Sunday, March 12, 2017

Funky Valparaíso Chile

There's no other way to describe Valparaíso. Starting as an important port in the southern Spanish Empire, it then became the center of the Chilean Navy. In 1990 the National Congress of Chile was moved here from Santiago. However, the main purpose of our visit was to see the Historic Quarter of the city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The colorful street art is not to be missed. No words can describe it  - so I won't. Enjoy the color and textures of Valparaiso.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Ever-Incredible Torres del Paine National Park

Another trip to Torres del Paine National Park.

There were clouds but very high clouds such that the highest peak in Patagonia was visible for perhaps the first time to me. Monte Balmaceda (elev. 6,677 ft.) is the squarish knob in the background. Both the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers flow off of the peak - one of them is visible here.

Crossing the Pingo River - only six folks allowed on this swinging bridge at a time.

It leads into the southern Beech forest.

A walk on a long gravel beach to the mirador...

...where we got a great view of the Grey glacier. This is usually clouded over and impossible to see but the clouds were quite high today.

A nighttime shot with the half moon.

And sunrise the next day from our hotel. Can't wait to bring Helen here!

Later in the same morning.

I had never seen such calm weather here - not a hint of wind! Look at the reflection on the Pehue River.

The Perhue Lodge at the foot of the Cuernos de Paine.

Driftwood on the shores of Lago Nordenskjöld.

Lago Nordenskjöld.

Seeing the guanacos on the west side of the park.

Great views of flamingos on Lago Amarga.

Flamingos on Lago Amarga.

Guanacos in the Rio Paine.

The granite is a mere 12 million years old and was likely intruded at a depth of no more than two miles. The intrusion is technically a laccolith with the confining black shale clearly visible as eroded remnants on top of the granite.

A visit to Chile is never complete without a typical asado, this time with lamb.

The chef carved off pieces of the juicy flesh for all to taste. Thanks for reading. This has been a great trip with wonderful weather and a fantastic group.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Rounding Cape Horn and Other Sights in Tierra del Fuego

Our expedition cruise to Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego was unusual. The high pressure system that was blistering Buenos Aires in 90 degree heat had a pronounced effect in the latitudes of the 50s such that the weather systems moved from east to west. For this reason we approached the island of Cape Horn on its western side, normally the side that feels the brunt of Pacific storms. As we rounded the Horn from west to east, items flew off of my table in my cabin as the ship rocked and rolled. I knew it was an unusual event - we never feel rough seas when facing the east here.

Cape Horn! The southernmost point of land in the Americas. The rock type is diorite and is part of the South American batholith.

Looking northwest from the cape toward the snow-capped peaks of Hoste Island.

Waves batter the rocks. This was taken with my telephoto lens (300 mm) and so the distance is deceiving. Those waves are likely rising up 25 feet on the rocks.

I was standing on the 2nd deck here shooting right out into the waves, which rose up higher than I was.

An even bigger swell. To stand next to something this large and powerful is a humbling feeling. I was extra cautious standing out here on the open deck as any fall would certainly be a trip into the drink. Nearly 2,500 sailors are known to have lost their lives rounding the Horn, most of them in the winter when real A-1, first class storms rock the region. Staring into the waves was an eery feeling.

Later in the day we visited Beautiful Bay, called Wulaia in native Yagan tongue. My 2nd lecture was about the native people that once lived in these islands, a canoe-going group that wore no clothes in this harsh environment (clothing got damp and held disease). The Yagan were the ones who greeted the Beagle and Charles Darwin in the 1830s voyage through the Beagle Channel.

Low tide exposed these glacially rounded boulders covered in bright orange lichen.

This landscape is part of the Brecknock Peninsula. Note the light-colored granite set within a darker igneous rock.

A long glacier exiting from the Darwin Range Ice Sheet.

I have only seen Mt. Sarmiento (elevation 7,369 ft.) twice in all my years sailing down here and this was a fantastic view from the Agostini Sound.

Agostini fjord.

