Farewell Punta Arenas

It was good to have a more relaxed three days in one place as I move towards the halfway point of my trip.

imageYesterday evening I walked around the town and saw a few more of the old mansions one of which, Sara Braun’s home, is now a hotel and the Union Club. In its basement is a bar called La Taberna where I took a pre dinner margarita in solitude.

On the way to the restaurant La Marmita, which I had enjoyed on my first night, I passed the British School founded in 1904 and the Anglican church next door. Delightful little buildings and a reminder again of the links with Chile whose people today are so friendly and helpful.

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This morning I am at Punta Arenas airport waiting to fly to Puerto Montt and as I was checking in I saw another group on their way to Antarctica. I still forget how far south I am and that Punta Arenas remains a staging post for explorers, geographers and now tourists.

I am looking forward to some warmer and less windy weather in the Chilean and Argentine lake district.

Punta Arenas

I was always fascinated at school when hearing of faraway places like the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn. Now whilst I am here it is even more fascinating.

After I arrived at my very comfortable and friendly guest house on Saturday I took the owners advice and ventured around the corner to La Marmita. A lovely cosy restaurant with friendly staff where I enjoyed cevuche of salmon and hake followed by a lamb tagine.

imageSunday was a lazy day with not much open or happening in Punta Arenas. In the evening I ventured down to the seafront to the only high rise building in town, a hotel and a casino. Here I took a drink in the Sky Bar (only thr 11th floor) and looked out over the bay.

Tierra del Fuego is an island and after my flight to Punta Arenas I left the island and am now back in Patagonia. The only other way to get here from Ushuaia is an overnight ferry or a 12 hour bus and ferry trip. Either way one has to cross the Strait of Magellan which links the Atlantic and Pacifuc Oceans. Ferdinand Magellan discovered the channel during the first circumnavigation in 1520.

More recently (1916) Punta Arenas was in the news as it was here that Ernest Shackleton brought his rescued crew after the fourth attempt to extract them from Elephant Island in the Antarctic.image After pleas from Shackleton and the UK government the Chilean authorities put the patrol ship Yelcho at Shackleton’s disposal. Yelcho was based in Punta Arenas and was used to tow Shackleton’s schooner down to Antarctica. Three times they failed due to ice and many times the tow rope broke. In the end the surviving crew members were rescued after spending 4.5 months on the island with only a few days food left. Most of Puntas Arenas turned out to welcome them back.

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There are a few attractive buidings remaining here, mostly mansions built by the wealthy sheep farmers  who had farms in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego but whose headquarters were based in Punta Arenas.