Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, February 28, 2019

South America : Day Nineteen : Santiago -> London ...

Farewell Chile, back to The Big Smoke. We have some lovely memories of a fantastic holiday; the lovely Chilean people, the street graffiti, the food, the killer whales, humpbacks, seals, penguins, ice, snow, the beautiful icebergs, crossing the Antarctic Circle, the polar plunge, and of course sharing the fun, the laughter and the wow moments with my brilliant partner in crime and soul-mate Stuey. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

South America : Day Eighteen : Santiago ...

On the last leg of our trip, now we are back in Chile’s capital - Santiago. 

The flight up here from Puerto Montt was bumpy as heck, but that aside, it is great to be back in our favourite South American city. 

We even did a bit of greatest hits tour on our last night - took the funicular up our favourite hill (San Cristabol Hill), visited a restaurant to have our favourite Chilean food (the epic chorrillana), and went to our favourite local bar (Cafe 202). 

Farewell Chile. Its been fun. Now time to head for the airport. (And go on a diet. Turns out those holiday calories might actually try following us home.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

South America : Day Seventeen : Spa Day, Swimming, and Massage (with a happy ending!) ...

As I had promised myself, and more importantly promised my darling Stuart, yesterday we had a rest day. A proper rest day. We went to a spa, pampered ourselves and everything. Swimming, sauna, steam-room, and... er...  massage "treatments". 

I know what you're thinking, but let me cut to quick, it wasn't one of those lie-face-up "happy ending" kind of massage treatments you may have heard your dodgy mates talk of. No, this was proper, dead posh, massages. Massages, which I like, but with stupidly expensive oils, mud, crystals and magic energy. No really. 

Now, I don't know about you but I don't as much apply sunscreen on the hottest day of the year let alone moisturize so the idea of having mud and scented oils flung at me while half-undressed seemed a weird way to spend the day, but I was game. Besides, the "treatments" we're all part of the spa deal. 

So I started off with a sports massage. I like those. My legs, neck, arms, and torso were dead achy from the kayaking the day before and the forceful kneeding and rubbing of my muscles really helped. 

So far so good. It hurt, sure, but my neck, calves, and back felt great afterwards. I was beginning to like this. 

I then took a rest. Had a swim and a laze in the Jaccuzi and studied the options for more treatment options to follow. 

But as the options got a little harder to understand and somewhat weirder and as my Chilean therapist spoke no English and I no Spanish I used Google Translate on my phone to communicate with her. 

We went to her massage room. She spoke. I looked at the screen. "I like to give you Reike Massage, and Emotional Massage, and Hot Stone Massage, and also Reflexology." 

"OK", I said. No translation required. 

"Lie face down," Google translated. I did. 

(I told you this was a respectable establishment.)

First up was Reike. Which my Google Translate app further informed me thus, "I will harmonise and heal you based on universal vital energy through the imposition of my hands using quartz crystals, as a means of energetic channeling of mother earth, together with Reiki energy."

I asked if mother earth got a cut of the spa fee but Google Translate seemed to be missing a sarcasm setting and she just said, "No".  That was me told. 

I felt no different afterwards to be honest. Lots of mumbo jumbo, oil aplenty, and the quartz crystal fell off my leg onto the floor. We both stared at it. And moved on. Magic Energy 0 Reality 1. 

Next came the Emotional Massage which my trusty app claimed would, "harmonise (that word again) and connect my three planes - physical, mental, and spiritual - through various holistic (oh dear) techniques such as shiatsu (isn't that a dog?), Chinese massage (she just changed the music to something more jarring), aromatherapy (she blew poppers in my face), and (best of all) gem therapy."

The gem therapy was similar to the quartz therapy but there were more of them. She stuck the little stones on my body with an oily glue (learning her lesson from the leg incident I suspect) and they came in a rather dull red colour. I asked if they also came in blue but she said, "blue doesn't work". Well, my lovely, neither does red. I felt like a tit. 

She chanted a bit too. First abrasive, then smoothing and then loving. It felt weird. Like I'd just lost an argument I didn't know I was having. I was pleased when the emotions had abated to be honest. Overrated, emotions.

Next up was the Hot Stones Massage. Well, they were heated (reheated?) lava rocks to be precise. On my back and arms. All I can say is I now have an inkling of how the people of Pompeii might have felt. There were fucking scolding. 

Sure, it heated up the skin and the muscles, but I think a good hot water bottle could have done the same without all that messing about with rocks. It sure helped my arm ache though. 

Finally came the foot massage. The reflexology. Now, I knew what to expect here. A good foot rub. Nice. 

Only I'm not sure she was doing it right. It kept tickling. And I kept giggling. And after a few involuntary choice kicks to the side of her head and her chin she really knuckled down (no pun intended) and broke all ten of my toes and had me screaming as she dug her fingers into my ankle and foot arches. Touche. Well played, good lady. 

So reclothed and relieved I hobbled out of the spa, giggling, aching, and not really quite sure what had just happened. 

Maybe I'll feel different in the morning. A good gem lasts a lifetime after all. Red or blue. 

