We're about to leave the Banff Springs Hotel (behind and to the right of Deborah) for a soak in the hot sulphur springs after a scrumptious breakfast. Tomorrow we board the train for our trundle through the Canadian Rockies. Life does not suck.
Jim and Deborah
P.S. Boys always have to kick the tires. It's genetic.
Greetings from the Rockymountaineer, the vista-dome train that carried us from Banff to Vancouver. Deborah enjoyed the rear platform the most, providing a full sensory railroad experience. Jim attempted to snap photos through the dome with mixed success. And the food was fabulous! We just missed the snow now falling in our wake. A Vancouver e-card follows.
Savoring breakfast in bed at the Empress Hotel in Victoria,
Deborah and Jim
Greetings from Vancouver, where Star Trek fans will recognize this statue of Data's father. Also, fan dancers entertained us in Queen Elizabeth park, and Deborah had a close encounter with a bear. We actually did see some grizzly cubs in captivity and a black bear going through the cans on Grouse Mountain. The highlight was a Treetop Adventure at the Capilano Suspension Bridge that made little Debbie tight in her seat, especially when the mean boys jumped up and down.
Enjoying Victoria listening to native drumming outside our hotel window,
Deborah and Jim
We saw the Victoria Tall Ships from the ferry and in the harbor, on our way to the Empress Hotel in Victoria (our room was on the left corner, first floor, with the curtains billowing). Seals and seagulls were busy picking up fish between islands, and in the harbor we witnessed a "bad statue" that had the audacity to startle a little girl with sudden jerks and robotic sounds. Jim shows he hasn't outgrown his childhood fascination with roses. We saw the Butchart Gardens in pouring rain, and now the sun is shining in Seattle. Go figure!
Still having fun,
Deborah and Jim
Four days of relaxation, great food, soaking, massage and mushroom hunting. What a treat! Breitenbush is a hot springs resort that hosts a mushroom conference Ken Kessey and the Pranksters used to attend back in the day. Now the focus is on identifying and cooking the edible varieties, and we even tried our hand at mushroom dyeing. We stayed in the Ram Das cabin (left, with the ramp), played in the Buddha's Playhouse (right), feasted organically in lodge (center), and took mushroom hunting and identifying field trips (top and bottom). And we actually saw the sun one of the four days!
On to the city delights of Portland,
Deborah and Jim
At the mouth of the Columbia gorge (bottom), Edgefield has a quilted history beginning with county poor farm through nursing home, ending with aging hippie refuge--adjacent to a minimum security prison. With distillery, winery and brewery (right) on the grounds, Jim says happy for hours on end. A seredipitous crossing of travel schedules brings the Ramsay clan (Jim, his mother JoAn, and his daughter Celeste, with Aaron, left) together for an evening. The Old Bat and the Nosey Geezer (center) patiently await Celeste and Aaron's halloweenie party, complete with finger food.
Heading home at the end of the week (sniff), out of time, out of money,
Deborah and Jim
We're on the road again!
This time we headed for the bright lights of the Santa Fe, New Mexico plaza (left center), where we hung out at the Palace of the Governors (top left) and the St. Francis Cathedral (center right). We enjoyed the Santa Fe luminarias (bottom right), world-class margaritas (bottom center) and Rudolf the Red-Iced Reindeer (bottom left). On our way to help Jim's Mom JoAn celebrate her 80th birthday at a jazz club in Prescott, Arizona, we stopped off for a one-night howl at the Sled Dog Inn in Flagstaff (top left).
Keep on truckin!
Deborah and Jim
Our trip began with an unscheduled refueling stop in Auckland due to heavy fog in Christchurch. When we picked up Beethoven, our campervan (top left), it was sunny and very warm. We spent Mardi Gras (lower left) in Akaroa, a picturesque harbor town outside Christchurch (middle right), and pushed on to the sleepy village of Geraldine and the winding steeps of Dansey's Pass with its cozy Coach Inn (middle top) and piles of schist (middle bottom). In Dunedin, we discovered coin-op email (middle left), admired the Scottish architecture and statue of Robert Burns (bottom right), and visited the albatross colony at Taiaroa Head (top right) and yellow-eyed penguins (in ecstatic display on the beach, center). Now we're off to Queenstown--more later!
A most spectacular helicopter ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound (center, top right) left us as breathless as this bungee jumper (bottom left). From sea level to 6000 ft. in minutes. They wouldn't let the pilot drink champagne, and they wouldn't let Debbie drive. Little Paradise (bottom right) was all it's cracked up to be, a comfortable stay in eccentrically decorated digs (feathers, ivy growing on tapestries, animal furs and heads, and tree stumps everywhere, and that was just the bathroom!) Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers (top left, top center) grind their way down the valleys at breakneck glacial speed. Now we're off down the West Coast (center bottom) enjoying the sights, sounds and sea breeze.
