Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Friday, December 29, 2017

Advent Calendars...

Retail figures just in, there's was a big downturn in the sale of advent calendars this year. 

I always said their days were numbered.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Doctor Who Christmas Specials 2005 to 2017 rated in order best to worst. Coincidentally almost chronologically too...

Doctor Who Christmas Specials 2005 to 2017 rated in order best to worst. Coincidentally almost chronologically too.

The Runaway Bride 
Voyage of the Damned  
The Christmas Invasion 
The Next Doctor 
The End of Time parts 1 & 2 
A Christmas Carol 
The Doctor, the Widow, and The Wardrobe 
The Snowmen 
The Time of The Doctor 
Last Christmas 
The Husbands of River Song 
Twice Upon A Time 
The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017

Day 19 : Homeward Bound...

26 hours later we are finally back in the UK. Over the Andes and connecting via Brazil. 

We were on the bumpiest flight Stuart and I have ever been on. It was like being a squash ball in a squash court. 

Good to be back home. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Day 18 : Valparaíso : Funiculars, Colourful Houses, Urban Art (lots and lots of Urban Art)...

On our last full day in Chile Stuart and I decided to pop over to the nearby port city of Valparaíso. We'd heard good things.

Valparaíso is known for its steep funiculars (my favourite form of transport), its bohemian residents, its colourful clifftop homes and buildings, and its urban art. 

So we spent the day riding up and down all the funiculars we could find, acting as bohemian as we dared, and photographing just a tiny proportion of the millions upon millions of painted buildings we discovered. Almost every square inch of vertical structure in the city has either been covered in graffiti or had impressive urban art painted on it. It is indeed a very colourful city. 

To top the day off we visited La Sebastiana, the quirky former residence of world famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, which is now a museum with impressive Pacific views.

A nice way to end our Chilean adventure.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Day 17 : Casablanca Valley : Lush, Pinot, and Basil ...

The countryside here in the Casablanca Valley is beautiful and lush. We have been sampling the local wines and eating well. A little too well probably. Diets when we get back!

Of the wines we have sampled the Corralillo Pinot Noir is our particular favourite. 

Matetic is the local vintner here who also happens to be our hotel owner so the vino sure flows easily at meal times. There is the touch of the Fawlty Towers about the service though but it's all very good natured which excuses the amateurishness (trying saying that after a couple of bottles of Pinot!). Their very own local Basil Fawlty tries so hard too get it right, bless him.

Nice to unwind after our whirlwind adventures of the past few weeks. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Day 16 : Casablanca Valley: From Desert to Dessert (Wine)...

Yesterday was a travel day. A very bumpy, it's-very-turbulent-flying-over-the-Andes travel day.  

We left the heat, sand, salt and altitude of the Atacama desert to fly 1000 km down to the wine producing region of the Casablanc Valley. We are staying in a posh winery where we are spending a couple of days wine-tasting, relaxing, and more wine-tasting. 

Our livers have been put on high alert. Expect a free snaps of us looking banjaxed later. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Day 15 : San Pedro de Atacama : From Moon Valley to Death Valley...

Our last day in the Atacama Desert was pretty spectacular. 

We trekked further than we had ever done before, up mountains, down cliff sides, and through weather sculptured ravines. It was hot, dry, and at times pretty scary too.

Moon Valley was simply beautiful - arid and epic it was full of otherworldly rock and salt formations. They test the Mars Rover here for its trips to Mars and you can see why. 

Death Valley was high, rocky, windy, and we had no shelter from the harsh sun and biting blast of sand in the wind. 

Yea, though we tried to walk in the shadows of the valley of death... there were none to be found. Lots of towering sand dunes to career down at the end though. 

As we bid farewell to the desert Stuart and I are both a bit overwhelmed by it all. You have to be fit here. The trekking is tough and the thin oxygen makes everything doubley challenging. But what a place to visit. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 14 : San Pedro de Atacama : Desert, Flamingoes and Oasis...

Deserts are dry places and Atacama Desert is the driest of them all. Not that it never rains here but just not very often. The water that is  around comes from the show and ice melting on the nearby mountains forming small rivers and turns sheltered gorges into oases that harbour quite rich wildlife and lush vegetation. 

As the water travels down these gorges it heats up forming lovely natural spring pools at 36C - very nice after a long trek up a steep canyon. 

