Written November 23, 2023, at Kansas City, Missouri.

In 2013 most of our grandchildren were barely beyond being toddlers.

The grandchildren in 2013 (including 2 visitors), each wearing the Camino shell I had made for them. Christine displays our Camino guidebook.

One was not yet a “twinkle in our daughter’s eye”.

The grandchildren today, including Lennon, the “twinkle in our daughter’s eye”.

Christine and I were consumed with preparations for walking the Camino de Santiago, over 800 kilometers from southern France, across the Pyrenees Mountains and west across Spain.

Our enthusiasm brought curiosity from the “grands” such that we often needed to explain the adventure in terms that they might understand. “Spain is on the other side of the world.” “Wow!” they would exclaim. “Grandma and I are going to walk so far that it is like walking from your house to St. Louis or Springfield and then back!” They had been on drives to both cities and in their little minds knew that it was VERY far. There were gape-mouthed expressions, eyes wide with awe, and more “Wows!”.

On our first night in Barcelona Christine thought of another way to impress upon them the grandness of what was ahead for us. Using her cell phone, she called each household for a video chat with the “little people”. Directing her phone out of our upper floor room to the evening panorama of Barcelona, she explained that we were so far away that while it was daytime in Kansas City it was nighttime where we were. The images held their attention and wonder.

4-year-old Britton, one of the three surviving quadruplets, broke the silence. Seeing the rush of evening traffic and the street below us he exclaimed, “Grandma! They have CARS in Spain!” “Yes Britton, just like in Kansas City.” “Then why are you WALKING across Spain?!!”

Delaney, Britton, and Simon. The red lips are from Easter candy.

From the mouths of babes…

Yesterday, now 15-year-old Britton, a muscular high school freshman nearing 6 feet tall and who plays football and wrestles, eagerly anticipated the day’s mail.

Minutes after the mail arrived Britton sent me a text message and picture with the captions, “Yay!!!” and “My hair looks so bad!”. His passport had arrived!

Britton, Simon, and Delaney today along with their little sister Lennon.

Next June, life and health willing, an odd couple will join thousands of other making the 800+ kilometer trek across Spain. One age 72, in the evening of life, and one 15 with life’s lottery still spinning its wheel. One searching for his future through the telescope of imagination and the other reflecting upon his past through the bifocals of what cannot be changed. One with the experience of three prior Caminos, and one brimming with the excitement of tackling his first. Who is the teacher and who is the student?… well, that depends. What is certain is that there will be marvels each day for both of them, but only one person will have to polish the tarnish of years from his child-like wonder.

I will observe that there are still cars in Spain. “So Britton, why are YOU walking across Spain?!!”

Life comes full circle.

Peace Everyone. Pete

P.S. For those who have walked at least the last 100 km in a continuous journey to Santiago a reward awaits at the Pilgrim’s Reception Office. First, one must produce evidence that they have completed the requirements of the journey. This is done in the form of a Pilgrim’s Credential (“Credencial del Peregrino”) upon which the stamps from lodgings, restaurants, churches, etc. are acquired each day to prove the journey.

Second, the trekker/pilgrim (“Peregrino”) gives their reason for undertaking the journey. If for religious or spiritual reasons they are awarded the “Compostela”, suitable for framing.

If, however, the journey was undertaken for some other reason such as health, pursuing a physical challenge, or just checking off an item on one’s “bucket list”, then the award is in the form of a “Certificate of Distance”, also suitable for framing.

Thus, the question, “Why have you walked across Spain?”, is actually asked of and answered by each of the thousands of pilgrims arriving in Santiago each year.


Written November 8, 2023, in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Baja Peninsula, Mexico.

Today and tomorrow are at sea days. We are scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Friday, November 10th. We will transport from the ship to Los Angeles International Airport and board a non-stop flight to Kansas City. I am ready to be home, as is Christine.

It seems that no matter if the trip has been 2 weeks or two months, at about 3 days before the end I grow restless and perhaps even difficult to be around. Having known me for over 49 years, Christine (thankfully) tolerates my moods.

