Thursday Feb 17, 2011

Phew! Things have gone crazy-busy these past few days – so crazy-busy that I haven’t had time to blog you! Apologies are hereby offered … and a catch-up is hereby happening.

We were in scenic Puerto Montt last time we talked, about to make our way out of the Chilean Fjords and into the big blue Pacific. Which is what we did – except it was a big grey Pacific, for much of the final leg of our cruise to Valparaiso. Despite its history of nasty earthquakes, this enchanting port is a mad jigsaw puzzle of rumpty, brightly-coloured houses clinging to impossibly steep cliffs, bisected by twisting footpaths, stairways and a unique 100-year-old system of funicular cars.

Valparaiso (Veendam in background)

We disembarked on Wednesday morning, saying our final goodbyes to the Veendam and its super-friendly crew. Then we grabbed a quick squiz at Valparaiso before heading to Santiago (90 minutes down the motorway), where we coach-toured the main avenues of Chile’s impressive capital (pop 6.5 million) – taking pot-shots as we went of the city’s civic centre (La Moneda Palace), the traditional Plaza de Armas, and the huge Central Market (where we paused in mid-flight for a delicious seafood lunch).

Just a few hours later, over dinner at a superb restaurant on the slopes of Santa Lucía Hill, we said a fond farewell to seven of our number who aren’t continuing on to Peru and Machu Picchu. Their late-night departure back to New Zealand departs in a few hours (as I write this) … whereas the rest of us were rudely woken at 5:00am this morning for an early flight to Lima and Cuzco.

Well, that was the theory.

What actually happened was, our plane to Lima had “technical problems” … which delayed take-off for a couple of hours … which meant we missed our connecting flight to Cuzco … which is why we’re about to spend an unscheduled night in a Lima hotel (courtesy of Lan Airlines).

But wait, the worst is yet to come: we’re having a wake-up call at 3:45am (aarrgghh!) … because we’re leaving the hotel at 4:30am … so we can be at the airport in time at catch our replacement flight at 6:30am.

So, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna sign off now, don my nightshirt, and crawl into bed beside my co-photographer and lovely wife.


Okay …

PEOPLE NEWS: There’s been so much going on that our Midlife Madness Awards have been sadly neglected. But two people have been honoured of late …

  • John M received the ‘Wounded in the Course of Duty’ Award – following a nightmare he had in his ship’s cabin, during which (in a brave attempt to rescue Diane from a fate-worse-than-death), he whacked his head on the pelmet above their curtains, almost drawing blood.
  • A consolation prize goes (reluctantly) to Yours Truly (the writer of this blog) – who, after dishing out frequent warnings, like “Don’t leave anything on the coach!” … went and left his precious camera on the coach yesterday. The camera travelled all the way back to Valparaiso before being restored to its grateful owner late last night. The cost of this folly? A mere 60,000 Chilean Pesos (US$120)! Ouch …

TOMORROW: With any luck, we’re landing in Cuzco (once the foremost city of the Inca empire) – then motoring on to the Indian town of Pisac and its famous market. This final chapter in our South American odyssey could well prove to be the most exciting, because guess what’s waiting for us up there in the Andes? Mysterious Machu Picchu! So don’t disconnect, whatever you do …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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