Falling in love with views, splendor of South America

Paula Godfrey

Fourteen hours from LAX, plus a two-hour bus ride, found us ready to

embark on the Royal Princess from Valparaiso, Chile, to Buenos Aires

by sailing around Cape Horn. The itinerary showed seven days at sea

and an extensive guided tour at every port -- at several of those we

would have to drop anchor and take tenders to shore, which made it

even more exciting.

Our first stop was Puerto Montt, gateway to the Lake District. It

lies in what is known as Forest Chile and comprises eight large lakes

and scores of smaller ones nestled in rolling Andean foothills in a

patchwork of forest and farmland. Our tour was by boat and included

lunch at a lakeside restaurant where we were entertained by a local

folk dance group of beautiful children.

The following three days were spent at sea, where we observed the

Pio XI Glacier, the Seno Europa Glacier and the Amalia Glacier, which

is the largest in the world -- absolutely awesome. It never thaws but

instead constantly builds because of the harsh winter.

Our second stop was Punta Arenas, which lies atop rolling hills,

looking out over the middle of the Strait of Magellan. In the days

before the Panama Canal, this was a major port. It remains a

prosperous city today and is the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.

Our tour was mainly by bus, which met us at the pier and traveled

through the city on our way to a penguin reserve. Once there, we

followed a trail through the grasslands to the sea -- the wind was

blowing up a gale to the point where it made you feel that when you

took one step forward, it pushed you back two steps. It was bitterly

cold and we were thankful to finally find the warmth of a tiny cafe

where hot chocolate had never tasted better.

Ushuaia, Argentina, was our next destination. A former whaling

station and prisoner colony, it is the capital of Tierra del Fuego

and is famous for being the southernmost city on Earth. The tour bus

took us on a winding road high up in the mountains to a national park

where we could overlook the Beagle Channel and see for miles.

Finally, at 7:35 a.m. the next day, we came abeam to the portside

of Cape Horn at a distance of 1.11 nautical miles. Dark and

mysterious under cloudy skies, its rocky terrain rises to a height of

1,391 feet and makes a formidable landmark for those navigating

around it. Known for its prevalent winds, heavy seas and strong

currents, the naturalist lecturer on board said "this is where the

wind begins."

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, was our next anchor and tender

operations began under a Force 8 wind, which is considered gale

force. The tender lurched and rolled as the bosun fought the wheel

and several passengers returned back up the gangplank before it was

fully loaded and able to leave the ship. It turned out to be a cute

little seaside village with one main street and quaint shops, but so

cold and windy that after lunch at the local pub, everyone as glad to

return to the ship. We sailed at 6:35 p.m. on rough seas.

The gale continued and, at 4:20 a.m., the wind speed was recorded

by the vessel anemometer at 92 knots or 106 mph. During the day, we

were forced to heave-to owing to the heavy swell conditions and

hurricane force winds and reduce speed to 3 knots. In order to

maintain our schedule, we did not call at Puerto Madryn, but

proceeded through the South Atlantic to Port Stanley and Montevideo,

Uruguay.

In Montevideo, we experienced our finest tour called "A Day at the

Farm," and that's exactly what it was. La Rabida, a 3,458-acre ranch

45 minutes from Montevideo, where we were welcomed personally by the

owner and family. Hay rides, buggy rides, horse show and mini-rodeo;

a wonderful barbecue luncheon and complete touring of the farm itself

-- such gracious people.

We disembarked in Buenos Aires, spent the night at the Claridge

Hotel, which included a marvelous tango show at the local nightclub,

and the next morning flew to Iguacu National Park, Argentina. From

there, we crossed the border into Brazil to the Cataratas Resort, the

only hotel inside the park and within walking distance of Iguacu

Falls. The next day was spent on catwalks and hiking trails to view

the splendor of the falls -- all 287 of them. We had saved this for

last and were not disappointed.

* TRAVEL TALES runs on Sundays. Have you, or someone you know,

gone on an interesting vacation recently? Tell us about your

adventures in about 400 words, accompanied by a couple of photos to

choose from that do not have the Daily Pilot in them, and send them

to Travel Tales, 330 W. Bay St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; or e-mail

coral.wilson@latimes.com; or fax to (949) 646-4170.

* PAULA GODFREY is a Newport Beach resident who also serves on the

city's Civil Service Commission.

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