Nov. 23, Falkland Islands, UK

There have been several wars regarding ownership of the Falkland Islands, but ultimately they are a self-governing territory of the UK. Population is about 3500 humans and 500,000 sheep–guess what the main industry is? LOL There are no native trees or mammal species; however, there are 65 species of birds including PENGUINS. We loved this port and went on a 5k trek over peat, rocks, and gravel. Learned a lot about the area, the 1982 Argentine attempt to re-claim the Falkland Islands, and the people who live there. Here are the pics we took with a brief explanation.

These guys were here when we arrived and still here when we left about 6 hours later.

There are several shipwrecks from storms and war. This is just an example.

Lots of birds–65 species and counting.

Many kinds of plants–over 350 species.

The obligatory “David Firing Cannon” picture.

The Tardis keeps following us around. It thinks it’s soooo clever getting a new paint job, but we’re on to it Doctor Who!

PENGUINS!!!! I saved the best for last. These are Megellanic penguins nicknamed “Jackass” penguins because of the sound they make.

Nov. 18, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sooo, 3 million people live here and 9 million more work here Monday through Friday. Evita Peron is from here and Madonna filmed the movie here, specifically at the Pink House where the president works, but does not live. The Pink House gets it’s color from a mixture of pig fat and lime used to paint the house. I know, this is gross, but it has some kind of preservative effect.

Population is primarily of Italian and Spanish descent for reasons the same as or similar to those listed in the Montevideo entry.

Interesting tidbits:

  1. founded in 1580
  2. in 1810 there was a revolution against Spain–Argentina won
  3. in 1817 a yellow fever epidemic wiped out 12% of the population
  4. the Spanish brought horses and cows to Argentina, the natives refused to eat cows, so the cow population grew tremendously
  5. beef is one of the primary industries and the best beef is exported
  6. other industries are soy bean exportation, when, and corn
  7. middle class income is $450 monthly with an inflation rate of 65%–35% of the population lives below the poverty area
  8. obviously, the economy is very poor
  9. bus fare is 30 cents and bikes in the city are free to use
  10. everything else is expensive

We did a city tour here–nothing very exciting, but here are a few pics.

This is the theater that was imported from Italy in pieces then re-assembled. Beautiful architecture.

Other examples of architecture.

We took a ride up the Parana River. Many people live here and the only access is by boat. There are garbage boats, school transportation boats, grocery boats where you can shop for food, ferries, and anything else that needs transport. Here are a few pics of the homes, resorts, and other things we observed. Look for the 1960’s era VW “lovemobile”, the convenience store, and the resort with beach.

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. We either don’t have internet, are off the ship, or on the ship doing other things when we do have service.

Nov. 17, Montevideo (mahn-te-ve-day-owe), Uruguay

Right now in Montevideo it’s Spring. The weather is in the low 80’s and sunny with a cool breeze. Winter occurs in July, August and September. So weird! Population 1.4 million.

Native populations no longer exist due to diseases introduced by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520 and by Sebastian Cabot in 1526. The few remaining male Charrua (natives) were massacred by order of President Fructuoso Rivera in 1831 and the women and children were distributed as slaves. Today, the Uruguay peoples are primarily of Spanish and Italian descent. They speak their own version of Spanish, heavily influenced by Italian.

Cattle and horses were imported in the 1700’s. Today the beef raised here is some of the best in the world and is exported globally. Uruguay is the 4th largest in renewable energy in the world and voting is compulsory beginning at age 18. Middle class income is about $400 monthly. Taxes are high at around 40% and fund free health care and university education. Marijuana (with restrictions), same sex marriage, and abortion are legal. Enough background.

This walkway stretches from the city to the port area. Locals enjoy fishing, biking, skating, and strolling. We walked through the “Old Town” to the walkway and around back to the ship–about 3 miles.

Today we visited the Juanico Winery. This winery is 250 acres and is family owned. All grapes are harvested by hand, then processed and bottled on site. Grape vines last about 35 years, then the soil rests for 5 years before replanting. New vines grow for 3 years before they can be harvested.

The winery was originally a monastery. This cellar was used to hide the monks when necessary and is now used to age wine. The walls are covered in mold which actually helps with the wine flavor.

These aren’t the best pictures, but people actually live in these shacks. Be grateful for what you have

It’s an election year.

Sunset view taken from our balcony.

Off to Buenos Aires then back to Montevideo for another day.

