Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

sun again - Puerto Montt

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
After so many days at sea and the cold and the rain and the wind, we finally made it to Puerto Montt in a beautiful sunny warm day. Our first after leaving Montevideo. The earthquake of the century happened while we're at sea and we even missed the tsunami. But Santiago airport was closed so we didnt know if we could catch our flight home or not. For a while we slowly sailed at 10 knots unsure if we should continue our course or turn back south. Finally the captain announced that we would continue as scheduled. Last night we had the Captain's Circle Cocktail party and we were all dressed up, and I took the chance to get a photo with the young, handsome and out-spoken Brit. Nice dude! We had a nice lobster and prawns dinner followed by a chocolate pudding. Yum yum! This morning M went to see Puerto Varas, volcán Orsono, lago Llanquihue and the saltos at Petrohue, while M&P went to see the German town at Frutillar. Meanwhile the Hippo painted town since I've already been to all those places. I remember the lapis in Puerto Varas, the breathtaking Orsono with the lenticular cloud forever covering its top, the immense and serene Llanquihue and the pretty falls at Petrohue, where I've spent 2 days being eaten by hungry mosquitoes. I've enjoyed my Sunday morning walk in Puerto Montt, not many people out and all stores closed, and I made it as far as the main square with the pretty church. At the other end of the pier, past the craft market filled with alpaca goods, there's the Angelmo Seafood market with loads of gigantic fish and cheese. The fishermen were pulling in their colorful skiffs and they reminded me of the Portuguese fishermen. The day was sunny and warm. So nice! Puerto Montt, pretty town with volcán Calbucco in the background. I had wanted to spend the day in the Chiloe Island, so nearby, but all the tours were cancelled. Goose and Tomaso back home expressed concern about the tsunami and the Star Princess. Goose pointed out the Star Princess sailed out of BsAs to the Falklands without proper authorization and warned to stay away from where the Hippo was heading next "until
things settle down, just so as not to get caught up in any insurrection,
meteorite strike, funnel cloud activity or plague of locusts that may
happen to spring up spontaneously wherever she's headed next.. " Nice friends!!!

Puerto Montt


Fishing boats at the Angelmo

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beagle Channel

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
It's 10PM and we're still docked at Ushuaia. Due to gusty winds Beaufort Force 9 pinning the ship onto the berth, we could not leave the dock and sail. At this late hour we'd not reach Punta Arenas on time and so the captain decided to skip that port. Instead we cruised slowly through the Beagle Channel and had scenic views of its famous glaciers. The parade of glaciers started with the Italia, then the Francia, the Alemania, and in the afternoon the Romanche which receded quite a bit and the lower portions turned into waterfalls. After passing by the Espana glacier, the Star Princess moved into the Cockburn Channel en route for the Magellan Straits. The following morning, the 26th, we entered the Magellan Strait, the southern Patagonia region, and caught the biggest glacier yet, the Amalia. We stopped in front of the massive glacier for an entire hour where the handsome Captain Edward Perrin swung the vessel bow to port to give a view of the glacier on both sides. All the time I was admiring Amalia, without knowing it is actually in the Bernard O'Higgins National Park, where years ago I had such a terrible experience. After our feast of Amalia, we slowly crossed the Amalia Sound into the Pacific passing through the Pitt Channel, Andres Channel and through a segment of the Conception Channel as the vessel exited to the Gulf of Trinidad. In the early morning we entered the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Corcovado and turned north through the Gulf of Ancud, en route to the Chilean Lake district, and the scenery was very spectacular, much resembled the Lofoten on the Norwegian coast. I didnt much care for Punta Arenas. Been there and had bad memories of my first trip to Patagonia. But we missed the tour to see the Magellanic penguins. Good thing I at least got to see the Kings which are much more impressive than the little just b&w penguins. Besides I had this enormous Antarctic cold and was very sick. I really looked forward to another port though, to get on land again as I'm getting really tired of the rock and rolling of the ship. But tomorrow is another day at sea.

Video of Beagle Channel [6.7M]


Video of Amalia Glacier [2.2M]


The Beagle Channel


Amalia Glacier


Pengi with Amalia Glacier

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fin del Mundo - Ushuaia

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
In the early morning we entered the Beagle Channel and docked at Ushuaia, the southernmost city, in Tierra del Fuego, el fin del mundo. Here is where the pan american highway that started in Alaska, ends. The city was very pretty with lots of shops and surrounded by the end of the Andes, running from East to West, facing the sea, very picturesque. We took the scenic Mountain tour on pan-american highway route 3, to see the end of the Andes. Although the Andes arent very tall, they are very beautiful. My favorite mountain range. Neither the Alps nor the Rockies tug my heart as the Andes do. About 12 years ago I made it as far south as Puerto Natales in Chile to catch a ride to the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Today I am even further south. Ushuaia had always been on my mind and now that I am here, I like the city very much. I've decided to buy myself a penguin to keep Tux company. I hope he likes tofu!

