A Millennium Celebration to Remember
"Glittering white, shining blue, raven black, in the light of
the sun the land looks like a fairy tale. Pinnacle after
pinnacle, peak after peak, crevassed, wild as any land on our
globe, it lies, unseen and untrodden."
of Robert Cushman Murphy describe much better than I can the
unforgettable scenic wonders of Chile that I viewed the last
week of December and until today, January 7, my 48th day at sea.
And this very moment is one of the
most dramatic I've experienced thus far-and I hope not to
experience again soon! We're traveling in gale force winds,
with very high seas, and waves breaching the deck. We can't
walk without hanging on, and I've seen more than a few people
slide into slippery heaps of food, tea, table and chairs while
eating lunch at noon. And this isn't over yet.
We are moving at 13 knots through the
Straits of Magellan for the second day, heading toward open seas
at the entrance to the Pacific Ocean. We've sailed through
the Drake Passage, which is a deep waterway 600 miles wide bounded
by the South Shetland Islands and Cape Horn. The Pacific
Ocean flows through this waterway into the Atlantic Ocean with a
speed of about 24 kilometers a day. This is known as the
Antarctic circumpolar current-and it's the "most
voluminous" in the world. It moves at a rate of nearly
150,000 cubic meters a second---and at this moment I'm not
enjoying the effects of that powerful current!
We were warned last night to tie everything down, remove all
glass from shelves and secure everything in the room. I did.
I put everything in drawers, put glasses and bottles away, books
on the floor, and prepared for a rocky night. They weren't
At three a.m. I awoke to my
closet doors banging back and forth. I tied them shut but they
came loose in minutes. Massive waves slammed up
against the ship's hull over my porthole, there was an
intermittent clattering, frequent banging of doors,
and every once in a while, a shuddering or violent sounding boom
from the bowels of the ship and then an ominous rumbling noise
and shaking not calculated to make you feel secure in your little
stateroom at 3 a.m. I still haven't figured out what these noises
are, but they continue. All I can say is that after a
morning of seasickness, I've now taken Dramamine, and I'll
be pretty happy when I see the blue Pacific Ocean for the first
We are headed toward Easter Island, now six days away.
This will be a peaceful time that I'm looking forward to
recuperate from the wild and wonderful time of celebration I
had with son Steve and Christina, over the past week or so.
Tooling Up Dirt Roads in the Andes
Leading up to the millennium week,
on December 28 Ocean Explorer sailed into Ushuaia, the
village at the end of the globe.. When I saw Ushuaia,
I was more than disappointed not to be able to stay there as I had
planned---jagged snow-covered Andean mountains surround the sea
porton all sides and it's the gateway to Antarctica. It is a
small village where you dock right at the center of town, and
there are scenic little Alpine chalet-type buildings on the
streets . It's situated on the north shore of the Beagle
Channel, and this is the town named after the ship in which Darwin
sailed the Channel in 1832 on his five-year voyage that ultimately
resulted in his writing "The Origin of Species."
But I had already made plans
to meet Steve and Christina at the Carrera Hotel in Santiago,
where I was staying with the World Cruise group for the
Arriving by plane in
Santiago, I found it was a hot 90 degrees and a very crowded noisy
city. I was very tired when we arrived at the hotel in the
late afternoon, not to mention a little concerned about
where to locate Steve and Christina. I shouldn't have worried.
I dragged my suitcase out of the elevator to register and get my
key on the fifteenth floor of the hotel and heard a loud,
"MOM" and got a great hug from my son. Everyone
almost clapped at our happy reunion! I was so happy to see
Steve, and by now everyone around the registration desk in knew
him. He had been there all day meeting each of the previous flights, knew
everybody at the registration desk and all the rules, and was
assisting in directing people to the right lines! And
telling more than a few people where "el bano" was.
That was the beginning of an
unforgettable week, and one that'd I'd always remember as a
highlight of my trip around the world. I was with my family,
and the millennium was finally approaching.
