Sunday, May 29, 2011

For Low and Slow Texans everywhere

As a reward for wading through thousands of words of text, some pictures.

Fifi is from Texas!

The ONLY operational model of the plane that ended the Second World War.

to be cont'd

One of my favorite parts of looking down is seeing our shadow!

The Commanding Officer of the Cheap Seats in the open-air part of the ride.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

And So the Journey Ends--this time

Today I woke from a pleasant and interesting series of dreams to find a breathtaking sunrise in a very beautiful port which has captured my imagination from tothood. Found my shorts and hoody and went straight away to the restaurant for zwei kafe bitte and out onto the deck where I took a series of pix of the mountains surrounding the harbor with the lights still on, two other ships (freighters, Esmerelda and Peggy) and the pile of thousands of suitcases on the dock with a stream of worker ants toiling to arrange them somehow. The Chilean Navy has a fleet alongside a quay astern including a 4 masted sailing ship which I think I have seen in New England.

Actually, I woke around 0500 and heard the tv sound turn off around 0600 local time, which is now an hour ahead of my watch, not two or three. Back to the room for binocs and camera before returning to the deck for more photos, more coffee and a scan around the town.

Time 0715 Second foray around the dock confirms first impressions that Valparaiso is a beautiful and prosperous looking port. I love watching the containers being manhandled by the many types of specialized equipment to do this, and got pic of the church on the hill, more of the Chilean Navy and four master and remain fascinated by the number of worker bees that are attending to the luggage ashore. It is truly a monumental task they address.

As they were out of coffee at two locations in the Yacht Club, I returned to my stateroom and used room service for the final time. I wrote Hannah a note asking her to send me the time that the Crown will transit the miraflores locks so I can try to take a webshot thereof. Now to download a few more pix onto the puter to arrange later.

Time coming up on eight am. Turned in the adaptor for the computer plug and was wished a warm goodbye by the desk crew down there who wanted to know if I got the message about southernmost latitude reach…they hoped it was efficient. LOVE EM. I kissed my room stewardess goodbye and got her email addy and showed her the pic of my trophy;. I wrote and delivered a note to Hannah and said if she got me the time they went thru the Miraflores locks I’d try to send her a webcam shot thereof. Now I have pushed the room cabin temp down as I pack my shorts and don long underwear and long pants. I copied the entire series of pix from derfs camera onto my desktop which took several minutes, but I can now arrange them at my leisure, provided I find a plug that I can use. I’m thinkin’ that the Sheraton may have a wireless area as well which would be fun.

Time exactly 7am watch, 8 local. Chatting with my cabin stewardess some more – she has a three year old sister. And lives in Manila. I wandered out onto deck seven to stretch legs and kill time, and sure enough I got ‘caught out’ with the call for the dark blue tags to debark. As I had everything ready to go, it was no big deal, but I ran to the room and snatched up the leather bag with my coat folded into the handles thereof and the NCL knapsack with my puter and stuff therein. Had my passporto and immigration stuff and NCL card in my kangaroo pouch (recovered from the Scott tower in the not too distant past) and out the door of my room I went for the very last time. Did I mention that my stewardess looked up my birthday on the manifest and hers is three days later.

Down the gangway and onto the bus, settling into a seat comfortably without curtains in the way and an empty seat beside, and before too long, it took off. The bus stopped suddenly, and the argentinian from shore excursions and from the Sea boarded and extracted four senile citizens from the bus for a city tour. However, joke on the rest of us, as we ALL had to get off the bus and clear customs, which was a walk thru and then orders to board bus 7, which would not take me, and shunted me to bus 8, who took my last travel voucher and I boarded and waited and waited and waited.

On bus 8, I was reminded of Puerto Madryn when the old biddy in front of me pulled her curtains cuz of the sun. Interestingly enough, one of the people on the bus asked me whether I had my ‘trophy’ with me. The bus finally rolled at 0908 local time.

One of the passengers, a walking imitation of Dana Carvey’s church lady, loudly announced to the whole bus that she had had her pocket almost picked as she left the ship. She was quite certain and quite specific about the event, but it somehow seemed a bit far fetched to me, and I mentally had reservations. They were somewhat validated when a bit later when the bus had FINALLY started to roll, she loudly announced that she was NOT going to Santiago and must have been on the wrong bus, because she was supposed to fly out of Valparaiso. When it was pointed out to her that there was no airport in Valparaiso and that she had the same dark blue luggage tag as everyone else on board, she sat down and mercifully shut up for the balance of the trip..

…which was two hours or so, with a 20 minute rest stop along the way, surrounded by vineyards and a few llamas, one of which appeared to be 95% muerte. Leaving a very sleepy and shut down Sunday in Valparaiso, the bus climbed steadily and the vegetation changed.

We passed the lake which provides V with their drinking water, passed vineyards, occasional in shape long distance bike riders going up the hill, some shanties, and in the distance we were able to see the Andes with snow which fell on them yesterday for the first time this season, and awe inspiring they are too.. we were on a toll road for a good portion of the trip, and one old man decided to occupy the seat directly opposite me and figit for the remainder of the trip. As there were at least ten empty rows behind us, I could as easily have moved as not, but I didn’t. I got some nice shots which is tricky from a moving bus.

One of the passengers asked if we were on a toll road, and another asked if the lake we saw was lake Titicaca. Blush. Exports mainly copper and now sea food. Exports of chile growing rapidly. Saw a bit of logging. The Andes average 6000 meters in height..

My fellow passengers were largely Korean/Canadian and there was one couple that I had never noticed aboard the ship.

.After a ride of about two hours, we arrived at the Santiago Sheraton hotel, where we were met by two NCL reps (good to see them) who answered mine and everyone else’s questions. Yes, they had reconfirmed all of our flights. No, we would not need a voucher to get on the bus to the airport. Yes, we could check our hand luggage (I did). No, we would not meet our other suitcases until we arrived at the airport, and YES – they WOULD be there, as they had never lost a single one.

I was not interested in taking a bus to the shopping mall, so I wandered around the Sheraton and found I do have wi fi access, but need a code to continue. A tad frustrating. The voltage is 220 as well, so I can’t plug in. Laptop says I have three and a quarter hours remaining. Maybe I can recharge some in Miami.
As it is a full six hour wait until the shuttle takes us to the airport, the idea of riding the shuttle to the mall is gaining some luster.

Santiago is the 4th most polluted city following Mexico City, LA and Sao Paulo. It was pretty quiet and shut up on a Sunday morning. I saw but did not photo a few of the first McDonalds I’ve seen since Montevideo. [I have eaten at McD in Santiago previously]. We are closer currently to Honolulu than to home, bit of a surprise that. Santiago goes NOT siesta and they do not ‘bargain’ over prices. The guide seemed sad about both of these factoids. Saw a golf course and a tiny little airport with open hangers and maybe two tail draggers.

In the lobby of the Sheraton it is considerably warmer than I am dressed comfortably for, with long underwear, long pants, and two layers of cashmere. There are no drinking fountains to be found, but I have had a glass or two of water at various hospitality desks. No place here to refill my water bottles. All the people around me have gotten colds and are annoyingly coughing and sneezing all over one another.

Time now 1315. place is right back at the hospitality room at the Santiago Sheraton, where I am now alone with the coffee lady and the two luggage ladies. At almost the exact time that I finished transcribing the notes I made on the bus from Valparaiso to Santiago, the shuttle to the mall pulled up, and I was just shutting down the puter and so I ultimately climbed into the shotgun seat and we had about a twenty minute ride to the mall.

The driver did not speak English, and I had decided I had moved outside of my comfort zone and wanted to return directly to the hotel instead, and so he led us to a reception desk inside where there was a girl who spoke very good English indeed, but she was very busy taking reservations for the return ride, and soon it developed that the 3PM return shuttle was full and the one after that was at 1700, or an hour before we are supposed to go to the airport.
That was more than I wanted to do, and she readily agreed to my request to return directly to the hotel, which she told the driver and we did. I tipped him a buck and he seemed genuinely surprised and pleased, and so was I.

The ride over and back was nice enough with stunning views of the recently snowed upon Andes, bike riders on a Sunday and light traffic, but…I don’t like malls, didn’t feel like spending more money, was not sure there would be any place for me to sit down etc etc etc. so I was very pleased to be deposited back at the Sheraton where I wandered out to the swimming pool area and bought 1,600 cc of ice water with which I refilled both of the water bottles that I carry with me. It hit the spot.

Now I have deposited my knapsack, computer and water bottle in front of a huge screen tv with bbc world news on it, and am catching up on about a half months worth of news. The 85 year old pope is being discharged from the hospital as I write (1218 est).

Will amplify in a bit. Spent pleasant conversation with 86 yr old Brit with mind like steel trap, well traveled, great conversationalist. Walked around block four times and noted addit security which later was said to be govt official.. and went to pool area and wisely spend five bucks for lots of cold water. Spent most of the time chatting with the old brig who now lives in BC, and the time passed pleasantly enough.

