Category Archives: Chile

W is for Wildlife


Learning how to photograph different things while I travel is part of the challenge and is becoming a passion. When I took a cruise around the tip of South America, not only sis I see cities and expansive landscapes, but I become challenged by taking photographs of wildlife. Here are some of my favorite photos of wildlife.

First group: sea lions in Argentina.

This group a seals found a floating dock to use as a place to catch some rays — and to play in the surf.

Birds have been more difficult for me.  Here are some of my first attempts at taking photos of birds. These were taking new Cape Horn.

Off the coast of Ushuaia, Argentina, there are groups of islands that are homes to various seals, sea lions, and water birds.

And of course, there are penguins!

So, I started looking for other opportunities. In the Canadian Maritimes, I was able to get a fox on a beach at sunset, I got “photo-bombed” by a seal near Cheticamp, and watched an eagle fish on Bras d’Or.


And finally, from near where I live, is Niagara Falls. If you look closely, you can see at least twobirds in this picture.IMG_6413_edited-1

Penguins at Ottway Sound, Chile

Penguins really are just too cute.  Here are some of my favourite pictures of the penguins at Ottway Sound in Chile.

Penguin at home
Penguin at home
Penguin asks "Who me?"
Who me?
Penguin Family
Penguin Family
Penguin on a mission
Penguin on a mission
Penguin coming to get ya
Coming to get ya!
Penguins What's up?
What’s up?
Penguin Is anyone out there
Is anyone out there?
Penguins At the beach
At the beach
Penguins Surf''s Up!
Surf”s Up!
Penguins Heading to the beach
Heading to the beach
Penguins in water
The water’s cold…
Penguin taking a nap
Time for a nap

Round Cape Horn

Rounding Cape Horn
January 8, 2012

When I told my friends I was going on a cruise to “round Cape Horn” I was very surprised by how many did not even understand where this was – or what the significance could be. For me, it held magic — the tales of adventure where clipper ships sailed the oceans that I read about in school. In many ways, this was a life-long dream to sail in these once unchartered and very dangerous waters.

Cape Horn, or Cabo de Hornos, is an island that is the southernmost of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. For ships, it marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage (or the Mar de Hoces as it is known in Latin America). This is the waterway the lies between the southern tip of South America and northern top of Antarctica (at this point, Antarctica is ~800 km south). The waters are treacherous due to very strong winds, large waves, strong currents and yes, even an occasional iceberg or two (no icebergs for us that day, though). One reason the winds and the currents are so strong is because there is virtually nothing to stop the movement of wind or water as it sweeps around the globe. Imagine that for a second or two!

This day was special for several reasons. First, it was the longest “day” I’ve ever experienced! The sun rose at 4:58 AM (yes, I got up, took the usual sunrise picture, as seen here and then went back to sleep) and it set at 10:12 PM – that is just under 18 hours of sunlight! It was also a full moon, so for a portion of the day, the moon was also large but not so bright. Then, of course, was the actual sailing into these waters.

Sun rise at Cape Horn

I decided to grab a space early and just sit out on the deck. While the sun was nice and bright, the wind kept things cool, so sitting on the deck included a sunscreen, a nice blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. Soon, I was watching for birds, including some penguins other sea life, and taking pictures of rocky coastlines.

flying bird

When we finally got to the island of Cape Horn, my first thought was how much it reminded me of Lion’s Head in Cape Town, South Africa! I heard a couple other people say similar things, so I do not think I am completely crazy with this comparison. The ship slowed down and began to circumnavigate around the Cape – so we could see it from every possible angle! While this was going on, one of the guest lecturers on board described more about what we were seeing (although I was too busy taking pictures and sharing this experience with my fellow travellers).

Cape Horn

We finally got around to the tip of the island where there is a small building that includes a small lighthouse and a residence.

Cape Horn

There is also a sculpture by Chilean Jose Balcells that is a representation of an albatross.

Albatross Sculpture at Cape Horn

The island is pretty desolate – no trees, rough terrain, but lush grass – and there is a constant wind. The wind is call the “roaring 40s” but can increase to be called the “furious 50s” or even the “screaming 60s”. I think we lucked out with the 40s – although I did get a bit of sunburn/windburn.

All in all, it was a truly magical day and now I can say I went ‘round the Horn! (even have a certificate to prove it). This was a once in a lifetime adventure!

