Thursday, 31 January 2013

Summer and Autumn 2012. Report No 60.

Report No 60 (April – November, 2012)
By Diana, January 2013
 For corresponding pictures, go to: AlbumNo60

Not long after returning from White Admiral at Easter, we were again on a plane, this time to London to take part in Soren’s christening on 12th April.  Soren is our youngest grand-child, Elisabeth and Hugh’s younger son.  At 14 months of age, he was pottering about in front of the congregation during the short service, and did not take kindly to having water poured over his forehead!

After the Church of England ceremony, friends and family had a happy get-together in the sunshine at Elisabeth and Hugh’s house, where we ate, drank and sang the song I had made for the occasion. We had managed to get Eli across, a trip which proved to be her last journey outside Norway, it was quite a job with her needing a wheel-chair and a lot of help, but she really enjoyed her final big family occasion. Stein was now back in Drammen Hospital, where he would work all summer.  After working full-time including night duties, he decided that this was “No country for old men”.  I did my final stint of working in May, when I helped in the practice of a colleague recovering from breast cancer. Having already had a pension for a year, I decided that I had seen enough eyes and would finally become and full-time old-age pensioner!

In between working, I had two trips to England in May. The first was a 50 year reunion for my school-leaving class from Hutcheson’s girls’ grammar school. It was quite an experience to see many people whom one I known well for the first time in 50 years! Amazing how personality and voice stay the same despite the passing of the years.  Not appearance, though.  My good friend Fiona said as we arrived   “Diana, look at these of old ladies, is that how we look?” I didn’t answer! 
Fiona and Sandra, good friends and class-mates from Hutchie 
The other trip was to the 90th birthday party of my Aunt Joyce, my mother’s youngest sister and my last aunt. We had a beautiful sunny day in the garden of my cousin Jane’s house in Leicester, with a big gathering of three generations of Fenwicks, including my brother Jim. By good fortune, our cousin Ian on our father’s side of the family was also in England in nearby Derby, visiting his family from Canada, so Jim and I were able to see many of our relatives in the one week-end. Joyce and her husband Donald, who is 92, also came for a week to Norway in early July.

Joyce and Donald, Veierland July 7th, this would be Eli's last visit
'to her beloved cottage. Stein had to carry her up and down to the boat. 

They are now feeling their years, and thoroughly enjoyed being looked after for a week.

Since we moved to Lier over three years ago we have missed our old friends in Kristiansand. So it is a pleasure when our old tour group gets together for a wander. This year they had decided to visit Preikestolen (the pulpit), one of Norway’s best known tourist attractions, a huge flat rock jutting out of the cliff-face 600 meters above Lysefjord. Stein and I drove across the mountains of South Norway to meet them. On the morning of our hike, the weather was grey and raining, so we plodded along trying to make the best of it, but as we approached the pulpit itself, the clouds lifted, and we had a wonderful view over the fiord.

The same group of friends visited us later in the summer for a week-end at the summer cottage at Veierland, together with our old friend Andrew from Switzerland, who taught everybody about geocaching. (If you don’t know what this is, look up!)

Fencing lesson!
By early summer, Eli was going downhill fairly quickly, and to be honest, I felt that after a year and a half of looking after her, I could not manage any more. The home nurses gave a very good service and came in every morning to get her up and washed, but she now needed almost constant attention. Great was our relief therefore when she was admitted to Frogner nursing home on 12th July. Stein was good at visiting her regularly over the summer, but I enjoyed my new-found freedom by going to London for 5 weeks, to a Shakespeare summer school at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). This was a great experience, learning and performing Shakespeare sonnets, monologues and during the last week, we even did a whole play.  I did a lot of amateur dramatics at school and University, but this was my first time on a stage for nearly 50 years, quite a thrill. Poor Stein was left at home working and visiting his mother, but thanks to Hugh, who worked for the British Olympic Committee, he did come over for the opening of the Olympic Games, an amazing spactacle!

Stein did manage to fit in his usual training for the year’s two main events, first the Birkebeiner cycle-race, the “Hell on wheels” race across the mountains, which this year he managed quite comfortably if not in a record time. (But Martin managed an amazing 3 hrs 5 min!) The other event in which he likes to take part is the Masters world rowing championships in early September, which this year was in Duisburg in Germany. He came back with a medal from the single sculls event, so he is managing to keep up a good rowing standard.


