Wednesday 24 December 2014

December 24 - Chapter Two (December 20 - 23)

Castro!  Well here we are heading south!  Somehow the blog just didn't get done these past few days so here is a multiday Christmas Eve update!

We landed in Valparaiso Saturday morning on the 20th. Mom was packed and ready to go – Carolina picked up Maria in Santiago and we headed for our rendezvous.  Carolina had chosen a lovely old hotel in the Victorian part of Valparaiso to meet.  It turns out it was well known to some of the European crowd so we met both coming and going Seabourn guests!

Mom and I worried about ever being able to escape the terminal as the Celebrity Cruise line ship Infinity (~2500 passengers) was docked in front of us, along with the similar sized-to-us Silver Sea.  So there were about 3500 people trying to get off the ship and out of the port area at one time!  We did finally manage to get a local cab and ended up at the hotel just ahead of Carolina, Daniel and Maria.  We had a lovely lunch in an equally historic restaurant overlooking the port area – then it was off to the ship, leaving mom in the good hands of Carolina and Daniel.
Maria and Mom - Valaparaiso

Daniel and Carolina - many thanks for facilitating the swap!

Fortunately the embarkation was not the complete nightmare I thought it might be as the embarkation areas for the three ships were well separated.  Maria got settled (or should I say shoe-horned!) into our small space and we were off for a tour of the ship then the mandatory lifeboat drill.  We were soon sailing away from Valparaiso southward down the coast.

There was a pretty big swell as we sailed southward, but that didn't detract from the Captain’s formal greeting on the 21st.  The Expedition team was introduced in the afternoon, and Robin made special mention of Maria.

Monday morning brought us to Puerto Montt.  Instead of the dreary overcast weather we had on the way up, we were treated to great views of Calbuco and Osorno.  Maria and I got to go as trip escorts for the full day trip to Esmeralda Lake and Petrohue rapids.  We passed through Puerto Varas, where I spent a fair amount of time having meetings, working with the local office of SERNAGEOMIN and their Southern Volcano Observatory, as well as the project area of Los Cascades, which we passed close to.  

The falls/rapids had very little water compared to my visit there in 2011, but a large new visitor’s center had been built (with several shops!).  On the way back we spent a short time in Puerto Varas shopping.  There was a very impressive array of locally made handicrafts!  I am not sure if it is because it is close to Christmas and this is cruise ship season or what. But there were some very beautiful woolens and wooden objects. Both Maria and found something we couldn't resist buying!
Coihua trees, and evergreen Beech tree that is the dominant forest tree in southern Chile.

Polygonal jointed basalt, cooled against a glacier about 20-30 thousand years ago.
Maria sketching at the rapids.

The inside of the new visitor center - more room for shops!

We had lunch at farm with a view of Osorno, this steam donkey, a rea and vanados (deer).

Some of the handicrafts in the market in Puerto Varas.

It was a nightmare getting back on the ship!  All the passengers from Quest and Infinity were boarding at the same time and there was only one X-Ray machine in use!!  The cue filled the entire arrivals buildings. Of course with Seabourn passengers outnumbered 5 to 1 we had a lot of unhappy passengers, until someone finally convinced the Chilean authorities we could form two lines and “zipper” together. Even still we waited over an hour to get through the process!  Anyway, Maria and I were hosting a table so scrambled to get back and change.  All of our guests showed up so we were glad to have made the effort!

Today we are in Castro!  This is my first visit here.  It is a very characteristic small Chilean Town, however, it, like most of the towns in the south, has wooden houses sided with shingles.  It also has a number of wooden churches; even the cathedral is made of wood.  The Cathedral is a UNESCO world heritage site.  This place is also noted for the houses built on stilts along the water ways.  This is as a result of the 1960 9.5 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of the coast line.

Shingle sided houses are common in Castro. The houses have different shapes of shingles and are painted bright colours.

This house has several bird houses attached to the front of the house.

These are some of the stilt houses - at high tide the water is just below the walkway.

Everyone five years the Cathedral is repainted. Local school children get to chose the colour. The latest choice was yellow and purple!

This church was built in 1919 after the original church burned.
Everything inside the church is made of wood - it gives a very different "feel" to the interior than a stone church.

I had a bit of time to check out the local market.  Like Puerto Montt, there is a huge fishing industry here in addition to the farmed salmon and shell fish. Kelp and other other seaweed is harvested, dried and sold, along with dried shell fish.  I don't think I have actually had any dishes made with dried shell fish, but I will try to find a restaurant that serves the local dishes next time I am passing through this way.

Fresh crab, clams and fish!
Dried shellfish (hanging), kelp, seaweed, herbs and local vegetables.

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