Ushuaia (NOT)

Wasn’t that Ushuaia over there?

 

Politics…Argentine style. We woke up ready for our visit to Ushuaia, Argentina. We had booked a tour at a preserve in Patagonia where another species of penguins visits in the summer. It did not happen. We did make the news in England.

 

It turns out that this is near the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, which boils the blood of some Argentinians. When we left Buenos Aries, there were some protesters there at the terminal with signs saying that the “Maldives belong to Argentina”. We were told that it often happens when cruise ships leave.

 

Well, the captain announced that we were denied entry into the port of Ushuaia “… because we had visited the Falkland Islands.” Oh well, on to plan “B”. Such a terrible thing we had done. Of course, with Prince William on a tour of duty there, it hasn’t escaped the notice of protesting Argentinians.

 

It was a beautiful day in the Beagle Channel. Overnight, we had stopped in Port Williams to get clearance to enter Chilean waters. We had clearance, so the captain explained that we would cruise very slowly down “glacier alley”. There are several glaciers that line the Beagle Channel. We went from one glacier to another. The ship stopped and then rotated around a fixed point. Everyone got a long view of the glaciers from their balconies and the public areas. WOW…what a great day.

 

Thanks to the Argentinians, we enjoyed several glaciers. Some of them had waterfalls, which fell hundreds of feet to the channel.

 

We missed Ushuaia, but explored to the glaciers and the Beagle channel on a beautiful sunny day. Normally, we would have passed these glaciers at night.

 

On to the strait of Magellan and Punte Arenas, Chile.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Finally…A Hike…In Chile…Patagonia

 

Another great day weather wise. Sunny and clear. We had to tender at Punta Arenas. But it was only a short distance to shore. Our tour included a ride up to a ski resort. Then a ride on the lift to the top of the mountain.

 

We hiked for an hour down the mountain on a club trail. The tour ended at the ski lodge where we enjoyed hot chocolate and cake (we needed more calories?)

 

On our return we decided to stay in town and enjoy the sites. We visited the Victorian era home of Sara Braun a local icon. It is now owned by the Union Club and has a public pub in the back. There were some very nice examples of furniture and artifacts from the era. Her family was a pioneer family in this area. The mansion was very similar to those built in San Francisco in the 19th century.

 

We shopped at the town square where the local artisans were selling very nice clothing and art work. The ambiance was very nice as a gentleman serenaded the shoppers.

He was very entertaining and had a very good voice.

 

We rubbed the toe of Magellan’s statue to assure our return to Punta Arenas some day. Maybe with a fly fishing rod in my hand?

 

Zenetta had a tip on a great local restaurant, Sotito’s. We decided to have lunch there. Their specialty was king crab. We had a world class meal with a good Chilean wine. Fantastic..We are very lucky campers…

 

We ended our day in Punta Arenas with a stroll along the waterfront and a tender ride back to the ship. Exhausted we decided to skip dinner in the dining room.

Chilean Fiords

Days at Sea and the Chilean Fiords

 

We like the days at sea. They give us a chance to slow down, read, relax and work on our crafts (Zenetta has her art journal, ceramics, and painting. I like photography). So far I have taken many pictures, so I spent the day editing and deleting to get them to a manageable size.

 

On our way up the western coast of Chile, we enjoyed scenic cruising. Our next port is Valparaiso, which is the busiest port in Chile. Near Santiago, the port exports almost all of Chile’s gross national product (wine, fruits, vegetables, clothing, goods etc…). The other major export of Chile is copper, but that is from the mines in the north.

 

On our way the Valparaiso, the conditions were favorable for us to visit a fiord to see the Skua Glacier, one of the biggest in Chile. Even with today’s technology, we had two Chilean pilots on-board to help us get there. If you examine the west coast of Chile, you will know why. It would be very easy to get lost if you did not have the local knowledge on-board. A lot of the charts are incorrect when using GPS and the height of the mountains requires constant watch for traffic. The radar does not see around the mountains. What a beautiful part of the world.

