Tag Archives: Town

Day 9 – Korčula, and drama on the high seas. Or rather, a tiff in the harbour.

September 23rd. At bang on 0600, the engines of the Perla roared into life and sleep thus became impossible. To be fair, we were warned in the information we got that there would be engine noise, and so had packed the recommended earplugs. But they were in my spongebag rather than my ears, and less effective therefore. I shall not hesitate to use them should we be moving at night.

The mission of the day was to get to Brač before the weather closed in – Filip was talking about northerly gales, and I trusted his information sources (Tom, our skipper) better than the BBC Weather App which was forecasting showers and a north-easterly stiff breeze. Anyhoo, Tom put the hammer down and we were off!

There was one break in the journey, to visit the island of Korčula, which is a couple of hours’ motoring from Slano. This gave us time to suss out the breakfast, which was nice but made me very glad about all those Twinings Earl Grey teabags we’d packed, and then we were being ushered off the boat to meet local guide Željka. If nothing else, at least week one had prepared me for being able to spell her name correctly. It became clear that much of the (perforce) short visit was going to be spent in the local museum, which Filip had arranged to be opened especially for our group, which was a nice touch. However, faced with a new and handsome town,

and with camera in hand, my thoughts tend not to turn to museum visits, but rather to pottering around looking for nice scenes. So we excused ourselves from the rest of our group and wandered about, trying to find parts of Korčula town which were not full of Asian tourists taking selfies. It’s a small town, so this wasn’t altogether straightforward. But we managed to find some scenes which I hope you agree are reasonably photogenic.

Very near the quay where Perla was moored is a handsome staircase which was part of the old city’s walls (much of which are still intact).

The top debouches on to the cathedral square, which would have made a lovely photo were it not for the hordes of people there. Adjoining this square there is a another, smaller one

which took several minutes to photograph, as I had to wait for the oriental tour party to move on.

Just off the cathedral square is an art shop, which has a captivating display on the outside walls.

We’re not sure whether they’re for display or for sale (though I’d hazard a guess at the latter), but it’s a lovely way to display items to get people’s attention.

We did pop into the cathedral, but only for a few seconds as someone scolded Jane for wearing shorts, so we apologised and beat a hasty retreat. I felt somewhat aggrieved on Jane’s behalf, as there were ladies inside with skirts far shorter and men in shorts, none of whom were being berated. I suppose that the modern thing to do, having taken offense on someone else’s behalf, is to stir things up via a social media shitstorm with a catchy hashtag – #handsoffmywifesshorts, or something.

Anyway, we wandered on and discovered, radiating out from the cathedral square, several narrow lanes along which you can clearly see evidence of the lives of ordinary people being lived, alongside the inevitable cafes and restaurants.

All in all, Korčula town is a very agreeable place to potter around for an hour or so and I could have spent longer getting some more imaginative shots. But I hope that these give you a flavour of how pleasant the place is.

Next stop – Brač. In our previous week, we visited Bol (the principal town on the island), but our target today was a different place, Milna, which we thought would be just this little place and a venue for a meal out on the town.

The reality was a little different, and the weather played quite a part in this.

As we approached Milna, an interesting landmark was a sunken boat which was being supported by salvage buoys.

and it became clear that (a) there is a significant marina here and (b) the sailing world and his dog were headed towards it, driven by reports of the gale that Filip had mentioned – the channel in was quite crowded. Our captain had a shouting match with another vessel which clearly didn’t understand about navigation priorities under these circumstances and, as we tied up at the quay in the marina, the guy in charge there was frantically challenging all arriving boats and turning away any that didn’t have a reservation, as the marina was full. All of the boat crew said that they’d never seen it so crowded.

The late afternoon and evening light in Milna made it a pretty place.

The moon was full

and the sunset colours were lovely.

We had a very tasty and fishy evening meal to round off the day. Walking back to Perla, it was very difficult to believe that there was a storm brewing. But there was – and you’ll have to read all about it in the next entry. See you there!

In transit – 1: Ushuaia – El Calafate – Bariloche

20th – 22nd March 2018

After the several days of not packing and unpacking, we then had a burst of moving about and staying for very short periods in places.

We disembarked from Ventus Australis in Ushuaia, which is the capital city of the region, which means the island of Tierra del Fuego and the other islands that make up the region of Tierra del Fuego. And possibly the Malvinas as well – there’s a war memorial to the fallen of the Falklands war there.

