Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Monday Feb. 16, 2016

When I last updated I had some unsettling news…I had  a seisure in the Satiago Chile airport a less less than an hour before before boarding the plane to come home…….hospital in Chile, plane home, VGH.

Feb, 12. I had brain surgery (part awake answering questions, a biopsy and as much of the tumour out as possible)  ..slight set back on Sat. and better today..Monday Feb. 16.   I will be staying with Cam and Cassidy for a couple of days and then home for a time to see the dr and have the stitches out and check out the results of the pathology. 

I will have internet back at Cam’s and back at home….so will answer the email I have been slacking on

I am ok and recovering…….and learning how to slay home and in one place and as for help. Can’t drive so please phone and visit me

Thank you for all your well wishes, visits and gifts….

Tuesday Feb 17

..I am staying with Cam and Cassidy right nown….maybe at Sheryl’s this weekend

Friday I will get the staples out of my skull and the biopsy results……I am laying low…..but accept visits and will be relying on rides…..I will not be able to drive for a long time….but hopefully home soon.

I do not have everyone on my contact list on this computer so please feel free to email and I will keep busy answering

I am ok!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Saturday February 7 2015   Vancouver General Hospital

The last time I wrote I was writing from a hotel room in Chile writing about a taxi ride to the Santiago airport and a day at the Houston Space centre and an airplane ride home to Vancouver.

Saturday January 31 my life, my family and friends lives changed forever……especially Lori’s.

While I went to the bathroom to get into my travelling clothes Lori waited by the luggage.  When I came back I told her my hand felt funny and as I was telling her I was tumbling to the ground. 

The next thing I truly remember is waking up Monday February 2 in a hospital room in Santiago….Lori in a hide a bed beside me looking after all the details of getting us home and getting this news home to my family.

I have had a brain seisure…..it is a not known if it is cancerous or not.

Wayne came to meet us in Houston and then in Vancoouver and Cam and Cassidy (and the baby bump) were at the Vancouver Airport and then took us straight to Vancouver General Hospital.  Lori, instead of going home to her nice warm bed came too to explain what happened, what the Santiago hospital did and what medication was given.

My right side, hand mainly and mouth are not behaving themselves properly….I will be operated on tomorrow or next week to see what is going to happen.  One big thing is that I will not be driving for at least 6 month….and you all know how much I rely on my car!!!!!!

I will try to keep up this blog to let you all know what is going on in my new world

Friday, January 30, 2015

Chacabuco to Valparaiso

Tues January 27 to Friday January 30 2015


We had another disappointment when we got to Puerto Chacabuco.  Because our Falkland Isand excursion was cancelled because of weather we booked one from Chacoabuco  for a drive into the mountains a park and a small town.  They had hired another bus because the tour was so popular….it had come from about 2 hours away.

The morning was gray and it was raining a bit as we tendered to shore. We boarded the buses (there were about 5 in total going on this tour and a couple of other tours)  and then the tour guide told us that the roads were blocked because of striking fisherman.  We waited for about an hour while the police and the tour people attempted to talked to them but after an hour we were told the tour was cancelled.  I understand the fishermen were angry over restrains put on them by the government but I also feel sorry for the bus drivers and the guides who came such a long way  and didn’t get paid and probably had to wait around another few hours before the blockades were down.  We walked up the hill to the only hotel/coffee shop in the town where we had a coffee and shared a piece of very good lemon meringue  pie and used their wifi.  They  also had a little craft market that a lot of people visited. A few of our friends who had hired a private driver to do the same trip as we were to take managed to get by the blockade because the driver knew/paid off some of the strikers.  We spent a few hours there then went back….as we were leaving the sun came out.

This little adventure reminded me of the trip to Peru where the teachers were striking and blockaded roads, airports, bus stations and train stations and the night we drove in a convoy of tour buses on the back roads behind Araquipa to get to the Colca Canyon!

Wednesday we stopped in Puerto Montt where were joined a right at the dock for $40.  It was a mini bus and we had 11 other people aboard with us along with  our 17 year old high school student guide who was eager to show off his town.  Our first stop was a scenic view point to take pictures of the Osorno volcano….with an added feature of yamas (llamas).  Then we drove on to a beautiful waterfall in a provincial park.  Three people managed to be half an hour late in getting back to the bus (sigh!)  Then on to Puerto Varas, the city of roses, on Lake Llanquihue  We explored the town and the market and had some lunch….everyone got back on time this time.  The only cache that was in the town was on top of a hill….a bit too far for a walk, but we did manage to find on when we got back to Puerto Montt just before we had to get back on the ship. 