 

We arrived at the glacier mid day and slowly rotated 360º to view the the glacier. The surrounding mountains are jagged teeth that have been broken off by millions of years of glacier movement.

 

Our guide mentioned that 10% of the earth’s freshwater is still in frozen glaciers. Locals were saying that this year has been unusual. This summer the penguins had moved on sooner than normal after their nesting season. The rainfall (and snow) is below average and central (and northern) Chile are in drought conditions (since 2007).

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso (Santiago) Chile

March 3, 2012

We arrived at Chile’s busiest port, rested and ready to visit Santiago. We boarded our bus for the 2 hour trip to Santiago. This part of Chile is very similar to California. Traveling though two rich valleys, we encountered farms with many crops. Also several vineyards producing red and white wines from the area. The Casablanca valley was the first valley over the hill from Valparaiso. This valley produced mostly white wine grapes, seedless grapes for export, as well as many other crops. We crossed the northern Maule River valley, which like our central California valley, ran north and south for many miles in central Chile. You name it, it grows there. This valley is a very important economic region with many of the fine red and white wines produced there.

 

Santiago is a city of 6 million people. Of course it has a rich history and is the economic center of Chile as well as the capitol.

 

One interesting note is that the legislature is located in Valparaiso and the Presidential Palace is located in Santiago. Every 48 hours there is the ceremonial changing of the palace guards. It was quite a show. Unfortunately, we did not get to see all of it. Just a glance from our bus window.

 

We toured the city on the bus with our guide pointing out many of the areas. The older downtown area, of course had the historical sights. We eventually stopped at Constitution Plaza where the Presidential Palace is located. Our guide was very informative about the history here. He briefly explained the various memorials. He even pointed out the roof tops where loyalists of Allende fought the military trying to defeat the coup as the Presidential Palace was being bombed by the military. This is where the military coup of Pinochet took place (9/11/1973) ousting Allende who committed suicide in the palace. Allende had nationalized the copper mines and had aligned the government with Cuba and the USSR. It was a very controversial time in Chile’s history. Augusto Pinochet was the leader of the military coup and later declared himself the head of the junta. Many people disappeared and /or were executed during Pinochet’s rule. Many violations of human rights were reported.

On 9/11/1980, General Pinochet was declared President for an eight year term. During this eight year period, tight rule was gradually reformed and the economic situation improved by the reforms of the “Chicago Boys”, a group of economists trained or influenced by the University of Chicago professors. Slowly the economy improved. Pinochet was denied a second 8 year term and in 1989, Patricio Aylwin’s coalition started a period of transition into a democracy and the economy has stabilized. In 2006, Chile elected the first woman President Michelle Bachelet. Politics in Chile is a hot topic as the country is still divided along liberal and conservative lines. There is no statue of Pinochet in the plaza as some fear it would be destroyed.

 

 

Out tour of Santiago continued on to the southern end, or the new civic center. Here you will find the upper middle class and the elite. Shops of all kinds plus new homes and condominiums. Santiago’s largest park is here which includes a ski area. We stopped and had a delicious meal here. The affluent of Santiago live in this area.

 

After lunch we returned back through the city and through the rich agricultural valleys. Back to Valparaiso where our ship was docked. A very enjoyable and educational day for me. Standing in the Presidential plaza gave me a new perspective on what happened here nearly 40 years ago. Ironically, the historic dates were mostly “9/11/xxxx”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coquimbo (La Sarena), Chile

Coquimbo (La Serena) Chile

Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory

March 5th, 2012

www.ctio.noao.edu

 

I was excited about this port of call (Coquimbo-La Serena). We had booked a trip to one of the largest telescopes in the world.

 

The weather on our trip has been very good. This day was no exception. We had breakfast in our cabin and I prepared my camera for our visit to Cerro Tololo Observatory.

 

We boarded our bus for the two hour ride through La Serena, the Atacama Desert and up to the observatory. Our tour guide was the best guide we had the entire trip. He was an avid star gazer and enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the stars.