We stayed in Santiago for two
nights at the luxury five-star hotel-I luxuriated in a
bathroom unlike what'd I'd had since leaving America---hot water
on call; showers without rocking and rolling. A BATHTUB, no less.
Steve's was even better. When he showed me the room I had
reserved for them, he told me I'd be mad; I had a small single
room facing a nameless wall, and he had an entire suite facing
right on the Constitution Plaza, the heart of Santiago and
surrounded by colorful flags, military marches daily, and
historic government buildings. But I was happy I could give
them a little bit of luxury amidst their backpacking and camping
for two months.
The two quickly became
a part of the World Cruise tour family and were handed a week of
free lunch and dinner vouchers---we had a great steak dinner with
Chilean wine the first night there-and several other free meals
for them afterwards, and they got acquainted with the cruise
The two had been backpacking
for three weeks in Chile and by now were old hands at finding
their way around by metro, local bus, and foot! And
that's what we did all day of the 29th. My buddies Jackie
and Joe decided to hook up with us with Steve as our tour guide.
Little did they know what was in store for them (they weren't used
to Steve's transportation style.) We went on three subways,
found a local bus for $2 apiece and headed for a long ride up a
canyon into the brown Andes headed for Maipu. We must have stopped
on every street corner in Santiago before we got out of town, and
at many stops, a guy would hop on the bus selling cigarette
lighters, silver bracelets (which we bought or 20 cents apiece),
or helado---in the heat a favorite purchase of our group.
They call out this ice cream or popsicles---cherimoya, manzanilla,
pino, chocolate-as they go up and down the aisles selling what
they can until the next block and then hop off. We bought several
helados before the end of the trip for 100 pesos, 20 cents.
It took us two long hot hours
on the bus with Chileanos to get to the end of the line up
the winding canyon and following the path of the brown, rushing
Colorado and Maipu rivers. We were passing along the same
place, Canadas de los Animas, that Joe and Jackie would
travel to take a rafting trip for $50 the next day. At the
end of the line, the bus driver let us out at a garden
restaurant he recommended situated down the hill and near the
river. We had almuerzo, a huge meal-and several
cervesas, and rushed back up the hill to catch the 3
p.m. bus, sitting on a step of an abandoned building in the shade
of the dusty two lane road. We waited for 40 minutes, hot,
tired , and dusty but with Steve negotiating our first trip in
interesting, and passable Espanol, we found our way back to town.
It was the first of several adventurous and great days I would
have that week.
The next day Steve, Christina and I
set out to Puerto Montt and the Lake District adventures.
Puerto Montt is in the northern end of Patagonia in a land of
fjords, 600 emerald lakes, national parks, lush, green Andes, and
volcanoes. Of the total number of volcanoes in the world,
Chile has over 600, 10 percent of the world total, and 47 are
active. At Puerto Montt, an old German settlement, we
picked up our rented Subaru station wagon, and headed through this
picturesque little town on the lake. Then to Varas and the Cabana
del Lago, where I had reserved a cabin on the second largest lake
in Chile. Across Lake
Llanquihue you can see two great snowcapped volcanoes: the
perfect cone of Osorno, and the shattered cone of Calbuco, and
when the air is clear which it was brilliantly so when we were
there, Tronador, which we saw as well.
For the next three
days, sitting on our porch, sprawled on the lawn overlooking the
lake, riding up gravel roads in the Andes, or hiking along black
sandy beaches or black rocky river paths--everywhere, the
scenery was spectacular---snow-covered volcanoes , and
especially the great postcard volcano Osorno-rushing rivers,
waterfalls, forests deep in ferns and bamboo, and beautiful
peaceful pasture lands way up in the Andes, with cows, goats
crossing the road, sheep grazing on green hillsides covered with
lupine, poppies, and unrecognizable wild flowers. And no people!