Bus to airport, easiest luggage reclaim in my life – on carts alphabetized. So I had a white almost English speaking young guy as a porter, and he pushed the cart over to the AA line, which the old guy got on by mistake, but then wandered off to Delta. Checkin was a breeze and I got boarding passes for both flights. Met convivial ladies from Boston who had been on cruise – would have been nice company one thinks. She asked me if I were the talent show winner . She was miserable in the rough weather, hates flying and in general was polar opposite of me.

I boarded in the crush and settled into a window seat in row 34 starboard, and the seat beside me was filled with a nervous younger chunky Spanish woman who crossed herself when we took off. The supper, which was pasta, I could have as easily skipped as I tried to sleep, with some success but not comfortably. The seat just would not get comfortable for me, but I did fall asleep long enough to dream of P** playing the William Tell Overture and of Tuesday Weld making wild passionate passes at me.

Valparaiso, Chile

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wrapping It Up-ALMOST done

Today I woke at seven, on my last night but one aboard the Norwegian Crown, cruising northward somewhere off the west coast of Chile. It is dark out and I have no idea what the weather is. The ship is moving contentedly and it feels soothing and comfortable. There is a decent movie in English on the tv, and I called room service for coffee and juice for two. A letter accompanied it with rehearsal times for the talent show.

Plans for the day will be packing, the rehearsal for the talent show, the talent show, one more session listening to the trio, use up the internet minutes that I have pre purchased. Prolly won’t swim due to not wanting wet suit in suitcase. Chuffed about going to the Sheraton for the day and glad I didn’t insist on the wrong luggage tags….Hannah was awful sweet about that.

Read my 15th birthday diary and transcribed some of it, still torn between doing it verbatim or extracting. I did the verbatim bit for now. Shaved, collected some dirty laundry and bagged it for home washing, and went up to the gym where I weighted a bit over 156 lbs, so I have my work cut out for me when I get home.

Yesterday, Hannah noted and commented on my Kathmandu t shirt, and today at breakfast, one of the servers was from Bali. Regretfully, I didn’t bring the Berlin one, as the trip has a substantial German population on board.

Went to the library and logged on and downloaded aviation info, posted on fav site, and checked email and hotmail without finding anything. S** and ** still owe and so does H** who hasn’t opened his.

Chatted with Jayson awhile who is from Edmonton and going aboard a dutch ship out of Valpariso next. He was pissed that he didn’t go to Antarctica when the plane was switched to a 767. he may borrow some of my photos for himself. It looks to me as if 15 minutes of my internet time slipped away somewhere, but then…. I read drudge, AP breaking and the comics and logged off again, with about a half hour remaining for this afternoon.

Then I decided to do breakfast, which was simply ham, hot ham, cold cuts and lots of bacon. Cleared my stuff out of the bathroom and resumed packing with quite mixed feelings. I don’t think I bonded with this ship the way I did with the Dawn, but it is sad to leave a pampered life and resume being alone and caring for oneself totally. I do have visits and a meal at H** to look forward to. Now to prep for the debarkation briefing. By the way, twice I have stumbled onto lectures in the stardust lounge that were not on the daily briefing newsletter.

I stopped by purser and got length of the cruise (4,119NM) and left a note for Pablo telling him rehearsal at 5 is prolly better bet for him to visit than show at 8. we shall see.

Went to the debarkation lecture and they were thorough but did not give the wx for tomorrow, which is in the fifties and sunny and overcast, and the poor girl at desk was too busy for a philosophic argument over that. I said goodby to the very nice and friendly Argentinaian guy working at shore excursions who had said he remembered me from the Sea, and who is going to Alaska next – a beautiful cruise that may be on some future agenda, depending on my band schedule and possibly someone to go with.

Lunch gave me the opportunity to say goodby to the food and beverage director as well as I waited for some strawberry and vanilla ice cream in lieu of lunch. Going back for some more, macadamia crunch. Back to the cabin where I did a decent job of packing and prepping for the trip home tomorrow. Will be more dressed than grubby, due to hanging out in the Sheraton.

Found my lightweight gloves on this, the last day of the trip, in a zipper pocket on the leather carryon, but I’ll be glad to have them in NY most likely. We are heading right for it, as it is due north of us, but still almost six thousand miles ahead. They did a ‘we are the world’ thing on the stage after the debarkation, and Hannah invited me personally to stay and watch, and I took a lot of pix, most of which I’ll likely discard. I misted up a bit as I have the last two times this was done on ships and I was there, but not as much as finding the internet signal is gone again (joking)…I still have a few unused minutes to dispose of, and will keep trying.

Lying in stateroom and someone is painting outside my window which is basically waist to ceiling triple. Perhaps the bottom quarter to a third is obscured by lifeboat four. I keep coming up with more things in drawers to put in the two suitcases, but I think I pretty well have it licked. I am packing the boots and wingtips and traveling in the good slacks, a cashmere turtleneck and blazer and carrying the outer coat. I have my card, agriculture documents, a few patches, passport, visa statement, and twenty six us bucks ready to go. Never did use the casino again.

Out the window is fog mostly, but those on deck risk a sunburn, as I could well advise them. The internet is still shut down, so I shall read aviation website which I again downloaded, and digest my macadamia ice cream. I have three more hours to the rehearsal and not too much to do till then.

Local time 1545. I have walked an honest two miles on deck seven, with no less than 12 laps and maybe one more. The sun has come out and the sea, tho with a gentle swell, is almost dead calm and even the hurricane force winds at the sides of the front have abated.

I walked thru the casino and stopped to watch a bit of the blackjack tournament and quite frankly, am glad I trusted my own instincts on that place and stayed away, because the winner in quotes of that tourney is gonna be the guy who loses his chips slowest. Even the good players were getting clocked, and I walked away and got two cookies at tea time..

At the internet café I used up my minutes and was posting on the blog of the Queen of Fried Foods when the time ran out, and I dunno if my post took or not. No PMs or emails that I found. Redownloaded trbbastsoit for reading later (well, maybe now). The rehearsal for the talent show is in a little of an hour, but I can’t claim to be nervous. Hope I can replicate the Iridium experience of the week prior to the sailing.

Just interrupted by knock on door by sweet Philippina with chocolate. THIS I will miss when I get home for sure. About three hundred people are staying on board for the trip up to Miami, but I don’t recall whether this was ever offered to me an option nor whether I would have seriously considered it. The one trip that I DID price out was $5500 for the trip stopping at Gibraltar. They were power washing the deck when I did my dozen turns around same, and as usual, there were people walking the wrong way, over and over. Never did pass them just at the sign with the arrow, but one has to wonder.

To do is closing the suitcases and putting them in the hall before midnight. Need a wakeup call I suspect. Need to turn in the adapter for the computer cord. Bill should be all set as I gave them a credit card imprint again. Hope the trio makes the rehearsal, but am not holding my breath. // Just in fact met Pablo and he will be there at 5PM anyhow for a different reason, but I forbore to ask if Paula would be coming..

It has turned into a perfectly lovely day out. I asked Jayson if he wanted to see the Antarctic pictures, and he was off to the bridge to see the Captain. Sigh. At least the social director, Soozy hasn’t been as obnoxious as most of the other CD’s in chirping constantly that they are speaking ‘from the bridge’ which is verboten to the rest of us.

//the rehearsal for “Indiana” went well. The talent show is pretty much what it was on the Dawn… A group of Texans are playing kazoos and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and another woman told a very old joke, and the third of four acts is a trombonist who fancies himself a lounge singer. He was quite interesting however, and blew me away with knowing B& B in Port Jeff, the Iridium where he had heard Les Paul, flying direct from Sacrament to Islip, knowing a good deal about jazz in general, and having properly remembered that I had tried to play Liza on the piano by the casino.

When the dust had settled, I am the cleanup act following the others. Nobody from the trio showed up, but I have a chance to go and whine at them one more time when they are playing in the Lido lounge next, in about an hour twenty. On this, my last day of the cruise, I figured out that they hang a menu on the wall of the restaurant where I have eaten 29 or more meals.

The weather remains fine, and I walked a total of about three miles now, as I did quite a few more turns around the deck while waiting for the rehearsal. Should be fun. May go walk the deck some more, as the weather, the sun and the gorgeous clear clean blue ocean will very very soon be nothing but a happy memory!

//Now it is quarter to ten, and I am sort of suffering from emotional overload. I just returned from the Lido Lounge and saying goodby to the Pablo DeLuca and Paula K and Christian trio. They play an absolutely hauntingly beautiful song about rain falling on roses, in which she almost uses her voice as an instrument , and Chris does very intricate and pretty things on the bass. I asked for it twice tonight, once when I left to go to the talent show, and once when I left for the last time, shortly after they began their set at 2115. They didn’t make it to the talent show because they had a reservation at a restaurant that they had been trying to get for three months. However, Paula did give me a hug and kiss when she found out that I had won the talent show.