A really nice surprise was a big barbeque on the Lido deck beside the pool and all the staff was dressed up as cowboys….Western, Argentinian and Mexican!  Lots of great food and entertainment.

Last of our towel animal surprises

Thursday was our last full day on the ship and another sea day.  We spent the morning packing up our suitcases.  At 1:00 we went to the “award ceremony” of the Antarctic Olympics the Lori and I have been participating in on sea days over the last 3 weeks.  The events we participated in were things like bean bag toss, putting contest and a few other activites….fun things, not anything “olympicy”    There was only about 5 of us that came to all the events.  Anyway….I got came in 3rd…..a point ahead of Lori.  The First place person was sick (actually quarantined) and he won a bottle of champagne and a cook book, but his friend who came in 2nd said he didn’t drink and she didn’t either so I took the bottle and we shared it with our 4:00 trivia group later that afternoon. 

Then spent the rest of the day visiting our new friends, winning at trivia, playing in the casino for a while, attending the last night in the dining room where they had a variety of international entrees and desserts (Pavlova and Baked Alaska where the ones we chose!)  Later the entertainment for the evening was a “Newlywed Game” where 3 couples…one couple only married since Dec (they were in their 50’s) and 2 couples who were married 56 years.  They were a riot….the couple married 56 years from Ottawa won.  Then there was a Dancing with the Stars final…..about 8 people have been taking dancing lessons from the ship’s dancers.  That was fun to watch too.  By then it was 11:00 and everyone headed to their cabins  to get their luggage out in front of their doors to be picked up and ready to take off the ship in the morning.

Newly Wed game

Last sunset from the balcony

Friday morning we landed in Valparaiso….where we have to get off.  Our disembarkment  time was 10:15 so that gave us lots of time to get some breakfast and do a final bit of packing.

By about 11:30 were in our funky art deco hotel.  Valparaiso was an important sea port before the Panama canal was built. It is built on many hills.  The hills are covered with a maze of winding cobbled stoned streets and colourful houses.  Murals are painted on many buildings and homes.  In 2003 the historic quarter was named a UNESCO heritage site.  The other unique thing about this city is the funiculars that take people up and down the hill for 100 pecos….there are about 16 of them.  The city has attracted a lot of artists and tourists in the last few years.   

Funiculars from the ship

Looking down

Fire hall No. 7

After we checked our our room and then checked our emails (free unlimited) we headed off to explore some of the sites…oh and of course find a few caches.  We found our way, with a little help, to the funicular nearest our hotel on the hill…..then explored to the east.  We found one cache out of 3 that we tried for, had some lunch, got some things to nibble on tonight instead of going out.  We wandered back to the hotel when it was getting too warm and set up in the roof top lounge to catch up with everyone and enjoy the view.  We watched as the Zaandam pull out and head back to sea to do the reverse of the trip we just finished.  It is really amazing how in just a few hours that ship has dropped 1400 passengers, resupplied with food and new crew, and loaded on 1400 new passengers and was leaving port a little after 6pm. 

Good bye Zaandam

Valparaiso at night

Tomorrow we will explore a little more of the city and then we have arranged for a car to take us from the hotel to the Santiago airport….a 1 and a half hour ride for $120.….$60 each verse a taxi ride to the bus station, a 2 hour bus ride into Santiago and transfer to another bus for a half hour ride to the airport for about $40 each…schlepping all our luggage…..hmmm. 

Our flight is at 11pm to Houston arriving at about 6am Sunday, Super Bowl day.  We have a lay over of about 12 hours which we are planning to use to rent a car and visit the Space Center…which should be very quiet!  We fly out about 6 and will arrive in Vancouver later that evening.  
Wayne and Lori on their next trip?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Around the Horn...Thursday January 22 to Monday January 26, 2015

We had a great ride around the Horn Isle….very windy….we now have been to the convergence of the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.  In 2013 we were at the meeting point of Indian and the Southern oceans and last June I  was in Iceland crossing a bridge over a fault line that separates North America from Europe.  It was very very windy and the seas were turbulent…..but a little sail boat passed us!!! I don’t know how big it was but if we were rocking and rolling and blowing you can imagine how he was being tossed around out there!   Crazy!