Ushuaia


The end of the Andes


Video of Ushuaia [12.2M]


Video of the end of the Andes [3.7M]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

55°4.2'S    63°54.4' W

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The wind picked up to 60 knots and the ship slowed to 14. All open decks and pools were closed. We're now at 55° 4.2' S and 63° 54.4' W with southerly Beaufort Force 10 wind and a temperature of 5.5°C. The southernmost I've ever been. On top of my enormous Antarctic cold, runny nose and cough, I felt seasick. All night and morning the ship pitched and rolled, all closet hangers rattled and hit each other while the ship rocked. Most annoying. Finally the wind died down somewhat to a 45 knots and the ship was able to pick up speed. Cruising at 18 knots we reached CapeHorn, the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego, the end of the American continent where the Atlantic met the Pacific, at 19:00. With barely enough sunlight left we cruised the scenic rock which belonged to Chile. The vessel sailed slowly past the Cape then did a 180 so both sides could admire the rock. Could not spot the Chilean flag, nor the chapel, not the albatross sculpture on the island. Not very impressive. Disapponted. At least all was calm while we're here. Drake got blown off course many times before rounding the cape. But Schouten must have been impressed.

Cape Horn


Video of Cape Horn [2.3M]

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

King Penguins - East Falkland Islands

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The road passed by cascades of rock dating to glacial times and went from paved to gravel when we entered the privately owned farms, and the opening and closing of pasture gates began. We set out in 7 4X4 LandRovers. The road disappeared when we entered the Johnson Habour Farm, a 36,000-acre sheep farm owned by Smith Brothers. Now the terrain was boggy heath, bumpy, wet and muddy. Soon our 4x4 was splashing mud and covered completely with the brown stuff. I hope the King Penguins are worth the trouble. An hour of bumping in the totally prestine farm, where occasionally we needed to cross gullies using wooden planks as bridges, we reached Volunteer Point in pouring rain and gusty winds. After 2 days at sea with not much to do and getting an Antarctic cold, I was glad to stand on solid ground again. I've never paid much attention to the Falkland Islands. They were just the Malvinas to me when I saw the war memorial in BsAs 10 years ago. It was the bloody war that brought the islands to the world's attention. The first site of it was flat and the landscape resembled much like Iceland with grass and small rolling hills. 2 beautiful bright sunny days at sea and now that we reached our destination, suddenly the clouds rolled in and rain started. So I stepped out of the 4x4 totally covered from head to toe and headed towards the penguin colony. They were the Kings and stood about 3ft tall. Totally unafraid of humans, they walked everywhere sporting their yellow beaks and matching orange spot on the side of their heads, and a patch of orange and yellow on their muscular chests. They were gorgeous. And there were so many of them. Some walked alone and some were in pairs, even with their eh, flippers linked. Trying to stand near a pair for a photograph and they side stepped away from me but with no fuzz. Wonderful, non-aggressive, gentle birds. Scattered among the Kings, the Magellanic little cousins lived in their own humble burrows. Although same kind and neighbours, they didnt mix. Further along, in their own colony, the Gentoo cousins wiggled in their signature tuxedos, woggling along in their matching orange beaks and feet. Wow, I walked among them and they had the right of way! I've never liked penguins until I saw the Kings and Gentoos. On our way back, after another hour of bumping and mud where 3 of the 4X4 got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled free by others, we had a chance to see some sheep shearing in the Johnson Farm. Aside from eating them, I didnt much care for them as animals but there were so many and all so plump and so ready to shed their precious wool. Loud Rock was playing and the shearer pulled a sheep out, sheared their wool off and pushed them back in the stall. For the short 15 minutes we were there, more than 5 sheep got their wool off. These guys are fast! A woman kept pushing the sheep out and poor things, they just got jammed into each other waiting to get rid of their winter coat. Muddy and wet, our driver gave us a short drive through Stanley, which had pretty brightly painted houses with small gardens and the streets reminded me of England. Very British here. The sun finally peaked out when we boarded the tender back to the ship. I quite liked Stanley and the Falkland Islands. We have 400 nautical miles to go to reach CapeHorn tomorrow afternoon. Weather forecast was chilly and windy and the sea quite rough with a swelling way over 4ft. But I was looking forward to the southernmost tip of the American Continent, where the Atlantic meets the Pacific.