So yes I reprised my triumph from the Iridium and did the exact song with the exact same arrangement – a slow rendition of On the Banks of the Wabash, followed, expertly by a rimshot and trumpet pickup which went swimmingly, and three choruses of Indiana. What I had not expected was that the show had three judges and that I would fill out a questionnaire which goes off to NCL Hq in Miami for consideration of God knows what. Twas a packed house but I could not see it. The guy who comes to Islip was better than I was, by a lot, but I had the band. So, I won the talent show.

So, said goodbye to Hannah and tipped her as well as the maid. Walked a total over three miles on the deck, looking at the pretty moon hanging over purple clouds that were on the western horizon just at sunset. Have taken so bloody many pix that have quit now, cuz again, overload. I managed to pack the second bookmark, the NCL coffee mug, the 14” trophy and something else into the big suit case and they are both in the hall now. I have checked and re checked and re re checked that I have everything I am gonna need from the time I wake up tomorrow until I meet my bags in the Sheraton sometime later in the day, and again at the airport.

Lots of people have asked me if I am staying on, and I don’t really know how I didn’t know it was an option,. Oh well, I belong at home I suppose. G** will be happy I am home, and S** and t probably will, and I am sure derf will be glad to get his wireless card back, as well as his camera and a look at all the pix, some of which I think are really good.

(This is not one such, btw)

All this and Antarctica too

Monday, May 16, 2011

Puerto Montt

Today, I would be hard to put to imagine a more peaceful, gentle awakening to begin a day. There was no PA announcement, no wakeup call, no knock on the door, no traffic, no aircraft noise, no waking with the realization that some chore must be done, but only the slow, gentle awakening from a dream involving bird nests with flower petals in it and a lovely lady.

Outside, it was a grey pre dawn, and we are docked in Puerto Montt, Chile. I have been here before, but only looking out an airplane window. The weather is clear, winds calm, and the forecast is for temps in the sixties. My feet hit the floor, pulled on shorts and sandles and patted down to the yacht club for some coffee (two black) served by the surly waitress who looks like Tyne Daly. The crew is gonna have a boat drill. It is 62. and we are here in Puerto Montt until 5PM.

Down at breakfast, I was reminded that old people like to get up early and eat breakfast, as the line stretched out of the dining room and down the hall, but the coffee line was short and moved quickly, and I spilled not a drop on my trip up one flight of stairs and down the length of the ship.

//Made second trip to yacht club and got two more cups of coffee to my cabin without spillage and saying a quick hello to Hannah enroute. She confirmed I will need USD 26 in Chile and that I will be getting the advance disembarkation. Back in cabin, fresh clothes and a shower before I go looking for the internet café which I am told is in town (by sherry). Was thinking as I gradually awoke earlier of how many nights I have been thusly pampered since September when I embarked on the Ecstasy….15+7=22, + 11=33+14=47 by the time Sat nite has come and gone. It is a nice way to live, but I don’t have the same feeling here that I did on the Dawn…namely that I’d sell my house to live there the rest of my life.

Time 9am. Lovely shower, cleaned teeth, ventured to casino and after a wait which seemed forever, got eighty bucks from their ATM which in fine tradition of fifteen dollar photos and three dollar bottles of water, hit me for five and a half bucks for atm fee in addition to any that the home bank might charge. But now I have enough for the internet café in town, the twenty six USD that Chile wants in cash to let us out of their country, and enough to pay the limo driver in the event that their records do not show that I pre paid, as the ‘receipt’ that I was given is problematic at best. Thanked the people at pursers’ desk for the rapid appearance of tv repair and laundry after my calls to them about it. Packed away the freshly done underwear sox and t shirts and actually began packing some stuff to go home. Saw Hannah and got huge Philippina smile to counteract tyne daily who isn’t getting paid as much to kma. Now my maid wants the room so I am hustled a bit to finish my pre cleaning cleaning thereof.

(At 1700) HAPPY! Yes, I spend a lot of time being ‘content’ and lots being ‘comfortable’, but today I edged over the line and was actually and truly happy. I was sitting on aft deck seven, waiting for the Dixieland band to play for another sailaway party. The deck thrummed as the engines came on, and it was exciting to think our next port of call is Valparaiso, which has illuminated my imagination since I was a tot. The sun was shining brightly, and I had just had a fantastic swim and my skin was all aglow. Earlier I had ridden the exercise bike for a calorie burnoff of 112 calories, so I was looking forward to dinner, looking forward to hearing the band, looking forward to hearing the trio later (1900) and my baggage tag situation was totally resolved – NCL is putting me up at the Sheraton during the time between docking and the flight, which is a 13 hour layover. All my parts are working well (the first time they played, as we left Buenos Aires, my middle finger was so sore I couldn’t DREAM of playing piano, and after being in the hot tub and swimming a few times, I can scarcely remember how bad it was.

The band played Indiana [nice thoughts of Dad] so that I would know they could do it, which is what I want to do in the talent show tomorrow. I got a bottle of Tylenol here on board but have not had to open it. There is a bowl of cut fruit in the room. My laundry is all done. The bed is freshly made and has clean sheets on it almost daily I think. If any tragedy has befallen my home or those I care for, I don’t know it. We have two more nights at sea and a sea day tomorrow. When I get home, lonesome though it may be, I have no obligations etc and no job or unpleasant relationship waiting for me. I should have enough money to pay the annual on the plane and trip expenses as well.

Not the direct cause of the happiness, but perhaps contributing to the overall sense of well being is the fact that I spent at the very least, four hours on the internet down in Puerto Montt today. I walked off the ship on deck six (which was nearly level with the dock) and when I came back the second time, the gangplank was on deck five and two additional were showing below that. Huge tides. I watched salt being unloaded from a ship called Wrestler I onto a line of waiting trucks and thought about BenB whose blog I glanced at but didn’t read in depth. Their hookup wasn’t bad and I was even able to look at my beloved comics [ including back ones] without feeling guilt, since the cost was a dollar an hour, the lowest I’ve ever seen. I read blog after blog, checked my private messages on several forums, posted on a few blogs and checked emails etc. I also was able to help another man get into his email system by the use of email anywhere. Very pleased I could do that.

Saw two police in uniform (brown) but by the time I dug out my patches they were gone and I never saw any more. Someone had a lama wearing a silly hat at the place where you walk off the ship. I internetted for three solid hours, returned to the ship to use the bathroom and get something to eat, and then returned for at least another hour, probably more, and boy did I feel caught up when I finished. That’s when I got into the gym where there was not another soul around and rode a bit over twenty minutes on the bike, doing 6.5 miles in 22:30 with the 112 calorie burn which I am about to go undo presently.

Supper was sliced pork, a couple pieces of meatloaf, another thing that was pressed white meat, but just what I don’t know, and potatos, with ice cream to come later on. The Lido lounge is presently packed so I don’t know whether I’ll be able to sit and watch the trio from my usual spot or not. As mentioned, I saw Hannah and determined that the blue tags are the right ones to use, because the luggage is going to be taken to the Santiago Sheraton to wait for the plane ride. They don’t use the VIP tags on the Crown, but this is the bit that ** had told me was going to be smooth. I had no idea. I have no answer from him, S**, A** or S** as of when I looked, but feel that I have done a credible job of keeping up my end of things here.

Now there is lovely scenery sliding by again, so I’m out of the room and back to the Lido lounge once again. // stayed for the first set of the trio. They did some very tasty numbers, very professionally arranged and orchestrated by Pablo, who says he has ‘passenger privileges” but didn’t say where he was for the sail away dixie music.

//The internet guy aboard declared it was ludicrous to go to an internet café and miss the glories of Porta Montt, but I said it might safely be called incomprehensible instead. And left out my opinions of him lighting a toxic, expensive Marlboro and going outside to poison his lungs. I listened to two sets of the trio and got a kiss blown by Paula when I left. I also had a nice chat with Pablo, and would love to run into him in NYC sometime, to go listen to Les Paul.

Following, went to the casino and got two cookies. Have only gambled there once in two weeks, losing a quick twenty and getting enough bad vibes not to want to return. Have thought about it, but tonight is second to last night, and I have even begun packing. The talent show is supposed to be sometime tomorrow, but have heard sod all about that since signing up. Also asked Hannah about the map of the Antarctic trip with our trip traced on it, and it is supposed to show up at the Excursion desk tomorrow (manana).

So – I still remain in a relatively good mood, and content to be going home after another wonderful experience. The flight to Antarctica was another of life’s peak experiences, and I feel good just looking at the screen saver of the flight over the Crown while I sit happily aboard it. At 2300 to the 11th floor for two more cookies and back to movies on tv.

-- The Trio I wrote about so often --

Friday, May 13, 2011

Puerto Chacabuco, Chile

Today – Puerto Chacabuco. A small fishing village on the west coast of Chile, it is of little interest to me frankly. I was awakened at seven local by the tri lingual announcement that we were here and were tied up at the pier and not tendering. The temp is 51.2 degrees but they did not say if it was raining. It is claimed that it is often clear and sunny as you leave the coast. From my stateroom window I can see dark heavy clouds and a green tree covered hill reaching above the ship.

