Sunday, January 24, 2016

Finally, Rio

Some think ‘Christ the Redeemer’ is the star of Rio de Janeiro.  He’s quite impressive, standing 120 feet tall, with a 75-foot arm span.  And the Portugese culture and all of the color everywhere is beautiful. 

But to me, the ‘showstoppers’ are Cocacabana and Ipanema.  Both of Rio’s two legendary beaches provide some of the best people watching anywhere.  They stroll ‘en mass’ at the shoreline, and on the granite mosaic black-and-white promenades.

Some people question whether Rio will be ready for the Summer Olympics in August.  I know that its people will!   All along the beaches you see them working-out and playing their sports.

I’m happy that, after icebergs and waterfalls, my last stop was ‘summer  at the beach’, before I return to winter at mine.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Iguazu Falls: Now it's the Water

It was all about the ice in Antarctica, and it’s all about the water here.  For two miles, Iguazu Falls forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil.  And it’s considered to be the most spectacular border in the world.  The system of waterfalls here, 275 of them in total, is taller than Niagra Falls and more than two times as wide.

What a crazy contrast this is, and not just the water.  For days my eyes had only seen pristine, endless white, along with some black, gray and blue.  And now it’s all lush, green subtropical jungle.  There is more color and variety of life in the form of  flowers, butterflies, birds, lizards and even monkeys.  Temperatures in the steamy 80s are a full 50 degrees warmer than what we experienced last week.  And I’m dressing in shorts and sandals, instead of boots and a parka.

Miles of trails, bridges, catwalks and stairs on both sides of the border take you high and low to see the water.  But I’ve found the bottom is where you best feel the enormity and force of it all, as you’re engulfed in clouds of mist and the thundering sound, and you see the occasional rainbow.

I guess that, in the end, it is all about the water.  Seventy percent of the world’s surface is covered by it.  And in Antartica, it’s just that the water has frozen.  It’s hard to square this with our drought conditions at home, but the good news is that in recent days water has been falling there, too.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

A World of Ice

It’s all about the ice here.  In fact, Antarctica has 90 percent of the world’s ice.  At the North Pole it’s much thinner and less abundant.  And this place is huge.  The Antarctic continent covers 5.4 million square miles, the equivalent of all of the of the United States and Mexico combined. 

So ice is everywhere we go, and in all different forms.  Tabular icebergs rise as high as 80 feet.  And we’re reminded that we’re just seeing ‘the tip of the iceberg', with 90 percent of their mass being underwater.  We see huge snow-topped floes, and thin sheets of ice that are clear like glass. Some of these surfaces become homes or landing spots for seals and penguins.  We cut through hunks and sheets as we make our way in the ship, and hear the grinding and crunching.  The captain even ploughed-in and parked in four-foot-deep ice, so we could step out for a walk.  We see white peaks rising nearly 10,000 feet high, and glaciers seem, at times, to be around every turn.  And it’s all absolutely elegant, pristine and majestic.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Team Orange

We are the orange of the species here in Antarctica.  Expedition ‘colors’ are more traditionally red or blue, always a bright color to stand out against the white.  But National Geographic/Lindblad issued us each an orange parka, which is ours to keep.  The jackets are a special edition in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of  Ernest Shackleton’s famous adventure, and the color orange was used by Lars Lindblad when he brought the first tourists ever to Antarctica in 1966.

We have one or two activities every day, including landings with walks and hikes, Zodiac cruises and kayaking.  Team Orange includes 148 passengers/adventurers.  And with 10 naturalists; two photo experts, two underwater specialists and two PhD whale scientists aboard, they always have something for us to see.

Since we’re not far past the longest day of the year in the Antarctic Summer, we’re experiencing about 19.5 hours of daylight.  Temperatures have ranged from 26 degrees (less with wind chill) to the mid-30s.  And there has been wind of up to 35 knots.  We had an optional ‘Polar Plunge’ where participants jumped into 34 degree water in swimsuits.  Vodka shots were the reward, and I got mine.

Monday, January 11, 2016


I promised penguins, and here they are; they’re a main attraction here.  Penguins are found only in the Southern Hemisphere (didn’t know that until I came here).  And Polar Bears are only in the north.  The penguins are endearing, hilarious and awkward on land.  But they look joyous and graceful when diving and swimming, and when they shoot out of the water and ‘porpoise’ through the air.  And they don't all look alike.  In one of our three landings so far it was penguins as far as the eye could see.  The population on that island alone is said to be in the hundreds of thousands.  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

We're at Sea

We’re about half-way into our two-day crossing of the Drake Passage, known to be one of the roughest stretches of ocean in the world.  And we’re very much relieved to be in what they’re referring to as ‘mild’ conditions.  Some fellow passengers are cabin-bound and ill, and we’re all unsteady despite temporary rope ‘handrails’ in the hallways that help us to balance.  But Joel and I are doing fine, without even taking any medication.  Ushuaia, our departure point, reminded us of Alaska, with a ‘working town’ atmosphere and surrounding snow-covered peaks. 

If you’re seeing this, it looks like I’ll have a shot at making blog postings along the way.  But they may be brief and sporadic, with intermittent internet availability, and photos   slow to load.  I’ll definitely try to send you a penguin or two when I can  .  .  .