Regent Mariner Circumnavigation of South America January - March 2013
Jan 22nd After 3 days in Lima we departed at 5PM for Pisco.
Jan 23rd & 24th Our next two ports were in the southern most part of Peru about 50 miles from Pisco and 100 miles from Arequipa respectively. At the first we took a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands which is a wildlife refuge teaming with birds, sea lions and a few penguins. Every seven years the guano is harvested and loaded onto ships.
The following day we visited another wildlife preserve.
All of coast of Peru is barren sand with the Andes rising majestically in the distance.
Jan 25th to 28th After a sea day our ports were in Northern Chile. Antofagasta on the 26th, Coquimbo/La Serena on the 27th, and Valparaiso on the 28th. We participated in a tour of Coquimbo and La Serena, but for the most part stayed enjoyed the scenery from shipboard.
Jan 29th Tuesday was another relaxing day at sea. We listened to an interesting lecture on the Chilean Fjords which we will be cruising through for the next few days.
Jan 30th Our port on Wednesday was Puerto Montt which we had been to on several previous occasions. We were particularly interested in a visit to Puerto Varas where we spent Christmas about 10 years ago prior to a trip from Petrohue to Bariloche, Argentina via a series of lakes. It was hard to believe the growth in this quaint village during the ensuing years and we all the more appreciated our earlier visit. Our tour took us to Petohue Falls and we were disappointed that we didn't continue on to the village of Petrohue which we remembered as a small undeveloped settlement.
Jan 31st Thursday we anchored in the port of Chacabuco, Chile which we had also visited some years ago when we enjoyed Christmas at the Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa. Chacabuco was about the same as we remembered it, primarily a major fishing port for farm raised Chilean salmon. We enjoyed a trip to a National Park and the city of Coyhaique.
Feb 1st The Mariner was at anchor and we were taken in groups to the face of the San Raphael glacier via a catamaran throughout the day. This is one of the largest tidewater glaciers in Patagonia and is very spectacular. This was another repeat experience for us. We had previously visited the glacier in conjunction with our stay at the Puyuhuapi Lodge. A very relaxing and enjoyable day.
Feb 2nd and 3rd We enjoyed two days of cruising through the Chilean Fjords stopping at numerous glaciers along the way and passing a couple of famous ship wrecks.
Feb 4th We were in Punta Arenas, Chile for the day, and once again were amazed at the growth of the city since we had last visited here in conjunction with a trip to the Falkland Islands. Our itinerary on this cruise originally included the Falkland Islands, but had to be altered because of the hostilities between Argentina and the Falklands. Argentina lost control of the Falklands to the UK some years ago and has periodically attempted to regain them. At the time of this cruise Argentina was turning away cruise ships that had stopped in the Falklands, so Regent made a last minute change to our itinerary. The last time we were in Punta Arenas we bought a piece of jewelry for Eleanor from a vendor at the Market Square in the center of the city. He was still there. We also stopped by the hotel we had stayed at during our previous visit which brought back pleasant memories.
Feb 5th We began the day early cruising through the Beagle Channel on our way to a trip around the Cape of Horn. For two plus hours we passed by numerous glaciers, most of which were in the mountains and do not reach the sea. It is an very scenic section of coast line.
We were extremely fortunate in our trip around Cape Horn. It was a bit blustery and overcast as we started out, but it cleared off and we got a magnificent view of the Light House and Albatross Monument to the "estimated 10,000 souls who perished rounding the Horn". The Light House is currently manned by a Chilean Naval Officer, his wife and their two daughters who are 7 and 9 years old. The sea was quite calm. 40 foot waves are the norm and they can get to 100 feet high! The Captain of the Mariner even did a "360 degree turn" for us in memory of those that have lost their lives in this treacherous area where the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern Oceans meet and the currents are very difficult, especially for the old sailing vessels. We started out in Punta Arenas and continued past Ushuaia, Argentina to circle the Island of Horn which is in Chilean Waters before proceeding to Ushuaia where we had to pick up an Argentine Pilot for our time in Argentinean Patagonia. Cape Horn is actually an island and not a part of the mainland and is approximately 600 miles from Antarctica.
Feb 6th Ushuaia was our first stop in Argentina. When we were here previously the city was pretty much a stopover for ships traveling to Antarctica. It has since become a popular port for cruise ships traveling around the South American continent and as a result has lost much of its previous charm. The hotel we had stayed at was closed and the main street was lined with upscale stores selling North Face and other high end clothing and jewelry, etc. It was only in the 50's and the wind was blowing at about 40 mph.
Feb 7th and 8th These were sea days on our way to Puerto Madryn, Argentina.
Feb 9th Puerto Madryn is a resort town that has grown rapidly over the past few years, primarily because of its beautiful beaches and proximity to prime areas for observing penguins, whales and other wildlife. It was settled by the Welsh in the late 1880's. It is about 50 miles from the larger city of Trelow, but this is an isolated area of the Patagonia area of South America. We skipped the all day trip to view penguins which involved a bus ride of 3 hours in each direction, and instead visited the town of Gaiman which was were the Welsh first settled this part of Patagonia. The tour involved a rather long bus ride with a stop for tea and pasteries in the town. This part of Argentina is a large area of the Pampas with very little rainfall - about 12 inches per year. Agriculture is supported by irrigation from the Chubut River.
Feb 11th and 12th After a day at sea we were in Montevideo, Ushuaia for two days, Ushuaia was a new destination for us. This stop was not originally in the itinerary but due to the tension between Argentina and the Falkland Islands that part of our cruise was cancelled and we came to Montevideo. We walked about the Old City for a couple of hours on the first day and were a bit disappointed. We will return to Montevideo after spending three days in Buenos Aires. I have included a link to my photos of Uruguay along with additional comments about the city in the next section of this blog.
Feb 13th to 15th Buenos Aires marked the conclusion of the second leg of our cruise around South America. Approximately 500 passengers disembarked and a similar number of passengers embarked for the next 12 day cruise to Rio De Janeiro.
We had been in Buenos Aires on three previous occasions including New Year's Eve marking the end of the Millennium. Unfortunately the city has been experiencing economic decline over the years which was apparent to us. The La Boca area of the city was a major disappointment. We were warned by our guide to remain within a two block area which was crowded with tourist shops and people dressed as Tango Dancers posing with tourists for photographs. We remembered the area as being low key and a joy to wander through.
The Recoleta area of the city was still very clean and modern. It appeared to be a safe area to stay in and is relatively free of pick pockets, etc. however it is unfortunately still common for tourists to be accosted in the evening when leaving their hotels. The cemetery where Eva Perón is buried was noticeably cleaner and better maintained than during our previous visits. We attended a show at one of the Tango houses which was enjoyable, but after 90 minutes we were glad it ended.
If you look beyond the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires where the poverty is rampant and visable, it is a beautiful city which in many area could easily be mistaken for Paris.