8th  September was a hot sunny day in Taormina, Sicily.  Martin and his lovely Tonje were married at mid-day on the roof of Hotel El Jabel, beautifully laid out with white furniture and flowers.  A quarter of an hour earlier, I was standing sweating at the town gate, waiting for Stein’s bus to arrive from the airport, not knowing that it was stuck in a traffic jam! To my great relief he appeared from a taxi with a few minutes to spare, he raced to our hotel room to change, and arrived on the roof without a tie just in time! Martin and Tonje wanted a small wedding, just the bridesmaid Åse and her husband Øyvind, best man Eivind with his brother Karl Yngve who is a minister, Hedda and Johan, and three proud parents; Tonje's mother Selle Marie, Stein and I. (Tonje has unfortunately lost her father). The bride looked beautiful, the view breathtaking, the food delicious, everybody was happy – a great occasion!                                                                                                   

One person, who would have loved to have been there but could not manage, was Eli, who was now failing fast and died a few days later on 16th September. Stein slept beside her in her room in Frogner nursing home the last night. Fortunately, she only had to be in the home for about two months. Her last visit to our apartment was on Stein's birthday, 29th August, when he officially became an old age pensioner. She was then very weak and need help with practically everything, including eating and drinking...
Her funeral was on 21st September, well attended by family and friends. We arranged a non-religious ceremony in the chapel at Drammen crematorium, which seemed to be appreciated by all. Günter played violin, Martin piano, Elisabeth, Robert and Stein gave her a tribute, as well as our good friend Christian, Eli's niece Eva, her neighbour from Sandefjord, Ingar. Hedda and Johan laid their own drawings on her coffin and there were lots of flowers. I introduced everybody and the organist played "Imagine" by John Lennon. Many of her friends from Veierland were present. This was another sunny day, which made it easy to accommodate over 40 people in our apartment afterward as we could spill out onto the lawn, where all the flowers were laid out on the grass. Although a funeral is sad, it was a good get-together for family and friends of Eli. We even had some of Eli's home-made wine from 1976 for a special toast of rememberance.
Eli's home-made rhubarb-and-plum wine from 1976 (discovered in her cellar when we cleared out the house in  2011)

We were able to return to White Admiral at the beginning of October, rather unexpectedly, as we had almost cancelled the flight to Panama when Eli was very poorly.  Now we could travel again without having to worry about her. We visited Elisabeth and her boys in London en route, and found White Admiral newly washed and looking good on the hard at Shelter Bay Marina. This time we paid to have the hulls sanded and antifouled, and we used a couple of days for some other jobs, before she was put into the water. One day when I was painting the wood at the front of the boat, a young guy on a bicycle came riding up and asked me if I knew of any way he could get to Colombia! 

This was Devan from USA who was cycling from Alaska to Chile, and had come to a halt in Panama. The trans-American highway which runs along the west side of North and South America has a bit missing! It comes to a stop in the Darien jungle, and does not start again until Columbia. Strangely there is no ferry to take cars or bikes from one end to the other, this may be an American strategy to try to stop drug traffic.  So a few enterprising sailors have developed a business taking back-packers between Panama and Columbia, which is what Devan needed to find.  He moved on board White Admiral and did find a yacht willing to take him to Colombia for 300 dollars, leaving in 5 days’ time. We have a soft spot for adventurers, so he spent these days with us, enjoying the cooking aboard White Admiral, the marina pool and the showers after months of cycling and camping. Fortunately he was a liberal, thoughtful and grateful American, and we enjoyed his company. 

Once in the water, we were soon ready to leave Shelter Bay for good, and take the boat to Bocas delToro, further west along the Atlantic coast.  Our first stop was the River Chagres, just a few miles from the Panama canal, so we could take Devan for a sail and let him cycle back.  This was a first for him, and he was thrilled when we got the sails up, although it was not for long as there was a contrary wind. The river runs out of the Gatun Lake, part of the Panama Canal, and is a tranquil river with jungle along both sides which makes for a very peaceful anchorage.  In the twilight we took a dinghy tour into a tributary, which was quite magical with drooping foliage, birds flying around and an old bridge with dozens of bats hanging under it.  

The next morning we visited the San Lorenzo fort at the mouth of the river, said goodbye to our guest and his bicycle, and continued out to sea for the 200 or so nautical mile sail to the next stop, Isla Escudo de Veraguas.

 The weather was far from what we wanted, grey and squally, with westerly winds, and we had a rather unpleasant two days, either motoring or sailing in the wrong direction, and a few really strong squalls making the sails bang about in different directions. Bad weather always makes it good to arrive, and Escudo de Veraguas looked very inviting with its tall jungle vegetation and white beaches.

 On closer inspection with the dinghy, it also had some very interesting rock formations, with caves and arches. We rowed ashore on the south coast, it seemed to be uninhabited, but after a long walk up the west coast we found a poor looking village with a few local Indians. 

