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Day 10 - March 6, 2009 - Niebla And Valdivia

By Dr. Heidrun Oberg

Co-ordinates: 39 degrees, 52 minutes south: 73 degrees, 24 minutes west
Weather: Sunny
Air Temperature: 15 degrees C, 59 degrees F
Wind: 6-8 km per hour

At 8 a.m., we commenced our tour to Niebla and Valdivia. After a long ride via Zodiacs to the pier, we boarded our awaiting buses.

After a 20-minute ride along the scenic Valdivia River, we crossed the Cruces and Caucau rivers en route to the island of Teja. Upon arrival, we visited the University, Saval Park and the Botanical Garden.

Saval Park is filled with modern sculptures of wood, stone and metal. From here, we continued on to the Botanical Garden, established by the local Universidad Austral de Chile. We walked through a beautiful landscape highlighted by endemic plants, and different plants of the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

The Historical and Anthropological Museum, 'Maurice van der Maele', depicts a very interesting collection of Mapuche artefacts and jewellery, as well as important relics of the Hispanic and German periods. German influences can be found in every corner of the city. The first colonists arrived here in 1849 and worked hard to develop the area, making it among the most productive cities in Southern Chile.

After a very brief bus ride, we arrived in Valdivia. In 1552, the Spanish conquerors commanded by Pedro de Valdivia, who founded and named the city, came here. The city's excellent strategic location, close to the area's best bay, dominated the Calle and Cruces rivers.

Later, the site of Valdivia was vital for mariners sailing around Cape Horn, as it provided an important source of fresh water. Valdivia's importance declined rapidly after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.

We stopped at the bustling fish and vegetable market. The market backed onto the river in which a lot of fish scraps were tossed, attracting cormorants, gulls and huge sea lions hoping for a free meal. Leaving the market, we visited the Cathedral and main plaza before proceeding to a local restaurant for lunch, which started with an original Pisco Sour.

After lunch, we were driven back to the Niebla Fort. In the past, Niebla was one of the most important fortifications for repelling attacks from pirates and corsairs. In 1671, the Spanish conquerors decided to build a defensive fortress that was named after the Viceroy of Lima, De la Pura y Limpia Conception de Monfort de Lemus; an impressive name for an impressive site. A number of cannons looked out to sea, half of them original.

During a visit to the museum, our guide told us of how just 300 Chileans, under the leadership of the British Lord Cochrayne, had managed to capture the well-armed fort in 1820.

The water was calm and the weather sunny, so we enjoyed our Zodiac ride back to the Prince Albert II.

Captain Fabien Roche's Farewell Cocktail Party and Farewell Dinner capped-off this memorable day. Once again, the chefs outdid themselves with a delicious menu.

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