Nov. 14, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Well, Rio was a disappointing experience. We turned in our tickets to take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain because it was supposed to rain–then it didn’t rain. The next day we took the included foot-and-bus tour because apparently Rio and Brazil in general is too dangerous to explore outside of a group. We took this to heart since a fellow world traveler had a gold chain ripped from his neck in Salvador. On the foot tour portion we looked at buildings. Here’s the theater, BUT we’re not going inside, here’s the museum, BUT we’re not going in, here’s the library–you can take a gander at the lobby only. The bus tour portion wasn’t any better. To your left is the beach and the yacht club, to the right are the gardens–no stopping to explore. No majestic scenery with stops to take photos like in the Faroe Islands and no exploring on our own after the tour like we did during the North Atlantic stops. Then it rained all afternoon. Bummer! I have a few pics, but nothing worthy of posting.

So after today’s “excursion” we took a look at all our other planned activities and cancelled all bus tours of cities. On to Montevideo where we hope to have a better time.

Nov. 4, Manaus, Brazil

I forgot to add these pictures from our Amazon River excursion. We first took a large ferry as we could, but since it’s the dry season, we had to take motorized canoes to reach our final destination. The only way to travel along the Amazon is by boat. There are no roads through the jungle. Here we are climbing from the ferry to the canoe.

Some houses are built on stilts, but still flood during the rainy season. Others are floating houses that rise and fall as the river changes. In some of the pictures, you can also see the soil erosion that adds to the sediment and makes the Amazon River brown.

We also saw some wildlife, but I only got a couple of pictures.

We took a boardwalk through the jungle to see a giant lilypad, but since it’s the dry season, they weren’t giant, just large. Also saw a 200 foot tree called the Queen of the Jungle.

Nov. 3, Manaus, Brazil

We had to travel 1,000 miles up the Amazon to reach Manaus (rhymes with house). It’s the largest city on the Amazon with a population of almost 2 million and celebrated its 350 year birthday just last month.

When the Portuguese arrived in 1500, there were, by the most common estimates, between two and four million indigenous people already living in Brazil, in over 1000 different tribes. Five centuries later there are an estimated 700,000 indigenous left, living in a little over 200 tribes. Slavery, disease, armed conflict and loss of territory all took a savage toll on Brazil’s native peoples, to the point where in the 1980s indigenous numbers were under 300,000 and it was feared they might die out completely. Since then there has been a marked recovery in the indigenous population, partly thanks to international concern about groups such as the Yanomami, who were threatened with extermination by disease and violence from an influx of gold prospectors into their lands. Today, there continues to be 67 indigenous tribes who remain isolated within the Amazon jungle.

The Portuguese established Manaus as a fort in 1669, but eventually it became the rubber capital of the world. “Rubber Barons” amassed obscene fortunes by enslaving the local population and importing slaves from Africa. Upon arrival, the African slaves were publicly whipped into submission before being sold. Rubber Barons indulged in satisfying their every desire and tried to outdo one another in extravagant possessions. During this time the famous Manaus Opera house was built for 10 million dollars. Unfortunately, no performances were scheduled during our time there and we were only able to tour the lobby. This era didn’t last and poverty overcame the area. In 1960, Manaus was declared a duty free zone. Many different types of goods were sold and the city again thrived once. However, that too didn’t last and now Manaus is a manufacturing center.

We chose to go on the Meeting of the Waters cruise during our stay. This is where the Amazon begins with the meeting of the Black River with the brown waters of the Solimoes River.

We toured the city and I took a few pics. I’ve discovered that US house and business colors are sooooo boring compared to the rest of the world. See previous blogs for pics of North Atlantic colorful homes.

We visited a zoo that is supposedly a sanctuary for animals that cannot be returned to the wild either because they were raised in captivity or because they have physical limitation. BUT we didn’t see any type of hospital or clinic for treatment. This zoo is reminiscent of American zoos of the 60’s. Think Breckenridge Park when we were kids fellow Texans.

These pictures may be deceiving. Every single one of these Amazonian insects/spiders are bigger than my hand!

The amazing meeting of the waters.

These mid-river gas stations can be found all up and down the Amazon. The ONLY way to travel is by boat.

Nov. 1, Santarem, Brazil

When we reached Santarem, I was so excited because we were going piranha fishing. David initially didn’t want to go, so I decided to go on my own. Ten minutes later he decided to join me. I may have to go on the Komodo Dragon tour after all now. So we toured the river and saw 2 sloths, a variety of birds, one iguana, water buffalo, and a farm. I have pics of the sloths so see if you can spot them in the trees. They are super good at camouflage. There were quite a few piranha caught on our trip, but none by David or me. I was so disappointed that if I’d been a kid, I would have cried! They are very fierce looking, but don’t go into feeding frenzies when they are exposed to raw meat like I thought they would. Thanks a lot TV! Even though I was disappointed, I love cruising the Amazon–it is an amazing place and we are so lucky to have this experience.

Tomorrow we reach Manaus, the largest city on the Amazon River.