In the small town of Whataroa we visited a Maori museum where we witnessed the carving of a 3500-year-old whale jawbone into a relief of the Maori myths of creation. Up the road, we liked Punakaiki with its pancake rocks (center) and blowholes (top left) so much we stayed an extra day. The beach beside the holiday park (bottom left) was spectacular, and the roar of the surf and deafening cicadas lulled us to sleep each night in Beethoven (left center). Eventually we pushed on to Picton (top center and top right) where we caught the ferry (bottom center) through Cook Strait (center right) to the big city of Wellington (bottom right) to begin the North Island part of our trip.
From Wellington, we pushed north through the center of the North Island to see the volcanoes (top left), hot pools and Maori cultural events at Rotorua. Along the way we passed through Turangi, reputedly the trout fishing capital of the world (middle right), and we saw some fine specimens (bottom center). We attended a hangi (bottom right) feast prefaced by a demonstration of Maori warrior facial grimaces (top center) and other tactics designed to intimidate the enemy, and we saw some recreated whare (houses) and recovered artifacts at the Buried Village of Te Wairoa (bottom left), the excavated remains of a village destroyed by a volcanic eruption at the turn of the last century. On to Auckland where Deborah was reunited with her friend and colleague Jill (center), who now lives with her family in the Auckland suburbs. Jill and Deborah taught together in Bulgaria in 1989. Jill, Charlie and Laura took us to the beach (left center and top right) and lavished us with warm hospitality that we hope to reciprocate next time they pass through Colorado.
Now we're off to Fiji for some serious lying on the beach time. Ahh...
These might very well be the friendliest people in the universe. Our honeymoon villa featured a coral reef beach less than 30 feet away (top center), the choice of a hammock (top left) or mosquito canopied bed (bottom right), a tiled outdoor bathtub (center right) or double shower, tiki torches lit nightly (bottom right), and strolling musicians (bottom center). We busied ourselves with adjusting to Fiji time (not as easy as you would think), exploring our newfound fondness for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and some serious research into the manufacture and consumption of sticky sweet drinks with umbrellas on top. Looking forward to leaving this hot humid climate for some frosty Colorado weather--not!
Our Presidents' Day railway getaway to the hot pools at Glenwood Springs started under the comforter on our four-poster bed at the Oxford Hotel in frigid downtown Denver so we could get an early start (well, not so early--go AmTrak!) through the foothills, past Winter Park ski resort and spectacular canyons, to collapse in our room at the historic Colorado Hotel (the white-walled building in the background, purportedly birthplace of the teddy bear on one of Teddy Roosevelt's less successful Glenwood hunting expeditions) and the steaming swimming pools at the Hot Springs Resort (the pink-walled buildings in the foreground). We wined and dined and massaged our way into a puddle, then made our way back up the awe-inspiring Glenwood Canyon past herds of elk and (barely perceptible) deer back home to Denver and our own not-as-hot Pinewood Springs.
Kobie (upper left) had to stay home with friends (much to Deborah's chagrin) when we set off for Alaska on Honeymoon #5. We embarked at the Embarquedero, passed under the Golden Gate bridge, and headed for the Inside Passage (right, middle and bottom). First stop was Victoria (left, middle and bottom). Deborah divided her time between her Cordon Bleu cooking class (center), breakfast in bed (left of center bottom), and dining (right of center bottom) in each of the five restaurants we've found so far. We're looking forward to canoe trips, more whale watching (the gray space represents the picture I didn't get of the two whales we passed our first morning), a helicopter ride to a glacier, and a ride on a steam train.
All the best from aboard the M/S Seven Seas Mariner halfway between Victoria and Prince Rupert,
Jim and Deborah
Continuing up the Inside Passage on Honeymoon 5: Jim went canoeing around the harbor in Prince Ruppert (top left and center), while Deborah eavesdropped on the fisherfolk (top right). Deborah's class took us on a tour of the galley, where we witnessed the mis en place of enough truffles to feed a small army (middle right). The ship then picked its way between icebergs to the edge of a small glacier (center bottom). In Skagway, Jim heli-walked the Meade glacier, marveling at the colorful streams frozen inside (lower right), Deborah joined him for a ride on a steam train (suspended in in mid-air above the ship center right) up to White Pass, and we watched from the sawdust floor of the Red Dog Saloon as a hungry bear chased a miner into the ceiling (bottom right). Jim went whale watching in Juneau (center left) and snorkeling in Sitka (bottom left) in a dry suit that must have been built for the Michelin man. Cordon Bleu graduation coincided with Formal Night, and the honeymooners made quite a splash (center). In spite of Deborah's attempts to stow away, after eleven days we disembarked in Vancouver (center right) with smiles on our faces and an extra ten pounds around our middles.
