Monday, January 31, 2011

Grey Sky, Grey Sea, Rolling Ship Day

The seas have been rough and the weather threatening for the last 24 hours. Its warm and humid but looks like this…..

A smaller number of people have showed up in the public spaces and to activities ie Bridge. This is, of course a good thing when it comes to the gym – you can get the elliptical or one of the weight machines eazzy peazzy. Also the electronic scale says your weight is 170 when the ship goes this way and 190 when it rolls the other so I select the lower number, declare victory and have a pastry for tea.

An addition, I hope not a sad addition, to the lost at sea club was this pathetic little bird sheltering on deck 5 out of the weather. Problem is that it is now one and a half days sailing away from shore and I have no clue whether or not they can fly such distances. Of course it might stay on board ‘till Easter Island and add to the ecological diversity there.

Frankie (one of the Entertainment officers) holds discussion groups each day. Todays discussion was about purchases people have made along the way that they wished to share with each other and ultimately about a “white elephant” sale he wishes to hold of extra / unwanted purchases. Merle can be seen with the microphone as she talks about her purchase of the hat and critters and creation of the Panamanian masterpiece. Many ooohs and aaahs were to be heard and all in the room were in awe.

Getting closer to Easter Island …. Really looking forward – just a reminder to all of what we are going to see.
 BTW - Sam reminded us in his insightful (and underrecognized) responses that he had been in Lima and had gone to the Gold Museum - hope I got it right Prof :-)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

There is method in our madness……..

Happy Birthday Lael!!! I’ve said it before (36 times) and I’ll say it again!! Happy n healthy.

Also many thanks to our faithful commentators / followers – you are all very kind. Margie, Niki, Suzanne – have to single you out for all the nice things you say about our commentary!!

We have now been on the ship for 11plus days and we are learning certain tricks of travel.
First, I, of all people, overpacked. I have always been a fanatic for travelling light and on this occasion I overdid it with the formal / semi-formal clothes.

Second, while I have taken on this cruise to turn my mind around I underestimated the importance of good coffee. The coffee available plentifully on the ship at any hour is coffee essence-based –arrrrgggggghhhh! The horror. Merle came up with the solution. In Lima, at the Museum of Gold and weapons that can kill you in many ways she went shopping and ….. tadaaa … found Peruvian ground roast coffee (Caff and decaff) and a plunger. All you do is add water, press, pour and add creamer – the shaking then stops and the pulse races again.

Merle has started developing a cult, today a lady appeared at the coveted table and quietly simply sat down, took out her needle point and contentedly started sewing. Its like even on the ship my life is shared with these crafty folks!

There was a method to Merles madness in supporting local starving artists. She bought the Panama Hat in Montecristo, Ecuador where they also gave her a hat band. In lima, while we were walking from site to site she purchased the beautifully hand-made critters from urchins for a few $$$$$. 

Today she earned the oooohhs and aaaahs of the Cult by sewing the little thingies onto her hatband, and coming up with a personalized statement. All the other ladies regret having shooed the kids away.

Had a lecture on Easter Island a short while ago. Loved it and it will definitely be a highlight. More tomorrow…….

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Peru – Day 2

We are once again on the High Seas – This time heading into the mid-Pacific Ocean from the coast of South America. Our next port of call is Easter Island which is 3.5 days sailing from Callao.

Last night we went to our first showtime in the main showlounge. The show was put on by a troupe of Peruvian musicians, singers and dancers and it was a fantastic performance. We arrived too late for a decent seat (7.45pm for 8pm show) so we were at the very back and couldn’t get very good ‘photos. Wont make that mistake again. Similar local talent will come on board at all our major stops to do their traditional enetertainment. Merle is looking forward to the Haka.

This group was notable for the mix of Spanish (colonial) and Indio music and then a range of dances from the more formal classical Spanish dancing to Amazon Indian to a more modern Peruvian folk dance. The colors of the costumes were remarkable and really inspired Merle for her next creations.

The dancers pulled some of the audience onto the floor for their last number – check out the lady who was barely able to keep her slacks up!!

