Liz and John's South American Grand Cruise 2014 travel blog

Penguin night

Albatross off ship

John and I at the Amalia Glacier

Sunken ship in Chilean Fjord


Monday January 27

Day 27 Puerto Chacabuco, Chile

John decided to go ashore but I didn't go with him after my big day yesterday. He had a short walk around the port but there wasn't a lot to see unless he caught a bus into the main town. However the views were beautiful and he always brings back vivid descriptions and great photos of what he sees.

It was a formal Penguin black and white night which is unusual for a port day so we decided to get dolled up early so that we could enjoy some chatting after Trivia at six. We won again Trivia but I suspect that a lot of our wins are related to our Canadian friends, Tommie-Sue and David Montgomery. They are lecturers on the cruise and extensive academic knowledge about nearly everything! They are leaving soon and we'll miss them because they are such good company but they are leaving to do another lecture tour in the Pacific Islands and Hawaii.

Despite playing Trivia, no one was really concentration because we were sailing through gorgeous country in the Chilean Fjords. We were heading west again to go out into the Pacific again and were due to reach it at about 11 pm. Meanwhile the sailing was smooth with the water like a millpond. There were multiple small uninhabited islands with steep sides going steeply into the water. The lower parts were vegetated with trees but no beaches were visible. You could see the obvious volcanic and earthquake origins of all the deep valleys and upended layered rock formations. Most of the smaller islands looked like basalt plugs and the bigger islands had hills going up several thousand feet and were snow covered. You could see multiple small waterfalls coming from the snow capped hills and typical glacial U-shaped valleys down to the water. It was incredible country and good to just watch slowly going by. Many people were just watching in the Crows nest but we had to get to dinner by eight.

That was quite an experience because all the waiters were dressed up with silver sparkling hats and waistcoats with the supervisors in silver penguin jackets. The dining room and the bar was decorated as a winter wonderland and all the staff were dressed up. They really worked very hard to make it an evening to remember. We joined our usual very conservative English dinner companions, Mike but Carol and were joined by American Bob and his wife, Patrice who were die-hard Democrats and utterly supportive of Obama but are saddened by the fact that he hasn't been allowed to get any of his legislation through because of the strongly weighted Republican Senate. It made for a spirited and very interested evening of discussion with a lot of laughs.

After supper, they had penguin dances and an anniversary dance for all the married couples. I even had a dance (if you could call it that) with John but we had only been married 20 years whereas there were several that had been married over fifty years. That's quite a feat! We went to the Show Lounge and saw Doug Starks, a black entertainer from Las Vegas. He sang typical cabaret stuff as well as telling jokes, and was very good.

It was another really late night and we'd been promised waves up to 12 feet when we got back out to the Pacific before going back into the sheltered waters of more of the Chilean Fjords but it was reasonably calm when we got to bed. As we have on all the formal nights we were given gifts to commemorate the formal occasion. We've been given journals, bags, a lovely book on the Antarctic and tonight was a good quality beenie, scarf and gloves. I've no idea where we are going to put this stuff when the cruise has finished! Still they'll be useful.

Tuesday 28 January

Day 28 Sea day sailing towards Puerto Arenas through the Chilean fjords

It was 15 degrees today though windy with rain squalls so we didn't sit on deck. It was really rough in the night while we were back in the Pacific but after turning East into another navigable channels in the fjords it was much calmer.

We spent much of the day in the Crows Nest and as expected it was packed because everyone had the same idea of looking at the scenery! It was glorious, dramatic country with the numerous mountains and hills coming steeply out of the water. Some were vegetated with low shrubs and trees but others were nearly bare rock. Some in the distance were snow covered as you looked towards the Andes. John managed to photograph a black-browed Albatross and after several attempts got a really good picture this morning but we didn't see any other wildlife while we were sailing slowly through this wonderful area.

We won Trivia again and then stayed up in the Crows Nest to chat and watch the beautiful scenery until dinner. We didn't stay up for the show tonight because we were both tired and wanted to be up early to look at the Amalia Glacier early tomorrow morning. It was David Pengelly and Doug Starks again with an evening of musical entertainment but sleep beckoned more than the show!

Wednesday 29 January

Day 29 - Sea day - Amalia Glacier and Chilean Fjords on way to Punta Arenas

It was an early start for us this morning as we were reaching the Amalia Glacier at seven. We were up at six and I had an early shower in time to have breakfast at seven. We were into glass like seas of the fjords again and shortly after breakfast noticed small floes of ice. We watched from our balcony for a while but it was really cold, and we were on the wrong side of the ship to see the glacier. So at half seven we went up to deck 13 at the bow of the ship so that we could have a good look at the glacier. It was quite impressive and a deep blue colour, as we saw in Alaska. It has retracted over a mile in just 30 years and there is a lot of concern about the loss of ice in the Patagonian Ice Field, of which the glacier is part. It is the northernmost sea glacier in the Southern Hemisphere. There were some dolphins visible playing at the bow of the ship but we didn't see any other wildlife. It was very cold and the weather wasn't the greatest with drizzle and low cloud. But we did have a good look at the glacier which was great. It was good to come in doors again into the warm! John got some hot chocolate from the Lido and we enjoyed that while we left the glacier and headed deeper through the fjords. The water was like glass so it was pleasant sailing although you had to be rugged up even in doors.

We had a great day watching the beautiful scenery go slowly past. At one stage we passed the Sarmiento Mountain Range with the Torres del Paine, a group of high snow covered mountains to the west of us. There were multiple islands and mountain ranges all around us and it was difficult to place exactly where we were on the map. That didn't really matter though. We were zig zagging through some of the many channels through the fjords so there was stunning scenery all around. Being down to a latitude of 51 degrees we are now having long evenings which are great. A long summer twilight is something we've always missed since we left the UK. It's been very cloudy since we left Puerto Montt but we've still had quite good visibility because of sun occasionally breaking through the cloud. It was good for photography at the glacier this morning but our afternoon photographs look a little dark and forbidding. We get to the Magellan Channel and Strait later this evening but at present are travelling in the Smythe Channel.

We continue playing our Trivia sometimes doing well but often not! After this evening's game we saw a magnificent rainbow going right into the water quite near the ship. It was spectacular and looked wonderful with the backdrop of fjords and snow covered mountains. We also saw a pretty impressive shipwreck of the Santa Leonora. It was a ship that was built in 1944 as the USS Riverside, became a Liberty ship in 1945, changed hands a few times and then sank after hitting some rocks despite being escorted by a pilot on 31 March 1968.

We had to leave the calm waters of the fjords temporarily before getting into the Magellan Channel so we had about 4 hours of choppy seas. He's not the greatest sailor but with occasional ginger he's not been affected yet. However we still have The Drake Passage and Cape Horn to negotiate and that is likely to be really rough. We continue having nightly shows although I missed the one tonight. It was a cabaret singer, Robyn Fellows and John said she was very good. Tomorrow we reach our last Chilean port of Punta Arenas with an expected temperature of 6 degrees, with rain, occasional snow and a wind of 25 knots. I may be staying on board!

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