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Monthly Archives: February 2016

Incredible Icebergs

All along the route we took toward the Antarctic Peninsula we saw amazing icebergs, but the best were seen from the zodiac on little side trips.

My happy place has for a long time, been on the ocean. I thought it was just in tropical climates, but come to find out, it’s wherever there’s an ocean! Even bundled up and having to freeze my hands by taking gloves off to get photos, I LOVE being on the ocean and documenting what I see…

As beautiful as these photos are, they don’t tell the whole story. The majesty of these ice sculptures is beyond my ability to put into words, so I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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Finishing up the zodiac tour with a little Tia Maria and hot chocolate was a great way to end the day – the ONLY way to make going back to the ship bearable. I could have stayed out for hours longer without being bored!

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Penguins, Penguins, and More Penguins

I’ve gotta confess. I’m pretty sure I took about a thousand pictures of penguins. It took me hours to whittle them down to the low hundreds, and it hasn’t been easy to decide which few to show you.

They are just so darn cute, and every one that waddled by had it’s own charm.

So I’m going to be disciplined and just show you a small number of them.

These penguins are the ones we saw the most of on this trip – the Gentoos.

The penguins can be dirty little critters. They can’t leave their nests (which are made of rocks) until their mate is there, or the predator birds will eat the eggs. So they have to poop in and/or near the nest. They get it all over themselves, then when they go out into the ocean to feed, get cleaned up.

Many of the nesting areas we went to could be smelled before we could actually see them! But we went towards the early part of the season, when it wasn’t too warm yet, so the smell wasn’t oppressive like it can be later in the season.

This is a great photo which shows the rock nest, the eggs, the poop around the nest, and on him/her, and the brood pouch (the area on the penguin right above the eggs where the feathers pull apart and allow skin contact with the eggs.)

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The penguins spend a lot of their time stealing rocks from other nests and taking them to their mate…

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Often the nests are far from the ocean, and the penguins make trails in the snow leading up and back.

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Enjoy their cuteness!

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Aren’t they just the cutest critters!?

And Finally, Antartica

I guess this could count as the most exotic of all our travels thus far. Very few people ever end up going to Antartica.

And there’s a good reason for that. It’s not easy to get there. Up until fairly recently, the trip had to start with a several day long venture across the Drake Pass, one of the most turbulent patches of sea on the planet.

Since Mr. Tattered gets sea sick in rough seas, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to go.

But then he discovered a tour group that does a “fly-over” where you fly out of Punta Arenas, Chile to St. George Island, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula and board a ship there, by-passing the tough part. And it was “trip on!”

We left from Punta Arenas in full Antarctic garb – which we thought was kind of weird, but turned out there isn’t exactly a terminal where we could change. In fact, there isn’t really an airport. Or even a real runway.

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It was quite a hike in ice to get down to where we caught the zodiac to ferry out to our ship.

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Before we knew it, we were seeing ice bergs. It’s not like it was the first time we’d seen ice bergs, but somehow seeing them there was more powerful.

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But the most exciting part was seeing our first penguins. Man, did I take a mess of pictures of penguins… These are from a bit of a distance. I’ll show you close-ups in another post. Until you’re sick of them, I’m sure!

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This sign was posted on the bulletin board of the ship…

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I guess technically there was a sunrise and sunset, but it never got completely dark. We were grateful for blackout shades in our stateroom!

Next up, LOTS of penguins!

 

 

 

Can We Talk About Booze?

Those of you who know me well, know I’m not much of a drinker.

I’ve been having a bit of a relationship with Mike’s Hard Mango punch (we’ve been known to shower together from time to time!) and yes, I do enjoy my Pino Grigio (with ice, of course) from time to time, as well. But to sit down and just drink, especially hard liquor, well, that’s really not me.

But then in Peru I was introduced to Pisco Sours. I guess the drink closest to it here in the states would be a Margarita, but they were even better. Pisco is similar to Tequila, but made from white grapes instead of agave. What makes Pisco Sours a little more adventuresome than Margaritas is that they’re made with raw egg whites. Kinda yuck, huh? But hey…when in Rome. We had to try them. And for me, it was love at first sip. Maybe it was the environment, who knows. All I know is I could hardly wait for my next one.

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In Cusco we went to what we thought was a Pisco museum. Yeah, it sounded a little odd to have a museum dedicated to Pisco, but hey? Maybe there was a big history to it? We had to check it out.

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Turns out that it was a Pisco bar! But in addition to being able to get a good drink, you could take a little Pisco Sour-making class. So my bartender (Mr. Tattered) took the class and made us a couple of drinks from the ground up.

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And they were yum.

So following the advice of our tour leader, we headed for the grocery store and bought ourselves a bottle of pisco to take home with us. We were only home for a few weeks, before heading out again, but we never cracked open the bottle.

Now fast forward to our trip to Chile. They make pisco sours there, as well. It was good to have one (or two or so) again.

But then we went down to Patagonia in southern Chile, and there, they add a twist – Calafate Sours. Pisco Sours, but made with Calafate juice. And man. Does that elevate the lofty Pisco Sours to even higher heights!

Night after night at Patagonia Camp, we indulged.