Video of King penguins at Volunteer Point, East Falkland Islands [12.2M]


King penguins


Christ Church, Stanley, East Falkland Islands


Colorful houses, Stanley


Video of Shearing at Johnson Habour Farm [6.2M]



Video of Sheep at Johnson Habour Farm [10.7M]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

at sea

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Oh the familiar ship! And the easy joy of cruising. You get up in the morning, go upstairs to the buffet court to have all you can eat and drink breakfast, then the next big problem is to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. Should the Hippo lounge on the aft deck, or should she go to the indoor Calipso's pool at midship? Should she have her massage at the Lotus Spa before or after Line Dancing? Should she jog around the ship on open decks for some exercise or should she just laze and watch the movie in the Movies Under the Stars on the Sun deck? Or maybe she should sample the Caipirinha in the Explorer's bar and watch the Tango on the Fiesta deck. Or just shop at the ship stores. Then the next big decision is whether or not to dine at the restaurant (and which one?) or do buffet. It depends on whether she feels like dressing smart or not. Then after dinner, what? Show at the Princess Theater or at the Vista Lounge? Or just Disco with the kids in the Skywalker Nightclub? Hm, maybe this isnt as easy as it seems. Too many decisions! Well, as it turned out, she did none of this. She played Mah Jon (and lost poorly) instead and took a nap in the afternoon after her massage (oh, and she skip Line Dancing). And had a nice dinner at the Portofino restaurant, followed by a musical in the Princess Theater, and a midnight snack on the Horizon Terrace on the aft deck, watching the waves as the Star Princess sailed on the Atlantic to her next fabulous destination - the Falkland Islands.Or should I say the 'Malvinas'?

Cruising ...


Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

cruising again - Montevideo

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Yesterday we boarded the Star Princess and set sail to Montevideo ('I see mountains'). The storm in Iguazu finally caught up with us and storming in BsAs. But we were one step ahead of it. Montevideo was hot and humid. The capital wasnt very interesting. The Ciudad Vieja didnt look old. The acclaimed one remaining gate La Puerta de la Ciudadela was but repaired and the Plaza de Independencia was small and unattractive. The huge statue of Jose Artiga was impressive but one couldnt really get a good picture of it because there's a tall and ugly apartment building behind it. Again we couldnt go inside the Teatro Solis. This trip seemed not to be a teatro seeing trip. First the Teatro Colon in BsAs was closed for renovations and completely covered up so not even a picture of the outside was possible. And now there were no more inside tours for the day in the Teatro Solis. But we did make it to the Palacio Legislativo, a marble white building with a Greek temple on top that resembled the Hera's temple on the Acropolis. Loved this building. But again we missed the guided tour to the inside of this brilliantly white building. Trouble with this building was that it was in the middle of a not so nice area of town and away from the other attractions. We had to taxi there and taxi back to town. I had wanted to walk some of the ramblas , a long street that boards Montevideo's coastline, and visit some pocitos, the fashionable seaside neighbourhood but there was no time. In the late afternoon we sailed out of the Rio Plata into the Atlantic, and a fantastic lightning storm lite up the pitch black sky like fireworks. It was an awesome display that not many on the ship saw. I saw it by chance on the aft deck. I've never witnessed storms like this. No rain. Finally in the early morning on the next day the rain came.

Video of Lightning storm on Rio Plata [1.7M]


Tango onboard Star Princess [7.9M]


