Tag Archives: Puntarenas

9 December 2019 to 4 January 2020:
Valparaiso, Chile to Los Angeles:
Crossing the Equator on America’s West Coast

By Corey Sandler

We flew south all through the night from New York to Santiago, Chile. We left the wintry East Coast of the United States and landed in summery South America.

Viking’s Viking Sun will spend the next 28 days heading northwest and then north, calling at ports in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and then San Diego and Los Angeles in the United States.

This is just one month in a record-setting eight-month-long World Cruise. We will cross the Equator as we sail along the appropriately named nation of Ecuador. In fact, across the eight months of this cruise, this ship will cross the Equator four times heading south then north then south then north again. A hearty few dozen guests will be aboard for the entire journey, while others will partake of various segments.

I’ll be posting photos and comments here throughout this cruise. I hope you’ll join me here.

9-10 December: Valparaiso, Chile

Viking Sun at the dock, seen from Valparaiso’s Sotomayor Square. The central statue commemorates what Chile considers its greatest military achievement, the War of the Pacific, the defeat of Peru and Bolivia in the Atacama Desert east of 1879-1883. Peru lost its southernmost territory to Chile…and with that came massive deposits of copper that today is part of the backbone of modern Chile. Bolivia, which allied with the losing side, lost its only outlet to the sea. The war is long over, but the three countries remain somewhat short of cordial in relations, or at least in their view of history.
The famed Floral Clock of Viña del Mar is currently a clock with no hands in the midst of Chile’s season of social and political protests, mostly in the big cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. The mostly young protestors object to economic conditions that tilt in favor of the very rich, alleged corruption that favors officials in the government, and other problems in a country with a still-fragile democracy.
A tough way to earn a living: street buskers juggle, dance, and perform acrobatics at intersections.
At the eclectic Fonck Museum in Valparaiso stands one of only three Easter Island moai located away from the remote island. Easter Island is today part of Chile, although it is about 2,000 miles or 3,000 kilometers to the west in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.

11 December 2019: Coquimbo (La Serena), Chile

As is typical for coastal towns in this part of the world, dawn arrived gray and cool. By midday, it brightened just a bit, and then–almost as if controlled by a clock–the sun broke through at 2pm. By 6 tonight, we can expect warmth and a rising wind.

Except for the occasional semi-tropical storm, local weathermen don’t have an awful lot more to talk about.

Viking Sun at the dock in Coquimbo, Chile

I went with guests on a trip up the coast to the market town of La Serena, perusing barrels of olives. This is somewhat close to a Mediterranean climate; Chilean wine is better known that their olives, but both grow up in the hills. A local favorite is aceitunas sin amargo, large black olives said to be without amargo or bitterness.

A vendor at the market in La Serena
The hilltop Cruz del Tercer Milenio (The Cross of the Third Millennium), with an observation platform up high, reflects the predominantly Roman Catholic background of Chileans. It stands 83 meters or 273 feet tall, which allows the Chileans to claim the highest cross of South America. (In case you were wondering, Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Hill in Rio de Janeiro stands only 30 meters or 99 feet tall. And in any case, it’s a statue, not a cross.)
At the other side of the bay, seen to the right in this photo, is a handsome mosque constructed by the Kingdom of Morocco as a cultural offering; there is only a very small Islamic population here. The minaret is modeled on the famed Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco
The afternoon sun fills the Explorers Lounge aboard ship in Coquimbo

All content copyright 2019-2020, Corey Sandler. To obtain a copy of any photo, please contact me.

The content of this blog is entirely mine, and is not endorsed or approved by any cruise line or other entity.

13 December 2019: Iquique, Chile

It’s hard to have more contrast in one day than we did today, and that’s an extraordinary thing. 

We arrived early this morning at the port of Iquique in Chile, an uncommon sight in this place. They receive only about eight cruise ships a year here. 

And then I went with a group of guests from sea level– because that is where oceangoing ships generally sail– up into the altiplano, the high desert. About two hours drive brought us into the Atacama Desert and the spectacular Huasco Salt Flats.

The flats are at about 3,830 meters above the sea,  or about 12,565 feet.