What a ball we
drove up and town narrow rocky dirt and gravel roads high
into the mountains;
shopped for picnic foods at the supermercado and bought salmon,
olives, cheese and wine to spread out on towels for our picnics
along the lakes;
--- We swam
in a freezing Andean lake;
trails in national forests and along lakes, hunting with Steve for
the Alerce tree-which used to be everywhere. We found just
kilometers in the mountains and entirely around Lake Llanquihue,
wandering through lush forests and passing through a few scattered
tiny picturesque shore villages where people were at the beaches
celebrating the long holiday weekend.
---We stopped to
snap view after view of Osorno and other volcanoes, the Cordillera
of the Andes, picturesque old houses and German cemeteries;
---We headed up a
gravel road toward the snowy base of Osorno, but gave up after
about 30 kilometers and headed back around the lake-a one day
Attacked by Killer Flies
all was not totally idyllic despite what I say. We didn't
know about the "killer flies."
---I got attacked by the tabanos on our first hike and was
almost hysterical. Emily, you know how I hate insects.
Tabanos are huge (over one inch) colorful red and black flies that
only come out in some places, mostly near water, in the lake
district in December and January! I didn't know that they only
head for dark colors but I soon found out. The first day I wore a
navy tee shirt. On the trail toward Alerce Park, I got out of the
car and immediately I looked like some comic book character.
A swarm of black buzzing insects surrounded me, and I screamed and
yelled and jumped up and down madly. A kid was sitting near
the entrance to the park and laughed. The flies didn't
bother Steve and Christina much-that day. Steve picked huge
fern fronds, which I used as a fan to keep the flies away on our
hike. We had seen people walking along the roads fanning
themselves with these fronds but didn't make the connection.
The next day was payback day for me. I got smart and wore a
light tan safari shirt; Steve and Christina wore purple tee shirts
and they got all the attention from tabanos that time.
But that attack by the killer
flies was only for a little while. Otherwise, our stay in
Patagonia was all too short.
New Years Eve Dinner was special-We were
among all Chilean families and had hats and horns and champagne
and wine and aperitifs and a five hour dinner. Much
laugher and horn blowing and a conga line a midnight by the
families. It was just what we had hoped for. We were
together in Patagonia absorbing all the culture and color of an
Chilean Millennium celebration.
The Boat Visit
This lovely interlude in my Chilean
voyage came to an end, but not for long. As they took me to
the airopuerto to return to my cruise, Steve popped into LanChile
and , miracle of miracle as their whole trip has been, they picked
up two airline tickets to Punta Arenas where I would be docked on
January 5. (Cost: $100)
And so the next adventure began.
The morning of January I waited and
waited on the Sun Deck overlooking the dock, searching for the
two. I had gone through at least five lines the day before
trying to get them passes to board, and around 5 p. m. got
permission from the captain himself.
Then, comes Jan 5, and no Steve or
Christina. I waited almost two hours and then decided
to get into e-mail for the first time in a week and then check
A half-hour later, around 10 a.m. I tried
the sun deck again. Standing at the rail, I heard the same
distinctive, "MOM." No disguising that voice.
Steve, red beard, red hair and pony tail (but with no holes in his
jean) looked great as usual. They had simply boarded
the gangplank of the ship as passengers with no stopping, no
interference, no nothing. We decided they could stowaway as
far as Easter Island in my room and nobody would know the
So, I was able to introduced them
to the half of the ship I know, and everyone loved Steve and
Christina and said how lucky I am to have have them with me here
in South America. And that is so true. They were very
helpful to some of my shipmate friends in speaking in Spanish in
Punta Arenas to buy things in the duty free mall, came back with
me in late afternoon, and now they are on their way to Torres del
Paine where hey plan to do the six day circuit hike! Jeff, our
naturalist, talked with Steve about camping there and hiking in
the tremendous gale force winds in the wilderness. I wish
them luck and I envy what spectacular scenery they will see
And so, here I am, still slightly
seasick, leaving the continent of South America rather sadly.
I love it. I may return.