All the best from Belly Acres, where we're saving up for our next cruise,
Deborah and Jim
Our story begins in Santiago, Chile, home of magically surreal Isabel Allende. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, Santiago is at once a traditional town and a modern city, with musty old mansions, eerie artwork in the university district, and a pollution problem bested only by Mexico City and Sao Paolo. It is summer down here, and Deborah delighted in wearing sandals to show off her Romeo and Juliette red toenails as we boarded the plane to the lupine-infested End of the Earth, otherwise known as Ushuaia, Argentina, where we boarded our antique sailing vessel for the southward journey.
The crossing to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, was rough, as the grainy view through our porthole attests, but we arrived with limb and lunch intact. Deborah sits beneath an arch of whale jawbones beside the Port Stanley Cathedral, her lips pursed in concentration at the strange presence emanating from these haunting remains. The ominous black Zodiacs named after dead Antarctic explorers are piled high on the deck awaiting our arrival at the Antarctic Peninsula. A harbinger of events to follow? Press on, fearless reader!
Ancient icebergs the size of aircraft carriers announce the approach to fog enshrouded Elephant Island, where Shackelton’s men spent many unhappy months subsisting on penguins, seals, and the last of the dogs, awaiting rescue.
At Half-Moon Island, the chinstrap penguins rushed down to the beach from their rookery, we thought to greet us. Little did we know they were admonishing us to turn back or face death from above at the talons of the circling skuas. And we misinterpreted the waving of the humpback whale flippers as a welcome rather than a warning to turn back before it was too late.
At the volcanic caldera of Deception Island, our worst fears were realized: Stripping us down to our skivvies, the red-coated natives cooked us in a primitive pot of steaming water. The gentle gentoo penguins and sparring fur seals paid no heed to our cries for help as the expedition staff bundled us back into our parkas and rainpants for a chilly zodiac ride back to the ship. After multiple transfusions of full-bodied Shiraz, Deborah once again began to show signs of life. Concerned about our survival, the crew rushed us to the dining room for yet another five course meal.
The passengers and crew dined on watermelon chief’s heads and shrimp encrusted eggplant penguins at the traditional poolside barbecue. We’d just set foot on the Antarctic Continent at Neko Harbor, and Deborah had a ring-side seat as Stinky Minky and the Blubber Slugs played Paradise Bay.
A leopard seal showed his teeth as our Zodiac blasted through the brash ice on a breathtaking cruise of the Bay where Deborah’s Romeo and Juliette painted fingers actually stroked an ancient iceberg. We scraped the penguin poo from our boots and settled in out of the chill wind on the deck to watch a spectacular sunset at the mouth of the LeMaire Channel, the southernmost extent of our expedition.
From the moonlit interior, we thought we could just make out the eerie "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" cries of angry six-foot penguins waiting to tear us to bits, so we were relieved the Captain chose to turn back up the channel and not bring us any closer to the unseen terrors of the Pole.
P.S. Deborah points out an error in Part I of this foolishness. Isabel Allende is a magical realist, not a surrealist as my Santiago description implies.
We bid farewell to shipboard friends, and make new ones in the Ushuaia Presidio (just visiting). The present-day Lighthouse at the End of the World guides cruise ships between the cormorant-encrusted rocks of Beagle Bay. Cape Horn looms out of the mist, and we ride a chairlift to view Ushuaia’s shrinking Martial Glacier. Deborah got her passport and her hand stamped by the postmaster at the end of the world, who insisted it required her to remain in Ushuaia for three months. The End of the World (not literally, but you can see it from here) is the end of our Antarctic adventure, and we spend our final days admiring the Andean sunset from our bayside Hotel Los Yamanas (the extinct naked Indians whose warming fires gave Tierra del Fuego its name); comparing Fox, CNN and BBC's coverage of the Japanese whaler set ablaze off Antarctica; and riding the restored prison train into the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where we learn that rabbits and beavers imported by entrepreneurs have overrun this isolated island of fire.
The good news is that as we become aware of ozone holes and ecological imbalances, there's a chance we may learn to restore the balance while we still have Antarctic ice and Tierra del Fuegos left to visit.
All the best from Belly Acres in the Rockies,
Jim and Deborah
Click here to board our African QE 3 for a trip of a lifetime!