We had a bright sun and tolerable temperatures and pink flamingoes and llamas and alpaca. Oh, and I took some pictures….

The altiplano is home to some of Chile’s abundant mineral wealth. It all began with saltpeter a century ago, used at first for gunpowder and then as a fertilizer. 

Today,  copper is king,  along with valuable metals and minerals including molybdenum and lithium. That last substance is an essential component of batteries for things like cellphones and tablets.

Our trip back to the port in the afternoon was delayed because of a convoy of some of the largest machines on land: mining excavators, gigantic dump trucks, and support equipment. 

They would make great beach toys. 

Here’s some of what we saw today:

The Dragon sand dune reaches to the edge of the growing city of Iquique
The little town of Pozo Almonte sits at the foot of the altiplano, its history bound up in mining in the hills
A monument to the men of Pozo Almonte who went to the mines…
And the women…
The Huasco Salt Flats, at 3,800 meters or 12,500 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountains reach thousands of feet higher, some capped with snow
The rumble of thunder in a place that receives very little rain
The copper mines built the roads into the hills, and regularly shut them down to move equipment

27 December 2018:
Puntarenas, Costa Rica:
Pura Vida

By Corey Sandler

We arrived in hot and muggy Puntarenas this morning and I went with a group of guests into the rainforest where we jumped off about a dozen perfectly good trees.

We were, of course engaging in the entertainment known as zip-lining. It’s a lot of fun and not nearly as scary as bungee jumping or parachuting.

Strapped into a harness and attached to not one but two separate steel cables above, participants glide through the jungle as if we we belonged there.

Just to make things interesting more interesting, at the bottom of the zip-line course was the Tarcoles River, it’s banks lined with crocodiles. An active imagination might lead you to think they were hoping for someone dropping off the zipline, but we did not oblige them.

Photo by Corey Sandler, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

Costa Rica, like Panama–and Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, the United States, and Canada–has ports on both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

There is only one canal, though.

The other countries have done the best they can with roads and railways to transfer products from one ocean to another.

Puntarenas here in Costa Rica was once the country’s principal port, but it was on the wrong side when it came to trade with the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe. Over the past century, a railroad and then highways were built to climb up and over the Continental Divide to bring bananas, other agriculture, minerals, and more from one side to the other.

Modern Costa Rica has devoted much of its economy to sustainable and green industries and ecotourism. And the country–not quite perfect in its government and social services, but far ahead of nearly all of its neighbors–is doing well,

In fact, they have their own all-purpose expression of contentment: Pura Vida. Think of it as “all is well” or hakuna matata.

All photos and text Copyright 2018 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com


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23 April 2015
 Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Living La Pura Vida

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived at our first port in the Pacific on a steamy morning in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. And then it got hotter: 92 degrees,  and if there is such a thing as more than 100 percent humidity,  this must be what it feels like.

We have been here many times,  up in the mountains,  along the rivers,  tothevolcanoes.  Today we stayed local,  slowly making our way around the town of Puntarenas,  a place that does not see all that many tourists. But we know we can count on friendly times amongst the Ticos.

Pura Vida, no matter the heat.


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Costa Rica means “rich coast.”

Yet another thing that Christopher Columbus got wrong.

First of all, Costa Rica has two coasts: Atlantic and Pacific.

And secondly, Columbus was a guy who believed in wishful thinking.

As we know, he was looking for India when he landed in the Bahamas, and so he called the islands there the West Indies.

And when Columbus sailed through the Caribbean to the dead end of Central America, he was looking for the Panama Canal…or a natural strait through the isthmus.

On September 18, 1502, Columbus set anchor offshore of Costa Rica, and Carib Indians paddled out in canoes to deliver a peaceful greeting.

Columbus was looking for gold, and that’s the “rich” part of the name: there just had to be gold somewhere.

Costa Rica has managed to survive the Spanish Conquistadors, the American filibusters who came south in hopes of annexing Central America, corrupt or venal politicians, United Fruit and its “banana republics” and various other indignities.

Today, the gold in Costa Rica is green. To their great credit the Ticos have decided their future lies in gently making use of the vast ecological treasures of the nation: rain forests, estuaries, mountains, volcanoes, and wild life.







All photos copyright 2015 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


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