Kathy & Dave consider the Adirondack Mountains of NY our home. We love to hike and travel, exploring the world around us. Dave retired from the National Park Service after 30 years and had the opportunity to live in National Parks like Redwood, Shendandoah,Death Valley, Biscayne, American Memorial Park (in Saipan/Guam), and others. His last park before retiring was the Blue Ridge Parkway where he was actively involved with establishing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Kathy has extensive experience in the medical field, from pushing papers to working with patients. Currently both work for the same hospital: Dave as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Kathy in the Revenue Cycle Division as the Director of PFS. (Kathy is now foot loose and fancy free, until she returns to the USA and has to get back into the grind, maybe!)
03/13/2023 Iguazu Falls
We gamely set our alarm clocks for 04:30 AM and went to bed early the night before our next to last day in Argentina. It was all worth it not to miss the day in Iguazu Falls! The day started early, like way early, like really early! Unfortunately, while we were eagerly anticipating the early disembarkation from the boat and the journey to our next stop, we did not leave the boat until almost six am. While many groused about the late start, Kathy was so eager to see the falls that she was like a kid on Christmas morning. Nothing was going to get her down. We soon were deposited at the airport where we were rushed through security and onto the plane. The plane was delayed as it was waiting for the 50 guests to arrive from Norwegian Cruise Lines – glad they waited! Luckily, we all made it and many of us closed our eyes during the 1.5 hour Flight to the Iguazu. We were soon shepherded off the plane and into the magical rain forest of Iguazu Falls National Park. We delighted in the many sights and sounds that greeted us.
We were soon hiking down a trail to visit the upper falls. We were presented with the panoramic view of cascading falls, with the rain forest serving as a beautiful backdrop. The cascading falls were further complimented by the beautiful rainbows that were created by the mists of the falls and the beautiful sun shining down. We then went back up to the visitor area where we had our “free” lunch and relaxed for a bit before hiking down to the lower falls.
During the hikes we were treated to a beautiful landscape that was colored by the vast amounts of butterflies in every color. Kathy was even visited by one who rested on the back of her hand until it gently flew away to visit one of the many flowers that abounded in the area. The butterflies competed with the brightly colored birds, including a Toucan (just like what you see on the Fruit Loops box) and birds such as Plush-crested Jays and Surucua Trogons. We saw quite a few South American Coatis (that look like long-nosed raccoons) stalking the tourist areas hoping for a bit of food to be “dropped” or left unintended by an unwary tourist. As we waited for the bus to take us to dinner and then back to the airport, we were delighted to see some capuchin monkeys including a baby. The monkeys were going up a tree and then hanging out above an old building in the area. The baby peeped out from the top of the metal roof and shyly spied on us. I am sure she was wondering what these strange things were that were so fascinated with her. Our last stop was dinner where, as we sat to have our meal, we were surprised to see a deluge of rain descend upon the street. We all sighed in relief as the day had been sunny and beautiful and, like the rest of the trip, we had really lucked out in the weather and the wildlife we were able to see.
Soon we head back home to see the (not so) wild life in the Bauer household, Tipsy and Navin.
Enjoy the photo album from the last 20 days!