 

The desert was similar to the Arizona desert. Several types of cactus grew in this area. We left the paved road and started up the gravel road to the observatory. It was on a Sunday which is not a normal day for visitors, so we had to stop and check in with the guards. As we climbed to the observatory, we were present with several panoramic views of the mountain range and the valleys below. We drove passed two goat farms. We reached the observatory at 7,200 feet above sea level.

 

The observatory grounds has five telescopes. The primary mirror sizes are 0.9, 1.0, 1.3, 1.5 and the largest at 4.0 meters respectively. The original installation was constructed from 1962 to 1967 which included a 2.2 meter, a 0.3 meter and 1.5 meter telescope. In 1976 the 4.0 meter telescope named for Victor M. Blanco was finished and at the time was the largest in the world.

 

This observatory has played a very important part in discovering the make up of the universe. It was here in 1996 that a super nova (an exploding star at the end of its life cycle) was witnessed and recorded. This event provided a vast amount of knowledge about the life cycle of a star.

 

Currently, the observatory is run by a consortium of universities and the NOAO (National Optical Astronomical Observatory group). This area of chile is home to many important observatories. These telescopes continue to explore the universe seeking answers to modern physics. The night sky here is free of light pollution (although astronomers are concerned about the amount of light pollution world wide which threatens the future science gathering capabilities of the super large telescopes) I can assure you that the “light police” are aware of this problem and continue to propose solutions that are both energy efficient and reduce light pollution. Get involved and save star gazing for our future generations. Contact me and I can inform you of solutions.

 

The Blanco 4.0 meter telescope is currently being retrofitted with the largest digital camera in the world.

 

At five tonnes and 520 megapixels, it is the biggest digital camera ever built—which is fitting, because it is designed to tackle the biggest problem in the universe. On February 20th researchers at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, which sits 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) above sea level in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, will begin installing this behemoth on a telescope called Blanco. It is the centerpiece of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), the most ambitious attempt yet to understand a mystery as perplexing as any the faces physics: what is driving the universe to expand at an ever greater rate.

 

It has been known since the late 1920s that the universe is getting bigger. But it was thought that the expansion was slowing. When in 1998 two independent studies reached the opposite conclusion, cosmology was knocked head over heels. Since then, 5000 papers have been written to try to explain (or explain away) this result. “That’s more than one a day,” marvels Saul Perlmutter, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who led the Supernova Cosmology Project—one of the studies that was responsible for dropping the bombshell. Last october that work earned Dr. Perlmutter the Nobel prize for physics, which he shared with Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess, who led the other study, the High-Z Supernova Search.

 

Many of those 5000 papers deal with something that has come to be known as dark energy. One reason for its popularity is that, at one fell swoop, it explains another bug cosmological find of recent years. In the early 1990s studies of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), an all- pervading sea of microwaves which reveals what the universe looked like when it was just 380,000 years old, showed that the universe, then and now, was “flat”. However big a triangle you draw on it-the corners could be billions of light years apart—the angles in it would add up to 180º, just as they do in a school exercise book.

 

That might not surprise people whose geometrical endeavors have never gone beyond such books. But it surprised many physicists. At some scales space is not at all flat: the power of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity lies in its interpretation of gravity in terms of curved space. Cosmologists were quite prepared for it to be curved at the grandest of scales, and intrigued to discover that it was not.1

 

(from “The Dark Side of the Universe” Cosmology February 18th, 2012 print edition.)

 

We were treated to a special tour of the 1.3 meter and the gigantic 4.0 meter Blanco telescope.

 

Since we there during the day, we were shown a video of some of the images and science which makes this observatory ( and others in Arizona and Hawaii) that are a part of the DES. The 4.0 meter mirror was being resurfaced in a huge vacuum chamber. In this chamber, the mirror is washed with a special cleaning agent which cleans the aluminum film that coats the ceramic form. The vacuum insures that no particles remain suspended after the cleaning. It will then be resurfaced with a new aluminum “skin” which reflects the light back to the sensors.”