Windy Cape Horn

We are learning about the different terms for the area.  Before this trip, when I thought about the tip of South America, I thought terms for Cape Horn, the Magellan Straight, the Drake Passage and Terra Del Fuago were interchangeable,  I am now seeing the difference of the different areas, passages and channels.  The area is a maze of islands and you just wonder what the first explorers thought when trying to figure the best way to the East, and if there really was a way through or if they were going to fall off the end of the earth.  We are continuing to get commentary as we travel.  

Oh and if you SAIL around the Horn with out any kind of motor on your vessel....even if it is there for emergency and you don't use it....you get to put a gold earring in your right ear and get to put your right leg on the dinner table!!! I you do it around Cape of Good Hope (Africa) you can put one in your left ear and put your left leg on the dinner table!!! the things you learn!!!

Friday morning was anticipated by everyone on the ship….we finally stood on firm land.  I think everyone did decidedly well….no one toppled over!

Ushuia is a very pretty little town, it reminded us of the towns through the Rockies.  It is the jumping off point for all of the small expedition ships that head to the Antarctic, so it is a busy place for tourists. We were very lucky the day we got here (Friday the 21st) because it was sunny and warm.  The crew says that it is usually rainy and cool.  We found 2 caches and did a bit of shopping  here while we were walking and enjoying the sunshine and the fact that our feet were on firm land.

Although we did not land on the Falkland Islands, as the British call it or the Malvinas as the Argentineans call it, we have learned that although the war for the islands has been over for 30 years, each side claims the territory as theirs.  In fact Ushuia is the capital of the Malvinas and we have heard a few stories of how the Argentinians stop some of the cruise ships from landing in Ushuia, wanting the captains to sign papers to the effect that Argentina is the rightful “owners” of the island! 

Back on board by 1:00pm, a short stop, and then we cruised through the Beagle Channel and Glacier Alley all the time with commentary.  Lance, the on location guy , talking about the features of the channel and the different glaciers . Lori says it looks just like the Alaskan coast, but since I haven’t been on that cruise (yet) it was all very beautiful and new to me.  Again the sun was still shining and the officers and other crew kept coming out taking pictures and marvelling at the beautiful blue skies.

We had dinner that night on the Lido deck….usually a buffet style with western and some Asian foods……Friday it was a Heritage night where the Indonesian and Philippian catering staff cooked from their countries and wore their native clothing  and had decorated the dining area.  The food was yummy!

Saturday Jan. 24, we got up early for our day in Punta Arenas, Chile….a new country!  The water was nice and calm for the tender boats to shore.  Since we missed our trip to see the penguins up close and personal in the Falklands and we didn’t decide on an excursion here until it was took late everything was full, we decided to take our chances and get a tour at the dock in Punta Arenas.  We got a tour to Otway Sound and Penguin Reserve on a mini bus.  The drive was 1 hour there, an hour at the reserve and an hour back…..for $35 plus $13 for the entrance, oh and one $3 per person toll on the road.  It was the same trip that people on board paid $109!!!!  From where we parked it was about a kilometer walk out to the beach look out.  Here there was a wooden half shed about 20 meter off the shore, with windows that you could view  the penguins on the beach.  And right off the paths there was a nice group of penguins  were wandering around.

Our bus dropped us to the town square and park where there was a little  market and an statue of Magellan …..which conveniently was a cache.  Oh and if you rub Magellan’s big toe….superstition says you will return! We looked for somewhere to eat and ended up at a little place and had shrimp empanadas….delicious and very large!  Then back on to the ship but by this time the water between the shore and the ship was very rough and the little boat was tossed about a bit and had a hard time landing on the little dock attached to the boat….but we made it.

Now it is two days on board the ship again on our way to Puerto Chacabuco.  Reading, trivia (Australia Day today and we did well at Australia Day Trivia….it was Carol our 4:00 trivia friend from Tennesse, Lori and I and Jenny, an Aussie we met earlier in the cruise from Philips Island (south of Melbourne), Lori at the blackjack table doing well and me….well I made $300 on the poker machine after putting in and loosing about $35.….that should pay for some of the tab for the trip.  Also tonight is the last formal night…..we have brought formal clothes for the 3 formal nights, but this is the first and last we will attend with our 4:00 trivia team!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ice, Ice, Ice……or Nine Days at Sea! 

Thurs January 22, 2015

Good bye to the Antarctic

Today we woke up to see the tip of land on South America…..we will be cruising around the Drake passage and Cape Horn. After the last couple of days in very rough water again it is nice to be in calm waters again.  It is very warm outside….we can put away the scarves, gloves and long underwear. 