March 9-11. 2023 Sailing into the sunset
The last three days on Norwegian Cruise Line from Buenos Aires to Antarctica has been mostly anticlimactic! It was hard to top hundreds of whales, penguins and icebergs. Instead we traded it for hundreds of people on the boat and the constant cacophony of human voices. Kathy, who is fully tired of the ever present noise and stimuli, is ready to get off the boat and get home. She pines for her kittens and the comfort and familiarity of her home routine. The first of the three days we were able to step off the swaying of the boat and onto land! A great time was had learning the history of the Falkland Islands. Kathy and Dave embarked upon a historical tour of the battle sites of the Falkland Island War which took place in our lifetime and even some of our kids’ lifetime! We were treated to a detailed and accurate first-person account of the battle ground and war in the Falkland Islands. The guide was a young man when Argentina invaded the islands and England defended its land. He thought he was safe at his isolated sheep farm far from the city, until faulty intelligence lead to a British plane bombing the area near his farm. Fortunately, a wooden shed shielded him from much of the blast wave and shrapnel. Unfortunately, some shrapnel found his wrist and his head, blinding one eye. He met with the sheepish pilot after the war and after the initial awkwardness, formed a bond with him and has had him to his house for dinner occasionally. While the war only lasted two months, it was a pivotal time in history for England, the Falkland Islands and Argentina. The war further established England’s right to the islands in the area and was reinforced when, in 2013, a vote was held in the islands and they voted with almost 100% of the population in agreement to stay under the protection of the British Empire. We then spent time wandering around the town, doing some shopping (where Kathy found another “un-birthday” card to send to Shea or Jill sometime in the future.) We are getting quite a collection to send them and at one point might have to send them two or three in one year.
The next two days consisted of boat life, which included games of cards and Yahtzee. We even had the sister of basketball star Christopher join us for a few hands before she had to leave for a show. We also were treated to an onboard show of a woman who could twist herself in knots while her husband, who was a magician, helped make her disappear. Seriously! She was a contortionist from Mongolia and her husband was a magician from England. We saw a show with a husband and wife team who played guitar together. And we mean, they both played the same guitar at the same time. Four hands playing the instrument together! The game shows they have most nights were not as entertaining. All they did was cement Kathy and Dave’s agreement that they will never play couples games in front of an audience. There is a reason why they call it “private lives.”
We spent time wandering and chatting with the hodgepodge of people from all over the world and have been delighted to make the acquaintance of so many interesting people. Dinner has always been a treat – well, for the most part – and Kathy and Dave enjoyed the last two nights as we had a romantic Italian dinner one night with just the two of us. The next night we enjoyed a conversation with a couple from Nevada and discovered that we had been to a lot of similar places and enjoyed many of the same interests. As this is the last day onboard the boat we are planning the packing, disembarking, and journeying to the next stop on our journey – Iguazu Falls. Tomorrow we disembark at 05:15 and head to the falls to see what is considered one of the most majestic waterfalls in the world. Norwegian Cruise Lines has been a good cruise to take. The staff and people are really what make this cruise line special. While the shows, rooms, and food are okay, it is the positive and kind attitude of the staff that makes this cruise enjoyable.
March 5-8, 2023 Adventures in Ice
The adventures have continued on our journey into the last continent on our bucket list. We enjoyed the time cruising through the islands of Antarctica, icebergs bobbing gently in the waves as we watched the scenery. The beginning and end of the last four days started quietly with us cruising at sea and finding our rhythm and living the shipboard life. As usual the day started out in the gym after a leisurely breakfast, followed by some onboard entertainment: a game of Yahtzee, and some dominos/cards. This was followed by more laps around the decks which usually rounds out our days at sea. We have had an enjoyable time getting to know many of our shipmates and have enjoyed interacting with Barbara from CA. We find her easy-going, fun nature a good complement to Dave’s constant wise cracking. Another interesting person we have made friends with is Cosmin Birsan who sells jewelry on the ship. Even though we declined to purchase the $180,000 ring he tried to sell to us, we have made friends with this large, but affable Romanian gentleman who won a Bronze Medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2012 Athens Olympics. After much consternation, Dave had to admit that Cosmin could probably take him in a fight (if you call bending someone in half and snapping them like a twig a “fight”.) He gave us some good tips on places to visit in Romania and his cell number in case he is back home if we get to visit his country.