This is a large project. When the huge digital camera in installed and the new mirror finished, it will be calibrated and tested. Tololo will then begin to gather data, along with two other large telescopes in Arizona and Hawaii. It is hoped that they will find proof of Dark Energy constant of -1.0 (or as close as they can get). This discovery will explain the seemingly contradictory theories of the expanding universe.

 

Joshua Frieman, who heads DES, hopes his team will eventually analyze over 4,000 exploding stars, some as far away as 7 billion light years. They exploded when the universe was half it’s current age and researchers no reckon, still dominated by the gravity of the matter it contained, which was putting the brakes on expansion. Dark energy, it is thought, revved things up some 5 billion years ago. A better estimate of the time at which one gave way to the other helps to determine w.

(the value scientists believe is “dark matter constant)

 

(from “The Dark Side of the Universe” Cosmology February 18th, 2012 print edition.)

 

After our in depth tour of the observatory, we said goodbye to our host and drove down the road to the valley floor. We stopped at a very nice resort called Hotel Vicuna for a late lunch.

 

A great day in the desert of Chile. On to Lima Peru…

 

1. from “The Dark Side of the Universe” Cosmology February 18th, 2012 print edition.

Callao (Lima) Peru

Callao (Lima) Peru

March 7th, 2012

 

The port of Callao is the gateway to Lima, the capitol of Peru. It was founded by Francisco Pizarro, the ruthless Spaniard conquistador who defeated the Incas. Peru is a country of many interesting historical sights. To the south are the Nazca lines which is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Inland from Lima is the famous Machu Picchu Ruins (the lost Inca city).

 

The city of Lima is huge (nearly 10 million people) and one in three Peruvians lives here. Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia are South Americas true Indian countries. Many indigenous tribes formed the Inca Empire (who were aggressive conquers themselves). Peasants seeking work have flooded the city from the interior but there is not enough work for all of them. They have to create there own work. Many selling every imaginable product, musicians, mimes, fortune tellers, clowns artisans, thieves—every conceivable way of earning a living no matter how meager.

 

The historical center of town has the Cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace. Construction on the Cathedral started in 1746 and several earthquakes resulted in parts of it being rebuilt. Inside you will find a series of paintings that describe in visual fashion, the thirteen daring men who decided to accompany Pizarro on his conquest of the Incas. Just to the right as you enter, you find the chapel of Pizarro, an impressive space with walls of mosaic tiles. Also in his chapel is a glass coffin containing his mummified body.

 

The Cathedral is very impressive with its many mosaic walls and gold religious artifacts. It also houses a museum next to the sanctuary.

 

Next to the Cathedral is the Archbishop’s Palace with it’s ornate facade including a pair of wooden balconies, probably the best example of this architectural style in Latin America.

 

On the north side of the plaza is the Government Palace which was Pizarro’s own house. It is not open to the public but midweek they have a colorful changing of the palace guards.

 

On our tour we also visited a very old monastery and church. Lima gas over 20 museums and is rich in historical artifacts. One day is not nearly enough time for Peru. We were joined by 105 passengers who were returning to the ship after visiting Machu Picchu. We will have to leave that visit in our bucket list.

 

On to Ecuador and crossing the Equator ceremony where we become shell-backs…

Crossing the Equator

Crossing the Equator at Sea

March 8th, 2012

 

It is a tradition at sea that if you have not crossed the equator you are considered a pollywog. One must get permission from King Neptune and his court to cross over.

 

Luckily five passengers were selected by lottery to attend the King’s Court to get permission for all of us. It was a lively event with everyone singing “What do you do with a drunken sailor” after each passenger was accused of drummed up charges. Of course their penalty was to be drenched with all sorts of foodstuffs from chocolate and whip cream to flour and pasta. As our table-mate Peter said “What a waste of good food!”.

 

Thanks to five suffering passengers, we received permission from King Neptune to cross the Equator and get our shell-back status.

