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Dogtanian20

Queen Victoria South America trip blog

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2 hours ago, Gary999 said:

Thank you Dogtanian. Another good read 🙂

 

sounds like quite the town Dogtanian and great pics..

 

 

you've got some competition Gary...are you blogging this year?

Edited by roscoe39

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3 hours ago, roscoe39 said:

you've got some competition Gary...are you blogging this year?


It depends if uploading to Facebook counts Roscoe... My material will likely feature Chile wine tasting, Pisco Sour tasting(s) (although only in a bar unless someone talks me in to an excursion) and Rum and Chocolate tasting. I’ve updated my Go Pro to one which has built in stabilisation just in case I become unsteady on my feet after sampling all these traditional drinks!

 

Then there’s street food as well. The Go Pro also has a wide lens too 😉

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2 hours ago, Gary999 said:


It depends if uploading to Facebook counts Roscoe... My material will likely feature Chile wine tasting, Pisco Sour tasting(s) (although only in a bar unless someone talks me in to an excursion) and Rum and Chocolate tasting. I’ve updated my Go Pro to one which has built in stabilisation just in case I become unsteady on my feet after sampling all these traditional drinks!

 

Then there’s street food as well. The Go Pro also has a wide lens too 😉

well I'm into the pisco sour tasting...i think we should accept that as a challenge as to finding the best piscos in South America....im up for it but are you???

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11 hours ago, roscoe39 said:

well I'm into the pisco sour tasting...i think we should accept that as a challenge as to finding the best piscos in South America....im up for it but are you???

Absolutely. I’m working on my list of bars in Santiago. Especially those with roof tops. 

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Day 31 and 32 – Rio

Rio greets its visitors with one of wonders of the natural world: a perfect habour, hewn from the Earth by the passing waves, guarded by a sentinel of mountains from nature’s wrath. To sail into Rio feels like passing into the maw of a giant whose teeth are clothed in lush green jungle, decorated with skyscrapers and favelas, and home to a culture for whom the beat never dies.

On arrival, we are greeted by the two legendary features of this inlet: Sugarloaf Mountain, rising up in an arc to split the harbour proper from the golden beaches of Copacabana, and above it all the serene, majestic presence of Christ the Redeemer, the art deco statue visible from across a metropolis of some six million people.

 

My first trip ashore, on a day of clear blue skies and temperatures soaring to 37 degrees (100F), to Ipanema Beach. There the locals walk past, shirtless bronzed gods and goddesses, strolling along the shorefront or relaxing on a pure shore of golden sand. My travels then take me racing through the city by Uber, around the lagoon and its deep blue, to the bottom of Sugarloaf, where the cable cars race up and swing across. Sadly, my hesitance to bring a card ashore costs me: cash will not be accepted here. And so I return to the ship, delighting in a long walk along the seafront, marvelling at frescos of some of the greatest street artists in the world.

 

For the second day, almost everyone has the same mission aboard: Christ the Redeemer. I race across the city again – an Uber a mere £3 for a half-hour’s ride – and get to the tram station, where the ascent begins. Cash is accepted, but there is no visibility, the locals warn; cloud has descended on Rio and the Redeemer is shrouded by the heavens. Figuring that was pretty appropriate for a carving of Jesus, I take the tram up anyway, riding up through deep green jungle leaves, occasionally honking at locals who have scrambled on the route to sell water. Then we vanish in a white haze, penetrating the fog, before bursting out at the top of ‘the hunchback’ mountain. From here, it’s a stiff climb in sweaty surrounds (the temperature has not abated, and the humidity is at its peak) to see the statue.

 

It is worth it. Standing below the outstretched arms, you can only marvel at the ingenuity and ambition that led to its creation so high above the city. Far from ruining the view, the 75% cloud cover creates a magical atmosphere, a sensation that we are joining him above in a secret world.

 

As I descend, exhausted, I hold Rio close to my heart. While I could not live in its chaos entirely, it is good to know life exists with such vibrancy on Earth.

 

Day 35 – Montevideo, Uruguay

Two days at sea brings us to three days on land. Montevideo is somewhere I have no preconceptions or notions of, only knowing about Uruguay from films about the Graf Spee and the Battle of the River Plate, Luis Suarez’s habit of biting other players, and a brief mention in the talk from the celebrity speaker for this leg, Falklands veteran Simon Weston.