The first day inside the Antarctic Circle had Kathy wide awake at 4 am in anticipation of the first sightings of the area. Expecting to arrive at Snow Island at 06:30, she wanted to make sure she was fed, showered, and bundled up in order to claim her spot on the promenade deck. This was where we would watch the penguins, birds, and whales on the outer islands which were expected to show up. While Snow Island lived up to its name with a lot of snow, we figured out why it was not called Penguin, Bird, or Whale Island. Oh well, maybe the next stop. The next stop was Deception Island where it did not deceive us at ALL!! We saw “porpoising” penguins frolicking in the ocean, a finback whale, a mom and baby humpback whale, and oh, and did we mention lots of penguins, and lots of lots of birds?? Success!! It was amazing seeing colonies of penguins nesting on land along with the multitudes of them swimming in the ocean. The afternoon saw us playing Yahtzee with Barbara, Kyle, and Henry where Kathy won both games. Next stop was Admiralty Bay where we saw some of the research stations, a glimpse of another whale, and some more penguins and birds. An interesting explanation of the glaciers in the area and the difference between glaciers in Alaska and Antarctica capped off a great day. Our last stop was dinner, where again the waiters hovered over Kathy to make sure no shellfish contaminated her meal. Insistent, they asked her to pre-order tomorrow’s dinner so that they could prepare her meal in advance and make sure there was no cross contamination. Kathy was presented with the next day’s menu, she ordered her meal, and they quickly adapted it and gave her a little something special. It is nice being special, thought Kathy, although she was not willing to voice it out loud to the group in case Dave had a quip to add to quotation marks to “special”. Of course, telling Dave later gave him ample opportunity to add his own comments!
The second day in the Antarctica was Odin’s birthday and boy did we get some presents! Not so much for Odin, though! The presents given to us as we passed Elephant Island included tons and tons of fin whales! The whales not only weigh a ton as they are the second largest whale in the world, but the numbers of them were so high we lost count and we saw the l’ennui (boredom) increase as people started trickling into the ship from the promenade deck. (*Yawn* Oh, another whale…) One fin whale surfaced so close to the ship that Kathy and Dave got sprayed by his blow hole! Along with the large fin whales we were treated to more birds, including Antarctic shags, several types of petrels, terns and albatrosses, and some more Chinstrap, Adelie, and Gentoo penguins. We saw the beach in which Captain Shackelford shipwrecked and was subsequently rescued four months later and now named after him. As we were freezing on deck and feeling the cold wind and snow (while completely bundled up since it was about 31 degrees and windy) one has to wonder how the crew and captain survived in such an inhospitable land. The last evening in Antarctica was capped off by a lovely meal and brief acoustic guitar concert. A hasty retreat to our room came next where we chilled out and watched TV. It was a great way to round out a nice day. Tomorrow is a full day at sea, where we will follow a tried and true rhythm of workouts, strolls, and interacting with the variety of guests from around the world.
The sad end to this three day posting is that that Dave is no longer undefeated in air hockey. It had been decades since he was last beaten. Unfortunately, he was thoroughly trounced by the 15-year old Christopher, from exit 93 in New Jersey who had already beaten Dave at basketball. Not only was he bested and injured in basketball, but has lost in air hockey and in a video car race game. Dave went to bed that night feeling his age! But, he valiantly passed the torch to a new generation.
March 2-4, 2023 A Walk in the Woods
The first of these three days started out quietly with us sailing on the Magellan Strait with no scheduled landings on the South American Coast. Since we had no excursions scheduled for today, we started out the day with a workout in the gym after a leisurely breakfast. We spent the day wandering the ship and capped off the day watching the Tom Hanks movie, “In the neighborhood.”
The second Friday of Lent dawned and it was dark, gray and very, very stormy. The day started out with us eagerly getting up, showering, and hurriedly eating breakfast in order to be out the door by 9 am for our excursion to Fort Bulnes and Magellan Park. In due course, the disembodied voice from over the loud speaker informed us there would be no tenders to shore today. Due to the high waves, the port in Chile would not allow us to tender over to the mainland, which, of course, meant another day of NOTHING! Well, almost nothing…okay maybe more than nothing. Now what?????