 

Next is Manta Ecuador…

Manta Ecuador

Manta Ecuador

March 9th, 2012

 

Ecuador is not a very busy tourist port. We chose not to travel to Montecristi to see the “Panama hat” factory. Instead we were treated to a stop at a local supermarket where we could stock up on a few items we could not get on the ship or those items that were too expensive on the ship. In my case I was looking for Diet Pepsi and I found it. We also did a little shopping in an appliance store and a pharmacy where I purchased some cold medicine. Each of the bus tours we went on had the air conditioners turned up full blast and with getting ion and out of the buses, I developed a cold. Several passengers were suffering from the same “summer cold”.

 

Our second stop was at a school for artisans, where they taught many arts and crafts, including the weaving of the famous “Panama Hat” which was a big hit at the Worlds Fair celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. The name caught on even though the hats are actually mad in Ecuador and Montecristi in particular. The factory is also a misuse of the word as the hats are actually made in the homes of the Ecuadorians who make these very high quality hats. Some of them take six months to weave and cost several hundred dollars (US$). The best are called “superfine”. I purchased mine at the artisan stand in Manta and I am very happy at the deal I made. Not the very best, but a very fine example of the Panama Hat.

 

Zenetta purchased several items from the artists there. I also bought a penguin carved from red cedar as a curio. Very high quality in the textiles, arts and crafts in Ecuador. Peru and Chile also had very fine quality items for sale.

 

All in all a very enjoyable day in Manta Ecuador.

 

On to Costa Rica….

Puntarenas Costa Rica

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

March 11th, 2012

 

We had visited Puntarenas, Costa Rica twice before so we decided to go into town and shop some and then have lunch at one of the beachfront restaurants.

 

Again, another beautifull day weather wise. It was a Sunday and many of the locals werebeautifu out on the beach. Many craft and suvenior stands were set up along the beach. We bought a few gifts for family and friends and then searched for a good restaurant.

 

We found a nice one across from the beach called La casa de los Muriscos that had a squid pictured on the menu. I like clammari and zenetta liked what was on the menu. Lots of fresh fish, prepared several ways.

 

We enjoyed a relaxed lunch (with free wi-fi). We returned to the artisan stalls to pick up some customized gifts.and a little more shopping.

 

It is hard to beat Costa Rica for weather and beautiful beaches.

 

We returned to the ship. We skipped dinner on board as we were still stuffed from our great lunch.

 

On to Nicaragua…another new country for us.

 

 

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

March 12th, 2012

Nicaragua has not been a big tourist destination. After a history of civil war, the country is now stable and safe. It is the largest country in Central America has a lot to offer visitors. We had originally scheduled a beach tour to enjoy one of the great beaches but we changed our tour. I’m glad we did as we were treated to a day on a historical ranch at the edge of Lake Nicaragua (one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world). Our tour was listed as “Amayo Hacienda Experience”. Except for the beaches, all the tours were a good distance from the port of San Juan Del Sur. The capitol of Managua and Granada are a long bus ride away. Lake Nicaragua is a huge lake in the middle of the country.

 

Our bus ride was about an hour to the Amayo Hacienda and ranch. What a beautiful ranch. The owners are the Barrios family who live in Managua. The hacienda sits on a hilltop overlooking the lake. The ranch (which extends much further and at one time reached all the way to Costa Rica) has a great view of the two volcanoes which are on an island in the middle of the lake. The Amayo has its own private beach and boat dock. It is basically a cattle ranch with palm trees. The grounds are meticulously kept by the ranch hands and their families.

 

We were welcomed by the son-in-law of the owners. While we enjoyed coconut water and local fruit, a he gave us a brief history of the family and the ranch. He and his wife have three girls with twins on the way. Their grandmother is the maternal head of the Barrios family. Her sister (Violeta Barrios Torres de Chamorro) was president of Nicaragua from 1990 to 1997. A little history…

 

Violeta’s husband, Pedro Juaquin Chamorro, published La Prensa , an influential newspaper in Nicaragua during the Samosa era. They did not support Samosa but they also did not like the violence of extreme leftist (Marxist) Sandinista. They were more moderate in their ideology. In 1978, Pedro was assassinated,. Violeta became publisher and was thrust in to the political spotlight. Pedro was popular and 50,000 people attended his funeral.