My bill was on the door, and it is exactly correct to the penny. I got my credit for the fifty bucks and other than my shore charges, I bought batteries and aspirin (which I have not yet used). Went to the Yacht Club and brought back two cups of coffee, and will wander outside a bit when they are done, wearing the wet weather pants, and likely the yellow rain parka over the hoodie. Then I suspect I’ll go on-line.

It’s 11am and I’m back in my cabin after a walk thru Puerto Chacabuco of a little under an hour, in a very light occasional drizzle and following wind on the way out. It took me about four tries to get out of my cabin, coming back for camera, then hoody, then the camera malfunctioned so I returned to do the only maintenance I know – take out and reinstall the batteries and memory card, and it’s working again but uses a flash every time.

The town was psychologically reminiscent of Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, but perhaps because of getting off a ship at a god forsaken ends of the earth kinda place. I was halfway envious of those who piled into little surreys to ride off to a sunny German town ten miles away over pretty winding roads bla bla, but as it was not an official NCL sponsored event, and because I hadn’t paid enough attention to whether this was considered an ok thing to do, I didn’t. I tried to rationalize that I am ‘excursioned out’ and have seen SO many lovely places around the globe, from Yosemite to the Southern Alps, Norway to Nepal, Banff to Bulgaria, that I really didn’t NEED to ride around and see any more.

A large tour bus pulled up just as I rounded the corner of the dock, and I SPRINTED to the gangway ahead of all forty or so of them, and went to the pursers desk where I said that I had come to NOT complain because my bill was perfect. They asked how the ‘sweater’ was and I got the idea that one of them had done it themselves.

/.Finding the Yacht club closed for breakfast, I got a cup of hot chocolate with the same gasps of surprise from the old ladies within earshot who were again, quite obviously, drinking coffee or tea when they would have preferred the choc. It pays to ask. And listen…and I’m still bad at the latter.

No matter – I’ve got the little exercise glow from the walk, which may have been two miles but was more likely a mile and a half. Got pic of the ship with the forward hawser line, of a little church, or a gas price sign, and not much else, because there was not much else, but a coca cola sign, which as we know, is ubiquitous. Now to look at my pix.//Which came out nice. Particularly like the one of the hawser.

Well, at two we pushed off from Puerto Chacabuco, which I could not find on the detailed atlas in the library, which is where I watched our departure which included lovely views of snow covered Andes, and I think we are well on our way to filling up the 128k memory card.

S*** wrote of taking over an hour and a half to drive her 12 mile commute due to snow, sleet, ice etc. I shudder to think what I’ll find when I get home. Whenever that is. I also posted on a few blogs and read a very few, but the site is slow because AP and CNN picked up on Queen of Sky’s blog and the site got overloaded. Downloaded pprune to read later, maybe now.

Lunch was with the same SC couple as yesterday, only no politics talk this time. Had bit of French fries and one hotdog and a few pieces of cheese, but also had one scoop of vanilla ice cream, and felt the swimming pool which doesn’t feel that warm. Think I’ll go hit the deck awhile now, as it is lovely everywhere.
As it happened, I hit the hot tub instead. Lovely session with howling gale winds around me but only one other person showed up, and she went into the other tub.

Following, I went and dangled my legs in the pool, but did not go all the way in, although someone else shortly thereafter did. No sun, grey day with pretty mountains sliding by on both sides. Stumbled, quite by accident, on Hannah’s office which is by the elevators near me but on the corridor I don’t usually traverse. I showed her the pic of Ruth and she was delighted, and then the Antarctic pix, but that was really all she had time for, and it pays me to remember that these people are working while I am at leisure.

Back in my room again, I found the tv in op. Now, I recognize that it is sad to be relying on a television for entertainment while on vacation, but I do, and so I immediately called the front desk and am waiting now for someone to respond. I think the antenna was just pulled out by someone cleaning. I went down and got two cookies at tea time and a glass of ice water, and I am still horsing around with the computer trying to get it to do what I want. Actually Jayson showed me how to get the type face all the same, which I now have done. That leaves the margains, but I’ve been working on them bits at a time.

One thing I may not have mentioned thus far, is the LACK of any signs of civilization from the time we left Punta Arenas. Hour after hour, we glide by forests and mountains and waterfalls and timber and lovely unspoiled country that remains totally untouched by any signs of civilization whatever…no roads, wires, buildings, towers etc to mar a pristine landscape.

I also may not have mentioned that I have not once seen a single person in the video game room, and that is a good thing. There had been a post on cruise critic about how teen wanted to see photos of the game room aboard the Dawn, and I was gonna post something about how sad that is, till I realized that I’m the same way about my internet connection, and others are with their gambling or whatever. Card players, monopoly players, etc all have their little spots staked out, and they simply all happen to be old on this particular cruise which is damn near over now. I think I have it sussed that the day after tomorrow it is over.

Wrong again. We dock early Sunday, so we have three more nights at sea. Supper was sliced turkey, some cold roast beef, potatoes and delicious apple strudel very hot with some nice vanilla ice cream thereon. Walked by shore excursions and everything they have for tomorrow is basically over a hundred bucks, so am gonna search for an internet café and relax. I thanked purser for fixing the tv so promptly the second time (but I didn’t say it sarcastic like that).

Well, I sat in the lido lounge and took some more pictures of the trio, Pablo, Paula and Christian before they broke for their supper and the place filled up. I am pleased with some of the ones I’ve gotten so far, to put it mildly. Tonight she wore a gold sheath with spaghetti straps. One of the other guests asked me if I were the father of one of the band members, which sort of brought me back to reality nicely. It was very foggy for awhile but has lifted enough to watch some pretty scenery sliding by the library. It is 2015, and I logged on long enough to look just a little more, tried to check my blog but too slow there.

Three more nights of pampering and Philipina maids and waiters and food carvers and bartenders who fill a glass of water upon seeing me, and concierges who kma without really knowing why, and lovely landscape floating by. Am I gonna miss all this? You betcha. No answer from ** so far, and S*** also has an unansd email from me now. P*** is home from the hospital but in poor shape. But expected to make a full recovery. Unk if she will ever fly again.

I returned to the lido to listen to a few songs and then downstairs with Pablo and Paula for coffee and cookies. Back in the room, I realize I don’t have the laundry I sent in yesterday, so I called front desk for that and am waiting for callback. I am really feeling the ‘end of cruise’ syndrome and feeling slightly sorry for myself, all the while realizing that I have been living a life that many people only dream of, and have not had to work in years to do so.

So, seconds after my call, knock at the door and voila, there is my laundry/. So, then the cnn feed was lost and I had a choice of watching a hand washing video or really stupid sitcom or changing to a movie and wondering whether it would be in Spanish or German…it was Spanish.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Glacier Day

Today I was awaked because of a PA announcement, and was a bit surprised to find it was 9AM local. Walked down one deck, realized coffee is at other end (duh for the 7th time) and walked outside to the restaurant and got coffee which I took to the lido lounge and listened to the end of trivia about movies (which I would have thought I would do well at, and I got about three out of twenty) and went back for another coffee and oj and then returned to my room, watching now the video about upcoming ports, and intend to switch to CNN.

In one hour is the meet the officer thingy. Possible projects for later involve an extended walk of several miles on deck and/or linking up big time on the internet and catching up on many things. I saw CNN on the tv in the lido lounge which I why I came back to the room, but it isn’t coming in here.

//Well, in preparation for the 11AM meet the officers, I walked up to deck ten (haven’t used the elevators once since coming aboard to my recollection—nor, appropro of nothing, have I seen anyone in the video arcade room located next to the internet café ) anyhow, went up to deck ten and sunk myself into the hot tub while the fog covered mountains slid by on both sides and the two hot tubs steamed, and the bar looked like it had not seen a visitor since Bermuda.

It was delightful – in fact so delightful that I went down to deck seven and took a substantial, if solitary swim during which people who were wrapped in scarves and gloves and wool hats looked at me the way I would have looked at them, but the water was warm, the –pool was empty and it seemed like life was indeed good. One woman called me the bravest man on the ship which is far from true. Followed this with a lovely hot shower and a rinse of the bathing suit and now am set to go to the meeting.

At the meeting I got to ask the captain if any of their simulators were open to the public. There were many good and many stupid questions. I later found out that the wine consumption on this trip is above the Bermuda run, but hard liquor and beer are way down. Europeans drink a lot of wine, and there are a lot of Europeans aboard. Having skipped supper last night and breakfast this morning, I was planning to have most two hotdogs for lunch, but ended up with only one, but some delicious macaroni,cheese and meat, two kinds of potatoes and my hotdog. I had oven baked and fries, but skipped desert, and after some preps in my room, I launched into a mile long walk on deck 7, carrying, but not using my camera and binocs. We are sailing the straits of Magellan, which is quite narrow so the shores are close by, but the tops of the hills are in the clouds.

