people on board, we circled the lake for about a half an hour, saw little and got soaked again getting off the boat. Our next stop was at Petrohue Falls. On the 250 yard walk out, we got even more soaked. While the falls were not very high, they were certainly very powerful and picturesque as they carved their way through the volcanic rock.

    Our next stop was at the village of Puerto Varas where we had quite a delightful lunch. On entering we were served Chile’s famous national drink the Pisco Sour. It was much sourer than the rendition we had in Peru. That was followed by wine and a fantastic lunch of poached salmon followed by a dessert of Kuchen which is a German cake but looks more like a pie. By the time we had finished lunch, it had stopped raining and was looking like it might clear up. We had some time to explore this pretty town and browse around some of the many craft and souvenir shops. Puerto Varas is known as the city of roses which Lee’s pictures will confirm. After a half hour drive, we got back to the ship.

    Along the way we learned the following
    -The area has an abundance of eucalyptus trees which they ship to Japan for making paper.
    -The Panamanian highway which runs through this region is 17,000 km long and runs from Alaska to Chiloway Island in south Chile.
    -75% of the country’s milk production comes from this region. The most common cows are Jersey and Holstein.
    -This area, also known as region number 10, produces large amounts of berries. Blackberries, strawberries and black currents which are shipped to the United States and South Africa.
    -Chile produces 220 different types of potatoes.
    -Chile is the world’s second largest salmon farm producer next to Norway.
    -Sheep farmers use Llamas to protect the sheep. The Llamas can whistle and thereby warn the sheep of predators.
    -The reason that this area was so populated by Germans is that Chile needed more workers to do farming and at the same time Germans needed more work because the industrialization put them out of farming jobs in Germany. Some of the areas south of where we were had a large Croatian population for the same reason.

    As we walked along the pier to the ship, we could hear loud and lively music. Almost all of the ship's crew were on the pier singing and dancing to greet us on our return. They also served us another pisco sour. The weather changed so unbelievably better in such a short period of time that we continued on to our room and sat out on the veranda in 26c temperature and watched the entertainment until the ship cleared port.

    We had reservations at the Chef’s Table at 8:00pm. It was possibly one of the best meals we’ve had on board. The Chef‘s Table is a set menu but changes every three days, so you have no decisions to make except whether you want to go or not. It is essentially a three-course meal with two palate cleansers in between. The first one was a cold Amuse Bouche and the second course was a chili soft shell crab that was different but extremely delicious. The next refresher was called Red Lotus consisting of lychee, guava, cranberry juice and lychee liquor. The main course was Thai spiced, rack of lamb. The lamb was cooked to perfection and outrageously delicious. Near the end of our dinner since we were on the first deck level and beside the window, we could see that the waves were getting to be pretty significant and the ship was starting to rock ‘n’ roll a bit. We were afraid that might make for a bumpy evening but when we went up to our cabin it didn’t seem as rough.

    Back down for the entertainment at 9:15 which was by a mezzo soprano who sang many upbeat songs as well as some opera. We were a bit late in arriving, so Lee got one of the last seats available and I ended up sitting on one of the steps in the aisle. On the way back to the cabin Lee wanted some hot water so we stopped at the main piano bar in the lobby and enjoyed some quiet time and a drink.
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  • Dec17

    Puerto Aguirre, Chile. Cruise Fjords

    December 17, 2019 in Chile ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    Scenic Cruising in the Chilean Fjords.

    Second day in a row of cruising at sea. Off to a bit of a late start (getting into a bad habit) so grabbed some muffins and a banana and headed for our 9:30 lecture by Dr. Richard Bates, on the oceans and the effect they have on climate. Well let’s just say that it’s very complicated. He outlined the global wind directions and the effect that they had on climates all around the world. Another factor is ocean currents, and the effect that they have, as well as circulation of sea water from the bottom to the top, and how that changed ocean temperatures which led to changes in the direction of the trade winds. Cold water at the bottom of the ocean can take upwards of 1000 years to rise to the surface and begin to effect changes. He also pointed out that 50 million years ago North and South America began to separate from the Pangea, which led to changes in ocean levels and ocean currents and thus enormous climate change.
    And on a larger scale, about ten million years ago, due to tectonic plate movement, Antarctica began separating from South America and 5 million years ago Central America began to form.
    All of these changes affect global temperatures which can cause melting of glaciers. 10 % of the earth’s surface is covered by glaciers and 85% of that is in Antarctica. Glaciers store 75% of the earth's fresh water which, when they melt, changes the salinity of the oceans which change currents which change climates etc., etc. It gives me a headache!
    -Oh, and did I mention that the subduction of one plate under another plate creates heat which changes land and ocean temperatures and causes the creation of mountains which on their own, cause changes in local, if not continental climates. My headache is getting worse. Thank goodness he was such a good lecturer.

    Last night was a bit bumpy and we are now sailing outside the fjord area but should soon be cutting back into the fiords which will result in calmer seas. It is a rather miserable day today. The temperature is about 12°C, waves approximately 12 to 15 feet high, pouring rain and visibility of only several hundred yards because of the rain and the fog. What a shame as this is supposed to be the most awesome part of the cruise for scenery.

    In the early afternoon, we realized that we would probably come close to Gary and Karina on their sailboat. They were supposed to be sailing southward past us as we were sailing northward to where they had just left. After many e-mails and text messages back and forth, we were finally able to contact them by cell phone using WhatsApp and had a really fun 15 to 20-minute conversation with them. As it turns out they were docked in Puerto Aguirre and our ship was passing within five nautical miles of them. Had the weather and other conditions been more appropriate Gary said that he would have sailed out to see the ship. It was great to know that they were safe and sound, they narrowly avoided yet another, in their seemingly endless, disasters. As they docked at their berth in high winds the throttle cable broke. All is well notwithstanding cold and rainy conditions. They are hunkered down with winds of about 30k and sideways rain but are happy and feeling upbeat. Really? Apparently, by Gary’s description, Karina has everything she owns on. He said the door/hatch is still open but said if it gets cold, they can shut the door and he might even turn on the heat!!
    They are hoping to receive the necessary parts to fix the throttle cable shortly.

    The chef and 40 people in his department have been working for over a month to make a large gingerbread village which is now on display in the main social area, the Atruim, on deck one.

    We sent the following e-mail to Lilah and Callie.
    Hi girls,
    The chef and 40 helpers made these gingerbread houses and put them out two days ago. The windows are even made from clear candy.
    Also, when you walk to school the next time think about the length of our ship. It is almost as far as from Birch street to Cedar street. Almost two blocks!
    Lots of love
    Grampa

    One of the options for dining tonight was a special fish and chips dinner on the patio deck which turned out to be pretty good. After that we went to the show, but Don was tired and left early. Tomorrow, we are supposed to go on a 7-hour tour when we land at Puerto Montt, including a catamaran tour around Lake Emerald. Hope it clears up.
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