Thursday, January 26 – Castro, on the island of Chiloe and Dalcahue, Chile

Tendered a short distance to the small port town of Castro and the port agent unsuspectingly gave me the key to the free WIFI at the port. THANK GOODNESS. We were there for a few hours making several phone calls for our clients at the hospital and going over paperwork and working. Many others were able to get online and it is such a blessing to be able to get the work done and get on with the day. We hired a cab with a friend from MO and headed up the steep hills to the main square (thankfully we had the taxi as we had no idea the streets were THAT steep). Stopped at the pharmacy and the wooden cathedral where not one nail was used – the Iglesia San Francisco de Castro was built in 1906. We drove to the picturesque port village of Dalcahue. The drive was very scenic and seemed like we were touring New Zealand. The port town is the ferry departure/arrival point for the five minute ride to the island of Quinchao, where there are many cattle ranchers and whalers.

Castro is on the island of Chiloe and is the 3rd oldest continuously inhabited city in Chile and the 2nd largest island in South America. The island is covered with plenty of forests and fields, with traditional villages nestling in sheltered inlets. Gorgeous! Most of the economy is still from fishing and farming, as they have done for centuries. 18th and 19th century wooden churches are the main attractions. Castro was raided from time to time by English and Dutch pirates as well as being destroyed by an earthquake in 1960.

We also drove by the palafitos, the homes built on high stilts on the water.
Kimika, singers and comedians, were the entertainers. Australia Day – we celebrate every nation’s Independence day!

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience each day things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

Friday, January 27 – Puerto Chacabuco, Chile

As we arrived, we had some scenic cruising in the Aysen Fjord with commentary but it was misty and damp. We docked in a secluded bay surrounded by tall, heavily forested mountains in the drizzle. Our first rain! We could see many snow-capped high mountains around us. Tendered in to the small port and they had a free shuttle to the center of town, where we had been told there was “not much to see or do”. Appropriate statement and we had several taxis meet the bus to offer their services for a day’s tour. We hooked up with Domingo Flores for $25 per person for a four-hour tour of the area, with 10 people in the van. I was asked to serve as translator so I had a front row seat as we toured for the day. This port was established in 1995 as Puerto Aisen, only 10 miles away suffered a series of untamed coastal forest fires which ravaged the town, forcing residents to abandon their homes. Then a powerful tsunami slammed ashore in 1960. Three waves struck within a four-hour period, even though they were in a protected channel.

Our first stop was to see the longest suspension bridge in Chile in Aisen, and I was surprised at the length – must shorter than I expected but maybe they don’t have a need for the longer bridges like we do.

Next we drove to the Rio Simpson National Reserve, which is popular for fly-fishing and has spectacular 5000 foot mountains full of southern beech and evergreens which are for hiking and camping. All these trees are in the area, none of which I could identify! Coigues, tepas, manio, ciruelillo, canelo and tepu. Do you have any of those in your backyard? We also saw a tree over 400 years old – a lenga tree. We saw the huemul (like a deer) and the large elephant ear plants. Other species that abound, which I also could not identify nor did we see, are the pudu, guina, bandurria, queltehue and wild ducks (OK, I know the last one). We walked down to the river’s edge and the water was crystal clear but very low; they apparently had two months of sunshine instead of their usual daily rain so the plants were dried out and the river low. The Waterfall of the Virgin had an altar and small chapel where many candles had been lit.

Highway 24 is dedicated to the Patron Saint Sebastian and we passed two altars along the highway; Domingo, the driver, tooted his horn each time showing his thanks to St. Sebastian. The road wound through the national reserve past spectacular mountain peaks, green valleys and incredibly scenery. Many it reminded them of the Alaskan Inside Passage, New Zealand’s South Island and Norway’s subarctic coastline.

The largest town, Coihaique, is the administrative center of the region. Established in 1929, the town is centered on its pentagonal Plaza de Armas and there is rugged skiing, fishing and hiking opportunities.

Slept in J’s room as the Captain announced the seas would be rough after midnight. On email late, communicating with the insurance company, DR and our guests, trying to coordinate their return to the ship.

Entertainment was Yacov Noy, a visual comedian. We did some scenic cruising in the Darwin Channel.

Fellow passenger count: Australia 17, Belgium 1, Bulgaria 1, Canada 122, Denmark 2, France 4, Germany 17, Israel 1, Italy 1, Mexico 7, Netherlands 41, New Zealand 5, Norway 1, Peru 2, Spain, 5, Sweden 3, Switzerland 7, UK 33 and USA 444.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
Saturday, January 28 – at sea

Chile – the longest and narrowest country in the world. The fertile central region is filled with orchards, vineyards, wheat fields and lovely green pastures where cattle and sheep are raised. The midsection is where the major cities are located and where most Chileans lives. To the north are the arid expanses of the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s driest areas. The far south is a land of islands, forests, mountains and glaciers. Eastern Chile is hemmed in by the majestic Andes Mountains. These mark a fault in the earth’s crust, which causes frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The country’s natural resources are oil, natural gas and they are rich in minerals.

Up early to go to Medical and dropped off the papers I had prepared with all the contact information. No matter how much you try to make the insurance/ship/passenger/doctor path of communication, it is not easy. As the passenger in an emergency medical situation, you are in a foreign country and probably don’t speak the language, you are staying at a hotel near your spouse but not with them, you are not able to communicate with the ship or insurance company via phone on a regular basis and probably don’t have a reliable internet connections and are using a foreign keyboard. I am trying to act as the facilitator but it is not easy. The ship’s DR and the insurance company make all the calls and the future of re-boarding, when and where.

Attended lecture on the next ports of call and back to Medical. Lunch in the buffet and got J out walking and to lunch. Cleaned up the rooms and went to the movie, “For the Love of the Game”, a very good baseball movie. Up to the Crowe’s Nest for scenic cruising but it was misty and dismal and cloudy and wet and rainy. This is where I really wanted to explore on this cruise so I hope the weather improves.

Most of the day we have been sailing through rough seas with a gale force wind of 8 and high swells so the doors to the outside are closed on all decks.

Sunday, January 29 – at sea

Up at 6 to be ready for the scenic cruising but again it looks wet, misty and cloudy! Bummer!!!! Slept soundly but still very tired. Scandinavian buffet; we can’t go outside to eat so they have different luncheons set up each day in the dining room beside the regular luncheon menu. We have a wonderful view from the Crowe’s Nest of the mountains around us – trees, tiny shoreline, barren rocks…much like the Norwegian coastline.
One of the fellow passengers is showing a DVD of his stay on Antarctica from 1966-70 when he was Assistant to the Admiral.

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