The children and women seemed shy, but a friendly man finally appeared and told us that the island was a national park, mainly to protect the marine turtles which nest there. He was the keeper, and after showing us his identity papers, asked for a donation to the park. By this time the children had come to have a good look, and ended up giggling at the photos Stein took and showed them. We were now a bit low on fresh food and asked if we could buy any fish or bananas, having seen banana trees. To our surprise he took us to another wooden shack where there was a cooler and produced some lovely fish, and his wife came running out with a bunch of bananas which we willingly bought. On our walk back to the dinghy, we were surprised to see a Chiquita label on the bananas!

The weather had improved the next day, and after a few hours pleasant sailing we anchored north of the town of Bocas, in a new area of Panama for us.  Bocas town is a colourful, rather scruffy Caribbean town, with bars, restaurants, diving operators and souvenir shops along the main street.  We were used to a lot of bureaucracy in Panama and took our passports and Zarpe from Colon along to the harbour master’s office. To our surprise he took our Zarpe, with no forms to fill out and no fees, and just told us to come back when we were taking the boat away again. Amazing!
The first few days we were on our own and decided to have a look at the area before our guests arrived.  Bocas del Toro is a large inlet with many islands, mostly covered with jungle and  lots of mangroves. There are also lovely beaches, but mostly on the windward side where we cannot anchor, so we had to walk to these. However there are also two lovely sandy islands a few miles off-shore, las Zapatillos, with beaches on all sides, great for swimming, snorkeling and walking. 

Our guests this time were all White Admiral veterans, cousin Stein “Buster” who has been several times with Eli, and old friends Anne and Knut, who are always ready to come at the drop of a hat.  They arrived at the little airport right in the town, within a day of each other, and we had planned a round tour of the area, visiting what we thought were the best places.  First stop was Isla Bastimentos, a large jungle-covered island where a Scottish lady and her Argentinian husband have their home and a café in an idyllic wooden building with a large terrace right in the middle of the jungle. We sat on the terrace, enjoying their brownies and drinking chocolate made from their own cocoa trees, listening to the bird song and croaks from the small indigenous red frogs and admiring their brave choice of life-style.
 From here we walked over to the beach on the far side from where we had anchored. The swim in the surf was invigorating, but a little spoiled when we found that somebody had swiped the 200 dollars that Knut had left in his pocket. There is a lot of poverty here, so we should know better than to leave money lying around. After this we only referred to the place as “the 200 dollar beach”! This island also has a rather up-market resort with a beautiful wild tropical garden, where we could wander in a large area where lots of tropical flowers have been planted, among pools with caymans (although we didn’t see any). The resort has a terrace where Buster treated us to wine and Jægermeister as we watched the tropical sun going down behind the horizon.

From here we sailed/motored to our next stop far into the back of the large bay, to a restaurant called Rana Azul, which is Spanish for blue frog. Panama is known for its colourful frogs, we had already seen many red spotty ones, now we saw a few blue shining ones. It is a strange place for a restaurant, completely isolated at the edge of the jungle, only accessible by boat.  It is run by two ex-sailors from Austria, Maria and Josef! Twice a week they are open and the place fills with local people in their motor boats, and yachties who come down from Bocas Town. They are renowned for their good pizzas with garlic sauce as well as fish and salads, to which we could testify after a delicious, reasonably priced meal.

There is no good snorkeling among the mangrove islands where the water is murky, we were now ready to sail off-shore to las Zapatillos, the two sandy islands where the water is clear.  This time we anchored close to shore where it is easy to swim to the beach. The islands are a national park, and lie in a huge reef, with all types of reef- fish and bigger sea-fish, also nursing sharks, so snorkeling is an exciting experience.  Time goes quickly here with dinghy trips, walking around the two lovely islands with their tropical vegetation, and finding the best sites for snorkeling. Before we knew it, it was time to sail back to Bocas town and prepare to go home.

Goodbye White Admiral, see you in three months!
This time we had decided to leave White Admiral in the water, as we will be coming back in early February to begin sailing north towards Norway via Cuba and USA, although this may take a couple of years, depending upon what we find on the way. We got a good deal at Bocas Marina, run by an American Chuck, and it looked like a safe place, in a snug little bay a good bit out of town, with no road connection.  We first anchored north of the town, and said goodbye to Stein “Buster” a couple of days before the rest of us had our plane tickets home. Then we motored round to the marina, where Anne and Knut helped us with the last jobs to leave the boat clean, safe and sound. As always the jobs lasted until the moment our taxi-boat drove up to take us to the air-port…

Sunday, 20 January 2013

San Blas and Machu Picchu. Report no 59.