And despite my initial skepticism there might actually be something in this lark. I did enjoy it, and I did feel much better afterwards. Even if that might have been somewhat more due to the laughing than the actual massages. 

None the less, a happy ending after all. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

South America : Day Sixteen : Kayaking and Off-Road Downhill Cycling (through a lava field) ...

So we were up early on our first full “rest day” to try a couple of new things; kayaking (which we had never done before) and off-road downhill cycling (along the side of a volcano!)

The kayaking was lead by Thomas (Tommy) from the local town and we did it along with a French couple (who work for the Red Cross). We paddling along the nearby lagoon, up a river, through thick undergrowth, and then out through a narrow channel into the main lake. We wobbled and veered from left to right quite a bit at first but it was great fun - if exhausting. 

Then after lunch we drove up the side of a volcano, mounted some bikes, and careered for 18km down one of the bumpiest and steepest “tracks” we had ever had the pleasure of skidding down. 

It was basically a lava field. We sped down - bumping over rocks, jolting down holes, and snatching the odd photo of the volcano peak. 

We were left with some sore wrists, some sore bums, and some great memories. 

At the bottom we found a pretty little stream and took more snaps of the snow covered volcano behind us again. 

Tomorrow is definitely, definitely, definitely going to be a rest day! 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

South America : Day Fifteen : Puerto Montt ...

Yesterday we left Patagonia to fly north for a couple of hours to the Chilean lake district for a few days of rest and relaxation after our icy adventure. Well, that was the plan. 

The flight was fine and as we emerged from the domestic terminal a smiling driver was waiting for us. He turned out to be the manager of the hotel were we were staying - a beautiful place on the banks of Lake Llanquihue - a 45 drive away. 

The place was enchanting. So was the scenery. So intoxicated were we that all thought of taking it easy went out the window. 

By the afternoon we were hiking up a volcano! And now have kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking organised too!

So much for taking a rest! 

Friday, February 22, 2019

South America : Day Fourteen : Flying back from Antarctica to Punta Arenas ...

Our luck held. It was clear weather all the way and a pretty smooth flight back across the Drake Passage to mainland Chile. 

What an amazing trip it has been. 

Our little ship ending up travelling 988 nautical miles (or 1137 land miles to you land lubbers), burning 50 tons of fuel, and we consumed 330 tons fresh water. 

We had learnt many things on our trip; many things about penguins, many things about humpback whales, and many things  about Antarctica itself. 

Antarctica factoid #1: Antarctica is twice the area of Australia in summer. 
Antarctica factoid #2: Antarctic doubles in size in winter, due to the sea ice, making it four times the area of Australia.  
Oh and it is the coldest, windiest, and driest place on earth, having the world's biggest desert at 5.4 million square miles. 
So there you go. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

South America : Day Thirteen : Telefon Bay, Yankee Harbour, and Southern Elephant Seals ...

We arose early for our last full day on Antarctica. Tomorrow we are due to fly back to mainland Chile. Weather permitting. 
Last night we had travelled overnight north along the Bransfield Strait and were preparing to steam through the narrow gap called Neptune’s Bellows at Deception Island into Telefon Bay. 

Deception Island is an active volcano that exploded dramatically 10,000 years ago to form a huge crater that was subsequently filled in by the sea. 10 cubic kilometres of rock had disappeared in a matter of moments. 
Telefon Bay lies in the northwest side of this filled-in crater - the whole watery area being named Port Foster. 
It was named after a salvage vessel that moored in the bay, in 1909 while waiting for repairs. 
Once we had dropped anchor, we boarded our Zodiacs and from a wide, black-sand beach we walked up a gentle slope to the rim of one of the many smaller craters that had been created from smaller explosions since the “big one” all those millennia ago. 
This is because the seismic activity has continued every since. In 1967 and again 1969 the British base here had to be evacuated due to two particularly big volcanic explosions. 
We continued to climb and saw another crater - this one with a small lake in it. The walk then continued even further up onto a ridge where there were excellent views of the caldera.

Back in the ship, after lunch, we had the inevitable Disembarkation Briefing. But we weren’t done quite yet. Oh no. 
We sailed over to nearby Yankee Harbour. 
Yankee Harbour lies between Glacier Bluff and Spit Point on the southwest side of Greenwich Island. The harbour is enclosed by a curved, stone and gravel bar and was known to American and British sealers as early as 1820.
The gravel bar was covered in thousands of gentoo penguin pairs and hundreds of fur-seals. We walked amidst them just counting our blessings. So lucky to be here. So lucky with the amazing weather. 
Then to top our trip off we boarded our Zodiac one more time and motored a short stretch across the other side of the spit to see a beach full of southern elephant seals. These massive creatures looked majestic with the huge elephantine noses. Some thundered their way down the beach and launched themselves into the waters with a huge whoosh. It was so great to see these iconic creatures. And a perfect way to finish a perfect trip to Antarctica. 
Now there was just the captain’s cocktail party back on board to navigate and the packing to complete. 
Overnight we would be sailing back to King George Island where we will be due to rendez-vous with our plane.