We were showered and fed, so what now? A stroll around the deck as the wind buffeted us from side to side made a fun workout and we, like others, took pictures of us with our hair being swept sideways as the wind tried to carry us away. That soon grew old, or was it cold? Coming inside Dave, Kyle and Henry got involved with a rousing game of dominos while Kathy braved the outside. She did a few laps while listening to her book and came in to periodically check the status of the game. The high score went to Dave, but apparently (much to his chagrin) high score is bad and he was thoroughly trounced on his first try at dominos. Dave and Kathy then visited the library where we picked up a game of Yahtzee. Dave managed to redeem himself and wrested out the best two out of three games from Kathy. Feeling victorious Dave decided three games was enough and we decided to head to dinner.
Dinner was its own adventure! We decided to go to the “Ginza”, a Chinese restaurant, assuming that would be a great place to get some meatless meals in observance of Friday in Lent. This ended up not being the wisest of courses. Taking every precaution, registering with NCL that Kathy is allergic to shellfish, informing the wait staff at each restaurant, and ordering the vegetarian fried rice, she still managed to test Dave’s EMT skills. Towards the middle of the meal Kathy started coughing. It became more of a chronic cough towards the end of her meal. Suddenly standing up, she said to Dave, “I have got to go.” Racing out of the restaurant she and Dave raced to the room to get to her EPI pen. Dave, calm as always, shoved some Benadryl down Kathy’s throat and primed the albuterol inhaler as she was now wheezing. Two puffs of the inhaler helped open up the airway and after a few minutes for the Benadryl to start working, she was on her way to recovery. No need for the EPI pen…..phew!! It took about thirty minutes for a resolution of the coughing and wheezing. A quick trip to the infirmary on board ship and a conversation with the restaurant manager ended the drama for the time being with the dreaded shellfish moment. Feeling drained but alive they decided to “chill” the rest of the evening and went to watch a show. Kathy, feeling nauseous, ordered a couple of Shirley Temples thinking that the Sprite in the alcohol-free drink would ease the rumblings of her stomach. To calm Dave’s nerves after having to perform EMS on his wife, he ordered a double (Diet Coke on the rocks, with a lemon twist!) Deciding that she was not fully recovered, Kathy beat a hasty retreat to the room and lay down. Sometime later during the night, the offending Oyster Sauce was summarily ejected from Kathy’s stomach and the nausea and vomiting came to its conclusion. She was now back to normal, hungry and energetic!!
It was perfect timing to start our day with the Walk in the Woods, not quite like the movie or the book, but still fun time tromping through the woods heading towards the end of the world. Kyle opted to stay on board and sleep in while Kathy, Dave, and Henry headed out to go on a tour of “Tierra del Fuego National Park,” near the farthest city in the Southern Hemisphere, Ushuaia, Argentina. We were delighted to see a variety of birds including parrot (originally thought to be a woodpecker), a Patagonia Finch, the national bird of Ushuaia , the Kelp goose, Chalked-bowed mockingbirds, a bunch of Chimanga Caracaras, and a Red fox. The day could not have been more perfect with a beautiful sunny sky, the winds calm, and the temperature perfect for a four mile walk through the woods. We were soon headed back to the pier where we strolled through the streets and Kathy bought her first souvenir, a hand carved woodpecker that she hopes she can adapt as a Christmas ornament.
Deciding to be safe, we decided upon a steak house for our dinner meal. Amused, Kathy was surprised to find that all of the appetizers were of the “no no” shellfish variety Fortunately, the staff and been “warned” ahead of time that Kathy had a reaction to the shellfish which required treatments and they took special care of Kathy – including plying her with two desserts!! She was on Cloud 9. While the rest of the group went to watch a game show in one of the theatres, Kathy opted for the tranquil feel of the bed being gently rocked by the waves of the ocean. Asleep at eight was a perfect end to the last three days. The next few days see us at sea heading to and spending time around Antarctica. We have high hopes of maybe seeing the Southern lights at night, or the Southern Cross, maybe a whale or two, and of course maybe a penguin. After Antarctica, we head towards the Falkland Islands to learn about the battles that took place there. We continue to get excited as we approach Antarctica (which means “no bears”- really! Arctica means “bears” and Antarctica means “no bears”) and are excited to experience our seventh, and final, continent in the last 3 years!