Written by Stein in January 2013.
For corresponding photographs, go to Album No 59
(the number before each picture caption is the date; year-month-date)

Back to Shelter Bay, Panama
 Oct 3rd 2012:  'God bless this driver' underneath the Panamanian flags on our way to Shelter Bay Marina

My mother Eli was granted a period of 6 weeks  at  Liertun nursing home from the end of February 2012, and Diana and I could again go to sea  in our good ship White Admiral.  In October 2011 (see Report 58) we had only lived and worked on her for 9 days while she remained on land in the marina in Panama, so when she was again afloat on March 1st, nearly a year had lapsed since she last touched the briny 

Morpho Butterfly
Our few days before sailing off always involves a lot of work and preparation, but we always manage a pre-breakfast walk in the rain forest next door to Shelter Bay Marina. I usually bring a camera and one morning I manage to get a slightly blurred picture of a morpho butterfly fluttering by. Not a prize-winner, but hopefully gives you an idea of the amazing, iridescent, blue colour and the excitement we experience when these large insects fly near us. (The colour is not actually due to pigment, but to light reflection from tiny scales on their wings. )

 Failing Instruments and Head-wind
As we motored out of Shelter Bay, the depth sounder instrument gave a ‘puff’ and became blank and then we found that the autopilot also did not work properly. That is not good news when you are a crew of two! The seas  were rough and the strong easterly trade-wind outside the breakwater blew straight from Isla Grande, the island we have to round before getting more favourable wind towards San Blas, about 65 n.miles away. Catamarans are not much better than gaff-riggers like our old Red Admiral when it comes to beating to windward, and for many uncomfortable hours we worried that we might not make it in time to meet our guests in Carti two days later. The airstrip in Porvenir was being repaired, so at the moment visitors mostly come by the one and only road to the mainland near the Carti islands.

Hand steering into wind, rough seas and sleeping in 
intervals of about one hour made the night a long affair, but once we got further out from the coast the seas moderated, we were going faster, and we also got a little help from the current. So more or less as planned we could clear in with Alex, the Port Captain at Porvenir the next day. (When anchoring we determined the depth used our Eagle back-up depth sounder with a transducer on a stick. We also have an old-fashioned lead weight on a string if all electronics fail.)

Friends from Norway
The jetty and beach at the Carti mainland were incredibly busy when we anchored just of the beach the next day. A lot of cars with passengers, mostly Kunas, were coming and going. Thanks to text messages (sms) we knew our three friends had left in a 4WD with Felix, a driver from the city, but in the Darien rain forest the connection is lost, so it was great to see them arrive and have them safely aboard. Else-Berit and Mads Velken live in Kristiansand, where Diana and I lived for 26 years, and Rigmor Larsen lives in Flekkerøy, a large island just south of the same town. They have all sailed with us before, Rigmor in Los Roques and Venezuela (report  no 33 ), the Velkens in Dutch Antilles and Los Aves (report no 37) . They could only have 8 days with us, a bit short considering the distance traveled, but we managed to fit in most of the local attractions seen from a sailor’s point of view: The snorkeling, the walking, the white beaches, the local villages, the molas and the socializing with other yachties. Even had a barbecue lunch on our ’68 Palm Island near Salardup.

Swedish Mads on Da Capo
In Nargana we had an enjoyable bird-watching dinghy trip up the Rio Diablo. We saw lots of birds, but no caymans this time. In Nargano Mads from Da Capo came aboard. This 70 year old Swedish ex-journalist has started life anew in Colombia, and with his wife and little boy Mateo does charter for backpackers between Cartagena and San Blas. His Colombian wife and son often accompany him. Often he is in minor crises due to engine problems. This time his dinghy had disappeared and he thought stolen. And for a yachtie in San Blas, where anchoring is the only option for parking your boat, you cannot function.  But after a day of frantic bartering to hire a small boat from a local Kuna, his dinghy was found miles away among the reeds with a worn-out rope! Just in time before picking up his next guests! (We first met Mads in Isla Margarita east in Venezuela in 2005.)

“Attacked” by Jelly-fish
We were anchored at Isla Elefanta on March 10th when I had my morning swim in strong wind and not very clear water when I suddenly felt a burning pain in my right leg. I was back aboard within minutes, but already a bright red whelk  was forming. Obviously I had got too close to a Blue-bottle, a nasty jelly-fish also known as Portuguese Man-of-war. Mads carefully pulled off a long, blue ribbon-like tentacle from the back of my leg. I also had a lump of smaller tentacles on my right foot.

Alcohol denatures the stinging cells of the jelly-fish, but the methylated spirits did not seem to help much, the damage was already done. Strong pain-killers helped, but the pain was so intense for a couple of hours that I just had to go and lie down. But by afternoon we did manage to sail over to Porvenir and take a dinghy-trip to Whichubwala. At night our guests took us to Hotel Porvenir, a dear old rustic place where we eat under a thatched roof and have had a few very basic, but enjoyable meals in a romantic setting. And as usual we ended up buying mola-decorated shirts from Harancio, the waiter (and laundry-man and general janitor).