Teatro Solis


Statue of Artiga with Palacio Salvo


Palacio Legislativo

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

BsAs

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Tourists dont come to BsAs for sightseeing. There's Evita made famous Casa Rosada "Don't cry for me Argentina", and her resting place in Recoleta's cemetery, the world famous Teatro Colon, and the vibrant and colorful Caminito in La Boca. Then there's the San Telmo, the birthplace of Tango, with colonial houses and cobblestone streets illuminated by iron lanterns, and the hip Palermo, but there isnt really any specific place to visit there. People come to BsAs to shop. Leather goods are affordable and plenty. I like them here because they come in a variety of colors, like blue, green, pink, orange, yellow and purple, that we dont find back home. Walking the Calle Florida pedestrian street filled with shops expensive and cheap, was a rare pleasure. Beef is fantastik here because of the Welsh and German estancias. We had Parilla (famous grill) and meat empanadas that were out of this world in this place called Parilla de Puerto Maduro, in the Maduro district, on the bank of the rio de Plata, close to the Puente de Mujeres. I walked here all alone 10 years ago. We did the touristy thing of waiting in line to get in the Cafe Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo. Inside the 90 year old coffee shop, the walls were filled with pictures of famous patrons and the china was exquisite. I bought some. The world renowned Teatro Colon was all wrapped up and closed for rennovations. I had wanted to go to an opera there. Couldnt even get a picture of its façade. Sigh. Last time I bought 2 handbags in Casa López and M saw one in the Gallerias so I took her to the one in Plaza San Martin. 10 years ago I stayed in the hotel Crillon close to the plaza and this time we found the store again. M and I taxi'd to La Boca and did what all tourists must do in BsAs which was to walk the Caminito and photograph the brightly painted houses. Free Tango shows just about every corner. Compared to the cheap and stingy Brazilian hotels, the hotel Reconquista Plaza in BsAs had ESPN and free internet. But the breakfast was continental and lousy. No matter, the city itself made up for it. The Parilla and the empanadas and the shopping made up for everything. After a disappointing Rio, gosh I love Argentina!

Cathedral Metropolitano


Video of Tango in El Caminito, La Boca [4.0M]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Camino a San Francisco - BsAs

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The city seemed to have sprawled since I was here 10 years ago. Back to a local hotel and what a world of difference from the Sheraton. First order of business was the Gallerias Pacifico. In the food court there I found a good salteado mixto, basically a stir fry with lots of pepper and bean sprouts. Although it was 'chowed' (stirred fried) by a latino, it was surprisingly good. We didnt know of any good Tango shows and just picked one off the list the hotel gave us. We got lucky as it turned out to be in San Telmo, a local joint, small and intimate. The show at La Ventana offered not only Tango but included a Peruvian band playing traditional music with Andean panpipes, and images of Argentina were projected on a big screen behind the musicians, the Iguazu Falls, Patagonian landscapes, guanacos, condors soaring in the mountains and waterfalls, my beloved pampas, colonial houses, and Perrito Moreno. And when they played Camino a San Francisco, it took me back to the Peruvian mountains. I got emotional while I recalled Machu Picchu (now totally destroyed by floods), the Andean mountains, Patagonia, the estancias, the rain, and the companionships I've enjoyed there. It was a fantastic show. What can the Hippo say? She loves Argentina!

Video of Los Laikas playing at La Ventana [4.8M]

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Top of the Garganta - Cataratas del Iguazu

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The food at the Sheraton by the executive chef was bad. My seafood risoto the night before wasnt cooked properly. We had to send it back to have it redone. The steaks and primeribs in the buffet were harder than beef jerky. The steak knife wont even touch it. We needed a chainsaw! Yesterday's border crossing was really smooth. Totally relaxed and we didnt even had to pay the $131 to get into Argentina. The "no man's land" bridge that separated Brazil from Argentina, had Brazilian yellow and green on the Brazilian side and the Argentina's white and blue on the Argentina's side. This morning we walked the Circuito Superior in torrential rain. The tropical rain that I love. I was wet all over and loved every minute of it. The Circuito Superior offered views from the top of the falls and it was a fairly short walk. After that we took the 10 minutes narrow gauge train and walked about another 15 minutes to top of the Garganta del Diablo. By this I mean we're _literally_ on the top of the biggest fall in Iguazu! It spewed so much spray up the air that from the plane I thought it was a pure white column of cloud. Neither photography nor words could describe the gushing of this thing, it's like the water was competing with itself to see who gets down the fall first. No one, no one who had witnessed this thing and not be overwhelmed! It was still raining so hard and we got so wet that we didnt know if it's from the rain or the fall. Somehow I thought we were lucky that it was a rainy day. It felt so much in harmony with the falls. If it were a sunny day I thought I wouldnt have like it so much. I never wanted to leave this place. It's the most awesome sight I've ever seen. It beats the Trummelbach in Lauterbrunnen. Without being on top of the Garganta, you havent experienced the real Iguazu. I love waterfalls and have seen many, and this one is the Queen of it all. No wonder Eleanor Roosevelt said 'Poor Niagara'! From now on, every waterfall pales in comparison. In the afternoon, we completed the visit by walking the Circuito Inferior. The Argentinian side was truly better than the Brazilian's because you can really get intimate with the falls like being literally on top of the Garganta, and right below the Bossetti, although the Brazil side offers more panaramic views. But if you're going to be here, you have to do both sides to appreciate the size of this entire area. The remaining of the day we stayed in the hotel to enjoy the resort. M went to the gym and heated indoor pool while I mostly just sat in the garden area overlooking the Garganta, where I daydream while it continued to rain on and off. The jungle humidity and temperature were high and I loved every minute of it. There's no other place I've enjoyed better and I dont mind at all to come back again. I've never expected Iguazu to be such a heart stealing experience. This sentiment will stay with me always.