Time 1335, and the captain has said he will pirouette the ship 360 when we reach a glacier. That should be in an hour or so. Following my dinner, I walked six times around 7 deck, glaring each time at two stupid women walking against traffic. A few were cutting thru the lobby rather than go on the forward portion of the deck, where I had to remove my Punta Arenas watchcap and hold onto my glasses in the wind, particularly portside. I could not stand without holding the rail in that section, and it spit rain a bit. Inside, ice water and CNN to catch up a bit on the world, and soon I think I am going to log onto the net.

Signed up for a second dose of internet time, and used it haphazardly. Looked at a few comics including some back comics, posted a quick blog and looked at a few comments. But another glacier now calls, so time to bundle up and hit the deck again. Last time, The Skewer glacier, the captain did in fact pirouette the ship, and I got some nice pix of the glacier with some little icebergs and a small fishing boat alongside. The next one is supposed to be more spectacular, which is hard to imagine. And I have another invite to a captain party tonight, this one the VIP party.

The second glacier has come into view, and I crowded out onto the deck in the rain and shot a few more pix, including some ice berglets and a pretty waterfall, and then as the caption pirouetted the ship again, returned to my cabin for a private viewing of the same glacier while I dived into the choc covered strawberries which were just delivered. With Antarctica behind me, some ok emails from S** and W***, some other internet surfing accomplished, a Captain cocktail party tonight, I guess it’s safe to assume my mood has improved. I have a hot tub and a swim and a mile long walk under my belt, most of my photos on the puter, and most of my diary and other compulsive list making is as current as it can be.

Found an old list of my GPS fixes and copied it into the new section of the puter…from the Magnavox, which I found with the search feature fairly quickly. P*** is home from the hospital, and I shared that I too was looking forward to getting home, and basically it’s true, that from now on, there is nothing new for me to see or do, having been to Santiago and Puerto Monte, and caring not too much about else in between. Still, I shall enjoy the maid service, listening to the live music each evening and doing a little more internet catching up.

Ran thru the AP Breaking news summary today, and US deaths in Iraq was not amongst the offerings. Don’t know if they have discontinued it or I was just between takes.

Time 1700 and the turnaround completed, we are steaming alongside the fog covered hills (or maybe mountains for all we can see) toward supper and cocktail time. I went thru all the GPS fixes that are in my trimble and listed them (as I tend to forget what some of the abbreviations mean, and now I have a way to figure it out, by inputting the coordinates into mapquest) and also because I have lost others to a power crunch in the unit, and I want to have a remembrance of them. Done. And I have nearly completed the little yellow legal sheets of paper with tiny notes on them, getting them basically, more or less into this account somewhere.

If I had made it to the Latitudes one, this would have been my third. I told my Philipina maid I wanted to take her home with me. Anyhow, I met the latitudes and future cruise person, another Canadian named S*** who looks about 12 and said she is almost 40. She comes from Thunder Bay. The internet guy, who does not work for NCL, is also from Canada, as were the couple on canes who went with me to Antarctica yesterday and were put with me at a table tonight. Everyone else there was in a penthouse, and I was told that I am in a ‘minisuite’ but I was otherwise mum about my reasons for being there, which must puzzle some. Also met Hannah who seems Philippina as well. Many of the workers here are here on short notice, joined enroute or have been somehow extended. All are crunched by the plunging US dollar which fell further today I think.

Being that I was all dressed up, I decided to try Le Bistro for dinner. No go….reservations not open till two more days. Sat and listened to the trio (she has something wrong with her eye, she didn’t lose her contact lens, but she forgot her camera, and anyhow the scenery behind her was looking grim by then, with grey fog and only the dimmest shapes of mountains behind. Chatted a bit with the internet guy who really opened up today for the first time. He collects coins. I told him I had just dumped all mine in the help the kids thingy on British Air.

So I went to the Yacht Club for supper and had only rice and a tiny piece of steak, got to the slicing table and it was all seafood, so I treated myself to scoops of vanilla and strawberry ice cream and had a 3 musketeers when I got back to the room. The end of the cruise is in sight and I am not going to carry all that candy back with me. So far, the only thing I’ve brought that I didn’t have when I came is my Falklands Islands t shirt. Ate another snickers and turned in, at what time I don’t know, but it was well before midnight, and perhaps as early as ten. I put the timer on the bow cam music and sleep came instantly.

Bow Cam

Eine Glacier

Monday, May 9, 2011


Today the phone rang with my wakeup call (actually it was room service) in the middle of a dream.

Obviously, the first thing I did when I woke was look at the curtains to see what the weather outside is doing. It is pitch black out, so I am still clueless as to whether I will see ANTARCTICA TODAY OR not. It has been on my mind ever since I heard the South African woman on the Dawn speaking about it on that cruise, which is why I booked this one, as well as to see Falklands, Montevideo, Valparaiso.

Time just turned 0400 on my watch, making it 0600 locally. The meeting time in the stardust window, and it is chilly but a 737 has heat. Still torn between wearing the good slacks and wingtips or jeans and sandles. Wearing a cashmere turtleneck and prolly the Ireland sweater and bringing the Chile jacket. Filled out the Chile food etc card, so I better leave my goodies at home. Cookies came from room service. Changed the gps batteries. I finished all four cookies before we were on the bus, which rolled at 0811.

Onto the deck to try for a fix, stop the gps timer at the correct time, watched the linesmen making her fast rather than casting off for a change, and, getting only one satellite, back to the cabin where the decision was made (partly based on the champagne issue) to go with the dress slacks and good shoes.

Sat way down in front in the Stardust Lounge in opposition to my usual habit of being in very back so I can leave anytime. There was a slide show which I wanted to see. The guide was named Betty, Chilean, a Doctor, spoke unaccented and idiomatic English and was enthusiastic about her penguins and less so about the birds. She began the talk however with a disclaimer that we still were in the go/no-go mode and would be remain so right up till it was time to board the aircraft, so the tension remained throughout, and watching the seals and penguins, one could only wonder whether we would see them or not. I suppose it was necessary, but it was not nice.

We boarded the buses and had another ‘tour’ thru downtown Punta Arenas, but I did not see anything that looked familiar nor the Hotel Cabo De Hornas. The town looked pleasant and by now the sun was shining merrily but there were patches of dark clouds here and there as well, so fingers remained crossed. We got to the aeroporto and debarked, and I found myself on an elevator to the departure lounge, only to find nobody else there, so I returned like a sheep to the fold and we waited until we finally got the word that we were GO for the journey. Even better news, the plane was a Boeing B767-300, so it had more speed and longer range than the 737, and everyone would have their own window seat…assigned. Mine was 37L, which was last row starboard. I took a nice photo of the boarding pass – too cool. Saw the penguin hat for sale that I have with me.

Easily got the tail number CC-CZU for the logbook, but the takeoff runway was tougher because the runways themselves had basically worn off number on them, and I got confused by the sun, the crossing signs etc. I’m thinking we took off on 25 and I know we landed on 12 cuz the captain said so. Surprise – I was the very first one on the plane, and bigger surprise was seeing no less than six flight attendants aboard for 44 people. Most, but not all, were couples, and most my age. I’ll have to check my log when I get home to see if I had been in the cockpit of this very plane before, because as soon as we hit cruising altitude, I went forward and had a quick pleasant visit and then excused myself and returned to my seat where I remained for most of the trip.

Preparatory to takeoff, there was lovely music and an animal video on the tv set in the seatback in front of me. I asked one of the FAs if there were a moving map, but it took the Germans in front of me to get it going. She never did answer me. They were babbling away in German during the speech made by the Doctor, but shut up rapidly when I said something.

Initially, much of the action was on port side, and I went as far as first class and most of the windows were taken, but returning to my seat I shot a series of fine pictures. When the digital camera began beeping at me, I unwrapped the throwaway and used it as well, but after removing and reinserting the memory card on the digital, it ceased beeping and seemed to be functioning normally. I had the only male flight attendant (who had never been on the trip before and was as excited as I was or maybe more) take a pic of me by the moving map screen showing the south pole and the whole continent, and later I shot a series my own self, holding up the camera in one hand and my gps in the other, and got an acceptable one for the state line book and another for the series to show others.

While my gps was sluggish in acquiring signals, it finally did and I clipped one south of the 63 latitude line, and captain said farthest south was 64 south. Later, I was somewhat surprised to realize that Edinburgh is a good deal farther from the Equator than Punta Arenas is. Just doesn’t seem so.. Total flight time was 5 hours exactly, with 4:41 wheel to wheel in just under two thousand miles.. AT farthest, I was 7,215 miles from my front door. We cruised home at 40,000 feet and down at 39,000. I suspect the guys up front enjoy horsing an airliner the size of a 767 around at seven hundred feet and below with thirty degree banked turns. We were told that a map of the journey will be prepared and sent to our stateroom in a few days. That would be kewl.
The Antarctic flight is now history, and was nearly flawless in every regard, My overwhelming feeling, frankly, is relief. I am drained physically and emotionally (and financially too if truth were told) but it is only 4PM and I am loathe to sink onto the comfy double bed and relax, as it is daylight and we are in Punta Arenas (for me, again) and besides, I have another Captains Party and this one I’m gonna try not to miss.

