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Condors of the Andes Mountains — Chile

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DSC_0720My first trip to Chile began with a trip to the snowless  Andes Mountain range, during mid summer. The road to the top of the Andes from Santiago had more hairpins than a Miss America contestant. Seriously, the road bent and turned, slamming us against each other or the van’s side panels. My insides felt like I had a load of laundry on spin cycle. After 90 grueling minutes the van finally reached the top, where two-mile high air did not DSC_0704-smprovide much relief for my sea level lungs. Our guide told us to watch the skies for condors, and I did. Updrafts swept up the steep valley sides to create a perfect place to watch several of the large South American Condors. Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) the Andean condor has a maximum wingspan of 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in) making it one of the largest flying birds on Earth. Only four seabirds  exceed the Condor’s wing span.

Best-Condor-2This condor is a female and lacks white on the feathers.

Condor-1This is a male condor getting ready to land on a building

Valparaíso Chile, Colorful Coastal City

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DSC_0320-smMy recent visit to Valparaíso, aka “Jewel of the Pacific” provided me with many photo opportunities, from street art to stray dogs, from steep streets to broken down buildings. One image shows a multi story building with laundry hanging in the breeze and three cars parked on the rickety structure. Chile is one of the most Earthquake prone zones in the world. Ask anyone who lives here and they quickly start rattling off the most recent “BIG” quakes. At one time the city featured 26 ascensores (funiculars), but after the major quake in 2010 only 8 currently work. Also note, several sources, including Wikipedia don’t agree with how man Ascensores are in Valparaíso or how many are in working condition. Valparaiso is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of these unique ascensores.

Be sure to visit My Cruise Stories for more about Valparaíso

DSC_0333-smEverywhere you look, sidewalks, buildings, hillsides, streets and parking lots, Earthquake damage can be easily seen. In 1960 a shallow Earthquake caused a Tsunami that sent a wave 13 km inland. But people here are resilient, rolling with the quakes’ destruction, and building, if you can call it that, on steep hillsides. Upon close inspection of many side hill buildings, I would not dare to risk my life literally living on the edge. But these residents do and with a smile.

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Side Streets & Street Art of Valparaíso Chile

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DSC_0202-smValparaiso Chile sits on the Pacific Coast and offers an eclectic blend of culture that reminds me of a mix of San Juan Puerto Rico and Antigua. In 1969 art students from Universidad Católica’s Instituto de Arte began painting the numerous walls of the hillside city, often times called “Little San Francisco.” The original intent of these students was to create an “Open Sky Museum.” Their work continued until 1973 when a military coup began. When the coup ended in 1990, years past the “Hippie” era, local artists picked up their paint brushes and began restoring and painting new walls with the help of the city’s “big shot” artists and wannabe artists. Today the art adorns walls, sidewalks, stairs, and businesses to create one of the most colorful, eclectic must see cities in South America.

DSC_0349-smHere’s a few pictures from this quaint little city by the sea, where street art is perhaps the main attraction. Street art is so much part of the city the artist have an unwritten code, “Don’t ‘tag’ or otherwise ruin another artist’s wall art. The city also has a large population of stray dogs, that are well kept. No rabies, mange or fleas exist here, and locals seem to feed and water the dogs. Most of the local veterinarians also provide free services for these strays, when needed. When walking the streets of Valparaíso always watch your step, there’s lots of doggie doo everywhere. Also note, the southern end of the city, especially on the grounds of the Navy building, has dozens of stray cats that like to beg for attention.

Blue Mountains New South Wales Photo Safari

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Today Phil & Maureen Breckell took me and my wife, (www.mycruisestories.com) on a photo safari to the Blue Mountains. The weather had an eerie fog with threatening black clouds and occasional blue splotches of sky mixed in for a unique opportunity for us to create some “artsy” images. Here’s a slide show of a few of my favorites. We also visited several lookouts near Katoomba and ventured over the top of the hills toward Lithgow, where we spotted four wild emu.

Australian Bass Fishing Adventure at Lake St. Clair in New South Wales Australia

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Go Fish Magazine

Bass Fishing in Australia High above Lake St. Clair in Australia, a mob of kangaroos feed on a grassy knoll overlooking the lake

High above Lake St. Clair in New South Wales, a mob of kangaroos feed on a grassy knoll overlooking Lake St. Clair. I’m here to go fishing, and of course get lots of photos. Australia’s bass fishing can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have a clue where to go or when to go. Luckily, my daughter Sheri, who lives near Sydney, has a great network of friends and family. Prior to my month long visit to Australia, She hooked me up with her sister in-law’s father in-law, Phil. Phil knows the area and has lots of “mates,” the Auzzie term for friends or buddies. Knowing my passion for fishing, Phil arranged a fishing trip with Bill Thomson, a local postal manager who also has a love of fishing. My…

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Carnival Cruise From Sydney Australia Aboard The Legend

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Snorkeling With Tarpon at Grand Cayman Island

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Marine Park, Grand Cayman Island

Paradise Restaurant, Grand Cayman Island

My travel tastes include enjoying some interesting activities. Recently my wife and I spent 15 days cruising aboard the Carnival Splendor, with several port stops that included Grand Cayman Island. One of the coolest, free things to do include swimming with tarpon. The Paradise Restaurant, which sits at the edge of the water, also has a public marine park with steps from their outdoor area into the water. Five to six times daily, they feed the tarpon raw fish and chicken.

These daily feedings have “tamed” the tarpon to the point of the fish approaching any swimmer who enters their watery world. They are not aggressive at all, but do provide some great fun.

Grand Cayman Island

Port stops at Grand Cayman include “tendering” because of shallow waters.

Cruise ship visitors to Grand Cayman arrive by “port tenders” that carry 100 plus passengers from the ship’s offshore anchorage to one of the city’s docks. On the day of our arrival rough waters prevented the captain from anchoring in front of Georgetown. Instead, the ship went to Spotts Bay, on the other side of the island. Luckily Carnival and the city worked their magic and quickly put into place all of the necessary vans, taxis, excursion providers and even some beach vendors. Later in the morning, after we anchored at Spotts Bay two cruise ships with later arrival times than us were able to anchor in front of Georgetown, which provided the usual flood of people to enjoy Grand Cayman’s wealth of activities. Amazingly, few people know about the tarpon.

While in Georgetown Dawn, another hardcore cruiser aboard the Splendor told use about a unique place to buy “special” rum. Uhmm I wondered. What kind of place could she be talking about? After all, every cruise ship port plus the cruise ship itself has all kinds of rum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABig Black Dick’s is the place Dawn lead us to, on main street, directly in front of the cruise ship tender docks. Upon entering the uniquely named establishment, someone offered samples of their unique rum — several flavors in fact. Not being a fan of alcohol, other than wine, I accepted the sample. After tasting the sample it became clear why the place was crowded — great tasting rum! In addition to the spirits, the store also offered several other items for travelers looking to bring home something they could not find anywhere else. I’m sure many of the items purchased here is a direct result of the branding and most likely became “gag” gifts.

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Big Black Dick, Grand Cayman Island

Looking for a unique shop in Georgetown Grand Cayman? Try Big Black DIck’s

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