 

I am immediately charmed. Montevideo is the definition of pleasant. Its streets are clean and tidy; its buildings well kept in fine colonial style; its people friendly and welcoming. The old city is compact and easily accessible, and I walk through pedestrianised streets, stopping in squares with historic figures nestled among palm trees, looking at architectural delights. There is a moment of drama when I drop my ship ID card in a shop, but it’s over two minutes later when, returning, the shopkeeper hands it to me with a sense of relief. I spend an hour in a beautiful, old-style bookstore/café with stained glass windows and beaux-arts columns, before leaving my companions to hunt down an accordion shop (!) and returning to the ship. Montevideo holds half the population of Uruguay, but never feels intrusive. And while it may be more low-key than its national neighbours, I would not begrudge anyone who chooses to live the rest of their life in this relaxed, comfortable country.

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Days 36 and 37 – Buenos Aires, Argentina

I fall in love in Buenos Aires. Headlong, giddy, dizzy love. The kind of love that makes your heart pound and your desires burn, the air suck out of your lungs, your feet feel wild and free. One of those rare moments in life that, in all its kaleidoscopic glory, synchronises and makes you believe not that you can fly, but you already are among the clouds.

 

It starts slow. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, filled with fine colonial trappings or historic buildings such as the pink walls of the Casa Rosada, where shirtless crowds screamed for Eva Peron to grace them with a smile. It is, however, just a city. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

But I stop looking and start to feel. And realise, in sensuous delight, that I am surrounded by the most beautiful people on Earth. Gorgeous men and women, gods and goddesses of Italian and Spanish heritage, who wear their hair tight or flowing but nowhere in between, who ride horses and dedicate their lives to making art. Who are so overburdened with passion they had to invent the tango, the world’s sexiest dance, just to control their radiating heat. And, in a half-step on a crowded street, I know that I will forever long, ache, to walk these streets, talk to beautiful women, pet their friendly dogs, and pour my being onto bright canvases or beaded strings too.

 

The highlight of the trip is a magnificent party held for us: gauchos galloping with imperious ease at thin threads, hooking it down in a show of equestrian talent; tango dancers and singers; artists daubing temporary tattoos that curl and flower on guests; and tapas to satisfy tastebuds. But a party, even one as incredible as this, lasts only a night, lingering in the quiet of your memory to bring a smile. Buenos Aires is something more. It is heady wine, virulent fever, a cinema screen that projects into your soul.

 

I know, once this incredible journey is over, I will live there.

 

Day 40 – Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Patagonia is scorched earth, brutal and wild, a barren beast that urges you to tame it. Here be Welsh dragons. Puerto Madryn is a town founded by a mad Welshman determined to preserve his way of life, and the gateway to a green and fertile valley which retains its Welsh heritage, from fluency in the language (the locals, my Welsh companion Sue inform me, have heavy north Welsh accents) to buildings that could have been snatched from the valleys and placed in this land of giants. My destination lies further to the south, out through dust and flatness, across a plain where dry winds have whisked and worked since the Andes formed a million years ago. Lonely homesteads are occasionally seen, where herd of guanacos, a cross between deer and llama, living on brackish water among the pale wisps of grass. Otherwise the road stretches in wondrous isolation, the occasional truck passing by as we race south to our destination. We seek the penguin.

 

After two and a half hours of empty road, we reach our destination. Ponto Tombo, the Point of Tombs, was surrendered to nature long ago. Now, its dunes and scrub bushes are the summer home to Magdellenic penguins, who descend each year to form the largest colony in the continental world. Having long learned humans are no threat, these curious creatures let us walk among them, tourists in a city, as their young shed their down and prepare to follow the adults some 3000 miles into the ocean. They gawk and gabble, strutting out of burrows and across our path, clustering in shade or along the shoreline where the Falkland current cools their hides. It is an astonishing thing to find yourself among creatures so indifferent to mankind, even as we gobble up their hopes and habitats.

 

Returning to the ship, we find sea lions have taken up residence on the bow, sunning their fat hides as they wait for the Victoria to depart. We soon do. South, ever south, into summer and to the very edge of the world. We shall brave Cape Horn.

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I’ve read a lot of trip blogs and your writing is far beyond the others.  You manage to find the essence and beauty of the experience and make me crave to be aboard. 

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Thank you for posting your blog, you’ve managed to transport us with you through your writing.

 

Safe travels round Cape Horn.

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To entitle your thread, ''a blog'' does not do justice to your writings. I would call each entry, a travel essay. Wonderful. Thank you.