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When we left, I knew I’d be getting some Calafate juice when we got back to Santiago to take back home with us, rather than haul it to Antartica and then back to Santiago again before heading home.

But there was just one little problem I had not expected. Calafate Sours are a SOUTHERN Chile thing. Calafate was not to be found up north. I was so sad. But, I figured I’d be able to find it on line, so I wasn’t too distraught.

But, my search has been met with failure thus far. Note to self: Next time you fall in lust with something in a foreign country, buy it then.

So how am I going to get back to Patagonia to buy Calafate juice? Talk about a long trip to the grocery store!

Patagonia II

The time we spent at Torres del Paine in Patagonia was nothing short of amazing. I took SOOOOO many photos that it is really hard to decide which ones to show you.

I started with a few yesterday, but I thought you might enjoy a few more! None of these photos are touched up in any way…just the natural beauty we were seeing with our eyes!

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We saw numerous herds of guanacos…

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These 2 little guys were very curious about us…

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On To Patagonia

So, we flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas and boarded our bus for the several hour journey to Patagonia Camp, just outside The Torres del Paine National Park – our home away from home for the next few days.

We arrived in the dark, so we couldn’t tell until the next morning just what a gorgeous place it was.

We stayed in luxury “yurts,” which were barely (if at all!) related to the “roughing it” we expected.

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Taken from the waterfront. The structure on the right is the built on bathroom.

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Ours is the one down on the right. You can barely see the roof.

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The stairs leading down to our waterfront yurt. The guide said we had the prettiest view on the property from down there.

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Looking up to the ceiling – at night we could see the stars!

Even the view from right outside our yurt was amazing, and what we were about to see got even better.

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Each day we took the short jaunt into the park by van, and spent hours hiking, and driving through the most beautiful terrain.

We had no idea there was a glacier that calved ice bergs into the lake.

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Yummy! Yeah, probably wasn’t too smart given there were no dentists nearby, but yes, I ate it!

There were beautiful wildflowers all over the place.

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Maiden slippers

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One of the 11 varieties of wild orchids in the park

These look like the llamas we saw in Peru, but, as we learned, llamas are smaller and domesticated. These are larger and wild. The Chileans call them “guanacos.” (wahn-aw-kos) I don’t think I ever knew they are in the camel family! We saw so many of them, but this was our first.

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Isn’t he a cutie?

But the thing I took the most pictures of were the mountains – from every angle I could find. Here are but a few…

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Pretty impressive place. I’ll show you more tomorrow.

Are You Ready For A Trip?

We’ve been back from our latest trip for two months. In some ways it feels much longer than that. The days and weeks since we’ve returned flew by amidst the flurry of the holidays and then the laborious task of getting the decorations put away.

Slowly, but surely, life is returning to some semblance of normal.

Blogging has been the biggest casualty. As much as I LOVE to write, sitting down and actually doing it has taken second place to my addiction to both Facebook and Spider Solitaire. (If you don’t know what that is, take my advice and keep it that way!) I seem to have the ability to lose myself to both for hours on end.

But, today, I’m going to work toward catching up on my travelogue, especially because we’re leaving on a new adventure soon, and I’d like to be finished with the documentation of the last one first!

So, we left off with the trip to Ecuador and Peru. Since we were already in South America, we had wanted to continue on to Chile and Antarctica before coming home. But, we were unable to match up two separate trips without a few week delay in-between, so we opted to come home, catch up and leave again. Note to self: Don’t do that again. We are much better off leaving more time between adventures!

I have to confess, I really didn’t have much interest in going to Chile, but it was a part of the trip we DID want to go on – Antarctica. I say we. Well, truth be told, Mr. Tattered would just as soon stay home, but he’s humoring me. And he has fun once we get to our destination. It’s just getting there that he’s not fond of. Case in point, Antarctica. Most trips to Antarctica require a multi-day voyage across the Drake Pass, which can frequently have high seas – not something he enjoys. In fact, he jokingly said that the part of the trip I was most looking forward to was watching him hurl for 3 days. That was so not true!

Anyway, this combo Chile/Antartica trip is the only one we could find that flies you from Punta Arenas, Chile to St. George Island just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, where you board your ship, dispensing with the need to tackle the Drake Pass. PLUS, the trip was through Road Scholar, so it was a win-win-win! I get to Antartica, he doesn’t get sick, AND we add the educational component we like so much!

So that’s how we ended up in Chile. And as usual, it turned out to be a happy accident.

I had heard the word Patagonia, but had you asked me what it was before this trip, I would have thought it was a clothing line. Well, it is an actual place. And a quite amazing one, at that. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We landed in Santiago, Chile – very similar to the other large cities in South America – crowded and smoggy. Not really my cup of tea.

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But once we got out of the city, it was quite pretty, and it helped that we were going wine tasting!

We visited two wineries, both with stories to tell and lovely wines.

The first was Santa Rita.

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As the story goes, back during the Chilean Revolution, Dona Paula, the owner of Santa Rita, hid 120 soldiers in the cellars. Their 120 wine is a tribute to those soldiers. It was an interesting story, and a big part of their presentation.

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The second winery was Concha Toro, and another story about El Diablo watching over the wine…

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But the highlight of our time in Chile was the visit to Patagonia…and that is a post or two of its own.

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