 

In 1989, she ran against and defeated Daniel Ortega and became President. She was a popular president. Violeta was responsible for brokering a deal between the Sandinista and the Contras and laying the ground work for Nicaragua’s peace. In fact, she spent lots of time here on the Amayo when she was growing up and several meeting between the Contras and Sandinista took place here. She used it in a similar manner as Camp David is used by US presidents.

 

Back to our tour. We enjoyed Amayo. Zenetta even took a horseback ride along the beach. I was busy taking a nap in the hammock and taking pictures of Lake Nicaragua and the two volcanoes in the lake.

They served us lunch while a small group played folk music. The food was authentic and very good. Our hosts were very gracious.

 

I was encouraged to learn that Nicaragua stable and safe. It is still a nation with a lot of poverty, but they seem to be on a track to a better economy. Tourism is one area that is being developed. But as they move forward, they will have to erase the memories of their civil war. Ironically, Daniel Ortega is the current president having won re-election. He is predicted to win his third term this year. He has modified his radical views and is moving the country forward. He has the support of the people.

 

After a big lunch and the trip back to the ship, we decided to skip dinner again. On to Manzanillo Mexico.

Manzanillo, Mexico

Manzanillo, Mexico

March 15th, 2012

 

We have to several destinations on the Mexican Riviera. On one of our cruises we were scheduled to stop in Manzanillo, but a hurricane prevented us from stopping there. Because we had never been here, we were glad that we finally had the opportunity to visit Manzanillo.

 

We did not book a tour here. We went ashore and shopped. We were very pleased with this port. The city is safe and clean and the shopping was good. Since we only had a few hours here, we did not have lunch. We mistakenly assumed that the restaurants would not be open for breakfast. We were craving a good Mexican meal, but we had decided that that would be in Cabo San Lucas our next stop.

 

While we were shopping we decided on ice cream. As we walked toward the center of town we discovered a few restaurants that were open already. OOPS, we could have had huevos rancheros for breakfast. Oh well, the ice cream was good.

 

Too short a visit to Manzanillo. I would not hesitate to visit here again. On to our last port before we head home, Cabo San Lucas.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas

March 16th, 2012

 

We had visited Cabo several times and knew what to expect. What we really wanted was to find a good Mexican restaurant for lunch. We did just that. Right near the new cultural center, we decided on a restaurant and we were lucky to get a table right on the corner.

 

While we were enjoying our drinks (margarita and cerveza) there was a dance group with authentic Aztec costumes performing. What a treat. Also near us was a non profit group raising money for a wild animal park. They had a 6 month old jaguar that was young enough to pose for pictures. I decided that I wanted to have our picture with him.

 

After a great lunch of coconut shrimp, fish tacos and two orders of nachos we were content. We then went over and had our picture taken with the jaguar cub.

 

We then walked back along the waterfront and caught our tender back to the ship. Again we skipped dinner because we were so full after the large lunch.

 

We had great day in Cabo and we were thankful that we had such great port visits on all the ports we were allowed to visit. Facing two relaxing days at sea on the way home to San Francisco, we did not realize what was in store….

 

Next, do not mess with mother nature…

 

 

Bumpy Ride Home

The Bumpy Ride Home

March 17th and 18th, 2012

 

We were lucky to have good weather on most of our trip. We did get some rain on a day at sea. The only bit of rough seas was the short distance between the Falklands and Cape Horn. We slept well that night as ocean swells were 8 to 12 feet. On these nights it is like being rocked to sleep.

 

We had known that a series of storms was moving into California. The captain had cut our visit to Cabo short by two hours in order to allow for extra time fighting the waves back to San Francisco.

 

We started to hit rough seas (10-12 feet) when we were off the coast of California somewhere between San Diego and LA.

 

So for two days, we were tossing about. Occasionally we would hit the bottom of a swell and the ship would vibrate with a loud noise.

