Marvelous Montevideo


It was a short two hour flight from Santiago, Chile to Montevideo, Uruguay but you travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from majestic mountains to sweeping river estuaries. I have never been to this city but I feel sure I will return one day to spend more time here.

While the city if certainly visually pleasing, it is the people that seem to make a difference here. If you look the least bit perplexed on the street someone will surely stop to ask if you need some help. While it has the tango, food, and architecture of Buenos Aires (albeit on a smaller scale), it feels much safe and less hectic than its nearby sister city.

There may not be a lot “to do” here as far as sights are concerned, but it is certainly an easy city to enjoy. We spent a lot of time just ogling the architecture and lounging in cafes and restaurants. There are museums everywhere dedicated to practically everything.

Valparaiso es muy hip


I have spent the past couple of days in Valparaiso, Chile. It is about 1 1/2 hour drive from the capital city of Santiago. It is built on seven hills that surround the country’s main sea port and the home of the Chilean navy.

The hills create quite a challenge for “pedestrians of a certain age” but is well worth trudging up and down them (mostly up it seems to me). While I didn’t personally discover a lot of sights that tourists might want to visit, the primary reason for coming here is to experience the youthful vibrancy and the extensive street art scene. There are murals EVERYWHERE. Here’s a small sampling of some that particularly caught my eye and camera.

I had a pair of shoes that were really hurting my feet. So I left them behind in our hotel. No use in lugging them along if you can’t get any use from them. Right? To my Spanish speaking friends, please don’t laugh at my note. I’m operating on high school Spanish (and Google Translate).

We leave for the airport in Santiago in a few minutes. My next missive will be from Montevideo, Uruguay.

Chile Eclipse 2019


Joan and I made our way from LAX to Bogota and then on to Santiago, Chile. We soon met up with our friends Cynthia and Jim, and the four of us will explore Chile, Uruguay and Argentina over the next couple of weeks

It’s the dead of winter here, but really not that bad as the weather is quite similar to coastal California. We didn’t get a chance to explore the capital city of Chile since we had to leave at the butt-crack of dawn the next morning for points north to perfectly situate ourselves for the total solar eclipse farther north in the country.

The majestic Andes Mountains seen from Santiago, Chile.

The following morning we boarded a bus for a five (was it six?) hour journey to the small of Tongoy that will be our base for the next few days. We stayed in a lovely sea-side setting that was very remote. There was no internet or telephone, but we did have occasional cellular service.

Our tour company found us the perfect viewing location for the eclipse in the Atacamba Desert. Actually we could see some of the most famous observatories in the world from our “eclipse camp.” Many of our fellow eclipse chasers were avid photographers with all the requisite equipment, filters, etc. But me, I don’t bother with that. I enjoy photographing the people more than the sky, leaving the phenomenon of the eclipse to be experienced by my own eyes rather than through a camera lens.

Eclipse Peeps are my favorite peeps.
Joan, Cynthia, and Jim.
Eclipse Peeps
Self portrait a few minutes before totality.
Group shot a few minutes after totality.

Next stop will be Valparaiso, Chile. Hopefully I will be able to post in a more timely fashion now that I I have a more reliable internet connection.

Phenomenal Phnom Penh


Here I am back in Bangkok for my fifth time. In hind sight, I completely got this trip backwards. I spent a total of ten days in Bangkok while only spending four days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It turns out that I truly loved that city and blame myself for cheating my time there. So, while I will keep this post in chronological order I will focus on Phnom Penh.

Bangkok. The Big Mango.

Of course Bangkok never disappoints but since I had seen basically every tourist site the city has to off (many of them twice) I found it difficult to fill my time. I’m thankful that I had a chance to meet up with my good friends, Brian and Greg, for a day. Also, I actually ran into some people that I met here eight years ago! Back then we would meet a couple of times a week for the latest (extravagant, but cheap) lunch buffet. I called us the “Lunch Bunch” back then. We relived old times and certainly had another great lunch together.

