Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

GPS Tracking – A Day In And Around Ushuaia

March 4th, 2010 at 8:21 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Our unexpected full day in Ushuaia turned out quite nice. We started with a visit to the Maritime Museum of Ushuaia, located in the former prison which had been the core of the foundation of Ushuaia as a penal colony a long time ago.

We then wandered through the main shopping and restaurant portion of downtown Ushuaia – lots of tourist goods, a large number of restaurants offering all you can eat buffets (we didn’t partake), and tour companies offering trips to see penguins (been there, done that).

Lunch required busing to Patagonia Mia, a restaurant near the entrance of the Tierra del Fuego national park. While not bad, the meal we had there was perhaps the most disappointing of the trip – they only offered fish (cod) as a main course (we managed to get a breaded beef filet for Bas), and it was bland and uninspired. Quite a contrast from the diverse and almost universally great food we’ve enjoyed aboard the National Geographic Explorer.

After a quick stop at the ship, we took a two hour bus ride to Estancia Harberton. Estancia means “ranch” or “farm”, but while Estancia Harberton used to be a sheep farm and place where firewood was harvested, today it’s more of a historic site. On property is also the Museo Acatushun Aves y Mamiferos Marinos Australes, the Museum of Birds and Marine Mammals, which features the world’s best collection of marine mammal skeletons and skulls. Pretty impressive, although we had limited time available to truly appreciate the collection.

Our final dinner aboard the Explorer awaited our return.

We’re now just about thoroughly packed and ready to get up before dawn so we can leave Ushuaia just after dawn. We hope to be in Miami late Friday night at a hotel Lindblad has arranged for all of us on the charter. On Saturday we move to a nice hotel in Coconut Grove, a trendy area south of downtown Miami.

The GPS track for our day in and near Ushuaia is below.


GPS Tracking – Stanley, Falkland Islands

March 1st, 2010 at 8:17 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

It was a gloriously beautiful day in the Falkland Islands today – sunshine, a few fluffy clouds, and ample, blustery winds (a common feature of the area, as we understand it).

Around dawn we made our way from our safe harbor at Berkeley Sound to Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, and then spent the day exploring Stanley by foot. Not a huge amount to see, but we did visit a few shops, wandered through a number of residential areas, and visited both the Stanley Post Office and an excellent museum with ample historical information about Stanley.

Later in the afternoon we visited Stanley Growers, a hydroponics-based grower of wonderful produce, including a vast number of tomatoes, all of which we got to sample.

Tonight we’re en route to West Falkland Island, and more particularly, Carcass Island, where we will spend the morning checking out sheep, a ranch, and Magellanic penguins. And Rockhopper penguins await us in the afternoon.

Below is our GPS track though almost the present, since last night in Berkeley Sound – the northern part of the track is the latest part.


GPS Tracking – Godthul and Grytviken, South Georgia

February 23rd, 2010 at 5:50 am (AST) by Jake Richter

It turned out to be another very busy and snowy day yesterday, as we started in Godthul Bay with kayaking, hiking, and Zodiac cruises. Got to see our first King penguins up close and personal, as well as reindeer (imported by someone a while back – definitely not endemic) at a distance.

In the afternoon we went to Grytviken, an old whaling port, and now the government seat of the country, with a whopping 18 inhabitants, most of whom are part of the British Antarctic Service.

Grytviken is also the location of the grave site of Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton.

Below is our GPS Track for yesterday as well as much of the rest of Sunday. Zoom in to see the location of various sites on land. There’s lots of detail there.


GPS Tracking – Valparaiso to Santiago via Viña Del Mar

February 10th, 2010 at 4:46 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After a stay at the wonderful boutique hotel, Casa Higueres, in Valparaiso, we toured more of the city, as well as the resort area of Viña Del Mar. We also spent an hour in the Museo Fonck, which had a great blend of Chilean, Easter Island, and South American cultural and natural history. We’re now back in Santiago and about to have our introductory cocktail reception for the Lindblad Expedition to the Antarctic with a hundred-plus other adventure seekers.

Far less pictures today (don’t have the count yet). Hope to post some pictures from our last two day via Flickr tonight, however.

Our GPS track for today is below:


A Taste of Santiago and Chile

February 8th, 2010 at 10:53 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

As previously mentioned, our departure from Aruba from Saturday was uneventful, as was our landing in Bogota. But as an example of the small world we live in, in Bogota, at the departure gate, we bumped into a friend from Bonaire who was also on her way to Santiago. She regaled us with stories about how tough Chilean customs is with respect to bringing in food, herbs, or spices, and told us to make sure to declare anything that could remotely be considered to be food or be fined lots of money (US$300 for a bag of prunes for her the last time she fell afoul of Chilean customs).

It was good advice to follow. By declaring our protein powder, chocolate, tea, nuts, chewing gum, and hot chili powder at customs they didn’t hassle us at all, and just waved us through after examining our written declaration.

Interestingly, we had also been warned that Chile requires birth certificates and proof of parental status for kids entering the country, but we were never asked for that documentation.

The one last issue we encountered, again with advance knowledge, was something called the “reciprocity fee”. Apparently Chile decided to charge citizens of certain countries (Canada, USA, Mexico, Australia, and Albania) an entry fee commensurate with what Chilean citizens are charged for visas to enter those countries. For Canada, for example, this fee is US$132, while for Mexico it’s $17. For U.S. citizens it is $131. The only white lining here is that the fee covers the passport for as long as it is valid. Great for people with new passports, but less for those with passports about to expire. And it’s quite a hefty tab for families.