The waves hitting the dock on the tv monitor are lovely, and the day is lovely. I am literally forcing myself out the cabin door and back onto at least the deck, and maybe back to the shop at the end of the pier. The pictures that I took on the flight, including a state line one, all came out nicely and I have already deleted the ones that are superfluous.
Back on land, in chatting with the guide on the bus going back to the ship, he was talking about the daylight, and it occurred to me that I was quite a bit further from the Equator in Edinburgh than I am here at the ends of the earth today. This just FEELS a lot further away from everything. So my farthest south on land is about 55 and in the air 64. And apt to stay that way for quite awhile.

//Made one turn around decks 11 thru seven, and picked up some ice cream and two cookies along the way. Quite frankly, fancy though it was, there was no food on the LanChile flight that I could eat. I had one potato and tried the lamb, but couldn’t even cut it with the first ‘real’ knives that I’ve seen on a plane since Bulgaria. S*** would have loved the king crab and champagne.

//More choc strawberries into the room with a note from the hotel manager, but I have not met any of these people, or really tried to. There is so much extra food in the room that I handed it back to the guy who brought the strawberries, which I have finished, and plan on skipping supper tonight.

It is now quarter to six in the eve, and I guess I’ll take another windy turn around deck seven before returning to dress for captain greeting for the Antarctic (rich) folks. I have finished up transcribing the notes of the trip up until this morning, and as I may have said, I stumbled onto a much easier way of getting pictures from the card to the file, and so that job is done as well, with about half of them deleted and the remainder fairly well labeled.

Coming up on eight oclock now, and I have finished most everything to do today. At 1820 I dutifully went to the Captain’s cocktail party and wore the ear off a Frenchman who was a four striper, and I’m thinking now he was the hotel director [yup], but he was polite and interesting and a good listener and also well traveled and he has lost a third of his earnings due to the Euro/dollar slide. My photo was taken getting my certificate (diploma) from the captain. I finished a pair of tonics and the place cleared out before we had scratched the surface. We are both sorta out of touch with what is going on in the world.

Clutching my diploma, I went up to the lido lounge and found the trio had moved up to the top of the crown for tonight, so I went up there are got a nice wave from her from the bandstand, and they took a break and I said I’d do her pix with the background tomorrow night back in the Lido lounge. And so here I am, a little before eight, with nothing left that I feel like doing. Casino does not appeal, internet seems too much effort, so it is more like teevee and the puter for the balance of the day. It has been a long and hugely successful day and I am content just to rest for the remainder of daylight. Departure [ship] was so smooth I never felt it, and first I knew we were under weigh was up top. Decks still very windy. Beginning to peel a bit on the shoulders. My sweet little maid made me an elephant and carefully put my mess back all over the freshly made bed as I had asked her to do. I am ¾ embarrassed. And yes, I did skip supper!

Overflew Antarctica

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Today – USHUAIA, Argentina. Was awakened by the cheery announcer at 0700 local, and 22 minutes later I have retrieved two cups of coffee from the opposite end of the ship one deck below. There was quite a line, but they were not the coffee onlys, and so I am back in the cabin with a gorgeous view out the window, but the window is presently too dirty for a photo. So I have about an hour and a half to prepare and photo and gps fix etc. Weather is 9 degrees Celsius, which I think is the forties somewhere.

OK – it is now just eight am. Twice I have added the 2 hrs to my watch mentally, and then added an additional two and thought I missed ‘the boat’ as it were. Wearing jeans and the sandles with freshly laundered underwear, long sleeved white turtleneck and the hooded sweatshirt, and taking the Chile jacket. Down to one roll of lifesavers, but have loads of peppermint patties for along the way. God, the weather is sensational, and Antarctica is now TOMORROW. Am really psyched, but also content to enjoy the utter beauty that is Ushuaia while I am here. We do glacier cruising this afternoon. Also caught a bird [photo] in the swimming pool which is possibly an albatross.

By eschewing the elevator, I made it onto the bus amongst the first and this time I got a decent seat without curtains blocking. By the way, I think it was returning from the Valdez Peninsula that soldiers boarded the bus and they looked underneath with the mirror on the handle. No such today. The sun was bright and it was nearly cloudless as I boarded the bus and we headed for a barn with dirt floor and straw on it, heated by a barn heater, but with some decent coffee, some pastries which I ate and a show put on by 12 dancers – six of each, in lovely traditional costumes, boots for the men and flowing dresses and tango pumps for the ladies.

. Following the gaucho stamping and thumping balls on the floor attached to ropes, we boarded the bus and drove to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park where we disembarked and walked by a bay which looked like a lake which looked like a webshot I have of Lake McDonald in Montana. Bathrooms were available everywhere, and the weather remained decent, although around about now, we lost the sun and by the time we were back to the ship, it was indeed overcast and cloudy.

Our guide was Tamico and she was, as were all the others, decent. There was a marathon being run and zillions of cops partout, but no patchy swapee, because we had chop chop back to boatee real quick like. It may be the end of the world, and a sign says that it is, but that didn’t prevent a cell phone from ringing.
The train ride was next, a reproduction of the one which the convicts used to use to do their logging as they built their own jail in yon days of yore, which extended up to 1947 when it became overcrowded and is now a museum which we didn’t have time to see. Several of the guides were in striped clothes and the announcements aboard the train seemed to me to be very very sympathetic to the poor prisoners who had to spend time here.

I had a good seat by the door in the last coach on starboard, and the guy beside me opened the small windows so we each got a few shots without the glass. The train stopped at a little waterfall and I huffed my way up with my peers, and angel falls it warn’t. Back on the train, some nice photos of the station, back onto the bus and back to Ushuaia, where taxes and rents are very low, but the winters are very long. I was particularly struck by the quality of the air, which was some of the freshest and nicest smelling I can remember in eons. Our guide says that two hundred dollars is high rent for a house. Although I didn’t say so out loud, we could have used more than six hours in this place, as it is very lovely and I would have enjoyed walking around a bit. There was the first line to board that I have seen this trip, reminiscent of the boarding experience on the ecstasy, and the loudspeakers from town announcing the people coming in from their marathon. In front of us was a large ship going to the Antarctic, and there were two smaller ones in the harbor as we left, and I have very mixed feelings while watching them, as, although the captain has said the wx tomorrow is going to be fine, it has now clouded over and some of the peaks along the Beagle channel are shrouded in clouds and fog.

And some are not. I am currently sitting in my stateroom with a plate full of potato chips which someone suggested room service has, and I so ordered., fresh ice in the water, and beautiful views out the window over top of the lifeboat of mountains going by and a lovely bow shot on the tv with decent music now.
Once back aboard, I went straight to the outside on deck seven and watched the gangway being stowed, lines cast off and coiled on the deck, started the gps trip thing and stayed in front of a hot air vent till we were well away from Ushuaia and had turned back into the Beagle Channel again, on our way to Chili and hopefully beyond., and then I went to lunch and had French fries and skipped the ice cream. There was a place by Bahai Encinada to have passports stamped, but they must not have done much of a business with us today, and I still miss having that, although am glad to have seen it and some of the stamps in it already. One of the mountains off our right reminded me of Bora Bora.

For some reason, feeling tremendous ‘pressure’ to get my thoughts written down up to the current 4pm time, before returning to deck to watch the Beagle Channel slide by. Glaciers expected, as I have seen in New Zealand, Alaska and Iceland, and probably other places as well that I simply do not remember, but will with the reading of my diaries, which I have with me but have not looked at yet. Am so focused on tomorrow that little else seems to matter. Checked the memory card in the camera and I apparently only have used half of it. I will renew internet time tonight, and will auto get another half hour added to what I buy, which will be a total of a hundred and fifty bucks. Need more drinking water shortly, but I know where to get it, no prob.

From the southernmost rr we saw the southernmost golf course, and a concorde once landed here with rich people playing all the unusual courses in the world in a row. Can understand the feelings. They released beavers into the wild with no natural predators and now they have a lot of dams and downed trees that they weren’t counting on. There was live music in the rr sta when the train pulled in, and many photogenic things to be seen. Am desperately trying NOT to pick up more junk, folders, pictures, souvenir calendars, placemats etc, but I have gotten postcards.
The river pilot has been switched from Argentina to Chile, and I would be a lot more excited about being in Chile if I had not been here before on June 10, 1998. (see the puter is good for something

Again, I rate the shore excursion by NCL as another really good one, almost outstanding, and while it could have been a little shorter with the gauchos and a little longer in the park, it was just fine. I think most of us would rather have had a little more time in Ushuaia, but for some, there is always the option of a return trip. I have been doing a great deal of thinking about whether if the trip tomorrow is blown, I’ll try again, and I suspect I will.