We only had an hour or so to wander around Ushuaia. so we just walked along its main street (named after the liberator, San Martin). It’s a pleasant place – the buildings are often colourful and attractive

 

and there’s a dramatic backdrop of mountains.

 

The local standards of wiring seem a little alarming to European eyes (this was an example from Punta Arenas, but not untypical of the South American wiring we saw pretty much everywhere):

 

Ushuaia is something of a centre for skiers and snowboarders – the mountains can be reached in under an hour, and so I can imagine it draws a goodly winter sports crowd in the season.

After our short ramble around, it was time to depart for El Calafate, which would be the staging post for an excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier (see separate post). We thus had an afternoon to wander round this much smaller, but very charming little town. Like Ushuaia, many of the buildings make great use of colour.

The sun was shining, which helped, but there was a very pleasant vibe here. I think the town is very much a tourist centre, and this gives it a laid-back feel which I enjoyed.

I particularly liked the way this public phone service is presented.

The town’s founders, back some 130 years or so, planted poplar and willow trees, which makes it very green. I should imagine that the abundance of trees is a wonderful boon for the local dogs, of which there seem to be many and whose hobbies also seem to include chasing cars and barking a lot at each other at night.

The town has several parks which also add to the overall charm.

 

Mind you, this one near our hotel was called the Parque Manuel Belgrano, so that gave us a score of two names with uncomfortable UK overtones in just the one day.

Our hotel was called the “Esplendor”. Unlike the Singular, it didn’t quite match up to the pretensions of its name. It did all the basics well (good food, comfortable beds – surprising given how lumpy the pillows were – and obliging service). I guess it was probably cool a few years ago, but decor based around plastic elk horns is no longer edgy, and the woollen knitted lampshades are bizarre to my eyes rather than charming. Some of the decor is a bit faded and in need of a refresh. But, hey, we slept well there and persistent searching revealed enough electric points to charge phones and cameras, so these complaints tend a bit towards nit picking.

We had a great insight into the Argentinian preference for a carnivorous diet when we ate one evening at a very good restaurant called Mako. After what seemed like a rather gruff reception, the service turned out to be very friendly. To accompany the inevitable (and delicious) Malbec, chosen, with help, from a great long list, we ordered a plate of grilled meat that was advertised on the menu as being for two people. My religion forbids me from sharing a photo of it, but it could easily have fed a family of four. Here’s the nearest I can permit to a photo of food, which is the barbecue being operated in the window (something we saw in other restaurants as well).

The “Calafate” in the town’s name, by the way, is the name of a bush, which produces a berry that has many uses – for jam, for ice cream, for beer, for a liqueur which, added to a Pisco Sour, transforms it into a Calafate Sour. It’s a spiky bush. Sorry, but the berry season has passed, so I can only show you thorns and leaves.

After our short stay in El Calafate, the next stop was in San Carlos de Bariloche, to give us another staging post before the next big segment of our odyssey.

It’s an hour-and-three-quarters on an aeroplane to get to Bariloche, and this journey started from the small but perfectly-formed El Calafate airport (perfect, except the WiFi wasn’t working, but otherwise nicely organised with charging points for the mobiles, cafés and helpful signs telling you what facilities were available airside).

We never got to see Bariloche itself, except in the passing rain, but it looks like an interesting city, with a Swiss-German architectural heritage, funiculars to take you up a steep hillside, and vast numbers of hotels by the lake. It seems to be a year-round city, with skiing faclities just 20km away for the Winter, and lots of lake-based things like fishing an attraction for the Summer.

Our destination lay some 25km to the west of Bariloche, at the swanky Llao Llao hotel. “Llao Llao” is pronounced “zsow-zsow” (with the “zs” as in Zsa Zsa Gabor) and is the aboriginal name for the Indian Bread fungus which affects the local version of Beech trees. For those who have followed this blog, you’ll have seen a picture from our condor hike about a week ago.

We arrived yesterday in torrential rain and howling wind. Today the rain has gone so revealing a decent view from our hotel over lake Moreno.

 

The rain may have gone, but the wind still howled. Nevertheless, we went for a walk which, by reason of missing a turn, became a 10-mile hike on to a trail that involved a 350-metre ascent. However, the view from the top was quite nice

Panorama - View from Cerro Llao Llao

 

and on the way we saw a lapwing

a brown caracara

and ended up with a nice view of the Llao Llao Hotel to finish off the walk.

The next stage of our journey is another transit to take us on towards a more major segment, which is a visit to Easter Island.