Our Antarctic/South American Adventure – Part XXII

Mon, Feb 23th – Coquimbo, Chile

From the Navigator

The distance from Valparaiso to Coquimbo is approximately 205 nautical miles. One Nautical Mile is 1.852 kilometers. After we’ve picked up our pilot we will be docked shortly after. Once we let go our lines tonight we will continue our voyage towards Arica, Chile.

Coquimbo,-Chile-fishing-boa It is difficult to get used to the changing times of sunrise and sunset the farther north we get, after cruising the southern waters. We arrived in the port well before dawn and we docked under low overcast skies, which we were not used to, especially after that glorious day in Valparaiso. I especially enjoyed watching the abundant sea birds in this port. Pelicans flying by the ship in formation just a few inches off the water were too numerous to keep track of. At one point I watched as a “squadron” flew by in perfect “V” formation, with a smaller bird “drafting” the last pelican and then darted up under that bird, tagged it, and moved ahead.

Our tour today was with Cruise Specialists and our hosts Hank and Lucia. Shortly after 9 am, 27 of us boarded our bus and because there were just that few, only Lucia accompanied us. Our guide Miguel was very talkative and explained so much about the area. As we motored out of this port city, which, with the neighboring city of La Serena forms a metropolitan area of more than 300,000 inhabitants, Miguel promised that shortly these clouds would go away and we would be bathed in sunny 80 degree and Coquimbo,-Hostesses Coquimbo,-Display higher temperatures. Our first stop today would be the Tabali Winery @ www.tabali.com over an hour away. Once we were on the Pan-American Highway, and out in the country side, the terrain was very similar to parts of southern California and the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Exiting the Pan-Am we drove for a few miles to a gated vineyard, guarded by a “Cardboard Cop” (Miguel’s term) and down a dusty road into a small valley. However our arrival at the winery was quite anti-climatic as there were no grand buildings prominent as we pulled into the limited bus parking area. As a matter of fact it was hard to determine just where the main entrance to the public areas was. Once we got off the bus we were directed to proceed through a bottling/packaging area where workers were busy loading product de jour into large pallet size containers. We also had to dodge the forklifts as they scurried about. Beyond that space was a beautifully landscaped area and the valley that apparently continued all the way to the Pacific Ocean, several miles away, according to Miguel. On the left side were the tasting/display/sales rooms. Since this area only gets rainfall every five years or so, it was not necessary to place the main operation of the winery in an enclosed building, but just cover the top with an elevated ceiling that undulated not unlike ocean waves.

Coquimbo,-Chile-courtyard After some delay we were treated to ample portions of goat cheese- accented with olive oil – tasty crackers and red and white wine. Then our hostess, the company’s PR person, led us on a delightful tour of the cellar directly below our feet, which then exited out into a beautiful courtyard. We were given ample opportunities to purchase some of their excellent product. Since the sun had not yet made its appearance we were a little chilled by the time we made our departure.

Coquimbo,-Chile-patio For the next hour we drove (finally the sun appeared) through a thriving agricultural district where, with a little irrigation, practically anything could be grown. One such industry was open fields of olive trees nurseries. The road soon twisted and turned past a small community and into the courtyard and parking lot of the Hacienda Santa Christina. We were here supposedly for a promised tour of a goat cheese factory and our “snack”. What we have learned while in Chile that their version of a snack, is more our version of a “light” meal. After a short walk through the main dining area, we exited out onto a patio, anchored by a beautiful swimming pool – what a beautiful oasis in the heart of a windy dusty valley! Our “snack/light Coquimbo,-veranda meal” consisted of red wine, water, pisco sours, cheese or meat filled empanadas, beef and shrimp kabobs, chicken kabobs, topped off with fruit kabobs, and strong coffee. No one left that place hungry. Since the cheese factory was closed we were given a tour of the founders Hacienda; a grand home.

Needless to say, the lot of us dozed on the hour plus ride back to the city. Several of us chose to depart the bus near a central plaza, to do a little shopping and walk back to the ship – a few short blocks away. Barbara and I visited a Pharmacia for some toothpaste and mouthwash. The proprietors of the store were so pleased that we had chosen to do business with them, Coquimbo,-Chile-pelican-boa more so when we tried using their language. Leaving the store, we investigated the craft stalls in the plaza, and with just an hour left before all aboard, walked along the waterfront and back to our floating hotel. Another wonderful day in a warm and friendly country was just about over – or so we thought……..

As we approached the gangway we noticed a sizable group of men assembling to “sail us away” with beautiful Latin horn music. After boarding we found a great viewing spot on the lower promenade deck to catch the show. This, we have found, is the bitter sweet aspect of cruising – the farewell. Their first selection of “Anchors Away” brought the tears to this old Navy man and almost an hour later more tears as the ship cast off our last line to their stirring rendition of Auld Lang Syne! Coquimbo, you have just been added to our list of favorites.

Coquimbo,-Chile-pier-band One last fanfare I must share with you; as the ships screws churned the waters near the dock, hundreds of sea birds started attacking the water as food was brought to the surface, then in the midst of what looked like a WWII aerial dogfight, flew a squadron of Pelicans, round and round they circled and never once was there a collision, what a scene!

Next – a day at sea and then our final Chilean port; Arica….. JWC

2 thoughts on “Our Antarctic/South American Adventure – Part XXII

  1. Wow, I am drooling over your balmy 80 degrees as I watch it snowing lightly here in old PA. Don’t rush back. Enjoy your time left. But, the bridges are open to the west!!!! You will enjoy walking over them to coffee. Beautiful.

  2. We have enjoyed your journey. Bear could hardly believe it yesterday when I gave him the turn right command to walk across the bridge. He walked with great pride from start to finish, in fact all the way to Safeway. Take care — you are missed. Jesse is at Crestwood as of early this week.

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