30 December 2019:
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico:
Life is a Beach…and a Bar…and a Golf Course

By Corey Sandler

We are back in Cabo San Lucas, the Cape of Saint Luke, at the bottom of the peninsula of Baja California, lower California in Mexico. Twice in one year: at the start of 2019 and now on the penultimate day of the year. Life is a beach.

We arrived this morning and put down our anchor just offshore of the famous arches, Los Arcos. It is a beautiful place…even with three other much larger cruise ships floating into our line of sight.

Cabo San Lucas was a relatively prosperous fishing and agricultural port, with a few interludes of piracy, for the first few centuries of its existence.

And then in 1973, the Transpeninsular Highway (Mexico Route 1) was completed, linking Cabo to Tijuana and from there to that big country to the north, the United States.

With the road and an airport, Cabo became an accessible destination.

It is now home to about 81,000 people, most of whom work in the tourism industry: hotels, restaurants, shops, tour guides.

It is a beautiful bay, with lovely beaches and lots and lots of tourists…and fishermen angling to catch dollars and euros and pounds from the pockets of visitors.

Los Arcos, the arches at the outside of the harbor at Cabo San Lucas

In a Reflective Mood

As this cruise comes near its end, I found myself in a reflective mood. It helped to have calm seas and a bright sun. Here are some photos from this morning in Cabo:

After today, we have ahead of us entrance into the United States at the glorious city of San Diego in California, and a last call at Los Angeles (San Pedro, to be precise.)

The end is near:

Sunset Interrupted

At day’s end, we hauled anchor just as the sun set behind Los Arcos, the arches at the outside of town. It was a beautiful sight, even with those other–much larger–cruise ships between us and the final rays.

All photos copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com


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Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)


SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

26 December 2019:
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala:
Very Old, Very New, Ever Hopeful for a Rebirth

By Corey Sandler

Guatemala is a place of resplendent beauty, terrible poverty, great history, tragic bloodshed, vibrant culture, and a rebirth with a still uncertain future.

It has balanced on a knife’s edge for centuries.

Viking Sun at the dock in Puerto Quetzal this morning
Nearby, a banana boat loads its cargo. Until the 20th century, bananas were a rare and mysterious commodity known only to adventurers and explorers

Inland from the port of Puerto Quetzal lies the huge metropolis of Guatemala City, which would not qualify as one of the more attractive places on this planet. It is a place of grinding poverty, made worse by growling volcanoes all around.

But beyond The City, up in the hills, is the ancient city of Antigua Guatemala, which is a mostly intact Spanish Colonial city bookended by a pair of active volcanoes.

In fact, the Spanish governed most of Central America from Mexico to Peru from here.

Up in the central highlands is the impressive former Spanish colonial headquarters of Antigua Guatemala, since replaced by the less-impressive Guatemala City. Antigua has been damaged over the centuries by earthquakes and volcanoes. But somehow it has managed to maintain an air of dignity and quiet.

Here are some photos I have taken over the years on various visits to Antigua:

All content by Corey Sandler, copyright 2019. ll rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo or one of my books, please contact me.

24 December 2019:
Puntarenas, Costa Rica:
Up Into the Cloud Forest

By Corey Sandler

Costa Rica is one of the most amazing places on the planet, a green nation with one-quarter-of-a-percent of Earth’s landmass and 5 percent of its biodiversity of species of flora and fauna.

And it also extends from sea to shining sea, with the port of Puntarenas on the Pacific where Viking Sun docked this morning and the port of Limón over on the Atlantic side. In between is the cordillera, the mountain range that is an extension of the Canadian and American Rockies to the North and the Andes to the South.

I went with guests up into that spine in the middle, to the Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve. We left hot and sunny Puntarenas and spent the day in a cool and drizzly rainforest.

Here is some of what we saw:

The beach at Puntarenas in the morning
The fog and mist descending on a garden in the hills above
Butterflies in the cloud forest
And hummingbirds at a sugar trough

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. It is impossible to use it wrong: Pura Vida!


All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. The contents of this blog is entirely mine and not endorsed by or affliated by any of the companies mentioned.

See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

22 December 2019:
Fuerte Amador, Panama:
From the Pacific to the Atlantic and Back

By Corey Sandler

The skyline of Panama City, a clear sign of the riches that flow into the country from the Panama Canal

We came to Panama–to the resort port of Fuerte Amador on the Pacific–but our eventual goal is California, not the Gulf of Mexico. And so Viking Sun put down anchors and we tendered into shore.

I have been through the Panama Canal more times than I can remember, and love the experience each and every time.

But on this visit I did something different: along with guests I journeyed across the isthmus, about 50 miles, from the Pacific to the Atlantic and then back. Our goal was to visit the Panama Canal from the land side, not from aboard ship.

Still spectacular, and literally an entirely different perspective on the amazing Path Between the Seas.

