Monday, January 22, 2007

Logbook: Northern Chile

Northernchile1Saturday morning we pulled into Arica, Chile, a beautiful little port city at the very northern end of the country -- just barely south of Peru, to which it once belonged. I was so happy with the prospect of being out in the sunny -- and cool! -- weather that I was one of the first passengers off the ship. As usual, I had my Mac pack on my back, but this time I also had my laundry bag -- a simple white pillowcase about half full -- slung over my shoulder. A couple of other passengers teased me a little about taking my laundry ashore, but I easily defended myself by reminding them of what they were paying to use the ship’s laundry! Just outside the port’s gate is a pretty little square -- shown in the inset -- with a mesa of sorts overlooking the town. The climate is dry, almost desert-like, but it is not barren. Leading off the square is a pedestrian boulevard which I started wandering up to find internet and laundry. After walking along a seemingly endless row of closed shops, I realized that it was only 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning. So, I sat down on a bench to wait for a while. Looking around, I started to smile, then chuckle, then laugh out loud. You see, there were a number of other benches in the area, most of which were occupied by vagrants who each had some sort of back pack and a pillowcase-like bag. Noting the similarity between us was hilarious. Thankfully, I was notably cleaner!

Northernchile2Back on my feet, I wandered around and soon found a little slice of heaven: A laundry and an internet center side by side! Perfect! I dropped off my laundry, got on-line and did my usual. A couple of hours later I signed off, picked up my clean clothes and wandered around for a while. On my way back to the ship I passed a pretty big camera store so I stopped in and got a new camera. Yes, that’s right, another new camera! The Nikon that I bought in Atlanta had many of the features I need, but turned out to be missing a couple of really important ones. Namely, a viewfinder in addition to the LCD display -- which is impossible to see in bright daylight -- and a better menu/button interface for making adjustments. So, I got a Canon A540 which really does have it all -- including the vastly superior interface that I love so much! A little more walking later, I was back on board for departure from Arica which I would happily visit again -- and even stay in for a while.

Yesterday was a day at sea, highlighted by a request from the cruise director for me to do my Iditarod presentation for the passengers. A few days earlier I was joined at dinner by Jill, the purser, and in conversation we found we have a love of dogs in common. I showed her a little of my Iditarod video and she suggested to the cruise director that the passengers might like it. So, he asked me, I said yes, and spent some time yesterday reviewing my media and framing up a presentation which I did this morning. I talked for about an hour then handled some really good questions for about 45 minutes. It was very well received and I enjoyed doing it. The cruise director liked it as well, and has mentioned that he will put me in touch with the person who organizes speakers on future cruises. So, who knows? Early afternoon we docked at another lovely little city called Coquimbo which is much like Arica -- though a bit more likely to become a “resort” town in the near future. We had a very short time ashore, so I only got to walk around for an hour or so, have a “typical” Chilean lunch -- mixed grilled meats -- and head back to the ship. Tomorrow we will arrive in Valparaiso for a day then continue our progress to ports along the way to the Antarctic. All is well on The Voyage!

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