 

On the final day we had to pack and set our bags outside our room. All the while packing, we had to hold on to a wall or piece of furniture to keep our feet. It sound like it was difficult, but it was not all that bad. It was just the surprise element that kept us on our toes. Not knowing when the next large wave was to hit.

 

Our final night, we went up to the Skywalker lounge for our usual pre- dinner cocktail and hours de overs. While we were the bar, a big wave hit and the vibration came all the way up to the 17th deck and caused the bartenders to jump to cover the back bar bottles from crashing to the deck. It happened a few times causing some passengers to leave when their drinks were spilled. To us, it was ok as we were at the bar and could hold on to the railing.

 

The final dinner was here and we bid farewell to our table mates. It is a bit of a sad moment on a cruise. The realization that the cruise is near to an end. After 35 days away from home, we welcomed the next day.

 

Next…Our arrival in San Francisco.

Arrival in San Francisco

San Francisco Open Your Golden Gate

March 19th, 2012

 

We had sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge three times before. Unfortunately, the tide tables scheduled this time for 5:00 am. Zenetta decided to get her sleep. I wanted to take pictures.

 

I got up at 4:30am and grabbed my camera. I was not alone. There must have been 500 people up early to view our arrival. IT WAS COLD. The temperature was around 40ºF but the ocean was calm. The wind was around 15 knots from the north. We were already on the shelf  (the ocean approach to the Golden Gate is not as deep as the ocean beyond the Farallon Islands. Before the glaciers started to melt, there was a river extending out through the “gate” until it met the ocean where the shelf ended).

 

The bridge was lighted and the crescent moon was on the horizon. The night provided a challenge for photography.

 

We cleared the bridge by what looked like 10 feet and it was another 45 minutes to get to Pier 35.

I took about 200 shots but eventually I kept only 26. San Francisco at night is a jewel.

 

I felt good about being home. After clearing customs and meeting our ride, we arrived home at 1:00pm.

 

It was a marvelous trip with many memorable experiences. We visited 11 countries of which 9 were firsts for us.

 

I hope you enjoyed Marks South American Adventure through this blog. It is the first time I have tried writing about a trip, so I hope to improve as I get more experience..

 

So long for now. Check from time to time as I will be posting the Saouth American pictures and changing other pictures on this site.

The Jardin and La Parroquia

Anxious to try the light here in San Miguel de Allende (there is a quality of light here that is good for photos), I got up @ 5:00am and showered. Sunrise was scheduled for 7:15. Truth is, I did not sleep well as my body is still on Pacific Daylight Time. Fortunately for me, I arrived at the Jardin near La Parroquia church and it was still dark. The coffee shop was not open yet, so I started taking pictures of the church.

This square is the center of the town and dates back to the Colonial Period of Mexican history. I was taking some test shots using my “old” Nikkor 200mm 1.4 prime lens. I did not bring my entire backpack of lenses and gear. With a 200mm non zoom manual lens, it is difficult to get more than detail shots on a large building. (I like to shoot manually occasionally to “brush up” on my skills, especially if I put the camera away for awhile).

Well, this was my lucky day. At around 6:30am, I noticed a photographer and model shooting in front of the statue of Fr.Juan Miguel. The exterior church lights were on. The photographer was shooting the entire church with a model wearing a hat. He would pose her and then shoot another frme. I could tell they were pros, so I sat down to observe them.

Photography is like fishing in that, when some one is in a spot that you want to try, it is customary (and polite) to let them finish. I had plenty of time before the sunrise. After watching them, I went closer to listen to the photographer give instructions to the model. He had a very particular series of shots he want to accomplish.

They finished up, and to my surprise, the photographer asked me if I wanted to look. It turned out that he was shooting pictures for an advertisement to promote tourism. He mentioned that it would appear in a national magazine. They both spoke perfect English (although the posing directions were in Spanish) and they both were very cordial to me.

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The photographer is Carlos A. Garcia Mora. http://guacamoleproject.com. 

I hope Carlos will send me the link to the publication. Thank you both for making my morning special!