The large (but not huge) Emerald Princess was passing through the Agua Clara locks near the Atlantic when we arrived. Agua Clara is one of the new set of locks that opened in 2016, built to handle wider and longer vessels. In the new locks, ships are guided through by tugs at the bow and stern instead of the electric locomotives used in the old locks for the same purpose.
The new locks employ rolling gates that pull back into pockets in the wall; you can see the double set behind and to the right of the tugboat at the stern here. Also seen are parts of the three basins above the locks that recycle about 40 percent of the 52 million gallons of fresh water that is used for each transit of the locks.
Later in the day we visited the original locks at Miraflores. Here a large car carrier is making its way up the flight of locks from the Pacific. Here you can see the electric locomotives or mules.
From the land side, the difference in water level is apparent. Ships go up 85 or so feet in three locks from sea level to Lake Gatun to make the transit across the continent, and then 85 feet down at the other side.

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase any photos or books, please contact me.

To read more about the Panama Canal, click on the Panama tag below.

20 December 2019:
Manta, Ecuador:
On the Line and in the Net

By Corey Sandler

After two days at sea in the pacific Pacific, we arrived early today in the bustling port of Manta, Ecuador.

Ecuador…as in Equator.

Manta is at 00 degrees and 57 minutes south of the Equator, which puts it roughly 67 miles or 107 kilometers away from the line that marks the planet’s middle. We’ll cross from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere sometime around 10 pm tonight as we head for Panama and beyond.

Ecuador, the equator, in many languages, shown in a mural at the port in Manta

The presence of this port brought it a brief moment on the world stage in March of 1736 when some of Europe’s greatest geographers and cartographers gathered here to embark on an expedition to determine the shape of the Earth at the Equator.

The survey included French and Spanish scientists, including Charles Marie de la Condamine, who sought to confirm Isaac Newton’s hypothesis that the earth is a not a perfect sphere but rather has a bulge at the equator because of the effect of centrifugal force on the spinning planet.

We found a monument commemorating that expedition tucked away in a corner of the port as we walked from the ship into steamy Manta, a few miles away.

Just as an aside, it was just a few months ago–July of this year–that I stood on a hillock in Hammerfest in far northern Norway to see a marker from the Struve Geodetic Arcs, a chain of survey triangulations stretching from the far north to the Black Sea, through ten countries and over 2,820 kilometers or 1,752 miles, a 39-year-effort by German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve; his goal was to measure the exact size and shape of the earth by measuring a meridian–a line of longitude running from pole to pole, the opposite line from the equator which is the zero line of latitude.

One of the Struve Geodetic Arcs in Hammerfest, Norway

Back here in Manta, the waters are still thick with fish and the tuna catch remains a major element of the economy. The harbor was filled with vessels disgorging their bunkers with tuna, although the size of the creatures and their number has grown smaller over the years as humans overfish and otherwise damage our planet.

Tuna arriving in Manta this morning

And finally, it needs be mentioned that Ecuador–and in particular the town of Montecristi–holds on to its historical place as the origin of the Panama Hat. I know that sounds like a mix of countries, and it is, but many of the workers and visitors to the construction site of the Panama Canal in the late 19th and early 20th century wore straw hats of the type made here and the name of the Ecuadorian product was applied to the north in Panama. Today, some of the hats come from China and elsewhere with no relation to Ecuador or Panama.

A Panama Hat maker at work in Ecuador

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. To purchase a print or book, please contact me.

17 December 2019:
Lima, Peru:
Ancient Peru’s Back Closet

By Corey Sandler

We arrived early this morning at the port of Callao, Peru’s principal outlet to the sea, about ten miles from the capital city of Lima.

Lima is the third-largest city of the Americas: São Paulo in Brazil has about 12 million inhabitants, and then Mexico City just barely edges into second place with about 9 million residents. Lima counts 8.9 million in its sprawling city, and millions more in the surrounding urban sprawl.

I’ve been to Lima a number of times and have enjoyed strolling its Plaza de Armas with a handsome collection of Spanish Colonial structures.

Today, though, I went with a group of guests for an unusual inside view of one of the most impressive private museum collections in the world: the Larco Herrera Museum.

Rafael Larco Herrera, from a wealthy family with sugar cane holdings, devoted much of his life to collecting artifacts from the rich prehistory of Peru. By some estimates, there are about 87 different known tribes and peoples who inhabited the west coast of South America in and around what is now Peru.

Larco’s collection, amassed between about 1925 and 1966, is astounding, with thousands of objects on display. But the real thrill for me was to get a glimpse of the museum’s storage closet, home to perhaps another 50,000 more pieces of pottery, jewelry and other adornment, and textiles. We were led through the collection by one of the curators.

I performed no looting, taking home only memories and photos. Here are a few:

A funerary wrapping for a Huari mummy, dated sometime between AD 800 and AD 1300. Museum experts x-rayed the piece and say it contains the body of an infant of about four to five years of age. The funerary bundles were intended to shepherd the deceased into the afterlife where they would become an honored ancestor of the living. In fact, one of the gravest threats an attacker could pose to the living was to destroy a gravesite and thus deprive them of ancestors…and their connection to the land.
Next week I am due to give a lecture about the hidden meanings and sources of some of the greatest songs by The Beatles. I couldn’t help but think of the Blue Meanies of Sergeant Pepper Land when I saw this ancient piece.