This morning Merle did a bit of shopping at dockside while I went to the gym; did yesterdays blog and then, after lunch, went to play Bridge (which I am really enjoying)

Its Saturday night at sea so needless to say we will go to bed early with a bottle of wine and watch a movie – tonight is Pride and Prejudice – have to see Colin Firth again

Day 1 in Peru - Part 2

…..After leaving the Cathedral went for a short, two block, walk to San Francisco church and Monestery. Merle kept herself busy as we walked by supporting the local informal economy – bought $4 of this and $5 of that from the urchins. The city is laid out in districts by function ie we walked past a long line of stores selling hand-made leather shoes and boots. Another road is just opticians.

San Francisco Church is run by Franciscan monks (No photos allowed) and the Monestery is beautifully decorated with tile on the walls from 17th century Spain – amazingly decorated and large canvasses from the same time period showing highlights of St Francis life. We then entered the underground catacombs – the burial ground for the order. They simply stacked the dead in piles and covered them with sand and lime for cosmetic purposes – the church is directly above. About 25-30,000 were buried this way. Today all that’s left are the bones. Big need of Swiffer. Thousands and thousands of Femurs, tibias, skulls pinkies etc etc. pretty weird. They stopped doing it a while back

By now, after all that bone, everyone needed a bit of food so we drove towards the sea and went through a much more affluent and modern part of Lima – San Isidro – boutiques, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, many flash Casinos; then to Miraflores.

My kind of town. Miraflores sits high above the ocean on bluffs (like LaJolla) which is great for the view and for parasailing – a popular local sport. The ocean-front drive looks like Sea Point (in Cape Town). High rise apartment buildings on one side of the road, lawns with people walking around on the other.

Fact: Peru is washed by the Humboldt current which brings cold water from the Antarctic towards the Equator. This cold water in such a subtropical location leads to a very misty grey sky, high humidity and no rain! They only get 3” of rain a year. It’s a subtropical desert. They irrigate from the Andean rivers – especially the Rio Rimac (which is pronounced rimacccccch – Spanish turned to Lima). Also imported trees – Eucalypts – from Australia which have taken over.

We went to a shopping mall built in levels down the bluff (like Bantry Bay or Clifton in Cape Town) to a restaurant for lunch. Andean cuisine – had lots of tastes and some local beer and soda (Coca Cola). As you can see Spiderman is as popular for Peruvian kids as for those in the US. We missed it but he did all the posturing and webshooting moves that Aiden is great at.

Refreshed we now went to the Mercado Artesenal ie tourist stuff to buy. As you can see they had lots of enticing things on sale. I sat outside and waited (its not even Wal Mart) listening to two guys playing the pan flute – made me think of New York!!!!! I was not however alone – they have seats in rows for people like me.

Final tour stop was the Museo Oro del Peru. This is a private museum of pre-Incan and Incan artifacts accumulated by a sugar baron said to be the richest man in Peru in his time. Remember all the gold stuff was buried with the owners so as amazing and beautiful as it all is; and as interesting the symbolism and what you learn about culture etc – this was grave robbery. A second part of the museum, not spelled out in the name, was the armory collection. He collected weapons of war, uniforms etc. we didn’t have enough time but this was also fascinating ( and a bit more honest about the dude) they had a Maxim Machine gun just like in Clint’s movies).

By now it was 5pm and we had to get into evening traffic and head back to Callao and the ship. Passed the outskirts of Lima and you can see the hillsides covered in “new towns” – pretty much shantytowns. Lima is a magnet for all the rest of Peru. 

The evening entertainment on board ship will follow with the rest of our time in Peru

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 1 in Peru - Part 1.

We are docked in the port of Callao (pronounced “ kayow” for the linguistically inept like myself), which is part of Lima – a city of 7 million people, and today we drove with them all. We went on an all-day tour of the city (which we will tell you about in two parts) and had to drive with, against and across the craziest traffic I have seen since Beijing.

All in all though an interesting and fun day made all the more interesting by our articulate and incredibly knowledgeable guide, Sonia. She led “tour 9” with a firm but fair hand.