 

I also look forward to the writings of Roscoe which, written in his own inimitable style, will complement your travelogue. Two great reads in totally different styles. How lucky we are this year.

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1 hour ago, amfc_lenny said:

Thank you for posting your blog, you’ve managed to transport us with you through your writing.

 

 

I agree wholeheartedly. Indeed I was wondering if you are in fact a writer of some sort, even a poet?

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2 hours ago, Victoria2 said:

To entitle your thread, ''a blog'' does not do justice to your writings. I would call each entry, a travel essay. Wonderful. Thank you.

 

I also look forward to the writings of Roscoe which, written in his own inimitable style, will complement your travelogue. Two great reads in totally different styles. How lucky we are this year.

awww shut thanks victoria, nearly onboard......packed and chomping at the bit here...

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30 minutes ago, roscoe39 said:

awww shut thanks victoria, nearly onboard......packed and chomping at the bit here...

Try not to lose your camera this time. We had a chat about it whilst tramping around deck three, in opposite directions of course, whilst  sailing  somewhere in the Indian Ocean.  Must be four years ago now.

Looking forward to the Roscoe perspective on life on Queen Victoria.

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3 hours ago, exlondoner said:

 

I agree wholeheartedly. Indeed I was wondering if you are in fact a writer of some sort, even a poet?

 

I’m a science journalist but I’ve never tried travel writing before.

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7 hours ago, Victoria2 said:

Try not to lose your camera this time. We had a chat about it whilst tramping around deck three, in opposite directions of course, whilst  sailing  somewhere in the Indian Ocean.  Must be four years ago now.

Looking forward to the Roscoe perspective on life on Queen Victoria.

lol....camera now has a handcuff attached to it ready to be snapped on my wrist as soon as i leave the ship...(it also has other uses which i might go into later...)

 

Dogtanian will have enjoyed his trip around the tip then if he is a science journalist, another great blog mate..

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18 hours ago, Dogtanian20 said:

 

I’m a science journalist but I’ve never tried travel writing before.

 

Ah, that explains a lot. If you can make the more abstruse bits of biochemistry comprehensible, than making South America seem real must be a doddle.

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Day 42 – The End of the World

At noon our navigational update has a twist; the Captain and Deputy Captain come to the grand lobby, lay out charts and talk about our passage. It is, by coincidence, 500 years since Ferdinand Magellan and his mutinous ships passed in these waters, and as we talk about the Horn we keep this in mind. We are approaching two days early, from a Force 9 gale that pummels the Queen Victoria and smashes windows and radar, to find a gap in the weather. Albatross swoop around us, gliding over the waves amid spray, and the Deputy Captain, a poetic soul, recalls the Rime of the Ancient Mariner as he remarks each bird is the soul of a lost seaman. Look at the charts, he says, and you’ll know why there are a lot of albatross here. We will make our approach just before sunset, then orbit the Horn – not a point but a jagged island of snarling black rock – anticlockwise.

 

The deck begins to crowd at the appointed hour. Mist descends, a chill bite in the air. We see shadows and shapes of the islands that trickle toward the Horn, desolate things with no living creature upon them. In thick coats and warm sweaters, we talk and mingle as we edge closer. Then, direct in front of us, a small boat comes into view. Fear not, the Deputy Captain reports – it is not the Flying Dutchman, harbinger of doom, but the Chilean Navy’s coastal patrol. Instead, he points us to the lighthouse of the Horn, a lonely structure next to a monument built to withstand winds of 200km/hr and dedicated to those who died braving this terrible sea. As the Victoria stops a few hundred metres ashore and uses its thrusters to rotate 360 degrees, he reads poetry over the tannoy and extracts from the diary of William Bligh, who tried and failed for a month to pass these waters. He also relays the inhabitants of the island – the keeper and his wife have three children there, one of which, a two-month year old baby, was born on the island. We are at the extreme, the farthest reach of mankind’s grasp, and even here life emerges and thrives.

 

We sit in quiet contemplation as we circumnavigate the Horn, then blast our whistle at the southernmost point, a rising black claw of 400m cliff that descends into jagged snaggles of fatal submerged rock. The only thing beyond us is Antarctica, the only humans those on isolated, temporary research bases. It is the furthest I will go in my life. I reach out, extend my fingers, and touch.