Me at Cape Horn

Last Day: Santiago, Chile

I must have packed and re-packed 3 times until I was able to prepare for all of my weird needs for the day — hot weather “walking around own” to easy check-in at the airport to “muy frio” when I land in Toronto. Once completed, I checked my luggage at the office to the apart-hotel and headed out to see a bit of Santiago “on my own.”

Since I wanted to see as much as possible, I opted for the Turist Bus tour — a 30 minute walk from my hotel to the Parque Arauco — an upscale mall. The attendants were very friendly and helpful — talking to me until the bus arrived.  Unlike of other “hop on, hop off” bus tours, this one was only in 2 languages — Spanish and English.  I was glad that someone else we navigating this bus — traffic and unexpected road closures made it interesting.  The 9 stops were perfect, though — right where you would want to stop to see the highlights of this very large and busy city. Like many other cities, Santiago is made up of different neighborhoods — each with a different tale.  An interesting on is the Providencia area which got the name from the sisters of Divine Providence who arrived in Santiago in 1853. These women were originally from Canada heading for Oregon.  When they got there, there was a flood and they did not have anyway to get back to Canada. A Chilean ship’s captain volunteered to take them to Santiago and they setup a mission there.

I also loved the Santa Lucia area and Bellavista — which reminded me a little of the Boca area in Buenos Aires.

After touring around, I headed to a little park near my hotel to just take it easy in the heat — they way everyone seems to do. Then, it was on my way to the airport.  Once we got the original check-in, the security area was a breeze — in that there was no long line and everything was smoothly handled.  I found a little bar next to my gate and had my last Pisco Sour (YUM).  a couple of my trivia friends saw me and shouted “Dancing Queen!” I guess I have a reputation!  They were on their way home as well. The flight was nicely uneventful (although the food was worse than usual) and I arrived in TO at 6:25 AM. As I was in line at Canadian Immigration, I found myself behind the same couple I was in line with in Argentina!   Everything comes around to the beginning …

Happy to be home — but what a fabulous adventure — definitely the trip of a lifetime!

Valparaiso and Santiago Chile Day 17

Valparaiso and Santiago Chile Day 17
As with all days when you leave a ship – they start EARLY! The ship arrived in Santiago ay 3 AM – I know because that’s when I felt the moving stop. That also means we were 2 hours early. I had a tour scheduled from the ship to Santiago – it was a better value than a transfer from the port of Valparaiso which is ~ 90 minutes from the Santiago Airport. So, after a quick breakfast, it was on to meet the tour. After leaving the ship, we had to take a shuttle bus to the terminal, where we had to go through the Chilean Agriculture check – something we did at each stop in Chile (a beautiful golden lab had to sniff all my bags). This time, however, we turned in our forms. Then, it was onto the tour buses. We got a tour first of Valparaiso. It is built on seven hills that have several funiculars that can get you to the top within 3 minutes. There are also stairs – 365 stairs. Most locals will take the funicular up and walk down to save money. There are also a number of buildings that were damaged in many of the earthquakes that happen in this area. The facades of some of the buildings are protected by UNESCO as Heritage buildings – so to “repair” the building, they will build a brand new building behind the façade. There is also a lot of graffiti and stray dogs. In front of a museum is a statue from Easter Island – this area of Chile also controls the Island.
Our next stop was Vina del Mar and its famous flower clock. Some of the streets were blocked off for a marathon, se we did not get a lot of time to stop, but we also got to go to another beach community for a walk, coffee, etc. The drive reminded me of a portion of California Highway 1 near Malibu (where the restaurants are). On this trip, I walked on beaches on the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean – cool, eh? Today, I got to see surfers catch some pretty nice waves.
Next, we headed to Casablanca Valley – which is the Napa Valley of Chile and trust me, if you have never been to Napa and you come here – it is very similar. Out next stop was to the Estancia El Cuandro – a winery and special event centre. If you ever want to get married in Chile, this would be a beautiful spot. We had a traditional barbecue (the meat was AMAZING) and a large selection of fresh salads and dressings. We also had a choice of red or white wine – of course. I had the Pinot Noir and all I can say is WOW. The winery’s logo is also interesting – a dancing Pan carrying glasses of wine. There is also a very large, carved wooden statue of Pan in the entrance to the restaurant.
We then headed to Santiago and drove through the central area of downtown. A couple stops had to be cancelled because of special events – including the end of Chile’s version of the tour de France. But we did get to stop at Plaza de Armas where there are a number of beautiful buildings including the City Hall, Natural History Museum and the Post Office – which was built by one of the founders of Santiago for his lover. Overlooking all of this is the Metropolitan Cathedral. We then headed through the Bellas Artes neighbourhood on our way to San Cristobel Hill. There is a funicular that can take you all the way to the top – but the wait is very long. We drove up part way to a place where we could see the Andes Mountains. This road reminded me of a road in the Oakland Hills. I guess this part of Chile is a lot like California.
Then it was to the airport, where our luggage – and most people’s flights – awaited. I just needed to pick up my luggage, exchange some money and grab a cab to my hotel. There was one baggage assistant who really wanted to help me and nothing I said would get him to stop helping me. However I have to say he got me a nice cab driver who stopped at an ATM – which happened to be a Scotia Bank ATM (there seem to be as many Scotia Banks in Santiago as there are TDs in Toronto), and then he helped me find my hotel (which I may not have found without him). I guess sometimes I just need to trust (for some reason, I feel very “edgy” in Santiago as opposed to being adventurous in Buenos Aires). My hotel is one of the many apart-hotels in the Los Condes area of Santiago. When you walk into the main lobby, you get instructions to go to an apartment on the second floor. That is the office that manages the hotel apartments in the building. And what an apartment it is! I’m on the 17th floor overlooking one of the main boulevards in Santiago. There is a full living room and kitchen, a king-size bed and a nice bathroom. There is also a balcony that runs the full length of the apartment. Since I’d already had a full day, I opted for some down time at the roof-top pool and sun deck.
Now, I need to figure out how to repack things for the trip home – I need clothes for touring Santiago in 28 C. heat and I need to be able to find my cold weather clothes for when I land in Toronto. I know … life could have tougher choices.