The Garden of Earthly Delights and Monsters

The museum’s lush garden included Cereus peruvianus monstrosus, a truly creepy Peruvian cactus known locally as Monstrito.
Monstrito in flower

Larco’s Closet

Almost every piece on the shelves of the storage area of the Larco Herrera would be a treasure at another museum.

I was reminded of two other great museum visits I have made as a traveler: to the storage room of the Uffizi in Florence, full of fabulous but not-quite-famous Roman and Italian busts and statues, and the basement overflow room of the British Museum in London.

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved 2019. If you would like a print of any photo, please contact me using the links on this blog.

16 December 2019:
General San Martin, Paracas and Pisco, Peru:
Pelicans and Hidden Necropolises in the Sand

By Corey Sandler

When I was a child, one of my paternal grandmother’s favorite bits of poetry–and she had many–was this:

A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.

I thought of her today, as we strolled along small resort town of Paracas, midway between the port of General San Martin where our ship was docked and the city of Pisco.

A Pelican in Paracas

We’ve been here before, but it still is amazing to see the sprawling desert that comes right down to the sea in this part of Peru and in Chile to the south. There is not much fresh water to be had, but the ocean is full of fish and the pelicans are well-fed.

Viking Sun at the pier in the port of General San Martin. The port is named after the man considered the liberator of Peru from the Spanish; San Martin was a compatriot of Simon Bolivar
Pierside loading claws at the port

Paracas is a Quechua word that refers to the hurricane-like winds that carry sand. The desert near Paracas is stark beauty, mostly shades of red colored by iron deposits. In 1925 several major archeological sites were found in Cerro Colorado, the Red Hill.

Two sets of tombs were found on either side of the road, one holding about 40 sets of remains and the other hundreds. The larger site is considered much older, but the pair indicate this was a special place for the Paracas people. The older Paracas Cavernas is believed to date from about 800 to 200 BCE, and the nearby Paracas Necropolis from about 200 BCE to 150 of the Common Era.

In both places bodies are wrapped in textiles, many in a sitting position. Peru has done some basic excavation and research, but most of the artifacts are preserved as they were beneath the ground in this dry, remote place.

Cerro Colorado
A modern hotel’s garden in Paracas, lit by the strong morning sun
At the market in Paracas

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

14 December 2019:
Matarani, Peru:
Gateway to the White City of Arequipa

By Corey Sandler

Matarani is the place we parked, but it was not the destination for most of the guests aboard ship. From the gritty mining and export piers here, a fleet of buses departed in the morning for the two-hour-plus drive up into the altiplano to Arequipa.

Matarani, home to about one million, is the deep south of Peru, a thin strip of desert with the Pacific Ocean to the west and the spine of the Andes to the east. In Peru, only Lima is larger–much larger–with nearly nine million inhabitants. We’ll visit that coastal port in a few days.

We’ve been to Arequipa a few times, and so we’re declaring a vacation day aboard ship. We have been on the move almost continuously since March.

Arequipa, about 75 miles or 121 kilometers from Matarani, is up in the foothills of the Andes,  at altitude 2,350 meters or 7,710 feet.

The trip follows a two-lane highway thick with trucks and buses and thin with asphalt and guardrails.

It’s a dramatic setting, and also about as close as many cruise passengers are likely to get to landlocked Bolivia.

And it’s not Mount Fuji in Japan, either, but it probably could pass for it in a movie background. Looming over the city is the El Misti Volcano, rising to 19,098 feet or 5,821 meters above sea level.

It is a stratovolcano, the type that is somewhat like a pressure cooker. It lets off a bit of steam every once in a while but mostly sits around in seeming quietude until it explodes violently.

And yes, it is still active, it last major eruption in 1985.

Here are some notes and photos from a previous visit.



All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.



Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

13 December 2019:
Iquique, Chile:
From Sea Level to See Level

By Corey Sandler

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

After a day at sea sailing north, 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 Cerro Dragón sand dune reaches to the edge of the growing city of Iquique, a reminder of how tenuous many of the coastal ports of South America are
The little town of Pozo Almonte sits at the foot of the altiplano, its history bound up in mining in the hills. The small place draws its name from the Battle of Pozo Almonte of the Chilean Civil War of 1891 between Liberal (Balmacedist) and Congressional forces. The Congressional victory eventually led the junta gaining control of all of northern Chile.
A monument to the men of Pozo Almonte who went to the mines…
and the women…

The Huasco Salt Flats (Salar del Huasco)

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

Rules of the Road

The copper mines built the roads into the hills, and regularly shut them down to move equipment

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo seen here, please contact me.

11 December 2019:
Coquimbo, Chile:
Well Off the Beaten Track

By Corey Sandler

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 unusual fruit the locals call tuna, known elsewhere as prickly pear.

The region’s climate is somewhat close to that of the Mediterranean. Chilean wine is better known than 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.

10 December 2019:
Valparaiso, Chile:
The Clock with No Hands

By Corey Sandler

Viking Sun was one of the largest structures in town on our visit to Valparaiso, the Valley of Paradise. The town was lively and happy to see us, although signs of recent civil disturbances were there to remind us of recent parlous times.

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.

All content copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.

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.