 

Day 45 – The Straits of Magellan

We sail through a world of rich wildlife; of orca and dolphin, of seabirds, of penguins in the sea. We stop at Ushuaia, the self-proclaimed capital of Las Malvinas, its quaint streets under the shadow of swooping mountains with brilliant white snow in their lee; we sail back to the Atlantic down the Beagle channel, straddling Chile and Argentina, along a path taken by Charles Darwin as he unlocked the mysteries of biology; and, rounding the Cape of 11,000 Virgins, we pass through the narrowest passage of the Straits of Magellan and into Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world. It is a shell of a town, ruined by graffiti from anti-capitalist riots, its shops burned and gutted or closed for Sunday prayers. The tenders are recalled at 3.30pm, and the Queen Victoria begins again, eventually sailing beyond the gleaming white cross that marks the southernmost tip of the American continental landmass.

 

We are in noble, immortal company. Exactly 500 years ago to the year, Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition coursed this route with its deadly flows and barren landscapes; indeed, here his largest ship, the San Antonio, mutinied and sailed for home. Yet, like us, Magellan pressed on, eventually crossing a wide, calm sea that still bears the name he gave it: the Pacific. Magellan turned west for the spice islands and home; we turn north for glaciers and the bounty of the Andes.

 

Days 47 and 48 – The Glaciers

We cruise through the fjords of Patagonia, their peaks shrouded in mist, the passages haunted by the silhouettes of sea birds and the occasional, fleeting sight of a whale. Our destination are two of the most spectacular glaciers on Earth – the Amalia and Pio XI. The first comes at dusk, but even the mist of the evening cannot detract from its impressive, deep, resonant blue that extends back some 35km. A snowflake, our expert informs us, would take 100 years to make its passage to the sea through this slow avalanche, and it is astonishing to watch as the ship pirouettes in the clearest waters on Earth. The Pio XI comes in the early morning, the captain giving all passengers a wake-up call to tell them of the wonder that will accompany their breakfast. I decide to do something different, and undertake a 5k run around the deck. I cannot think of a more majestic backdrop.

 

Day 50 – Off Puerto Montt

We suffer our first cancelled port. Bermuda was delayed by a day, but the swell around the bay of Puerto Montt is too great for the tenders, which bob and bounce as the wind sweeps the town. Hopes of volcano expeditions are dashed, although I had no plans, and so don’t really consider myself to have lost anything. Rumours pass around the scuttlebutt; conspiracy theories that we’ve been denied because of coronavirus ashore. It’s junk; even as we depart and leave the misty Patagonian fjords behind us, the wind picks up further. While cruisers in Europe can always be stranded ashore and bused to the next stop, it’s not so simple in the wilderness of a country that stretches some 2000 miles.

 

The wildest leg of our journey is over. Soon, we return to civilization – and the political turmoil of Chile.

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Wonderful! Thank you for this. Such wonderful memories of this itinerary--back in the day on the old Marco Polo. I just discovered this today. Also brought back memories of a rough crossing a few years ago on QE when QV was within sight some days. Both ships were pitching up and down... 

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Day 52 – Santiago, Chile

Chile is a country enraged – a land of protests and objections. We arrive in San Antonio and, before dawn, begin the bus ride across the winelands of this beautiful country, aiming for the capital. As we travel, stepping right into the foothills of the Andes, the temperature shifts from a chill breeze along the coast to a glowing warmth, which only increases during the day. The bus leaves us in the central square, where graffiti marks and paint from weeks of protest remains in evidence. Then it’s a walk through the city streets, under boiling heat, past more graffiti and armed trucks daubed in vandals’ paint, the carabinieri of Chile’s military police arresting people on street corners.

This is the wrong impression of what could otherwise be a wonderful place to live. Climbing on to one of the city’s small hills that are home to its parks, everything seems ordered and serene. Once past the anti-capitalist scrawl that covers the city’s world-famous art museum, you could be in a chamber of one of Paris’ art museums. And yet, back among the crowds, queuing in chaotic shopping centres for money exchange to avoid Chile’s collapsing currency, or walking past government offices that seem to be a world apart from the streetlife, you are reminded of inequality everywhere. The people seem happy enough as they watch buskers or shop for the start of the school year, but it feels like a masquerade.

 

Day 55 – Arica, Chile

I miss out the port of Coquimbo given the unrest, and instead get my best taste of what Chile has to offer at its very edge. Arica is on the border with Peru, on the cusp of the vast nothing of the Atacama, the site of one of the great battles that decided the Pacific War overlooking the town atop a great lump of rock, a hilly boulder that seems to have been dropped from the heavens.

