Friday, February 27, 2015 home and abroad

We were away most of the month...and returned home last weekend to find that spring had arrived in our valley!

The magnolia that always blooms at the beginning of blooming.  As are the daffodils...the crocuses...the Easter rose and the heather.  And the snow has been rapidly disappearing from our favorite peaks.

Let me give you a brief overview of our most excellent adventure...and then I'll take you back to some of the ports of call over the the coming weeks.  We took a cruise around the Cape Horn of South America...a cruise that began in Buenos Aires, Argentina and ended in Santiago, Chile.  We added on a week-long land tour in Peru at the end...and were so glad we did.  Let's start at the beginning.

It seems there is no simple way to get from Vancouver to Buenos Aires...and after trying unsuccessfully to book our flights, I finally gave up and opted for the flights that were made available through the cruise line.  The price was right...though I was a little leery about flying via Toronto and JFK at the end of January.  For good reason!  We barely made our connecting flight in Toronto...and then sat on the tarmac for an hour while the plane was de-iced.  In New York, we ran to our boarding gate and arrived just as the last of the passengers were loading.  Whew!  Had we flown a day or two earlier, we would have had to re-book our flights, since JFK was shut down due to the storm of the century (the one that never lived up to its name!).  From there on, it was smooth sailing to Argentina.  We left Vancouver at 8 AM and arrived at our hotel in Buenos Aires the following afternoon at 3:30. We had a full day before the scheduled cruise...and we were ready to explore!

We stayed right in the heart of the city and had a wonderful time walking everywhere!  The city felt like Paris to us.  Once we were on the cruise ship...we learned that Buenos Aires is known as the 'Paris of South America'. 

Our first port of call was Montevideo...the capital of Uruguay and home to almost half of the population of the country. I have a good friend who was born in this I took notes.

Next stop...Puerto Madryn, a Welsh settlement in the Patagonian region of Argentina.  We checked out the sea lions lazing in the sun on the beautiful beaches.  In the distance a storm was brewing!

In the Falkland Islands (comprised of East Falkland, West Falkland and some 776 small islands about 300 miles from the Argentine coast) we docked at Stanley and rode a 4x4 SUV across the island to see the rockhopper penguins.  How well I recall the conflict for control of these islands between Britain and Argentina in 1982.  The islands remain a United Kingdom Overseas Territory...and all the locals that we met were very proud to be British (and huge fans of Margaret Thatcher!).

They were most charming!

And then...we sailed around Cape Horn!  It was a cool day...but relatively calm when we navigated around the cape. Cape Horn is the southernmost tip of South America...where wild seas and strong winds are the norm and have kept human settlement away.  The only inhabitants are the 'lighthouse keeper' and his family...who belongs to the Chilean Navy. Just south of Cape Horn is the Drake Passage...once the only way for ships to move from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean. 

Ushuaia...the gateway to Antarctica, is the southernmost city in the world.  We drove to the very end of the Pan-American Highway...which put us some 17,848 kms. from Alaska.  As I was much warmer in Alaska!

We saw many glaciers from our ship as we sailed by...though we missed the big one in Chile (the Amalia Glacier) as we had very rough seas that day and the captain stayed away from the shoreline to be on the safe side.  I wasn't much in the mood for viewing glaciers that day anyhow...I felt more like feeding the fish, if you know what I mean!

We spent some time in Punta Arenas, Chile...where we drove for hours across the Patagonian steppes and checked out the penguins at Otway Sound.  It may be summer over there...but the wind never stops blowing and winter jackets are the norm.

Puerto Montt, Chile was one of our favorite shore excursions. We walked off the ship and met a tour guide whose scheduled tour for the day had fallen through...and he offered to take us out on a private tour.  He spoke English well, taught tourism at the university and was  storehouse of knowledge.  We drove to the Osorno volcano (pictured above), checked out the farms...and the German villages and took note of the beautiful flowers growing everywhere.

Our cruise ended in Valparaiso, Chile...a large seaport just an hours drive from Santiago.  From there...we flew to Lima, Peru for a one-week land tour.  That landed up being the highlight of our trip! We spent one night in Lima and then flew to Cusco...elevation 11,150 feet above sea level.  Yes, altitude sickness is for real! Thankfully it was short-lived for us.

It was Carnival time in Peru and we enjoyed the parades and celebrations happening in every city square.

Driving through the Peruvian countryside...with farming happening on terraced mountaintops...was a treat!

The highlight?  Machu Picchu!

We met two other couples on our cruise who were also doing the land tour in Peru...and we became fast friends.  Tim and Julie were from El Paso, Texas and Bob and Brenda live in Arizona.  They were the best of travel mates on our Peru adventure and we had a lot of laughs!

We happened to be in Peruvian Andes during the rainy season...which means it rains pretty much every day!  We came prepared with rain gear...but actually enjoyed amazing weather.  The river flowing by our hotel at Macchu Picchu was muddy and angry!  Scary...actually!

We ended our time in Peru with a tour of Lima...the capital city that is known for its sunless, gray skies.  Really?  It was lovely when we were there. Being in a desert area...the city only gets 2.4 inches of rain per year (that's half of what Palm Springs gets). 

After three weeks of exploring South was high time to fly home!

Oh what a treat for the eyes...this window view as we flew into Vancouver on a sunny February afternoon. 

There really is no place like home!

As I unpack my photos...I'll share our adventures at the various ports of call...tell you about the people we met along the way...the places we visited and the foods we ate (and those we were not brave enough to try!). 

This week, we caught up with all the kids, and the grands...visited Dad and Marge...and mostly 'took care of business'.  It seems I have spent much of the week in the office...and hubby has been working out in the fields.  Who knew spring would come so early this year?

Thanks for stopping by!