In Agostini National Park, we visited the Aguila Glacier, here seeming to plow through a grove of southern Beech trees of the genus Nothofagus.

Close-up of the Aguila Glacier. We walked through the forest to its base. Next stop is Torres del Paine National Park.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

More Sights in Buenos Aires

We will be heading south tomorrow to Patagonia to embark on a four-day cruise to Cape Horn, the Beagle Channel and the Straits of Magellan. Here are a few more sights from wonderful Buenos Aires, often called the New York of Argentina or the Paris of South America. It has cooled off a bit today but we'll be going from the mid-80s here at 35º S latitude to the mid-40s at 56º S at Cape Horn.

It has been a long holiday weekend here in BA (today is La Carnaval or Fat Tuesday and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday) and so the streets have been virtually empty. One hardly ever experiences the 9th of July Avenue with so much space. It was refreshing from the wind of too many automobiles.

Detail of towers seen from the Plaza de Mayo.

The Cabildo - the oldest standing structure on the Plaza de Mayo. It used to have longer wings for a total of 11 arches but has been minimized on both ends to accommodate growth.

The North Diagonal toward the Obelisk.

City Hall building of Buenos Aires from the Plaza de Mayo.

The National Cathedral of the Catholic Church in Argentina. This is where Pope Francis was Bishop of Buenos Aires Diocese beginning in 1998.

Like any large city, there is lots of street art formerly known as graffiti.

Entering the La Boca district, a colorful throwback to the immigrant days in Buenos Aires. So many immigrants came to this country from Italy, Germany, Poland and other European locations during the 19th century.

Colorful corner restaurant. La Boca means The Mouth in Spanish and this was the first port area of the city (a little river entered the Rio de La Plata near here and provided protected waters).

La Boca street scene.

Who is that greeting folks from the balcony in La Boca?

Why it's Jorge Mario Borgoglio himself! He is the second-most famous person from Argentina.

And this is a mannequin of the most famous Argentinian of all time - Maradona. His original soccer team is from La Boca and the stadium is within walking distance of this street.

Entertainment during your lunch.

None of these buildings were here just a few years ago as the Puerto Madero area has seen tremendous growth.

Puerto Madero was constructed in the late 19th century when La Boca became too small to handle the ever increasing exports of beef. A contest was held between two engineers on how the port should be designed and Eduardo Madero's efforts won out. However, by the early 20th Century, Puerto Madero itself became too small to handle the larger cargo ships and the New Port was developed to the north, still in use today. When I first came to Buenos Aires in 1992, these red brick warehouses were boarded up and abandoned. The change is unbelievable!

The Women's Bridge in Puerto Madero.

And the view from on the bridge. The sun is out and it is in the 90s!

Where the old meets the new. The Frigate Presidente Sarmiento was built in 1898 as an Argentine Navy training ship. She made six global circumnavigations before being retired in 1938 and now serves as a floating museum.

Floralis Genérica is an aluminum sculpture built by artist and architect Eduardo Catalano in 2002 in the United Nations Plaza. It has an electrical system that opens the flower at 8 AM and closes it at sunset or in high winds.

Finally, no visit is complete to this city without stopping at the Mausoleum at Recoleta, where Eva Peron's body was finally laid to rest in the Duarte family crypt (her body went on a 20 year transatlantic odyssey before coming to rest here). However, other fantastic marble laden mausoleums can be seen such as this of one Rufina Cambaceres (1883-1902). She had perhaps gone into a coma at the age of 19 and was later pronounced dead. A few days after her burial, workers heard screams from her tomb and after exhuming the coffin found scratches on her face and the inside of the coffin. Her mother had this fantastic marble statue created in her honor.

Many statues sit atop the tombs...

...but just a few days before our arrival, one had fallen down into one of the walkways, still closed. Apparently, a tourist climbed one of the tombs to obtain a picture of the area and caused a statue to fall onto him. I found the story online to verify.

I love this city and always enjoy coming here. But now it is on the frontier and the land of no wi-fi! Talk to you again when I re-emerge.