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


Fijufic said...

Nice series of posts Fin. Thank you for indulging me. Perhaps I'll return the favor although I am 100% sure the posts will never be as vivid in detail.


Anonymous said...

It was my pleasure. It is amazing how it transported me back in time to read these entries, day after day.

I truly enjoyed it and am glad you gave me a good excuse for the indulgence.

Fijufic said...

I'm always open for more of these. The details blow me away. It is if I am walking in your shoes.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a preference between Panama Canal versus Southern Caribbean?

BenB said...

Very nice running commentary of your trip. Interesting the problems you seemed to have finding drinking water. Not surprising people running around coughing and sneezing all over the place, almost as if they are trying to get everyone else sick along with them. Bus ride sounded arduous. I have spent days on a Greyhound bus, the only thing that saves me is to sleep as much through the ordeal as possible. Andes must be beautiful to see in real life versus pics. Just like the Grand Canyon - you can see a thousand pics but they never do justice to the enormity of it when you arrive, in person and start taking it all in. Sounds like you had a great time.