Riding through the canals of Bangkok with Brian and Greg. I’ve had better klong rides but it was still fun
Seeing red. My visit coincided with the Chinese Lunar New Year. I took this shot in China Town no less.
China Town-Bangkok

It’s so hot and steamy here in Bangkok that I was happy when the time came for me to move on the Phnom Penh. While the weather there was still hot, it was not nearly as humid so it was more comfortable for walking around. My first stop was the Foreign Correspondents Club which was near my hotel. This is where all the reporters stayed during the 1970s when Pol Pot was conducting his genocide in Cambodia and the Viet Nam war was just winding down (interestingly enough it is called “The American War” here). Not much has changed in the old building and it really was nostalgic remembering that time as I was in high school then and remember the news reports of those days.

Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Phnom Penh

But the next morning, the fun really begins. Before I left California I found a guy on Trip Advisor that takes you all around Phnom Penh in a tuk tuk. To get a sense of what that is like you can click here for my You Tube page.

Our first stop was a museum called S-21. It was a sad place where thousands of people were tortured and interrogated during the Pol Pot regime. Anyone who wore glasses, had soft hands, or were educated were taken here where confessions were extorted from them such as the were working for the CIA or KGB

S-21 torture chamber

From S-21 we moved on to an even more gruesome place called The Killing Fields. Here tens of thousands of men, women, and children were victims of a horrendous genocide during the Pol Pot regime.

But things got better after stopping at those two heart-wrenching places.

The Russian Market, Phnom Penh
Street life-Phnom Penh

I was beat after day one with Visal, but since he only charged $30/day, I had booked him for two full days. The next morning found us visiting several of the temples and royal palaces spread around the city.


The Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Royal Palace
Royal Palace
The National Museum-Phnom Penh
National Museum
Central Market-Phnom Penh

One of the highlights was travelling outside the city (by tuk tuk of course) to visit an island in the Mekong River where a family still practices making silk by hand. From cultivating the larvae, spinning the thread, and weaving the silk on a loom. It was very interesting. But to me, one of the most interesting aspects was the ferry crossing the Mekong, one of my favorite rivers.

Ferry crossing
Ferry crossing
The ramp down to the ferry

If you would like to see more about the silk making process, you can watch my short video

That brings us back to Bangkok, and I fly home tomorrow–a rather grueling trek. So, for now, I’ll say tuk tuk–I mean ta ta–My life is a trip!

Two Days in Athens


 

Yiannis dropped us off at the Heraklion airport ahead of schedule. It was time to leave Crete behind and head for Athens for a couple of days on the way home.  Upon arrival I immediately noticed how much more modern the infrastructure was than the last time I was there.  It seems a lot of this came about from them hosting the Olympics several years ago.

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Reflection on modern Athens.

Since my time was short I decided that I would skip visiting sites like The Acropolis and the Ancient Agora.  After all, I had seen them back in the 80s when they were a lot newer.  🙂  This time I wanted to focus on various neighborhoods of Athens and to try to get a pulse of the people.

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Graffiti is rampant in Greece especially in Athens.

I walked for hours.  Sometimes aimlessly.  The ancient aspect of Athens was never far away and sometimes just turning a corner would take your breath away.

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Greeks always a quick with an excuse to get dressed up and celebrating.

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And they are very good at making you feel frumpy.

So, until next time, most likely in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as I join friends to celebrate my 60th orbit around the sun.  In the meantime, I’m trying to get my hair to look like the guy’s above.  My life is a trip.

A Cretan Road Trip


I’m still jetlagged from my recent trip to Greece.  It’s unusual that I would not post here while away, but this time I made a grave strategic error.  I had a new Android device, and I simply could not figure out how to transfer my pictures from my camera to the tablet.  Lesson learned, I will now always travel with a Windows device.

This trip, with Joan, took us from one end of northern Crete to the other with several treks inland to the south. We started our trip in Heraklion which is the largest city on Crete. It was here that we met our guide/driver, Yiannis, who would be with us for the next 8 or 9 days.

 

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Yiannis.  Always quick to laugh, and more importantly, finding the best parking places ever!

Heraklion is just a jumping off point as there really isn’t that much to do there.  I will say that it was much improved since Ray and I went there in the mid 80s. A lot of the bustling street have been pedestrianized and a visit to Knossos is always in order.