02/28/2023 and 03/01/2023 Validation!!
The day dawned bright and beautiful and it was a great time to spend at sea watching the steady rhythm of the waves and listening to the background noise of the engines as we lazed around in bed. Realizing that we needed to eat, we decided to start off the day with a leisurely breakfast at the buffet where we had cereal and yogurt. We think that the buffet is probably wasted on us as we didn’t even “walk the line” looking at the choices. Instead we decided to stick to our tried and true breakfast staples which provided us with the perfect amount of fuel for the next part of our day. The next part was getting down to business with a workout in the ship’s gym. Unsurprisingly, we had a lot of company, with a lot of guests taking the day at sea as a good time to catch up on some much needed calorie burning and muscle retaining.
Dave and I then headed off to meet Kyle and Henry for lunch and some games. Well, Kathy hates to admit it – yup it is painful all the way for her – but Dave was right. While Kathy didn’t play dominos, neither did Kyle’s new friend Tekira. For a ship that only holds ~ 1000 people she managed to be elusive. Kathy did “excuse” herself from playing cards and instead wandered away to do loops on the track while listening to her book. The last round of games ended quickly when Kyle, in one luckily-shuffled and then luckily-split deck, was dealt a loaded hand. He managed to win the game with the cards dealt to him and without even a chance for Dave or Henry. At this point, Dave felt it was a good time to find Kathy who was still hiding and spend some time exploring the many levels of the ship.
Dinner was a group affair at another restaurant where we got to sample some fresh Asian food. Like most of the food onboard, we were greatly impressed with the quality and freshness of the food. In addition, the portions were a perfect size for us and, unlike the restaurants in the US, were not designed to feed a family on one plate – just perfect for one individual. Last stop was a dip in the hot tub where we lounged around. The only annoyance was that we had to push the “bubble button” to keep the jets on! The button had to be pushed every two minutes – really who designed this? While it was a quiet day on the last day of the month, it was still enjoyable.
Wednesday, the beginning of Shamrock Shake month started off early. We had breakfast at a restaurant instead of the buffet and we shared a table with a couple from Canada, Debbie and Danny, who we had met earlier on the trip. We chatted and chatted and found like us they were avid travelers who have been quite a few places. The time was brief though as both of us had to get going in order to catch the bus to take us to the town of Puerto Madryn. The description of the excursion promised us hundreds of thousands of penguins. While we didn’t see that many, we still saw plenty tottering around, pruning the molted feathers off themselves, and lounging in the burrows they carve into the ground where they raise their young. We also had the treat of seeing dozens of guanacos (small llama relatives), vultures, Chaminga Caracaras, and even a pair of Crested ducks that spend all their time together (kind of like us old married couples who are retired, or somewhat retired). Dave again felt that he was right in that Kathy was not so sure we would see some penguins yet at times they were so close she could have reached out her hand and touched them. The trip to the coast was well worth it as it provided us with an opportunity to see not only the countryside of Argentina but some amazing wildlife in their natural habitat.
Dinner was another group activity with Kyle and Henry at a Brazilian meat extravaganza where you were served slices and bites of a variety of meats. It was a culinary adventure in trying the various beef, pork, chicken, and even roasted cinnamon pineapple. Dinner as always was capped off by an amazing dessert much to Kathy’s delight.
After dinner, we enjoyed a game show in the theater called “Last Man Standing”. After three different games, there was only one person who had won anything!
After the show, Dave and Kathy went up top to see the stars. It wasn’t quite dark enough yet, and there were some clouds, but they still enjoyed nature’s “show”. While up there (actually the best place they found was the helispot!), they met a man from Wales who was an avid astronomer, chemist, and software engineer (among many other things, we are sure!) He advised us that the best time to see the Southern Cross constellation will be after we visit the Falkland Islands in a few days. Between this gentleman and Dave’s “Star Walk 2” app, we are sure to be fascinated on other nights, too.