We spent yesterday in the port of Cabo San Lucas, located at the southernmost tip of the 775 mile long Baja Peninsula.

First light as we approached Cabo.
Cabo’s iconic land’s end.
The harbor Pilot escorting us to our anchorage.
Cabo beachfront resorts.
The 300 foot 150 million dollar yacht, Attessa IV.

Our 3 hour land excursion took us away from the busy tourist port to the smaller and less hectic San Jose del Cabo.

Our ship’s tenders transported us ashore.

Rather than taking time away from Christine these final two days to write an extensive explanation of the day, I hope that the pictures with an occasional caption will suffice.

Our guide
The Mission Church at San Jose del Cabo.
The Mission Square.
…and more shops.
Back onboard.
Land’s end nearing sunset.
Also at anchor, the 4,000 passenger Norwegian Bliss.

This will be my final post during this trip. I intend to follow-up in Kansas City with some closing thoughts, the result of ruminations fermenting in my mind during the journey.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures and…

…Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Another delightful crew member that it has been our pleasure to meet is Lucia from Peru.

There are 465 crew members aboard, representing 43 countries and 7 different faith traditions. The head of guest services spoke with pride of the camaraderie of the ship’s crew, and in the next breath reflected, “Why in this world of ours can not everyone follow this example and live in peace with one another.”

Night departure from Cabo.

Written November 4, 2023, in the Pacific Ocean @150 miles west of southern Mexico.

The weather has gradually deteriorated since we left Panama on October 31st. Today winds are near gale force and seas are approaching 20 feet.

A passenger leans out from his stateroom. Bigger waves chased him inside.

The Captain has indicated conditions may continue to worsen. Barf bags have been deployed.

The waves are crashing into the ship at a height greater than our state room.

Fortunately, conditions still favored us as we made port in the protected waters of Puentarenas, Costa Rica on November 2nd.

The long narrow cruise dock looked quite fragile compared to other ports that we have visited.

Our outing for the day was titled “A Walk in the Clouds, Costa Rica’s Cloud Forest.” We were transported by luxury coach 90 minutes into the mountains. At an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet the temperatures were moderate but the humidity contributed to periods of dense fog. We were literally driving in the clouds.

Our guide, Exon, provided us with an information and humor filled lecture en route.

The drive time passed quickly, punctuated by a bathroom break at a large crafts shop where souvenirs could be purchased and coffee sampled. There was a beautiful garden and best of all, an enclosed butterfly habitat.


There were dozens of butterflies fluttering about. Christine visited with a caretaker who was busily harvesting butterfly eggs.

At our destination there was another bathroom opportunity before we descended into the “Cloud Forest”, lead by Exon. Here are some images:

This is a “walking palm tree”. It is believed by many to move in the forest by putting down roots on the sunlit side while those roots on the shady side wither. It is a myth.
This large pine cone shaped plant holds water in its upturned cavities. The water takes on antiseptic properties and smells like shampoo.
Look closely! This snake, hidden next to the trail, is a pit viper. It is one of the many varieties of poisonous snakes in Costa Rica.

Afterward we enjoyed lunch consisting of beans, rice, and roast pork richly seasoned with garlic.


As Exon explained, if one prefers an alternate dish, just ask for rice and beans instead of beans and rice.

We departed port shortly after dark with 4 at sea days ahead. The original itinerary included a day in Nicaragua, however the government has currently closed the ports to cruise traffic.

Like the weather, and sunsets, some things are beyond the control of our our Captain and crew.


Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. What is within the control of the crew is the remarkable service provided by personnel. In just a few days many members have worked their way into our hearts. These are hard working people who are dedicated to the comfort of the passengers. To me they are more like friends.

Christine and Hiep from Vietnam.
Myra from the Philippines, Christine, Princess from Zimbabwe, and Ika from Bali, Indonesia.
Ika from Bali, Christine, Nanci from Mexico, and Princess from Zimbabwe.
Christine and Princess from Zimbabwe.
Christine and Sasa from South Africa…
…and Guna from the Bali, Indonesia with Unray from Bermuda.