Isla Elefanta
Our friends returned on Felix’s  4WD from the jetty at Carti the next day, and Diana and I had three full days on our own preparing for a trip to Peru and after that for new guests. We spent these anchored at Isla Elefanta, socializing with other yachties, many of them anchored in this lagoon  for long periods at a time, and doing jobs aboard. The echo-sounder was working again after re-wiring, although a bit difficult to read. Even the autopilot was fine after changing its compass. Thank goodness we still have a lot of spares aboard from the original owner, Friedhelm Hechler.
There is virtually no theft or crime in San Blas, the Kunas really are a peaceful ethnic group, so we decided to trust in this amazing record and left our uninsured White Admiral in Isla Elefanta on two anchors. Susan on “Wooden Shoe” said she would keep an eye on her. On march 15th. we were off to MachuPicchu!

With Friends to Peru
This trip to Peru’s and probably South America’s greatest attraction, was an old dream come true for Diana and I, and to share it with us were Günter Voss, Anne Kollandsrud and Knut Nilsen. Günter is a professional violinist, and although originally German is a Swedish citizen (married to Gun, see report 58) living in Kristiansand.  He is part of our “Vandregjengen” (walking gang).  Anne and Knut are the same faithful friends from Arendal that have have sailed with us four times before. Diana and I met them in Panama as they came off the plane from Amsterdam and then we flew together to Lima, Peru. After a good night’s sleep it was off to Cusco on Tasca airline the next morning.
Cusco is a at 3300 m elevation, so before starting the hike of the Inca Trail, it was good to have two nights to acclimatize. Cusco is the old Inca capital and has a lot of fascinating sights. But one has to tolerate a lot of street vendors everywhere. So eating at an outdoor restaurant we only did once!  The locals are very productive and produce amazing handwork. A lot of the products are made  from the soft and fine alpaca wool.

Above the city, about two km away lies Saqsaywaman at an altitude of 3.700 m. Together with the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983.The best-known zone of Saqsaywaman (known to tourists as Sexy Woman) includes a great grass-covered plaza and adjacent three massive terrace walls dedicated to the sacred animals of the Incas; the puma, the serpent and the condor. It was originally a huge fortress and cultural center with tall walls, large windows and numerous rooms, many underground

The polished stones used in the construction of these terraces are among the largest used in any building in pre-hispanic America and display a precision of fitting that is unmatched in the Americas. Following the siege of Cusco, the Spaniards began to use the site as a source of stones for building Spanish Cusco, and within a few years much of the complex was demolished block-by-block to build new governmental and religious buildings in the city, as well as the houses of the wealthiest Spaniards. How about  that for a total cultural disregard! Only the largest stones they could not move  are left. The biggest are about 150 tons! The way they are fitted in interlocking, irregular shapes make them tolerate the local earthquakes, something the Spanish reconstructions in Cusco do not.  Both the big cathedrals have been rebuilt after earthquakes, while the ancient puma, serpent and condor of Saqsaywaman lie there unchanged, overlooking the destruction and stupidity of it all…

SAS Travel
On March 18th we joined our two guides, Soul and Herlein, and 15 fellow expedition members for the bus ride to Ollantaytambo. We had already met at the SAS office for information about the four days’ hike ahead. SAS has nothing to do with Scandinavian Airways or British combat soldiers, but is an experienced Cusco-based South American travel agency. Their office was just a few doors away from our hotel. (Our hotel was a converted monastery with lots of beautiful, old stone- and wood-work and owned by SAS.)
The bus stopped for breakfast at a café on the way. Among walking sticks and rain protection gear were various products based on coca. We had already got used to coca tea – it is served everywhere and is hardly more stimulating than ordinary tea and coffee – but here were many other coca products, including coca candy!

Start of the Inca Trail
Finally, at about 10 am, we were ready for a group photo and the trail itself. But there was quite a queue initially to get past the national park gate with its check-point and over the bridge of Urobamba river. About 500 people do this hike daily, 200 are tourists and 300 are Peruvian porters, cooks and guides. The porters are known as Chaskis in honour of the ancient tradition of Inca runners. Most of us had rented space with the Chaskis so that they carried about 3 kg and a small mattress for each of us. We still had what seemed quite a load in our ruck-sacks in the thin air on steep trails.
Our hike was divided in four days of hiking and three nights sleeping  in tents en route. The camp sites for over-nighting have running water from a stream and  permanent toilets, but everything else  needed was carried by the Chaskis, including tents, stools, food, cookers and gas. The distances covered these days were 14, 12, 16 and 7 km.