As we set sail from Ushuaia, I positioned self in middle of bow on deck 7 and saw several ships which were going to the Antarctic. I felt the same way as I did the first time I saw such trips on my first visit to Punta Arenas, Chile[6-10-98], only moreso, because now, tomorrow is make it or break it in terms of whether I will see my 7th continent or not. This trip.

Was on the bow of the boat for quite awhile, getting windblown and quite a few good pix of the glaciers, some little ice berglets, the sun thru the overcast, and I thought that life has been very very good to me.

According to the people at the shore excursions desk, everything is set for the flight tomorrow. I have juice in the batteries of gps and camera, and about half of the memory card to use. I am writing now in the lido lounge with the beagle channel sliding by outside and the trio playing. The lounge is more than half full as the rep of this group has been spreading and I no longer have the place essentially to myself. . She plays flute prettily as well.
At suppertime I absolutely stuffed myself, and that is why Americans gain weight on cruises. I had about five slices of roast pork and gravy, some lamb, waldorf salad, key lime pie and two flavors of ice cream to top it off. I also found some hot chocolate after an hour of being windblown on the front deck. Wearing very warm clothing I was very comfortable, but many others, who might have snickered at goretex gloves a day or so ago, were not snickering now as they looked longingly at the only warm hands on the deck. I saw, perhaps an otter, which the Germans called a sea dog.

A little restless now, and wandered into the theatre and caught a good cowgirl number that I may go back to see in the second show if I happen to be awake. Dynamite! Also picked up a spare set of duracels for either the gps or the camera if either one of them goes 28 on me manana. The tv monitor is so lovely that I keep doing turns around the deck. Am really packing carefully for tomorrow, including the backseat logbook, spare camera, etc. My little stewardess made me a peacock tonight and was distressed when I thought ‘twas a swan. // Off I go again onto the deck.

In addition to getting new batteries for either the camera or GPS (whichever goes first) I also checked the capacity on the memory card, and it seems to show half empty. Taking the throwaway just to be sure..n Someone suggested the room service for potato chips, and that is exactly what I did. I also used them for the oatmeal cookies to take with me tomorrow.

. So now it is 2300 and my big big day is tomorrow, or not. All packed and ready and wakeup call AND coffee and juice and cookies ordered for 0600. Curtains opened to let in any early sunshine, and let us hope there is lots and lots.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Friday, May 6, 2011

onward, southward

Today I ventured farther south than ever before, passing the latitude of Punta Arenas, my hitherto southernmost point. Initial impressions were that it was VERY VERY sunny, we were still rocking and rolling and my sunburn still hurt. My over riding concern was our location however, so I threw on turtleneck and black sweatpants and went out to the rear and took the following fix.

Home is 6557 miles away. We have slowed to 11mph. There is 1 airport within 500NM.
Lat S 55 52 Long 61 42.6 Our course is southwest.

A collection of birds is following the boat and the spray is making a rainbow, but a coat and perhaps gloves will need to precede a more lengthy walk forward. Instead, I grabbed two coffees and returned to the room where I think the bow cam is the only game in town, and the camera is sunny but covered with spray, and shows regular pitch motions of over five degrees, but still not much roll.

//Just caught a spectacular (underlined) spray off the bow cam. It would be pure luck to capture such a fleeting event with the digital cam, but I have become accustomed to the delay and I get better pictures with a half second heads-up. The bow cam also played some bossa nova, and I suspect I will always think of the quiet pretty lady singer when I hear such music from now on.

Checked with reception who wanted to know if it were raining, and officially the swells are ten meters and winds over 50mph. The forward portions of the deck seven is roped off, but absolutely spectacular views can be had from the remaining 80 per cent of deck seven.

Thence to the gym [two people there], so I hopped on the exercise bike, and soon an officer appeared and I thought he was going to make an issue over my sandles, but instead they closed the gym for safety. Although ten decks up, the wave spray was routinely washing against it.

I of course am enjoying it totally, but here and there they are cleaning up spots on the floor where people have been sick and that smell is not pleasant. When the gym was closed I went to a whale lecture and lasted 45 minutes before going outside again where the real action is. It should not bother me that people are playing cards thru everything that happens, but then again, I am not dancing and drinking and others might find that unfathomable as well.

Well, I logged onto the net for an hour and have just about used up all of my time, save five minutes. Had a very entertaining email from S*** who must have been three sheets to the wind. She said she misses me on Friday nights when she gets juiced.

Speaking of three sheets to the wind, believe it is time to dress up and take another turn around the decks. Birds are following the ship all day, and whales are sometimes sighted in the area as well. With 33 foot waves and whole gale force winds, I do marvel at those who choose to tackle these conditions in small boats, alone.

The boat is making some thunderous crashing noises from time to time, and squeaks emanate from every corner, particularly where the lifeboats are stored. I’m loving it.

, I checked the time on the captains cocktail party to see what time it was, and I checked at ten to noon and it began at 1130. Threw the blazer over the turtleneck and the dress slacks Short party, cuz when I got there they were cleaning up 25 min later. Mood worsened as there were sev questions I wanted to ask.

The gym is closed due to the weather, and the forward decks are off limits as well. I finished the entire 650 page book of New Yorker cartoons, and the library was filled with people knitting and sleeping. I am almost out of internet minutes (five left).

The good news is that they were able to fix the camera case which is much easier to use than anything else I have. May be no charge. And my Antarctica flight tickets came…and this is the one I will really sweat out till it is accomplished. If I lose out on both I may have to blow my savings and return somehow.

I stayed out on deck in the sun and wind all afternoon watching the landscape slide by. I watched as we crossed the 55 degree parallel Enjoyed a few conversations with fellow passengers. This is of course farther than I have ever been south in my life. Further encouraging news is that good wx due to large high pressure center is fx for the next three days, which should get me thru my biggie boys and girls.

Very suddenly earlier today, just as I was walking out the door by where the trio plays in the Lido lounge, my middle right finger began hurting again, without being bumped or anything, so I got self a bottle of aspirin aboard – eight bucks thank you so bloody much.

So- supper time coming and I shaved and I have really gotten another burn on top of my burn, but this one is half wind I think. Tickets for tomorrow are for a little after eight for the train ride.

// Supper was largely meat, sliced pork and a lamb chop. Had some salad with blue cheese dressing and tried to have ice cream only to be told they had no scoop, so I had apple pie and then ice cream when I bitched and they got a scoop. Went upstairs and listened to the trio awhile (she was even more casual than last night’s opening performance) and then went to the stardust lounge and watched two latin dancers do three dances and then Richie M***, the ‘hilarious’ comedian who rode down on Delta on the row behind me. He still reminds me of Kevin G** and while I got a chuckle or two, it was mostly material I had heard done before, better, by other comics. Many people left before I did, but I didn’t stay till the end either.

Back in the room I had a crustacean towel animal and re-read the part of the Antarctic trip that says no refunds or cancellations if they decide to go somewhere different. In their defense, I knew this when I signed up for the trip. My meeting tomorrow is at 0845, so I’ll need a wakeup call. CNN is broadcasting World News Asia, as I guess there is no news from South America, and I have not used my internet time to look at any of the news sites that I generally scan.

A funny thing happened to my tummy. I have the very clear mark of a hand which lay across my lap when I fell asleep, and it looks like I just got slapped.. No patches to trade so far, but I did see and have nice passport stamps anyhow..
The town that we are visiting tomorrow is one that I have been looking at fondly on the internet for quite a few years, and in fact have ‘saved’ almost a dozen screen shots from their webcams, and so I suspect I shall take a lot of pix tomorrow.

Deck soaked with spray--note rainbow

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Falkland Islands


Today I woke to see grey rain of unknown temp outside the stateroom window, but this was expected, predicted and in fact normal. The local time is currently seven (DUH – I thought till just this second that it was eight but this again works in my favor). Anyhow, I called room service for coffee and juice and called the front desk for the weather. Now I have an extra hour to prep, pressure is off some. Left a wakeup call for nine which I shan’t need.

// I DO have quite a nice dose of sunburn, but it feels kinda good and takes my mind off the most recent 7 inches of snow that S** says we got on LI.

//My feeling that we had stopped forward motion prompted me to take gps to deck 11 and although it took me until I had worked my way back to deck nine to get three satellites, I was correct, as we had not only stopped, but had been joined by three or four small boats alongside. It was not really raining or bitter cold, but foul wx gear will be in order and I shall wear long johns as well. I created a Falkland island fix S51 40 w 57 50 w/nearest apt SFAL 28 mi west.

Having adjusted to my time error, I was again thrown off with another little dose of pre senility when I missed part of a PA announcement which seemed to suggest that you needed tender tickets even if you had a shore excursion ticket. Doubting this, I nonetheless called front desk and they said “you need” so I went down and got one…very short line again as the announcement was just beginning in German and Spanish had not begun. Still, it moved awfully slowly as people seemed to make a big deal out of picking up a simple ticket.. 0830 local (yes I checked while down at reception) and planning on getting to stardust lounge a good deal earlier than the ten am meeting time on the ticket, as both of priors have left way early. As it turned out, I was right, no tender ticket was needed, but I got to see the Falkland stamp in my passport.