Written November 1, 2023, offshore in the Pacific Ocean.

Yesterday, October 31st, we made our passage through the Panama Canal. Before I discuss that remarkable experience I must visit October 30th.

As we approached Colon, Panama, there was a remarkable increase in ship traffic. Many vessels were anchored waiting their turn to enter and transit the canal.


We were advised that shore excursions were cancelled due to widespread protests. Viking Star would dock for 6 hours solely to refuel and provision. However, at dock port security informed the Captain that passengers would be permitted to disembark if they remained within the secure port zone. Christine and I took the opportunity to “stretch our legs” and wander through the duty free shopping area.


Later that evening Dr. Ian MacLachlan gave his third lecture on the Canal, this time focusing upon the Neo-Panamax. (Last night we shared table and a delightful dinner with Ian and his wife Diane.)

The Neo-Panamax is a significant expansion to the Canal that opened in 2016.

Exclusas de Agua Clara, Gatún, Canal de Panamá, Wikipedia

It features new locks that have a capacity for much larger vessels and has doubled the capacity of the Canal.

Vessels sized to fit within the original locks are deemed “Panamax” vessels, while those larger ones that fit the new lock system are “Neo-Panamax” ships.

Here are some facts that compare the old and new lock systems together with how our ship “measures up”. Viking Star is 748 feet long, 95 feet wide, and has a draft of 21 feet. She is easily accommodated within the confines of the original locks which are capable of handling vessels up to 965 feet long, 106 feet wide, and drafts up to 39.5 feet deep.

The Neo-Panamax locks allow passage of ships 1,201 feet long, 168 feet wide, and 50 feet deep. While the numbers may not seem that significant, the VOLUME of a Neo-Panamax ship is much greater, more than double the capacity. The significant constraint not yet addressed is the Bridge of the Americas which limits the height of vessels to no more than 205 feet.

From Wikipedia

As an aside, the toll for Neo-Panamax vessels to transit the Canal can exceed 1 million dollars. Our toll for Viking Star was approximately $50,000 dollars. The cheapest toll ever was charged was to Richard Halliburton in 1928, 36 cents. The adventurer swam the 48 mile length of the Canal. It was still required that he be accompanied by a pilot boat!

Since we fit within the original locks, that was our transit.

I awoke at 4:45 a.m. on the morning of October 31st and was on-deck in the pre-dawn by 5 a.m.. I was not alone.

My camera has a setting which allows me to take pictures without a flash in extremely low light conditions.

Looking aft at the Atlantic Bridge

It really came in handy. Other passengers trying to use their cell phones and less capable cameras were audibly frustrated.

At this point in my narrative I will mostly rely upon captioning the pictures for details:

We approached the Gatun Locks that through three chambers would lift us 85 feet to the level of Gatun Lake.

The arrow directs us to the right or left chambers.

Daylight broke as we waited to enter the locks.

One of the six “Mules” that would keep us centered as we proceeded through the locks.

After over 100 years the Canal operators still find that rowboats are the most efficient way to transfer lines to and from the vessels.

We were assisted on our 36 mile passage across Gatun Lake by an onboard Pilot and accompanied by a tugboat, in case anything went wrong.


Passage through Gatun Lake was through a well marked channel. This was shared by ships in both directions.

The markers seen on shore to the right of this ship are aids to navigation. By keeping them lined up the pilot is assured of being in the channel.

Dredging is critical to the continued operation of the Canal. Silt and hillside erosion are an ongoing problem.

The dredging operations base for the canal.
Dredging underway.
This is the 375 foot tall “Herman the German”. A huge floating crane taken from Germany at the end of WW2. During the War it was used to lift submarines. Today it aids in the maintenance of the massive lock gates and can lift nearly 800,000 pounds.

The Panama Canal is number one on The American Society of Civil Engineers list of The Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Among the greatest challenges faced in building the canal were conquering malaria and yellow fever, creating Gatun Lake (at that time the largest dam and man-made lake in the world), and digging through the continental divide (known as the “Culebra Cut”).

