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December 2013 cruise review with many pictures


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Great photos! Ours look like your rainy photos, same kind of weather.

 

Thanks Flordiana ! A funny thing happened near the glacier. In 2007 the weather in the fjords was good and in the glacier area it was yucky. In December the weather was crummy in the fjords and nice in the glacier area. Did this happen to you ? Maybe it's a opposite micro climate. Here is some photos from December. When I started taking pictures on top and I was the only one there.

 

 

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Not much later the crowd showed and the only good unobstructed place was the mini crow's nest

 

 

 

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I moved to the bow for some closer shots. Here you can see where two rivers of ice almost meet

 

 

 

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Most of the people were shooting the glacier but I though that the walls looked nice also

 

 

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We found a good place for an overview on the Verandah deck forward

 

 

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We took this video clip from there.

 

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We had a storm coming in from the west. The port of Puntas Arenas was closed and the captain decided to skip Ushuaia for safety reasons. Instead we did the entire inner passage. The sun came out maybe once or twice for a few minutes, mostly low hanging clouds, snow in the mountains when they were visible.

 

We saw the El Brujo Glacier in one of the fjords, two whales and two flightless steamer ducks. No other wildlife. It was an interesting cruise anyway, but lots of passengers were disappointed.

 

The first really sunny day in Chile was in Valparaiso. The guide there said that it had rained before and we were lucky.

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We had a storm coming in from the west. The port of Puntas Arenas was closed and the captain decided to skip Ushuaia for safety reasons. Instead we did the entire inner passage. The sun came out maybe once or twice for a few minutes, mostly low hanging clouds, snow in the mountains when they were visible.

 

We saw the El Brujo Glacier in one of the fjords, two whales and two flightless steamer ducks. No other wildlife. It was an interesting cruise anyway, but lots of passengers were disappointed.

 

The first really sunny day in Chile was in Valparaiso. The guide there said that it had rained before and we were lucky.

 

We are sorry that you missed these great ports. Unfortunately they reside in the " furious fifties" and are very prone to storms.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roaring_Forties

 

Ultimately safety must come first and the captain has to make the call. On the flip side we did not get to see the whales that we had hoped to see.

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After leaving the glacier we would be cruising the Canal Sarmiento. Returning to the main fjord the weather began to go downhill fast and color looked like black and white.

 

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So when the going got tough - we went to the Pinnacle for lunch. Crab cakes for me

 

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And a Kobe cheeseburger for my wife

 

 

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Now that's how a burger should look and taste ,(next time for me , I thought).

 

 

And we had the place to ourselves !

 

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For dessert we had a nap and dreamed of Torres del Paine

 

 

 

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But - would the storm break ?

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Regarding the sea lions and cormorants in the photos within post #47, these are Southern Sea Lions, Otaria flavescens (Lobo de un pelo in Spanish), and Imperial Cormorants, Phalacrocorax atriceps (Cormoran imperial). Both are quite widespread around the coasts of southern South America.

 

John

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Regarding the sea lions and cormorants in the photos within post #47, these are Southern Sea Lions, Otaria flavescens (Lobo de un pelo in Spanish), and Imperial Cormorants, Phalacrocorax atriceps (Cormoran imperial). Both are quite widespread around the coasts of southern South America.

 

John

 

Thank you for the insight John ! More animals ahead. Torres Del Paine or not ? Grandkids today , more tomorrow Floridiana !

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After we awoke from our siesta on the Zaandam we went for a short walk under the life boats. We were entering a narrow passage and it looked as if you could touch the waterfalls.

 

 

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It was a short lonely walk because it was very windy and cold.

 

 

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The rain had turned to sleet. I have never seen sleet before but my wife said " This is it ".

 

 

 

I didn't like it and we retreated inside. By 7:30 pm the wind had grown to 50 knots from the West , across the bow. It didn't look good for the next morning's adventure. We ate , went to bed early and prayed . Room service was set for 5:30 am and the meeting for the shore excursion @ 6: 15.

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Punta Arenas is a jumping off point for some exciting adventures . Penguins , Torres del Paine and flights to Antarctica are some of the options available to cruise ship passengers. In 2007 on NCL we really wanted to fly to Antarctica but $1500 was more than we had paid for the cost of the cruise. It was also the only chance that we had to see penguins - so we saw penguins. In hindsight we wished that we would have chosen Antarctica. Because we had booked a private tour to see penguins at Punta Tombo in Puerto Madryn, we chose to see Torres Del Paine. The HAL tour included a chartered flight and a 2 hour bus ride to reach the park. To be honest with you - small planes scare me . Two of the guys that I had worked with were private pilots and been killed in 2 separate crashes while at the controls. The excitement of the tour - and the flight had caused broken sleep.

 

Breakfast was great and on time so we were off early . About 25 people boarded the bus that morning for the ride to the airport . It was still windy and rainy so not the best conditions for flying. I had hoped for a single large plane but we were divided into two groups flying on two separate planes. A roll call list was used for plane and seating assignments. We had hoped for the larger Twin Otter but we were chosen for the second flight on the smaller Cessna with our new friends Daniel and Sarah. Here is a photo of the larger Twin Otter.

 

 

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I'm not sure why I was chosen to sit in the co - pilots seat but - I was. My wife thinks that it was because I was the tallest .

 

 

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With no experienced co - pilot flying with us , I figured that I should take a crash course with the instruments and flying ( in case of emergency ). First question - " where are the parachutes " ?

 

 

 

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The pilot was great and had a lot of flight time logged. Take off was smooth but it wasn't long before we disappeared in the clouds. The flying was mostly IFR (instrument flight rules) , in other words , flying using instruments only with no visual references .