Before heading out, I prep’d a bag of laundry which will be ready tomorrow night.

//So I made it to the Stardust Lounge an hour early. This time they did NOT have the air conditioning turned on. Long johns and the foul weather pants, long sleeved turtleneck and the hooded sweatshirt. Had Irish sweater and the Chile jacket [from a prior visit there] with me as well. Fell into chat with the tour excursion guy awhile, and then returned to the cabin to get my goretex gloves. Went looking for the lighter leather ones that I thought I wore to the airport, but didn’t find them.

The tour was called just a short while before ten, and I was one of the first onto the tender, sitting in the back;. It was raining noticeably, and it got heavier as we went along. Still, I was able to get a pic of the Welcome to the Falklands sign, and another with me in it, and before leaving, got a t shirt and postcard as well…so it is another clean sweep.

Got onto [first on, window, starboard behind driver] bus 15, driven by Kevin K***, an attorney who moved there from London and now has a 35,000 acre farm which is about a tenth the size of some of the others on the island. Sheep primarily. I was most surprised by the mine field signs which are left over from 22 years ago and since they are made out of plastic, they can’t find them and the sheep don’t set them off. They claim there are some three legged cows there, but this may be a tourist joke thing..

After perhaps 15 minute ride, we stopped and transferred to land rovers again, and I sat in back with a younger couple from Leipzig and an old woman from Ottawa. The driver was Trudy and her husband is another farmer there. We had an eight mile ride across peat bog. One feature which fascinated the old Canadian was the streams of stones, which indeed seemed to form rivers, left over from the glacier age.

And then we were there, and I saw my first live, loose penguins. The first ones were King Penguins with chicks, and the rest were Gentoos. There were plenty of them, and I got a bunch of pix, got wet right thru to the feet (the boots either leaked or water ran down my pants into them.

We had an hour there, and I went to the mobile home which was a bathroom and coffee house with delicious home made candys and cookies and cakes, and had two coffees and about five delicious syrupy things they called flapjacks. I walked pretty close to some of the penguins who had strayed into the area NOT marked off by sticks which you weren’t supposed to pass. All in all, a most pleasant visit. Someone referred to this as the ‘end of the earth’ and it feels a good deal like just that. Reminded of the place in NZ where I got gas by the Tasman sea and felt the same way.

Trudy was a bit late in picking us up, but her son said she was reliable. She had quite a guest book with entries from Canada, US, UK Germany and many others, and showed us her family photo album.

I was the one who asked Kevin to slow the bus for a pic of the sign warning about the land mines, but about 20 people got off the bus to take the same photo…never seen that before either.

Supper was roast beef, roast lamb, roast beef and strawberry ice cream. I was one of the first through and afterwards went out on deck to find that the forward sections have indeed been closed off due to high winds. It was another wet tender ride back to the ship, but I was dressed for it. Back on board, I found a good hot air vent starboard aft on deck nine, and dried my goretex gloves there. I left the camera case at reception to see if the tailor could fix it.

Time now is 1900 ship time. In the lido lounge, aft on deck 8, the trio is playing. They sound professional as always. They did not go ashore. Got some more candy in the room from someone.

At almost this exact time, I got further south than I have ever been in my life, as we passed Punta Arenas.

My full page of notes for the day are in the cabin. This means another choppy entry unless I wait till I get back there to begin. The trio just took a break, looked at my today’s pictures with some interest and excused themselves to go eat in the Seven Seas Restaurant. I shall repair to my room and contemplate whether I want to go on line again or wait. Outside, night is falling but the winds are so strong that the forward decks have been closed.

Ok so it was only today that I realized that the tenders double as the lifeboats and that’s why they always look the same. DUH. Room is beginning to be a bit bouncy at 2200…may try to see how much of the deck is available again.

So – dell is still getting real hot. Guess I’ll stay off line tonight. Watched a movie called French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. Followed this with a sci fi with Glynette Paltrow. Captain said winds on deck were 40 K but with forward speed prolly closer to 60.

//2300 Made one last trip aft, to look at the waves beside the boat and listen to the trio once more. Saw internet dude and he was aware that I got another half hour of internet for free for being a latitude person, and said I can do it again Sunday. This trip is over a third done – I can really scarcely believe it.

The ship is rockin and rollin now. I put my bathroom stuff into the sink there, and the poor puter will sleep on the floor tonight. I was reading the brochures about the Antarctic flight which is to be on Monday. If THEY decide that the wx over Antarctica is verstinkin, THEY will go somewhere else and you have no chance to get yer money back. Sounds to me like I better have seen Antarctica for that kinda money.

FWIW, remember these photos can be clicked--twice-- for more wonderful detail!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day Five- At Sea enroute Falkland Islands

[this entry has been shortened several times, and is skippable because nothing much happens, but I will add a photo at the end later today]

Today began, literally with me thinking, almost out loud “Now THIS is the way to begin a day!”

The sun was pouring through the crack between the curtains, and I knew instantly that the weather was sensational. Pulling on shorts and Capetown T shirt, went and brought back two mugs of coffee, and finishing them, stuck toe into swimming pool on deck 7, and minutes later, stuck the entire rest of self in there, as the temp was bathtub warm, and the decks are literally awash in sunshine, mystifying the crew who have described Falklands wx as England-like. I swam perhaps a dozen lengths of the pool shared by two old ladies and an old man who were quiet and kept out of my way. Sunned myself dry and stopped by internet café for a tip on how to send pix on the hotmail.

//it is now quarter after one in the afternoon, and my day might as well have been spent in Aruba as down below latitude South 46. One of the best kept secrets of the ship so far, is that the swimming pool is about bathtub temperature and nobody much was in it. There is little smoking, little drinking and no loud obtrusive music surrounding the old people surrounding the pool, speaking in Russian, German and Spanish as well as English. OK, girl watching is a bit grim, but there is no sexy legs contest at full volume a la Ecstasy, and I prefer it this way. Most of the guests are quiet, polite and have good situational awareness and apologize when they are discovered wanting in same. One downside, is that if you DO get behind a couple on a line, it can take them five minutes to decide whether they want white or black coffee…..

I went swimming twice, basically had the pool to myself, and tho it is small, I bet I got a decent workout both times, and lay in the sun on the deck chair for two hours waiting for the noon announcement from the captain, which included wx in the Falklands today being basically as it was on deck…clear, warm and sunny. Not necessarily so for tomorrow, but I have good foul wx gear, and in a way, seeing the Falklands in the rain is more appropriate.

I took a minute to go sign up for the choo choo ride in Ushiaia which does not go ALL the way to the tip of the continent. Was explained the difference between the Chilian and Argentian viewpoints of southernmost city is because Punta Arenas is on the mainland and Ushiaia is on an island. Well, I had wondered. I had decided to have a light lunch, and so I had three ice creams, and was going to quit there, till came the announcement that there was a brbq on deck ten (which I had frankly been smelling) and so I got there just ahead of the line (before the German and Spanish versions were complete) and ended up with 2 cookies, pizza, mashed potatoes, & a hotdog. And in inedible hamburg…far cry from those on the Ecstasy.

Still no popcorn seen, but damn, I’ll ask Hannah about that when I talk to her, as well as cockpit visits about the antartic flight, which I am still desperately hoping will not be weathered out. Six laps makes one mile. I got onto the ex bike barefoot (shoot me now) and did 105 calories, over six miles in twenty minutes, but the really good news is that my weight was 152. From 166, this is one HELLUVA improvement. I can feel the difference.

Made my way up to the top of the crown to see the prize for the raffle, and the chirpy said that it hadn’t been picked yet, leaving unanswered how she could know it’s value. Returned to my same deck chair by the pool and swam a third time, and this time, if possible, it was TOO warm. It had also become a bit more crowded and I didn’t stay long. But if I didn’t fall asleep by the edge of the pool, I almost did. It was about 1530 when they began playing music just after I had written how nice it is that they don’t.. This then was followed by another energetic fun person doing trivia about commercials, but by then I had vacated the seventh deck for the eighth. From there I shouted answer that got me a nice leather NCL bookmark.

Next I connected (on the phone anyhow) with Hannah and asked about popcorn and cockpit visits while flying over south pole. And this in turn was followed by a trip to the library with the puter where I finished the download of the photos from the Valdez Peninsula trip to the Puerto Madryn folder and then put same in the Argentina one (ok, that makes sense, but the Uruguay one is in there as well). Then, for the first time since boarding this craft, was able to get onto the internet from the library without the help of the internet dude.

I quick checked mail etc. What I am NOT in the mood to do is return to the casino, although I would love to try out the piano I saw down near there. Guess I’ll return to try to suss out the gym once again, and maybe walk the decks some more – am still barefoot and wearing bathing suit, but have shorts atop it. //1700 Which got me into the deck ten hot tub for a half hour before supper.

--menu redacted—patently boring.

The sunburn was a little different, and unexpected.