Fortunately the kids and I have dual nationality – we’re Czech Americans, so we used our Czech passports and did not have to pay any sort of reciprocity fee (the Czech Republic is part of the European Union). Thus we only had to pay the reciprocity fee for Linda. Savings of $393.

Our luggage was waiting for us when we got past immigration and customs, and outside we found a sign with our name on it, held by a representative of the tour company responsible for our transfer to our hotel. The representative’s name was Pablo, and our driver was Patricio. As we learned, Pablo and Patricio would be our companions during our Chilean exploration as well, with Pablo being our multi-lingual tour guide.

View from our window at the Grand Hyatt - note the Andes in the distance

View from our window at the Grand Hyatt - note the Andes in the distance

We were dropped off at our hotel, had a very early 6am breakfast, and then slept until noon. Red eye flights are never good, but having a bed ready so early in the morning was a wonderful thing to help compensate for the sleeplessness of the flight.

After a good Thai/Chile buffet lunch we met up with Pablo and Patricio for a half-day tour of Santiago.

Pablo had detailed information on statistics, economic factors, and the history of Chile and Santiago. Unfortunately I do not have enough to relate much of that here due to limited time tonight.

In terms of places we visited, the short list would be the Plaza de Armas (translated) (plaza of armaments), the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago (translated) (the main cathedral, located at the Plaza de Armas), the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (the museum of Precolumbian art), La Moneda Presidential Palace, and Cerro San Cristobal. You can see our path in the previous post, and also see a number pictures from our afternoon in Santiago on a map at Flickr. A few of our photos appear below.

View down the Plaza de Armas

View down the Plaza de Armas

Pablo describes the Santiago city plan of the 1712 time frame with Linda and Bas

Pablo describes the Santiago city plan of the 1712 time frame with Linda and Bas

People praying in the silver chapel of the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago

People praying in the silver chapel of the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago

Jake stands guard with the honor guard at the La Moneda Presidential Palace

Jake stands guard with the honor guard at the La Moneda Presidential Palace

Amazing wall murals on a set of buildings in downtown Santiago

Amazing wall murals on a set of buildings in downtown Santiago

The funicular arrives at the top of Cerro San Cristobal

The funicular arrives at the top of Cerro San Cristobal

More important than a play by play, perhaps, would be our observations of Chile and Santiago in particular.

One of the most impressive features of Santiago is that it lies in the foothills of the Andes mountain range, one of the tallest mountain ranges (Pablo says #2) in the world. The city itself is at around 1800 feet above sea level, and we can see tall, snow covered mountain peaks in the distance from our hotel room windows.

In comparison to other Central and South American cities we’ve visited, Santiago feels almost European, and somewhat safer. The climate is also quite moderate, with temperatures into the mid-80s during the day during the summer (now), ranging down to around freezing in the winter. During the summer, the air is clear due to regular winds, but the presence of the six million inhabitants of the area is more prevalent during the winter, when air pollution can get pretty bad, according to Pablo.

Santiago appears to also be European in its prices, which are quite high relative to those we found in Ecuador and Peru, and Pablo mentioned that Chile is the most expensive Latin American country to live in, while at the same time, having the highest per capita income (which makes sense).

Chile has a bit of turbulent history, both politically and geographically. Frequent large earthquakes over the centuries have destroyed many of the older structures in places like Santiago, resulting in a diverse blend of modern, traditional, and colonial architecture, all interspersed with one another. Politically, Chile is a democratic nation, but in 1973 General Augusto Pinochet staged a coup d’état and took power from President Salvador Allende. Pinochet ruled until he stepped down peacefully in 1990.

The Chilean people have a reputation for being the most reserved of the Latin Americans, but our limited experience so far has found them to be warm and friendly.

Finally, the local currency is the Chilean Peso, which trades at a rate of approximately 531 pesos to one U.S. dollar. However, they use the “$” symbol to represent the Chilean Peso, which makes price displays rather intimidating, as seen below:

A very scary ATM display in Santiago - they use the dollar sign for the Chilean Peso - rate is 530 pesos to a U.S. dollar - so this is actually about 500 dollars

A very scary ATM display in Santiago - they use the dollar sign for the Chilean Peso - rate is 530 pesos to a U.S. dollar - so this is actually about 500 U.S. dollars

We’re looking forward to experiencing a bit more of the country and its history in the coming couple of days (Tuesday and Wednesday) as we explore and experience Valparaiso, Chile’s main port.

For those wondering, we spent today (Monday) sleeping in, resting up, editing photos, and trying some new foods, such as calf testicles. Seriously. Wouldn’t probably try them again though, unless they were deep fried, perhaps.

Photos from the day can be found at Jake’s Flickr Pages and Krystyana’s Flickr Pages.

We might be able to post something from our hotel in Valparaiso tomorrow night, but if not it might be Wednesday night before our next post.


GPS Tracking – Tour of Santiago, Chile

February 7th, 2010 at 9:38 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

After a very pleasant nap we enjoyed a Thai/Chilean buffet lunch at our hotel and then had a private four hour tour with Pablo and Patricio of La Tours.

Our GPS Track is below with several places highlighted. Details and photos to follow tomorrow.