Puerto Montt Day 15

Puerto Montt Day 15
We are now in Puerto Montt –the largest southernmost city in Chile. This city is “famous” for having the largest recorded earthquake in 1960 of 9.5. It is also surrounded by volcanoes. Osomo Volcano is probably the most picturesque as it sits on Lake LLanique. I took a tour that started with a rocky tender ride –glad I’m good with the motion! We then headed to Lake LLanique where we got some spectacular views of several volcanoes as we drove around the lake.

Osomo Volcano
Osomo Volcano

We then went to a National Forest to take a trail to see the Petrohue Falls –great for white water rafting!

Petrohue Falls
Petrohue Falls


Petrohue Falls
Petrohue Falls


Then we drove to the little town of Puerto Vara, where we had lunch at Hotel Patagonico (which started with a Pisco Sour, a Chilean drink, and some excellent salmon). I think I love Pisco Sours! Puetro Vara is a beautiful place sitting right on the lake with views of Osomo and other volcanoes –including one that is blowing ash! I think we saw at least 6 different volcanoes.

Osomo Volcano
Osomo Volcano


Osomo Volcano
Osomo Volcano

There is also an Artisans Village, with items made from all over South America.

Artisan's Shop
Artisan’s Shop




Getting back to the ship was another adventure, as the tenders were still rocking!

Once back on the ship, I went to a Cruise Critics farewell gathering, then I headed to the Rendezvous Bar, which is next to the dining room, where not only some of my dinner mates were sitting, but the salsa band was playing – so I had to dance, and Gayle and Donna joined me. After 3 songs, I left the dance floor and a woman stopped me to tell me that she enjoyed watching me dance – guess my dancing is a hit! Dinner was good –all that is really needed to know.
The water was really calm after dinner. While I did not get pictures – I finally saw a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the ship! And the sunset … AWESOME!


The Spanish guitarist was playing in the Coffee Bar after dinner, so I sat down to have an espresso and was soon joined by the family from Bulgaria. We exchanged email information and talked about football, dancing, and traveling.

There was Karaoke in the Constellation Bar – and it seems that it crosses all languages and countries! I ended the day with dancing … Nothing more to say.

