About eight months ago on August 1, 2014, we crossed both the equator and 10,000 km ridden from Vancouver, Canada on our bikes. Yesterday, we crossed the equator again in our much quicker northward journey by boat. The ship cruises at an average of around 17-18 knots/hour and covers vast distances. From the fijordlands of Patagonia, it felt like no time before we were in tropical seas and the temperature and humidity jumped higher each day sailing north. Crossing the equator was a big deal for early ships. Crossing the equator was equated with distant seas where the night skies had different constellations and even the few that could be seen in the north, like Orion, was now upside down. Sailors would get a tattoo of a swallow each time they crossed the equator. The swallow was supposed to carry their soul home if they were lost at sea in such a faraway place. Around the equator is also the doldrums, a place where ships can be becalmed for a long time. For us, motoring along in a floating city of a cruiseship, it wasn’t logistically a big deal….but it is still pretty cool! For us, cruising north on the Pacific coastline of South America was revisiting the countries we passed through on our cycle south…. but like the upside down constellations in the southern night skies, they were uniquely different experiences. Same same but different.
We rounded Cape Horn and first stopped in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the Americas and our original destination before we found this awesome cruise home leaving from Buenos Aires.
From Ushuaia, we sailed north into Chile. It was really interesting to revisit Chile since we only biked through a small and very remote part in Northern Chile. Because we basically only cycled in four national parks, our impression of Chile based on our ride was that there were no paved roads in Chile, vicunas (wild cousin of the alpaca) outnumber people by far and everything is free. Coming in on a cruise ship to the ports of Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, Valparaiso and Coquimbo/La Serena was a completely different experience. In Valparaiso, old turn-of-the century wooden cable cars carried people up steep hills to quaint bohemian neighbourhoods with winding streets and walls covered with artsy graffiti. We rode our bikes on the gorgeous 12km beachside bike path from Coquimbo to the beautifully maintained colonial city of La Serena.
From there we went to Peru where we also revisited a couple places we had passed through on the way down. Interestingly, instead of describing visiting Lima as a necessary evil in many guidebooks since it is a transport hub but you can’t get out of the city fast enough, the cruise praised the city’s many historical gems and shopping. We were shuttled around from the seedy port area into the safer central area where we visited the historical centro. The grand plazas, amazing colonial architecture, all of the old wooden balconies in the historical downtown area was really neat and worth a revising on some of those skeptical guidebooks.
From Lima, it is three sea days until Puntarenas, Costa Rica – about three days to cover what we took six months to do on our bikes!