 

 

 

About an hour later we landed with applauses for the pilot for a job well done. It was dry when we landed and the rest rooms were a welcome break. This is a photo of airport in Puerto Natales and our small Cessna on the other side of the jet.

 

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The other plane landed after us and we all boarded our comfortable bus for a 2 hour ride.

 

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The ride was going really good until we got caught in a local traffic jam. A cattle drive ! I like this picture that my wife took. Like mother , like daughter I say.

 

 

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Love you report. Your wife took a great photo through a clean bus window! The plane reminds me of the one we took to Tikal, Guatemala. Ours had a co-pilot. :)

 

We love having co-pilots. I think this was the first flight where we didn't have one. Most of the photos from this visit were taken through the windows of the bus so we were glad that they were clean.

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Torres del Paine is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is the crown jewel in Chile's national park system. I lack the eloquence to adequately describe it so I'll let others define and describe it for us.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torres_del_Paine_National_Park

 

As we entered the park we were soon confronted with wildlife. The sky was overcast and most of the photos were shot through the bus windows so the quality is lacking in some cases. But in an effort to show the park and all of it's attributes , we will post them .

 

Our first wildlife sighting was a pair of Condors

 

 

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Next was a pair of Rheas with about 15 chicks. After all it was Spring in South America !

 

 

 

 

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Next up was a bird of prey. I think it was a Southern Caracara.

 

 

 

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Our first stop in the park was at Sarmiento Lake. It was also our first sighting of the Paine Massif - obscured by clouds

 

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Our stop lasted about 10 minutes. Most of our travel would be on dusty roads.

 

 

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Re your very nice wildlife photos in post #64, they are (as you indicated),

- Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus (Condor in Spanish)

- Darwin's Rhea, Pterocnemia pennata (Nandu)

- Southern Caracara, Caracara plancus (Traro or Carancho)

 

Details taken from "Birds of Chile" by A. Jaramillo (2003), Princeton Univ. Press -- a very nice (and compact) field guide.

 

John

Edited by J-D
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Re your very nice wildlife photos in post #64, they are (as you indicated),

- Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus (Condor in Spanish)

- Darwin's Rhea, Pterocnemia pennata (Nandu)

- Southern Caracara, Caracara plancus (Traro or Carancho)

 

Details taken from "Birds of Chile" by A. Jaramillo (2003), Princeton Univ. Press -- a very nice (and compact) field guide.

 

John

 

Thank you John. Here is a toughie. My wife took this video , maybe you can help.

 

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After boarding our bus we resumed our tour. In about 15 minutes time we saw our first wild guacanos. They seemed to show no fear of the bus as we stopped next to this one

 

 

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A little further along we encountered a group out for a run.

 

 

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When we stopped - they stopped

 

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Here is a video clip

 

 

 

 

About 30 minutes later we made a stop at Amarga (bitter) Lagoon

 

 

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The weather seemed to be clearing as we drove closer to the Paine Massif. This is the hill is where my wife found the little singing bird.

 

 

 

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Thank you John. Here is a toughie. My wife took this video , maybe you can help.

 

 

Sorry, I do not know the Chilean birds well enough to venture a suggestion. Nice guanaco pictures.

 

John

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After the stop at the second lake , our next 10 minute stop was at the Paine River where there is a cascade.

 

 

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We were getting ever closer to the Paine Massif but you can't ignore the power and beauty of the cascades.

 

 

 

 

Here is another view of the cascade

 

 

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The Paine River

 

 

 

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As we were shooting pictures my wife told me to look behind us where a guanaco had just gotten a drink . He then preceded to walk past us as if we were invisible.

 

 

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The wind had started to pick up and it continued to remain windy throughout the day.

 

 

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Returning to the bus , we were on the move again . Another view of the Paine River

 

 

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It looked misplaced but there were some sheep grazing

 

 

 

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Torres del Paine means Towers of Blue and is named for the 3 salmon colored needle like towers. The Blue is the color of the glaciers , rivers , lakes and icebergs found in the park.

 

 

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The towers are from left to right are: South , Central and the double - peaked

North

 

 

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Another shot of the three peaks

 

 

 

 

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And a wider angle.

 

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As we continued to circle the Paine Massif the most prominent feature came into view - the Cuernos. The Cuernos del Paine are the " horns of Paine" which are the dark areas on top of the lighter mountains. The darker area is softer , sedimentary rock which is perched on top of the harder , lighter colored volcanic rock.

 

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Another shot from the moving bus

 

 

 

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Our next stop was the Ranger Station were our guide paid the $40 p.p. fee for park entrance. As my wife used rest rooms I took this picture of 2 backpackers walking.

 

 

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When my wife came out of the rest rooms I knew that something was up. When she showed me this picture , many silly thoughts filled my head but in an effort to avoid "potty humor" , I'll let the readers supply their own lines.

 

 

 

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Back on the bus we treated to more great views.

 

 

 

 

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With all the sights that we had seen and all the exercise that my shutter button finger had gotten we had worked up quite an appetite . Fortunately our guide knew just the place to eat and soothe sore fingers . The restaurant is set on an island in the middle of Lake Pehoe. Seeing it only inhances the anticipation because it requires crossing on a long foot bridge to reach it.

 

 

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The restaurant is part of the Hosteria Pehoe the park's oldest hotel

 

 

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The view of the Paine Massif and Lake Pehoe is amazing !

 

 

 

 

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With a good view and great company we settled down to some serious eating.

 

 

 

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This was a fresh hearts of Palm salad

 

 

 

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The small champagne flute in front of us on the table holds the potent Pisco Sour. A link here best describes it.

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisco_Sour

 

On our first visit to Chile our guide showed as a good brand of pre- mixed Pisco Sour in the grocery store. If you shake it a frothy foam is created.

 

 

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We enjoyed the Pisco and lunch so much that we forgot to take pictures !

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