We are off!
The walking was at a modest tempo with one guide in front and one in the back. We had regular stops to gather the group, catch our breath, drink water, take pictures and listen to guides Soul and Herlein explaining about plants, wildlife, archeological sites and generally inform us about the rise and fall of the huge Inca Empire. They were both proud descendants of Incas, although hardly any pure Incas exist today. Or we would halt just to admire the scenery. We were often breathless and tired, but we had great scenery and good company and we got to know most of our fellow hikers in the group. Four young men were students from Germany; the other nine lived in USA although some were of Asian origin. Our group of five from Norway were by far the oldest, the others being in their 20’s and 30’s, but we were not the slowest!

Dead Woman’s Pass
The toughest part of the trail was the second day as we went over the Warmi-Wanusca Pass at 4.212 m elevation. At a distance the mountain here looks like a female breast and hence is better known as Dead Woman’s Pass. The trail down on the other side of the pass is so steep that it feels as hard as going up. 

Anne had been worried about this part especially as her left arm was still weak and sore after she broke it only 2 months earlier. But: no problema!

The cook and his helpers served us amazing, locally inspired meals three times daily. We ate in a large tent sitting on small stools and had smaller tents for the nights. Günter, Diana and I shared a tent for the three nights,  I was in the middle! We were pretty tired when we crawled into our sleeping-beds, but  I did not sleep well the first night being a bit affected by the cold and the altitude, which gave me a slight, dull headache. (The days were so exciting, I hardly noticed it!)The next two nights were better – we were at lower altitudes and also I learned to put on more clothes.

Through Intipunko
The last day was the big arrival day at Maccu Picchu. In order to see the sun shine its first rays through Intipunku (the Sun Gate), we got up at 4 am and had to walk the first kilometers in the dark with other groups of hikers. But the Chaskis had taken the camping gear and left us, so we were down to the 200 or so heading for the famous gate. The last road up behind the gate is very steep, sections like these are locally known as “Gringo Killers”.
We could not have been luckier with the weather. The sky was clear and the sun shone through the gate and lit up maybe the most amazing sight we have ever seen. People around us were partly ecstatic, partly in quiet awe, and everybody was taking pictures or filming.

The Wonder of Machu Picchu
As we hiked  the last two km to Machu Picchu proper, on a road cut along the hillside, the sun lit up more and more of the ancient city with its walls and terraces, houses and temples. Finally we could admire the incredible structures at close quarters. And to think that all this was made with tools of hard rocks over a period of about 80 years in the 1400’s. It probably was a center for religion, agriculture and astronomy, but was only at its functional peak for about 100 years due to the Spanish Conquest. It was abandoned in 1572 to stop the Spanish finding it, and legend claims that gold and other valuables were taken to another,  and to this date not yet discovered site in the Peruvian mountains. The first western person to rediscover Machu Picchu  was Hiram Bingham from Yale University in USA in 1911. 
Hiram Bingham from Yale University, USA  in 1911

Inthiuatawa and the boy who showed Bingham the site in 1911
He was really looking for the legendary Inca City of Gold and did not realize the importance of his find at first, but after new expeditions and a lot of archaeology the incredible size and importance of the site became apparent.  I hope the accompanying pictures and captions can tell some of the story better than words.  
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
By early afternoon we were saturated with impressions, and were taken by bus down to the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, where we spent a relaxing evening visiting the hot springs and enjoying the comforts of a local hotel.

Return to Cusco
Next day we were passengers in the famous train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, admiring the peaks through the glass roof as we sipped coca tea, and for the last 2 hours back to our monastery hotel in Cusco we got a maxi taxi which we shared with and another couple.
We finished our Peru adventure with shopping for alpaca products, good meals, visiting museums and watching folk dancing as well as admiring the enormous statue of the  Inca chief Pachakutec. 
He was the most powerful Inca emperor and the one who ruled most of the time when Macchu Picchu was being constructed. Little did he know that only a few decades after his death in 1471, the Spanish would arrive, overrun the entire empire in their unquenchable thirst for gold, and in record time destroy most of it, partly by ruthless slaughter and partly by bringing diseases like measles and smallpox. In about 80 years the Inca population shrunk from about 20 million people to less than two million...

Final Visit to San Blas
Modern travel is amazing, everything worked as planned, we had breakfast in Cusco one day and lunch on White Admiral in Isla Elefanta the next afternoon. All was well aboard and together we had a week of sailing about in our favourite archipelago and visiting some great anchorages.  And daily snorkeling, of course. This time Master Mola maker Venancio with his brother Edelfonso visited us and more beautiful  molas found new owners. And we had Sunsanne and Hans from NautiBear for dinner one night.
We cleared out at Porvenir, got our zarpe for Colon, probably for the last time, and did an overnight sail back to Shelter Bay Marina. The trades were gentle and from the right direction, it was a magic, starry night and we passed the entrance to Colon April 1st in much gentler conditions than when Diana and I struggled out five weeks earlier.  Three days later White Admiral was stored safely on land and Günter, Anne, Knut, Diana and I were on our way back to Norway.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Travel Report No 58

Web report no.58.  (See corresponding photos in album 58.)
Written in December 2012 by Stein

I am sorry to admit that this report is long overdue, but here is a summary of nearly one year. It covers our lives mainly in pictures from after our last sail on White Admiral in Feb-April 2011 (described in Report no.  57) until we were back in South America,  partly on the yacht and  partly doing the Inca Trail in Peru, February-April 2012 (to be covered in Report no. 59).