Yesterday was kind of a lost day because the seas were so rough standing was a challenge and looking out the window was a challenge too….the waves were so high.  I think it was rougher yesterday than what it was  when we were going south.  Playing trivia at 4:00 in the Crows Nest felt like you were on a roller coaster, not only going up and down but side to side too.   Amazing that no one that we know of fell down.  Neither of us felt the full effects of sea sickness….I worried that I would be sea sick so I put on the little wrist things to sea sickness (apparently) just in case…..So yesterday was day of reading lying down!

I have been totally amazed by this trip.  I have only been on one other cruise, last year, with Lori and her Mom, ( I usually like to be hiking and walking around on land.)  That is when we saw this cruise on the TV in the room…..both Lori and I have always wanted to go to the Antarctic.  I have looked into trips that you can step foot on the ice continent…..but they are priced way out of reach for me  (anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000plus) for a 7 to 10 day trip and you still had to get to Ushuaia to start the trip.  I think Holland America has done a wonderful job of putting together this cruise.  There are only 3 trips this season and I think this is the only line that has the permission/licences/whatever they need to travel in this sensitive area.  There are many rules and regulations that they must follow and they keep reminding people about them through a letter and announcements (nothing blowing off the ship, no loud noises, no food or drink on the open decks, not feeding any birds or wildlife, no smoking on deck).  They have brought a team of 3 people who work  on the different expeditions and stations on board to do talks and answer all our questions and are available most all the time.  There was a commentary during most of the afternoons as we cruised down the Antarctic Peninsula talking about what we were seeing.  The ship went slowly down the coast and into little harbours so we could see the penguin rookeries and some of the stations manned scientists from 26 different countries.

Pictures from our balcony!

We saw birds and seals, whales breaching and penguins “flying” out of the water.  Lots of beautiful landscapes of ice and snow….glaciers, icebergs, and more mountains than I thought there would be.

A lot of days on the ocean, a few disappointments (the Falklands and Palmer Station meeting of the people  living there) because of bad seas……but all in all it has been fabulous……and we still have a week to go!

PS wifi on ship has been slow and off…I am posting these last two entries from Ushuaia tomorrow.  Hoping also that the wifi will load the pictures I have picked from Lori’s email/blog.  We are only there from 8:00 to 1:30 and we want to walk around explore and get some caches….stretch our sea legs!

Can you see the bottom of the iceberg?

Antarctica….Tuesday Jan. 20, 2015

Lori’s email to family and friends

Last we wrote, we were just preparing for an “exciting” ride across the open seas to Antarctica.  The captain delivered, as promised!!!  The ship rolled back and forth and up and down.  Apparently the seas were only about 15-40 foot waves, which you wouldn’t think would affect a larger ship.  Well, no, that’s not the case!!  The front desk handed out free sea-sickness medication, and placed barf bags at the elevators!  We were actually okay, and just enjoyed the challenges of trying to stay upright.  Many did not leave their cabins, so it was pretty quiet. It was really quite amazing that we didn’t see anyone actually fall, but there were a lot of pale faces.  The swimming pool sloshed so much that they finally had to empty it out after half of it was already on the deck.

We awoke at 5:00 the first morning to get out on deck to see the amazing landscape and hear the narration that was happening on the outer decks.  We put on our winter-iest clothes, but it was just biting cold outside from the wind, and we couldn’t stay out very long at one time.  We saw penguins sitting on little icebergs, and the first whales.  Lots of penguins were swimming alongside the boat, and looked so funny moving along and breaking the surface in packs.  It wasn’t too long before we spotted the first gigantic iceberg, which the captain took us around in a circle.  It was over a kilometre long, and taller than our ship…..and completely flat along the top, like a shelf.  Many photos were snapped!

Our first iceberg

Our first penguins!

We continued along the Antarctic Peninsula for the day, just taking in all the scenery, and listening to the commentary.  Lots of whales…..Minke and Humpbacks mainly, which was apparently many more than is usually sighted….and penguins, penguins, penguins.  I was not expecting to see as much “rock” as we could see, as I thought it would be all ice.  But, it IS Summer, so I guess this is the time that there would be the least amount of ice.
The second day, we continued South, and we were in pretty calm water, sheltered by some of the islands.  We had checked the night before, and it was still (very) light out at 11:30 pm, with dusk at about 12:30 or 1.  The sun was brightly shining and up over the mountains by 3 am!  On this morning, we continued to navigate around the larger icebergs, and just plowed through the “brash ice.”  We got extremely close to a penguin rookery on shore, that was inhabited by more than 40,000 pairs of penguins.  Apparently they were still in the nesting phase, as there was very little movement.    We could hear them, but we could also SMELL them…..whew!!!!  They were all along the rocky shore with nothing but ice mountains behind.  There were a few seals around here as well. 