Top of Garganta del Diablo


Video of top of the Garganta [3.7M]


Video of Salto Bossetti [3.5M]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Molhados - Cataratas do Iguaçu

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The awesome site of the Garganta do Diabo hit me when I stepped into the Sheraton hotel lobby on the Argentina side. After 3 nights in Brazilian hotels, one would see the difference in an American hotel. Our room, although not facing the falls, was large and comfortable, and the bathroom a good size and clean. And it has a balcony! Facing the jungle, the view was peaceful and calming. We finally have CNN and ESPN where we could catch the Olympics, although in Spanish. The lobby was large and ceiling to floor window offering a direct view of the major fall. All the Argentinian walking circuits were steps away from the hotel. Before landing, we got a good aerial view of the falls from the plane, and I saw what looked like a huge cloud which turned out to be the spray from the Garganta. The whole area looked like a hole was punched in the middle of the jungle. Soon as we landed in Foz do Iguaçu, we went in to the park to do the Brazil side. The view of the Argentinian falls started small but as we walked along the path, we gradually got closer views of the falls. Finally a catwalk all the way out to the rio Iguaçu Inferior, below the salto Floriano and in front of the Garganta do Diabo, where its sprays soaked us throughly. The force and sound were tremendous, a reminder of the powerful nature that diminishes us, the humans, and reminded us that although we thought our intelligence conquered the universe, our minute existence was nothing compared to the wonder and force of nature. We took the Macuco Safari boat out to the catarats and for 150 reais each we got a thorough shower that drenched us completely, including our paper money, passport, underwear and everything that was on us although I thought I covered myself totally in waterproof garment. So we arrived at the Sheraton 'molhados' but with a thrill of a lifetime.

Hippo with salto Floriano on the Brazil side


Walkway out to the front of Garganta do Diabo


Video of Argentina falls from the Brazil side [4.7M]


Video of Salto Rivadavia [3.7M]


Video of Salto Floriano [4.6M]

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

a love died - Rio

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
'Brasil', that's what I chose every time we played a game where we had to pick a country to represent ourselves when we were kids. All other kids would pick USA. But I've always preferred Brazil. That's how special Brazil was to me. It represented the 'big' modern colonial. Everything there signified what home was, only bigger, more sophisticated and advanced. But finally being here in Rio, my love for Brazil vanished. I did not like Rio. Copacabana didnt impressed me. The water was brown and murky. No beachfront shops like in Waikiki. Ipanema's water was bluer but the beach so very crowded. Our beachfront Orla Copacabana hotel, located at the end of Copacabana and across from the Forte, with a fantastic view of the entire Copacabana and good reception service, was shabby, old, not very clean, tiny and the oceanfront rooms lacked balconies. The swimming pool on the top floor had a striking view of the entire beach but the pool was miniscule, like an oversize bathtub. The hotel didnt have free internet nor CNN. I was left without news or any happenings in the Olympics. Our familiar food like caldo verde, bolinhas the bacalhau, feijoada and bacalhau asado were expensive and not very tasty. The famous beaches werent all that great. Only the evening strolls on the beach promenade were soothing and refreshing. In Santa Teresa I had wanted to photograph the Bondinho but after waiting for a while, no train came. On the way up to Corcovado, we passed by the favela Moro Dois Prazeres, and I thought of Edward Norton being chased through the narrow streets in the shanty town in the Hulk. The crowd in Corcovado was madening but the view spectacular. At the Macaranã I took a picture of Reinaldo's footprints. We had lunch at the Lapa district and I've noticed Brazilians like sushi! The Sambodromo was decorated with Carnaval colors and paintings. People were busy getting ready for the Sunday parade. The view of Rio and adjacent Niteroi was pretty spectacular up in the Pão de Açucar, and I've wanted so much to go there, but was voted down. The Carnaval started and people filled the streets drinking and making noise. The human and car traffic were horrendous. Nonetheless, it left me with a nostalgic feeling. The narrow streets and old colonial houses and the familiar language reminded me so much of home. It's Portuguese everywhere and so very colonial. Oh the good old days at home! But I was looking forward to Iguazu!


Copacabana


Video from Corcovado [5.6M]
 

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