02/27/2023 Uruguay Dancing King
Our second day on board saw us hot footing it to breakfast where we were confronted with a plethora of choices for breakfast, mostly of the American standard including the bland choice of grits. Kathy was amused to hear a couple of people talking about how they like it with gobs of butter or overwhelmed by cheese. If you have to cover up the taste of something, you know it must not be that good. Soon we were off to take a small tour of the city of Montevideo. We quickly set off where we learned about the history of Uruguay and its beautiful architecture. You could see all the influences of the immigrants in the area by the different varieties of architectural styles.
Dave was lucky enough to add a couple of more life birds to his list, including an “oven bird” from the area. Not at all similar to the oven birds from our area in Western NY, but a larger version called Rufous Hornero in scientific terms. It builds it nests from clay and looks like a large clay oven from old Roman times perched on branches in the trees. Maybe that is where the name originates. We then stopped at an area by the coast where there were hundreds of green monk parakeets that hung out together. While they were hard to see and elusive, we did hear what sounded like the din of a cocktail party and the murmur of “voices” that led credence to the guide’s statement that there were hundreds living atop each other in the trees. The guide likened it to apartments for birds where they built their nests one upon the other, living literally on top of each other. We eventually saw some flying from tree to tree and a couple of them canoodling high up in the trees (Kathy was even lucky enough to get a picture of them!)
Our last stop in Uruguay was to a local cantina that has been in the same family for four generations. The bar is famous for their red wine that they have been making for generations. We were then treated to some Tango dancers who showed us again how agile and limber you needed to dance the tango……you need rhythm!! Dave got an opportunity to show that old Park Rangers can dance, not just hike. One of the professional dancers (who was the 2019 and 2022 Tango Champion!) asked Dave to dance. He shimmied around the dance floor like a seasoned expert. (…well, okay, he was led around the floor and followed her lead as to when to swish, when to sway and then he executed the exciting dip! He avoided his fear of stepping on her feet and did not even kick her at all!) Kathy, being the (un)accomplished film maker that she is, managed to catch about 1 second of his exciting performance so you will have to take our word that he did not drop her when he dipped her to the floor!
Finally back at the boat, we “chilled” in the oppressive heat of the pool deck while our thoughts and words were drowned out by the top-decibel reaching “classic rock” music that had old people trying to gyrate without dislocating their hips or knees. We had a fun time people-watching and “yelling” at each other to be heard over the speakers. Seeking a reprieve, we headed off to dinner at Le Bistro, a French Gourmet restaurant. We tried our hand at ordering food in French and sampling the cuisine of the restaurant. Dave was bold and got out of his comfort zone by embarking on a culinary adventure. He tried some steak tartare and even gagged down half of an awful tasting mushroom that they call escargots. One and done!! Kyle and Henry both liked escargot, but Kathy who tried it years ago was not willing to help them eat their appetizers. Instead she stuck to French Onion Soup, going with the theme of the French restaurant. Dinner was an excellent meal all the way around. Kyle and Dave stayed safe with Chicken Coq au Vin, Kathy had a lamb chop that was tender and delicious, and Henry sampled the duck. While complaining of being full, Kathy will always have room to indulge her sweet tooth and opted for chocolate cake, masquerading as a well done hot dog. The pictures speak for themselves.
While at dinner we spied a beautiful woman seated at the next table. Sensing an opportunity to keep Kyle busy and avoid having to play dominos with him, Kathy introduced herself and then Kyle, arranging for them to meet later for a drink. Kyle now has someone new to invite for a game of dominos. Finding a friend, but not a romantic interest for Kyle (at least Kathy thinks that) we proceeded to get to know each other. Hitting it off with Tekira from London, we discussed travel and a variety of subjects, again competing with the ear jarring sounds emanating from speakers. Kyle arranged to meet with her the next day at the spa, she left and that was our hint to be on our way too, leaving Kyle and Henry to their own devices. Second day of the trip on Norwegian Cruise Line, with twelve more to go! Successful all around!