The Centennial Bridge is seen here through the Culebra Cut..
One side of the Culebra Cut.

60 million pounds of dynamite were used by 6,000 workers and a vast array of equipment to open the cut!

Past the Cut and the Centennial Bridge we reached the Miraflores Locks. Again configured in three descending chambers, these lowered us 85 feet to the level of the Pacific Ocean.


Finally our transit of the Canal was complete with the passing under of the Bridge of the Americas.

As we left the breakwater the skyline of Panama City gleamed white on our right…

…while ships on the Pacific side waited for their turn to cross to the Atlantic.

I spent 11 hours on deck watching our transit unfold. Over 16,000 vessels make the crossing each year.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Earlier in the voyage I heard a surprised voice call our names, “Mr. Pete, Ms. Christine!!” It was Sasa from South Africa, who is an officer in Guest Services. We developed a close friendship with her on our earlier voyage around Cape Horn in 2019. She has been following our travels through my posts ever since, and was visibly relieved to see me in “in the flesh” and in good health.

Written October 30, 2023 in the Caribbean nearing Colon, Panama.

Yesterday we arrived for the day in Cartagena, Columbia. Columbia (pop. 50 million) is a prosperous nation, 25th in size among countries and roughly equally between the size of California and Alaska. It is the third largest economy in Latin America (after Brazil and Mexico) and features one of the finest heath care systems in the world.

The local currency is the Colombian Peso, 4,200 to the dollar. It is a bit of a shock to see the price of gas, but converted it’s about $3.50 a gallon US.

Geographically, it is remarkably diverse. Near the equator, it still has mountain peaks with permanent snow caps (Mounts Cristobal Colon and Simon Bolivar are each 18,800 feet high), yet broad expanses of the country are Amazon tropical rainforests. It has shores on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Finally, its flora and fauna are the most bio-diverse per square mile in the world.

Cartagena is Columbia’s 5th largest city, with a population of about one million. It was founded by Spain in 1533, but indigenous peoples have inhabited the area for at least 6,000 years. It is a major seaport and once the site of a significant slave trade.

A container ship docking.
Containers being loaded and unloaded.
The tug that accompanied us to our berth.

Its historic center, where I spent most of my day, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised of the colonial era fortification encircled by a 7 mile long defensive wall.

Image from Wikipedia

We arrived in port in the late morning. 90 degrees Fahrenheit and over 90% humidity, the “feels like” temperature was over 100. I left the air conditioning of the ship to go on deck to take pictures.

The first shot was fine, but within a minute condensation fogged my lens both outside and inside the camera. It took 15 minutes for the camera to “warm up”.

On my tour we visited an area of artisan shops.


Walking through the old city our guide, Ender, provided both historical local knowledge, seasoned with humor.


Here is a door knocker that actually has historical significance. The Iguana marks the door of a family of political importance. The lion denoted military association. (See the above image)

We visited Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, built between 1580 and 1654, (Church of St. Peter Claver) where his earthly remains are seen through glass at the main altar.


St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit, is deemed the patron saint of enslaved peoples. He dedicated his life to opposing the slave trade while ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of slaves.

The Convento de Santo Domingo (1630) featured a small non-climate controlled museum. It is a wonder that the works of art, many hundreds of years old do not rot.

This Dominican convent was also a center for local prosecution of the Spanish Inquisition.

Cartagena is mere feet above sea level. As predicted ocean levels rise due to global warming I wonder it this will someday become Atlantis (one of many) of the New World.

The square in the heart of the old city.

Christine and I usually take shore excursions together. Today was the rare exception. While I wandered the old city she visited an emerald school where young people are trained in the art of emerald gemology and jewelry making. As part of Christine’s experience she made herself emerald jewelry, a ring, bracelet, necklace, and earrings. The stones are emerald, rough, uncut, and unpolished.

We left port after dark. My vantage atop the ship provided the opportunity for some beautiful pictures.


Peace Everyone. Pete