From there we quickly headed east along the northern coast and eventually to Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Plaka, and the little island of Spinalonga.  Along the way we stopped in several rural villages of the Lassithi Plateau.

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Agios Nikolaos

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Agios Nikolaos

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Near Elounda

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At the former leper colony of Spinalonga

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Lassithi Plateau

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Lassithi Plateau

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Somewhere between Heraklion and Plaka

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Another village on the eastern end of Crete

We then made a bee-line west, past Heraklion, where we stopped in Yiannis’ village of Agia Pelagia for a seaside lunch. After that lovely respite we moved on to Crete’s second city of Rythemno.

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Along the fortification of Rythemno

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Rythemno Street Scene

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I saw some great graffiti all over Greece 

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Rural village, Crete

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Rural village, Crete

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Rural village, Crete

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Along the way…

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Rythemno street scene

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Rythemno

Once again heading west, we aimed for Crete’s third city, Chania (pronounced Hania).  We made several stops along the way of course.  Some of the most memorable to me was stopping at little Minoan ruins, thousands of years old, and being able to scamper across them completely alone. It was simply amazing.

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Chania

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Paddle boating on Crete’s largest fresh water lake.

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Chania

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Cretan village

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Cretan village

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Exploring a desolate Minoan ruin and finding the subject matter of the stelae!

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More abandoned ruins.

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Cretan monastary

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Cretan monastary

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Minoan ruins

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Rural village

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Monastery.  Great light.

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A rural scene.

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Oldest olive tree on  Crete.  3,200 years old!

From Chania we then made an early-morning dash back to Heraklion to catch our flight back to Athens. (Separate post).  Bur before I leave Create I must mention one last and very important thing.  The food!

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Delta Dawn


“What’s that flower you have on?”  In the Okavango Delta, it’s the water lily of course.  We arrived at the Kasane Airport with anticipation.  We were taking a small (read:  tiny) plane to the Okavango Delta, about one hour and 15 minutes flight time.  There were five of us on the plane plus the pilot. Pamela, one of the passengers, had to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. I was nervous, but excited too.

 

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Nero preparing for takeoff from Kasane airport

 

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The Chobe River in flood.

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Everything looks fine from where I sit.

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Landing at Xugana Island.  Yes, that’s dirt.

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We had a bit of ground congestion at the beginning.

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This is the extent of the airport equipment at Xugana Island.

The flight was uneventful and relatively smooth for such a small plane.  Upon arrival we were graciously met by staff of the Camp who would take us the rest of the way by boat through the marshes and bayous of the Okavango Delta.  I found it absolutely thrilling.

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Locked, loaded, and ready to roll.

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My bed at Xugana Island Lodge.

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The equivalent of the hotel lobby at an Okavango Delta safari camp.

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The transportation hub.

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My room.

As we pulled up to the lodge in the boat  we were greeted with great fanfare.  Lots of singing, clapping, stomping, and trilling of voices. The rest of our time was spent exploring our little niche of the expansive inland delta.  The first activity was a mokoro ride.  A mokoro is a narrow, canoe-like boat designed to move through the narrow and shallow channels of the Delta.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard such silence.

 

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Mokoro ride.

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Mokoro selfie.

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A gorgeous Okavango sunset.

 

 

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Our first dinner at Xugana Lodge

 

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The view from my room.

 

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Our guide, Flame, preparing for our walking safari. 

 

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Elephant encounter on the walking safari.

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Just a baboon on a termite hill.  Walking safari.

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A swallow that was trying to build a nest on my porch.

 

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A close encounter of the Nile Crocodile kind.

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Smile pretty for me.

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At sunrise, on our final day, I left Ray’s ashes here.  I did not even need to leave my porch.

Alas, our African Odyssey must come to an end.  My travel buddy, Amanda Easton, was amazing in spite of bugs that flew and are not fried or grilled.  While the natural beauty of the flora and fauna will linger in my mind, it is the genuine warmth and friendliness of the African people that we encountered that will be most memorable.  My thanks the team at Anastasia’s Africa for their diligence and thoughtfulness for planning such a wonder excursion.  Until next time because you know…”My life is a trip.”

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Leaving Okavango. It’s sad.

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