On the way to the Plaza Major we passed through the Plaza 2 de Mayo – the entrance to Lima proper. There was a demonstration going on there by sugar farmers who are apparently not getting treated very well. Either because of that or, perhaps it is usual, there was a pretty marked police presence – groups dispersed with demo gear (like cell ‘phones to call home) and see thro shields and water cannons (just like in Cairo). Parenthetically there are also two police outside every bank we saw and houses and buildings have razor wire / electrified wire security.

Plaza Major is a lovely square with the Cathedral and Archbishops Palace on one side, The presidents palace on another, City Hall on the third and shopping on the fourth. We spent quite some time in the Cathedral.
Archbishops Palace
Presidents Palace
City Hall

A few Peru facts: pre-Incas were here for ages and ages, Incas I gather had their time and were doing fine when Pizzarro  discovered Peru for Spain. According to the Family Tree they show in the Cathedral he had a family in Spain and married an Inca woman in Peru so fortunately there were plenty of sources for familial DNA (see later). He was murdered by his own crew because they weren’t doing well enough in the treasure department and his remains were thought to be in the crypt on display in the Cathedral. 

Bizarrely, after an earthquake (in the 1970s I think) they found a body under the main altar 

and the trauma demonstrated by the skeleton (see the picture – they nearly cut his head off and all sorts of other damage) led them to doing DNA analysis (see above) and turns out that the hidden bod was that of Spains main man – who now resides in the crypt for real.

The nave of the Cathedral has had regular damage – earthquakes are plentiful here (they had ~ 100 last year mostly small) – but the side chapels are well preserved and beautiful. Merle also came across the library – a bit small but very old!!!

I like the reasons the Indigenous population took so well to Christianity – as explained by Sonia. Turns out they accepted Mary very easily – mother earth / fertility etc were all female deity oriented so no problem. Jesus needed a bit more work but they had / did practice human sacrifice so the could see that and they believed strongly in reincarnation – hence mummification and all the Inca Gold in the tombs etc. So that part was good. The Cross had special meaning from before because they saw the Southern Cross and saw it as linking Heaven and Earth. They also worshipped birds and so Angels came to fit in quite well too.

Quite lovely. Tomorrow you get the rest………..

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A slow day at sea

 Today was our second day at sea between Ecuador and Peru. We are staying parallel to the coast of South America and the big excitement ocean-wise was our sighting of a huge pod of dolphins travelling alongside – first this morning then again this afternoon.

As usual our daily activities were relatively circumscribed – I wake up at 8am and head off for the first of my two Bridge classes for the day. Starts at 9am and I am always at the same table. Have been progressing in my understanding though I have a long way to go.
Then I lay at the pool and read / did Sudoku while Merle secretly took a picture!! You can see how packed the pool is. 

At 12.45pm there was a meeting of Medical professionals from the passengers just to get to say Hi. Met a few interesting people.
In the meantime Merle, while holding court in her coveted location, had connected with a lady from Huddersfield UK who wanted to learn beading. She and her husband are getting off in Sydney and touring Oz for a month – something we want to do so they told us about their plans

As usual Lunch was special and as you can see Merle was given oversight over the desserts

Afternoon was Bridge again for me – playing hands this time under our teachers guidance. Fun. Then to the gym for my daily workout – I am going to be in great shape (probably spherical) by the time I get off this tub.

Quiet night. Watching a DVD. Early start and long bus-ride to Lima tomorrow. Should be more interesting news tomorrow

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Quiet Day at Sea

 Its been a week since we left Fort Lauderdale – enough time for the NorthEast to have three snowstorms and for the ship to slip into a routine.

Todays lunch theme was Italian (you can see where the focus shifts over the week) – some pics of the highlights are attached.

We decided on an alternate choice – the British Pub Lunch – both of us had a steak and kidney pie (apologies to all vegetarians), chips and a Guinness. With a Jam Roly-Poly plus custard for dessert. Yummmm.

We crossed the Equator a while back but today King Neptune and his court held their traditional celebration. Those brave enough to admit they had never crossed the equator – termed “pollywogs” were given a hard time and every one else enjoyed at their expense.

For the football fanatics one of the lecturers n the ship is Bob McElwee who is a former NFL Umpire– you have likely heard of him – he is talking about his experiences on the football field and in officiating superbowls.

Thank you for all the lovely comments back – this is fun