Puerto Arenas Day 12

Puerto Arenas Day 12
The day started with a quick breakfast so I could get on a tender that would get me to shore and the bus for a tour to the Ottway sound to see penguins. This was not the largest colony of Magellenic penguins – there is one island that has over 70,000 mating pairs – but it is unique because you can get very close to where they burrow to make their nests. According to Ava, our tour guide, this is one breed that stays together for life – coming back to the same burrow to lay eggs and raise new chicks. If one bird tries to hone in on another’s burrow, a fight may start. One the way to the penguin reserve, we also saw a special breed of llamas, a skunk, and several different breeds of birds, including a pair of the local breed of hawks! We were travelling through sheep country, so of course we saw sheep and even a shepherd on horseback with a pair of sheep dogs.
Ava, kept us very entertained. She told us about Puerto Arenas and the typical weather – windy. She said she was built for wind stability. Good to know that I am also built for wind stability! She speaks English Spanish and Germany – interchangeably – so it was fun listening to her.
Then we got to the penguins. Did I mention I’ve been taking pictures? I think I may have over done it today. Continuous shooting is my new friend! Then, there are the videos. I can also say it was VERY WINDY.
Heading back to Puerto Arenas, we stopped at the main plaza and I opted to walk back to the ship. In the centre of this plaza is a statue of Magellan. Around the base of this statue are four other statues – one is a mermaid with two tales that represents the place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific Ocean. There are two statues that represent the native peoples from Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The last statue is one of the World. There is a local artisans craft market in the plaza as well. Several of the merchants had these little wooden wagons that reminded me of something a Gypsy or Romany might have. I have not figured out the Chilean currency exchange rate yet, so I just looked at things before heading back to the ship.
Of course, I met up with my ship family at dinner. While the food was good, this was not my favourite dinner. I had shrimp cocktail curry peanut soup, a strange version of shrimp scampi, and crème brulee. I think it was the shrimp scampi that really through me – It was not the “shrimp, garlic, butter and lemon” I was expecting.
The show this night was the Pampas Devils Tango show – and I made sure I was sitting “up close”. I loved it – especially since they showed various types of tango, not just the “show dancing”. There was even a very cool tango between the two men in the group. They also did several dances with bolos. For comedic relief, they brought a man from the audience to teach him how to spin the bolos – and he accidently let one go and it flew into the audience! Fortunately, his were “practice” soft ones, however the main performer was so surprised, he fell on his back on the stage in laughter!
After the show, I headed to the Constellation Bar for dancing. While I was sitting at the bar, one of the officers, who is from Turkey, told the bartender Rowena (from Dominican) to keep my tab open. And Ken (the Hotel Manager) filled me in on the weather in Toronto. As the music got better (I guess I should say as the salsa band started playing), I had to dance. I guess I was a hit because a couple from England came up to me and told me I was a good dancer (they actually went out of their way to tell me – so that was really nice).
What can I say – it was another perfect day!

Cape Horn Day 10

Cape Horn Day 10
I think this is the longest amount of daylight I’ve ever seen: sunrise was at 4:58 AM and sunset is scheduled for 10:12 PM – over 17 hours! We were also blessed by incredible weather. This area of the world is known for rough seas, strong winds and very changeable conditions. The last cruise on this journey could not make it to Cape Horn because of the weather. We were blessed with an amazing day! While the winds were strong, the sea was calm. I was able to find a great spot on the deck – grabbed a towel and a blanket and settled in to see the highlight of the day. We were not disappointed, either. I can now say that I have circumnavigated Cape Horn – the southernmost point of South America. I can also say that I have now been to both southernmost points because I have also been Cape of Good Hope in South Africa!
The sail around was a lot of fun – a real party atmosphere. There was also a bonus: I got a couple of pictures of penguins swimming along the ship! (Ok, it is hard to really tell from the photos what they are, but you can see their heads above the surface of the water.) I thought that the mountain formation that forms Cape Horn looks a lot like Lion’s Head Mountain – the “other” mountain that surrounds Cape Town (the one people remember is Table Mountain). I heard a few people say the same thing. There is a family that actually lives in a house on the Cape – it has to be a pretty lonely existence.
Another interesting thing happened as I was sailing around the Horn – my ankle chain that I have worn for over ten years broke. Not sure yet what that means, if anything, but I do sense a difference.
Yes, I took an unbelievable amount of pictures.
After the Horn, we headed back to the passage that will lead us to Ushuaia, Argentina where we will see the Beagle Channel and Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Dinner was fun. I had smoked salmon, Tom Ka Gai (Thai chicken coconut soup), Australian white fish, and cocoa meringue. After dinner, Gayle, Mary, Scot and I had some fun on the penny slot machines before the casino closed because we were entering Chilean waters. I ended my night early with my favourite drink in at the Martini Bar and now I am waiting for the sun to set.