South America!!

For almost two years, my sister and I would talk about this trip we were planning, practically shouting South America!!! each time we said it. I mean, it’s pretty epic. 31 days, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Falkland Islands, sailing around Cape Horn, Ushuaia: the southernmost city in the world, Chile, Peru, Central America, Cabo and then LA. Wow.

Our first glimpse of Buenos Aires, having arrived at 1am. So excited to start our trip!
Waking up in Buenos Aires. Our first glimpse, having arrived at 1am. So excited to start our trip!

This was a cruise on the Star Princess. We are barely cruisers: Warren has been on 1, 3 for me, 1 for Dennis and 2 for Melissa. People thought we were kind of crazy, but the chance to see that much of South America!!! on one trip was too great to pass up. Our cats weren’t too thrilled with us, but they both did fine with their house/cat sitters.

Star Princess. It was always a welcome site to see our "home" after a long day touring.
Star Princess. It was always a welcome site to see our “home” after a long day touring.

As with most cruises, this was a “taste” of each place. There was no time to get any in-depth look at the different places we stopped. We did have 2 days in Buenos Aires and 2 days in Lima, Peru, which was great. It was also very nice to unpack once and settle in to our cabin which was our little refuge from the world.

Tango in Montevideo, Uruguay
Tango in Montevideo, Uruguay
Lima, Peru
Lima, Peru
We hit the weather jackpot for our stop in Stanley, Falkland Islands.
We hit the weather jackpot for our stop in Stanley, Falkland Islands.

We did see as much as we could, but not everything we wanted. Like penguins. We thought we’d see way more penguins. But due to the excursions we planned months before, the lateness of the season (it was the end of Summer, beginning of Fall) and their migration, we saw maybe 10 at the most. Rats! We did see lots of sea lions, birds, dolphins and whales off the ship.

The very lonely penguin. All the others had migrated.
Sea lions on Islas Ballestas. The sounds and smells were rather overwhelming!
More Penguins! These are the endangered Humboldt Penguins.

We did have tremendous luck with the weather. I had been watching the ship’s bridge cam for a few months before our sailing date, curious about conditions, etc. The ship had been going back and forth between Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, sailing around the Cape each time. And many of these trips had really hideous weather. Rain, wind, huge seas, missed ports. But we made every port. We were late by four hours out of Ushuaia because of high winds, but we were able to make our next port. We did have a couple of hours of rough seas, but it didn’t last long and after that you could barely tell you were on a ship! We had hardly any rain, just a few sprinkles. However, it was cold at the bottom of the world!

It's good to have knitwear to swath oneself in!
It’s good to have knitwear to swathe oneself in!

Even in Summer it was cold and the wind made it feel even colder. But we were bundled up and could retreat into our nice warm cabin to recover before heading back out on our balcony. And then before we knew it, we were at the Equator and it was HOT! Packing for this trip wasn’t very easy!

Zip lining in Costa Rica. It was so hot, but so much fun!
Zip lining in Costa Rica. It was so hot, but so much fun!

Melissa and I joined the Knitter/Natterer group and we would meet each morning that we were not in port, so sea days, and would spend a few hours with our new friends knitting, and yes, nattering. We would take over a part of the Crooner’s Lounge, which is the martini bar, and right in the hub of activity. We had lots of people stop by to look at us, join us, shake their heads at us… They were a great group and it was so nice getting to know them all and their backgrounds, and I miss them and our time together. All of us purchased yarn along the way, merino wool, baby alpaca being the most abundant (Falkland Islands had beautiful wool, and of course Peru was a jackpot for Alpaca) and we’d oooh and aaah over all our finds.

Our group of knitters with our husbands, meeting for dinner.
Our group of knitters with our husbands, meeting for dinner.

The food was wonderful and too much. Too. Much. Food. And when you don’t have very good self-control… well let’s just say I’m back on Weightwatchers. sigh….

Fancy drink of the day
Fancy drink of the day
The desserts... oh my they were delicious!
The desserts… oh my they were delicious!

31 days on a ship is a looooong time and we loved getting to know the staff who worked tirelessly, without days off, cheerful and fun and helpful. We really appreciated their dedication and we appreciated how hard it must be for them being away from their families for long periods of time.

There are a lot of memories and experiences that are slowly being separated from the jumble it all became in my brain at the end of the trip. We saw a lot. We experienced  so many different ways of life, climates, food! Just relaxing and staring out at the ocean was pretty good too!

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I’ve been asked by my friends what I liked the best, which place was my favourite. That is so hard because we saw so many different unique places. I must say though that a highlight for me was the day we sailed around Cape Horn (which, surprisingly to me, is an island). We had a strenuous and beautiful (and cold!) hike in Ushuaia that I loved. Valparaiso, Chile was a place like no other that I’ve seen. Sensory overload of colour, higgledy-piggledy buildings built on steep hills, stray dogs, graffiti, more hills, funiculars and pisco shots.

Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaiso, Chile

I’m happy to be home now. I missed my kids, my cat, my bathroom (our cabin bathroom was tiny but efficient!), different clothes, a little solitude. Both Warren and I came home with bad colds, his worse than mine. We experienced all four seasons in a 5-week period, so I guess it caught up with us, and also being in rather close quarters with everyone on the ship. It’s nice to have a little room to spread out and cough in privacy. Although I REALLY miss this view from my bed!

I miss these views. Imagine watching this from your bed!
Another gorgeous sunset.

I’ve gone through all my photos and organized them into albums for each place we visited. These are all loaded on my Flickr site and the link is here if you’re interested in seeing them.

The bottom of the world.
The bottom of the world.

thailand, singapore, shanghai

I guess it’s time to wrap up the trip! I finally finished editing my photos and uploaded them to flickr, made a slideshow to show the family and now I feel like I can move on. Except I need to finish here.

Thailand: Not everything will go as planned when you have a trip of this size, and I guess Thailand was our example of that. The port where our ship was docked was far from Bangkok, where we were to spend 2 days, but driving back to the ship at night. 3+ hours one way… yikes! We made it to Bangkok that morning afternoon, saw one temple; granted, it was a spectacular temple, got caught in a torrential thunderstorm, made it to lunch which was waiting for us (we arrived over an hour late) and then 4+ hours back to the ship due to flooded streets, collapsed buildings, crazy traffic and accidents along the way. And we were drenched to the skin… literally! It took my walking shoes 3 days to dry out!

Enter Plan B! Instead of heading back to Bangkok the next day, we detoured and went to Pattaya, a beach community close to where we were docked. We started our morning at the Sanctuary of Truth, a large wooden structure that is still being constructed. It was amazing! Every square inch of this large sanctuary is hand carved. And it’s huge…about 345 feet high and incorporates images from Buddhism and Hinduism from China, India, Cambodia and Thailand. It really took our breath away.

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Singapore: Everybody says how clean the city is and that is true! When you have laws against littering, spitting (thank goodness), chewing gum, etc… it shows! We arrived as the city was making preparations for the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister and the father of modern Singapore. It’s a beautiful city and has changed so much since we were last there in 1981. The only thing that I recognized from that trip was the Merlion.

Shanghai: Our flight home had us connect through Shanghai and we decided to stop over and spend 4 days to see the city. Warren had visited Shanghai before, but this was my first time. We stayed with friends from Canada who live there part time teaching in a local university. It was nice to have a low-key time to really explore the city and eat the food! It wasn’t too low-key though since my fitbit says we walked just over 71,000 steps over 3 days. That’s 32 miles. The 11 hour flight home felt kind of relaxing!

All the photos are divided into albums. Here is the link to the collection if you’re interested. This has been a trip that had been a long time in thinking, dreaming and planning. It’s hard to leave it all, but I’m glad I took the time to get the photos organized.

Our trip was through UBC Alumni Travel Club and facilitated by Worldwide Quest. They did an AMAZING job organizing our trip and making it run as smooth as possible. We would definitely travel with them again. In fact, we hope that our group of 25 can do trips together in the future. We were accommodated in hotels in Hong Kong and Kaiping, China, and then for 2 weeks we were onboard the Celebrity Millennium. It was Warren’s first cruise, my 3rd. While it would have been nice to be able to spend more time in each city, it was a good way to get a flavour of the places and not have to pack and unpack each night. Unfortunately most of the ports were a distance from the cities and towns we visited, but we had very good tour guides that would make the bus rides go as quick as possible, a good group of people that didn’t complain and loved stories about the history, culture and food as much as we did, and gorgeous scenery to watch along the way.

The feature group photo at the top is not mine, but taken from the UBC Alumni Flickr site, album linked here.

Okay, now it’s time to get the yard ready for summer and my sweater finished!

beautiful vietnam

I’d have to say that this country was number one on my list to visit. And it did not disappoint. I would have loved to spend more time here and hope to do so one day. The people were wonderful, the food was so, so delicious, the countryside and rice paddies were lush and the cities were chaotic and crazy and totally fascinating! And then Halong Bay, oh my! We took a 3-hour boat cruise on a junk around the thousands of limestone rocks coming out of the water. It was magical.

These are just a few of the many photos we took over our 4 days in Vietnam. More are on my Flickr site.

My photo album on Flickr Vietnam is here, and I also have sub-albums for each city we visited. Hope you enjoy it 🙂