Penguin rookery...they are all sitting on eggs!

Brash Ice

We passed by a few of the research stations that are along the peninsula.  The first one was Chilean, then Brazilian (under reconstruction) and finally, Almirante Brown, which belongs to Argentina.  This one was important to Pam and me, in that there was a cache there…of course.  Although we could not get off the ship, the cache owner agreed to let us log the cache with a photo of us and the station in the background and answer a few questions about the area.. These stations were pretty rustic, and I couldn’t imagine staying in one for 6 months (or longer!)  It was perfect timing for us, as just after we took the photos, the fog rolled in.  Within an hour, we were completely socked in, and would never have been able to get a picture.  We next went through the Neumeyer Channel……also called “Kodak Moments” channel.  But unfortunately for us, we could not see a single thing!!  THEN….it started snowing!!

While we were not seeing the Antarctic scenery, we were able to witness the magical scene of the Indonesian and Filipino crew members experiencing the joy of being in snow for the first time.  It was just so cool!  There was about 3 inches of snow accumulating, and they were all out there on the deck shrieking and laughing.  They made a snowman, and posed with it for photos.  They made snowballs, and gently threw them at each other.  Even some of the higher ranking officers were out there in their uniforms.  They were just having so much fun, and our cabin steward (from Ubud) told us that he never thought he would ever be able to play in snow.  A pretty special experience, for sure.
We went past the US research station at Palmer Island, and out to sea for the night……we had to dump some water, and the ships are not allowed to do that within certain boundaries. 

We awoke this morning to bright sunshine and blue skies.  We bolted out of our beds and got ready for the day……this was the day that we were to park outside Palmer Station and the resident researchers would come aboard and give lectures.  (Coincidentally, we had arranged to meet up with the head researcher to sign a cache….) Just as we finished getting on all our winter clothes again, an announcement came on that it was so windy that the rendezvous had to be cancelled!!!  We always try to find the good side of everything, but I would be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed!  But again, we just had to stare out the window and realize the beauty and luck of the experience we were having, which was amazing.  The captain said that our trip down the Lemaire Channel (the other/better “Kodak” route) would also be cancelled due to the high winds and narrow access.  He said it would be “irresponsible” to attempt it, due to current and forecast weather. 

Instead, we headed back up the channel we couldn’t see yesterday.  Now THAT was amazing!!!  The water was calm and an icy, deep blue, the mountains were just sparkling white and so majestic with light clouds swirling around the steep and jagged peaks, and the sky was a bright blue.  Like Iguazu, it just couldn’t be captured on film (well, not on my crappy camera!!) I was not expecting to see the mountains rising so sharply and being so tall and high.  If not for the water in the foreground, you would think you were high in the Rockies.  Icebergs floated by, and more wildlife appeared.  It is definitely a desolate place……water, rock, ice, and not much more.  In fact, only two “plants” are found (rarely) in all of Antarctica:  one type of grass and one type of flower, neither of which we saw.  Apparently there was a small bit of the grass on one rocky area, but we couldn’t discern it!

After we passed through this overwhelming beauty along the channel, we were in open water again, and began our path homeward.  The weather is supposed to be much the same as when we crossed downwards…..rough and bumpy.  The fog has returned, along with the angry sea conditions.  We will be crossing the open water all night tonight, all day tomorrow, and tomorrow night…..next stop is Ushuaia at the bottom of Argentina.  We still have the Drake Passage and Cape Horn ahead of us….more adventure!
We’ve been pretty busy, of course.  The entertainment has been terrific, and we have come to know quite a few people very well.  I had some really good days at the BlackJack table, but then a bad one today……but had a ton of laughs anyways.  We have had our fair share of Sun-sicles, but I  have discovered a new drink:  a ChocoMintBuzz.  The casino girl made one for us…..but I won’t have another.  It was a little TOO good, and way too rich for even me.  Now, as I’m writing this, we’re having a glass of wine before bed.  Do you think I have a problem??:?

Hope everything is going well at home….I’m sure it’s a lot warmer there than it is here.  I definitely overpacked in the “summer” department and underpacked in the “winter” department.

Pam is going to post some photos on the blog, so you can check them out there.
Nice to hear from you….thanks so much!