Water that makes it onto the desert plateau proper soon evaporates leaving a layer salty deposits, salt that has been eroded from the mountains. Over the millennia this salt layer has got thick. Very thick. 1450m thick in places. 

And the salt is so intensely saturated that the water can't even evaporate and it forms super-saturated salt lakes. Ideal for minute sea monkeys, the principal food of the flamingo. And the sea monkeys love the flamingo poo. Circle of life and all that.

Beautiful sunsets too.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Day 13 : Chile : South to North...

Today was an epic travel day. Planes, and cars and more planes. We had fun on the trip though. 

4300km from the southern most tip to the northern most outcrop of Chile. From the coldest place on earth to the driest: Antartic to Atacama Desert. 
Stuart is getting his English Patient look ready. Scarves, sweeping film score and stuff upper lip.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Day 12 : *Not* Antartica...

Oh piss, damn, blast, and bollocks. 

We had planned to make it over Drake's  Passage to visit Antartica but the weather is just too bad. 60 knot winds and 12m high waves have stranded the ships, grounded all aircraft and made the trip impossible. The penguins will just have to wait for another time.

Our Plan B? Get sloshed, count your blessings at having such 1st world problems and see if we can fly somewhere else instead. 

Stuart has already pocketed the entire toiletries from our standby hotel, drunk the minibar dry, and loudly commenting on some of the dubious fashion choices of our co-travellers. 

"Stuart of the Antartic" he may not be but "Stuart of the Acerbic" he certainly is.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Day 11 : Patagonia : Torres del Paine National Park. Cowboys, Condors, and Glaciers...

Another delay to our trip further south due to bad weather has meant we have had the opportunity to spend time in the world famous Torres del Paine National Park. 

It is a truly beautiful place. 

Mountains, glaciers, cowboys, condors, pumas, and the weird little llama type animal the guanaco.

It has always been a place on my bucket list so glad we got a chance to go.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 10 : Patagonia : Puerto Natales...

Due to the bad weather our plans have changed a little bit and we are spending a bit more time in Patagonia. But wow, what a great place it is to spend time in. 

We have flown to Puerto Natales (a delightful little town) with a beautiful lake, fabulous views, quirky street dustbins(!)

We are staying in a stunning hotel called The Singular that even has its own funicular. 

We have rather taken to the spa with its glass fronted views of Last Hope Sound. 

As alternative plans go we have rather lucked out. Today we are are planning a trip into the national park. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Day 9 : Patagonia : Punta Arenas...

After a brief stay in Santiago we jetted 3000 odd kilometres further south down along the Andes towards Punta Arenas, the capital of Patagonia.

Patagonia is beautiful but chaffing freezing - even if it is summer here.

We met some nice people though and had some great food at a local hostelry called The Beagle.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Day 8 : Easter Island : Goodbye...

It's been a lot of fun staying in Easter Island but it is time to bid farewell and return at the mainland.

The Explora lodge has been great; especially the guides Jorge, Pepe, Julianne and Maya Maya. 

We've made some firm friends in Tammy, Richard, Tina and Robert. 

Back to Santiago we go!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Day 7 : Easter Island : Sunrise, Snorkelling, and Cycling...

So much for a relaxing holiday! 

Up at 5:30am again to take some more (and better photographs) of the stone platform with the fifteen moai. There used to be eighteen statues on the platform but the massive earthquake in 1960 in Chile caused a tsunami to arrive seven hours later which had an eleven metre high wave that smashed the original eighteen to smithereens and they can only find fifteen to put back.

Back at the main town Stuart and I took a small fishing boat out to the the bird man island to go snorkeling. The seas were very rough and our skipper seemed to enjoy smashing our little vessel at great speed into the crest of the massive breakers one were were in the open ocean and then freefalling us down into the watery trough beyond. I was shit scared. The snorkeling was fine when we got to the island - a few exotic fish to note - but the whole trip was was rather marked by the high-speed hydronautics of our skipper. A feat he repeated during our return to dry land.

In the afternoon we decided to bicycle around the island which turned to be far more ambitious act than we had initially anticipated. Lots of hills and slopes lay ahead. We managed it though and rewarded ourselves with a spot of body surfing in the crystal blue waters at the tropical sandy beach.