Diana becomes a Pensioner
Diana turned 67 May 1st and was officially a Norwegian pensioner! To get “pay” without working was and is a state of affair she is very happy about. But she did carry on with infrequent locum work until May 2012, at which time she declared that she had seen enough eyes! Her family has benefited from this of course, and with my mother, Eli, living with us, there was always enough to do…
I have, however, carried on working happily, but after Easter 2012 stopped with regular on-call duties and then I also turned the magic 67 in late August  and now only do 2 days of out-patient work per week at Drammen sykehus – unless I am away travelling.

National Day
In May we had trips to Veierland admiring the spring flowers and for the National Day on 17th May drove with Eli to Stabekk, where Tonje and Martin live. In the afternoon they have a tradition there of a Flower procession, so on a day blessed with good weather we wheeled Eli up the hills and admired the energy and artistic talents of the Bærum and Stabekk locals.

Family gathering 17 May 2011
Mojna and Eivind
In June we attended the wedding of Mojna and Eivind. Eivind is Geir and Sissel’s son and since Geir and my parents were two pairs of brothers and sisters that married and Geir and I studied medicine and rowed together in Glasgow, we are quite close. The happy couple met each other while working in Brussels, Belgium, Eivind with Bellona for environmental protection, Mojna for women rights; a fascinating pair of idealists, indeed.

More Family Visits
In June we had a brief visit from Elisabeth and Hugh and their two boys from London. We have also photos from the visit of my other double cousin, Eva (Geir’s sister), with husband Dagfinn and her mother Mysk – i.e. my mother Eli’s sister – 5 years younger than Eli, but also in her 90’s and still going strong.

Petroglyphs with Vandregjengen
In early July our Vandregjengen friends were off to Sweden. I was working and somebody had to be home with Eli, so Diana joined our old group from Kristiansand for a long week-end in Sweden. She says it was a really cultural tour with our musician friends Gun and Günter in charge. Gun is herself Swedish and they have two of their three children settled in Sweden, and may indeed settle there themselves one day. Diana brought me back a tee-shirt with a copy of what is probably the most famous fertility petroglyph in the world, but I do not think I can compete with the guy on the ancient carving when it comes to certain dimensions…

Jim, Susanne and Hans
In July we also had visits from Diana’s brother Jim, all the way from Canada, and from yachting friends from San Blas, the Germans Hans and Susanne. They arrived in a Mini car and had a spectacular drive all around South Norway before returning to Germany via Sweden.

Robert’s Cambridge Party
Robert is born on 22nd July 1980 and had a big garden party to celebrate a belated 30 on 23rd in Cambrigde, England. Diana had been there for a few days already helping him to prepare, but Eli and I and Tonje and Martin left on 22nd July 2011. That date is unfortunately one that no living Norwegian will ever forget, when Anders Behring Breivik killed over 80 people with a bomb and automatic weapons. Still, we were able to suppress the feelings of shame and sorrow, Elisabeth & Co  arrived from London, many of Robert’s friends in Cambrigde came too, and  we managed to have a very successful party.
I had a lot of on-call duty for the Dept of Medicine that summer, but we did manage a few  trips to Veierland with Eli, although her days of trips to the islands in the small boat  were obviously soon over.

Southern Actor
In July I had an evening trip with Southern Actor in Sandefjord. This is an old, beautifully restored whale catcher driven by an incredibly quiet steam engine.  Thanks to my old school mate Arne Haugen, I was invited aboard as the ship’s doctor for a free trip together with paying American visitors. Our trip took us around Tjøme and I was all over the boat, as well as taking a turn at the wheel on the way back. We had flat seas and a beautiful sunset. Quite different from her past working conditions when chasing whales in the cold and stormy Southern Ocean.

French Girlfriend Reunion
In early September Diana met up with her old school friends Sandra and Fiona in Paris, where they hired a car and drove to visit their other friend Liz, a couple of hours further south in the charming French village of Bignet Sur Ouche.  These four girlfriends spent years together in Hutcheson’s Girls Grammar School, and Liz and Sandra were Diana’s bridesmaids when we married in Glasgow University Chapel  in 1968! Liz is a fabulous cook, good wine is cheap and you may guess that they had a great few days together.