But while Chile seems to struggle, here in Arica there is no sign of disquiet. Known as the city of eternal spring – a place that never gets a drop of rain or even a deviation from its long, 25-degree days – the people feel among the happiest in the world. They are proud of their city, content in their lives, and do not mind their houses have no roofs (why do they need them?). As I have learned elsewhere in the world, it is often those with nothing who will give everything.

Today’s excursion is across a cliff edge, down where the Atacama tumbles into the Pacific, through grottos covered in guano where Chinese workers died mining bird poo, then along a scree slope that tumbles even as we step along its narrow path. A breathtaking, stunning walk, rounded by climbing atop that great boulder to see the site of a battle that forged three nations. It is a highlight of our 2000-mile crawl to the north.

 

Days 57-58, Lima, Peru

Lima is not a single city, but 43 mayoralties, that stretch across the plains of Peru to a coast where surf breaks in great, sweeping waves that tumble surfers onto the beach in fits of giggles. We take a bus through this chaotic bustle, a mess of taxi drivers with fingers out of their cabs, each gesturing how many spaces they have for locals to hop in and ride wherever they can in the endless chew of traffic. The first destination is a manor house, a former home converted into a treasure trove of priceless native art. The Incan empire lasted less than a hundred years, and swept other cultures from the Peruvian plateau, so entering this world of gold headdresses, sacrificial knives and intricate knots and twine(each string used in place of written records) is an astonishing testament to the peoples that inhabited this land.

 

It pales, however, to the next destination – the ancient city that Lima has subsumed, filled with Meso-American temples each dedicated to deities. Most of the city has been taken by the desert, covered in a thin layer of sand, but the straight streets and large complexes that have been excavated reveal a city that would have rivalled anything in the medieval world. Here, beautiful children would have been taken as human offerings (not sacrifice – they apparently wanted to go) to the temple, guaranteed to have their hearts ripped out if a disaster occurred and the Gods needed appeasement. The temples, coated lightly in gold leaf, tricked the Conquistadors to search for a non-existent El Dorado. And, as we head to the final tour site, a dancing show of Peru’s paso horses, one’s thoughts can only turn to the past.

 

The sun plays tricks here, rising with a snap of the fingers to make gold pool on the ocean’s surface and vanishing with the turn of a switch, plunging the world beyond the Queen Victoria’s wake into velvet hush. We are in an ancient land. And yet it is the same for us as it has been for all before us. The

 

Day 63 – The Panama Canal
 

We are back in the northern hemisphere, after a brief stop in Manta, Ecuador, to give virtually everyone on board a panama hat, and an even briefer tender excursion to Panama City. Today is a highlight, however – a crossing through a 20th century miracle. As dawn breaks, Queen Victoria begins to slip through the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. Since 1914, this has continually saved thousands of vessels millions of hours by making an easy passage through the slithering central American isthmus. And yet until you cross the canal, you cannot appreciate how astonishing it is that a 97,000 ton vessel such as Queen Victoria can rise through three lock systems, cut across a smooth, serene lake where both the Pacific and Caribbean can be glimpsed, and slice through an entire country in little over eight hours. As we pass, we see other large vessels – another cruise ship, several container craft. But most of our attention is on the narrow gap between the Queen Victoria and the lock system itself: at times, one could step off the ship and onto the lock and have no fear of slipping. It’s a narrow gap, controlled by mules ashore, tight ropes, and the Captain comes on the tannoy at noon to reassure everyone he hasn’t lost his no claims bonus.

 

It’s the final entry to this diary. Our trip to Columbia has been cancelled because of coronavirus; indeed, in Ecuador and Panama we were scanned and screened by teams in respirators armed with laser thermometers (and one tour group was briefly abducted for a full body medical). And although we shall venture to Aruba and Curacao, it feels like there is too much concern in the world to keep the memories as pure as their white beaches and perfect waters.

 

We have circumnavigated South America. And, no matter what the future holds, the beauty of its landscapes and charms of its people will stay with me forever.

 

===


Thanks for reading, everyone. We're now back in Southampton. Stay safe.

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Missed you, Dog!  Thanks for your memorable posts, and condolences on your abbreviated itinerary. 

 

Maybe your loveliest lines -  "The sun plays tricks here, rising with a snap of the fingers to make gold pool on the ocean’s surface and vanishing with the turn of a switch, plunging the world beyond the Queen Victoria’s wake into velvet hush."

 

Gorgeous.  Stay well.

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