So how do you get from the middle of Vancouver Island to Valparaiso on the coast of Chile? Well, you start by doing a lot of waiting. We made it to Vancouver International Airport for a very early departure; we were there at about 3am! The flight to Los Angeles was a non-event except we had to change terminals there. I had forgotten how big LAX is. We thought we had lots of time, but turns out it was a close one. We flew with LAN airlines, to Lima, Peru where we were held up on the tarmac for over an hour waiting for more passengers. Then before we knew it, we are flying again, this time to Santiago, Chile where we were met by a representative of Oceania who helped us board a bus for Valparaiso a couple of hours down the road. TIP: We found out that we could have booked a more direct flight and Oceania would have reimbursed us. Check this out because 24 hours on planes, airports and buses is a real drag!
On the way to the ship, we passed through the Casablanca Valley which is where some of the best wine grapes in Chile are grown. Although we stopped and toured a beautiful winery, I am afraid that Ray and I slept through the tour. Besides, it was a little early for us anyway.
The drive from Santiago to Valparaiso is beautiful though hills and winding roads heading into the port town of Valparaiso. Our driver gave us a tour of the city before finally depositing us at the cruise ship terminal. We were shocked at the run down condition of the terminal and the seemingly disorganized embarkation of the ship. It took 2 hours to load us aboard while we cooled our heels in the dumpy terminal. The good news is that they upgraded our stateroom to a stateroom with a balcony which by the way will ruin all future cruise travel for us. This is the way to go.
We left Valparaiso about 11pm that night. I went to bed early and slept in the next day which was great for me but Ray had spotted a sperm whale which I would have liked to have seen. I had to remember what a sperm whale even looked like. Thank God for the internet.
Our first stop, two days from Valparaiso is Robinson Crusoe Island. This island, a Chilean territorial possession, is the main island of the Juan Fernández Archipelago and boasts a rich history filled with pirates and buried treasure.
Since its discovery by Spanish navigator Juan Fernández in 1574, it became an icon among sailors and a place of refuge for corsairs and pirates, who would use this piece of paradise to stock up on supplies.
It was also the place where Scotch navigator Alexander Selkirk was stranded for four years and four months beginning in October 1704. His story inspired the Daniel Defoe novel, Robinson Crusoe.
Ray and I visited the island’s single town and Capital, San Juan Bautista. There are less than 500 inhabitants here who are well on the road to recovery after the devastating tsunami hit the island and flattened San Juan Bautista in 2010. The island is a genuine treasure, not only for the booty that was secretly buried by Lord Anson in the mid-18th century, but thanks to its people and the island’s natural wonders. Declared a National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, there are 61 times more native plants species than the Galapagos and 13 times more birds. Who would have known?