World Rowing Masters Poznan
As soon as Diana was home, I was off to Poznan in Poland to compete in the World Masters in rowing and this time I won my race in single sculls (age 65-70). These annual meetings are also a reunion with old rowing friends. As I had some spare time between practising and competing, and with undisturbed concentration in a comfortable hotel room, I managed to compile the last web  report no 57.

Poznan, victory in single sculls
Brief Working Visit to Panama
In October it was obvious to everybody (except Eli, unfortunately) that she was not fit enough to go to Panama with us, but she was only given 2 weeks in Liertun nursing home, so Diana and I had only 10 days on White Admiral. We had her moved out of the security area and lived aboard on the hard while doing maintenance and repair. The port keel had some damage and the hollow structure had been taking in water and had to be cut off and rebuilt with glassfiber and epoxy. The rudder stocks, sail drives and propellers all have important seals and membranes and I replaced and them all. Diana did all the priming and painting as well as a lot of inside work. And we had lovely walks at sunrise and sunset.

Visit to Oppdal and Visit to Swizerland
Eli was upset at having been marooned at Liertun, but things improved when we all drove to my cousin Stein (“Buster”) in early November. He has a great whole-timber cottage in Oppdal south of Trondheim. His mother, Jorunn also joined us for a rare reunion - another fit 90 year old widow.
Liertun offered my mother another 5 days in November and off we went to visit Andrew and Anne in Küssnacht am Rigi, Switzerland. Andrew is a Scot and a good friend whom I first met at Auchendennan Fresher’s Camp on the banks of Loch Lomond in 1964, and whom I have met regularly ever since. After he divorced his Swiss wife he married a Norwegian, so Andrew is a regular visitor to Norway for several reasons. For the first two days there we were on our own while A & A were working, but with Swiss alps within walking distance behind there was not one dull moment! On the special date of Friday 11.11.11. we slowly ascended through the perpetual fog in the valley to the brilliant sunshine above. From the top of Rigi-Kulm, after a hike of nearly 4 hours, the view seemed endless and we could admire peaks appearing like nunataks above a glacier. On our final day, Sunday, 13th Andrew & Anne showed us some of the sights in Lucerne and charming, historical Stein am Rhein before driving us to the airport in Zürich.

Christmas 2011
Dagmar and Christian joined us for Verdi’s  “Macbeth” opera  just before Christmas, when Robert, Elisabeth & Co came over from England. On 22nd most of us managed a trip to Drammensbadet, a new, modern,  indoor swimming center catering for everybody’s taste . Over the next few days we did a sort of triple celebration starting our Christmas on 23rd as Hedda and Johan were to be with their mum Camilla and her family on the 24th (i.e. normally the main day in Norway).  We even had a visit from a slightly forgetful Santa Claus (neighbour Christian!) who first passed by our flat, but came in after the children repeatedly shouted into the darkness that he had not been to us yet! And Finn (3 ½ ) declared he had been a good boy and tidied his room! On 24th we did not have so many children present and the parcels had already been opened, but some of us went for the service in Frogner church, Lier, followed by traditional TV and more good food. 25th is of course when the British have their main celebration, so we had turkey followed by Elisabeth and Hugh’s mince pies and plum pudding with brandy butter. They had built a super snowman in the brilliant sunshine earlier in the day, and he stared in at us with his carrot nose and beady eyes. During the day we also had a brief visit from Linda and Rune, who were over from Scotland to celebrate with Rune’s sister in Oslo. (Linda is Diana’s half-sister and another Scot with a Norwegian partner.)

Christmas Party at Eva and Dagfinn
My cousin Eva, her husband Dagfinn and their two daughters Kristina and Katharina have been the hosts to an annual family reunion now for many years. Their house is situated high up in Holmenkollen, not far from the famous ski-jump, and they enjoy  a fabulous view. Here the sisters Eli and Mysk and many of their offspring  gather a few days before New Year. The food, the cakes, the drinks and the stories are plenty, my only regret is that I always seem to work early the next day and so I am always one of the drivers…
The rest of the winter was a proper Norwegian one with lots of skiing and some skating. I paddled my kayak regularly until the fjord froze, some days later it was safe to skate on the ice and in week-end days in February there were sometimes lots of people fishing on the ice.

Our Family in Canada
Diana again left Eli and me for a few days to go and see her family in Canada. Her brother Jim had recently acquired two grand-daughters. The proud fathers are his sons Craig and Andrew, who with wives Jaime and Karen each had a girl and a boy of about the same age before,and now both were blessed with a daughter each at about the same time. Talk about coordination! All are well and healthy; well done to the four proud parents!